I really wanted to answer this question because it would be fun to dig
out all the snippets of information on Woolf's clothing and put
together an overall picture. However - I started to realise it would
be a huge job; no-one has ever separated out these details from other
But I can tell you a few things I already knew, supplemented by a bit
Of course, Woolf's life spanned an era of huge change in women's
fashion. Early photographs show her in fairly conventional late
Victorian dresses. There's a photograph of her with her sister Vanessa
and half-sister Stella, all three in dark (mourning?) dresses with
discreet pleated frill at the neck. Virginia has a fairly large string
of beads which suggests the start of a lifelong taste for a
well-embellished neckline. Photographs of her in the 1920s-30s often
show a draped scarf, dramatic collar and/or long string of beads.
There are several pictures of her in the later part of her life in
print dresses with a plain jacket. Since most amateur photographs
would have been taken in the summer this isn't much of a guide to her
winter wardrobe. There are some professional photographs and a
portrait by her sister in which she is wearing a dark dress or blouse
with pattern/color at the neck. See the reproductions on this page,
though they are rather unclear - in other versions of the Man Ray
portrait the long print scarf/tie is more noticeable than it appears
Once she had enough money, she started enjoying her clothes and had
them made by Ronald Murray, her "dressmaker" from 1933 on. He might
not have been too pleased by one photograph confirming magnesium-ga's
worst fears about untidiness (see comment above). Elegantly dressed,
Woolf is talking to her niece Angelica, but there is a huge man's
handkerchief falling out of her jacket pocket. This was taken by
In the 1930s, her diaries say the "great joy of having money" is to
buy treats and "give way to the temptation of a 30/- dress" or to buy
"stuff for a dress - pretty stuff to amuse myself".
We know about one style she definitely did *not* like: ". . opulent
heartless brainless taste; women in black with white pearls and red
lips . " This is from her diary in April 1935, a month when she "had
the courage to wear [her] silver corduroy."
Photographs are very helpful but I think you would find even more in a
biography by Hermione Lee which is full of "real" detail about Woolf's
homes, clothes and so on. For instance, she mentions an "ethereal"
white dress and a "striped beach costume".
You might like to read this article by Lee, making it clear she is not
entirely in sympathy with "The Hours":
"The death scene is grotesquely prettified. Woolf drowned herself on a
cold day in March in a dangerous, ugly river that runs so fast,
nothing grows on the bare banks. She was wearing an old fur coat,
wellington boots and a hat. Whether she jumped or walked, dropped
under or struggled, we don't know. Kidman, bare-headed and dressed in
a fetching tweed coat, walks gently and calmly into a beautiful,
still, dappled stream, sun pouring through the leaves of trees in high
summer and Philip Glass's relentlessly tear-jerking music pounding
away, as it does throughout."
Another article which might be of interest:
One color choice:
"Musings on fiction, in the diaries, exist side-by-side with the
purchase of an apricot-colored coat."
Hope this gives you a start - Leli