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Q: What Virginia Woolf wore ( No Answer,   5 Comments )
Subject: What Virginia Woolf wore
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: butch45-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 05 Jul 2003 20:03 PDT
Expires: 04 Aug 2003 20:03 PDT
Question ID: 225548
What information is there available in terms of description or comment
about the type, colours, style and effect of the clothing that
Virginia Woolf(writer) wore?
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: What Virginia Woolf wore
From: scribe-ga on 06 Jul 2003 04:55 PDT
A suggestion. One excellent source of reliable information on Woolf's
clothing style may be the recent movie "The Hours," which was
partially about Virginia Woolf. Not only can we be sure that the
film's costume designer dressed Woolf (played by Nicole Kidman) as a
woman of her class would have dressed at that time, but it's also safe
to assume that the designer did a good deal of research into records
of what Woolf actually wore.
Subject: Re: What Virginia Woolf wore
From: magnesium-ga on 06 Jul 2003 09:31 PDT
I recall having read that Woolf was typically rather untidy in her dressing habits.
Subject: Re: What Virginia Woolf wore
From: tehuti-ga on 06 Jul 2003 14:01 PDT
A search on the Google image search using "Virginia Woolf" as a search
term will retrieve a number of portraits of VW at various times of her
life. Some of these do indicate the types of blouses/dresses she wore.
Subject: Re: What Virginia Woolf wore
From: leli-ga on 07 Jul 2003 09:01 PDT
Hello butch45

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
biographical information.

But I can tell you a few things I already knew, supplemented by a bit
of research.

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
Lettice Ramsey.

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.",4120,891122,00.html

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
Subject: Re: What Virginia Woolf wore
From: peggy_bill-ga on 07 Jul 2003 09:53 PDT

Virginia Woolf: A Biography  by Hermione Lee.  Chatto and Windus,
1996.  Should help you find descriptions of Virginia Woolf’s dress.
“This authoritative study moves deftly between the personal (the sound
of Woolf's voice, the style of her clothes) and the political (Woolf's
struggles for feminism and against fascism).”

Otherwise, below are some of the pictures that show more of Virginia
Woolf’s dress than just a portrait.

Virginia Woolf is the individual on the far left.  Although, this is
not her normal dress.  I thought it was worth looking at.

I hope this helps.
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