The Sunday Salon: Complementary Reading

The Sunday

Hello Sunday Salonsters. It's hot hot hot here in Portland this weekend (triple digits yesterday), so I'm doing chores early in the morning and then hunkering down in the coolest places I can find with my books and my laptop.

I just happened to be reading these two books at the same time. Dovegreyreader referred to this phenomena awhile back as 'bookendipity.'

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is set in New York in the 1870s, but was published in 1920. It's a rather scathing commentary on New York's "polite Society" (of which Wharton was a part until she moved to France).

Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918 is partly an overview of the "polite Society" of New York at the turn of the century. Topics include fashion, physical activities, women's employment opportunities (or lack of), education, women's sphere of domesticity and their participation in World War One.

The one featured author in Gibson Girls is --- Edith Wharton, and particularly, The Age of Innocence.

Of course, I was particularly fascinated by the clothing in Gibson Girls, the corseted bodies and fashion rules that most women in polite Society strictly adhered to. In The Age of Innocence, during Newland and May's honeymoon, May spends a month in Paris tending to a new wardrobe. Newland...

... was struck again by the religious reverence of even the most unworldly American women for the social advantages of dress. "It's their armour," he thought, "their defence against the unknown and their defiance of it."
I found it interesting that in the first years of the 20th century women's increased physical activities, including dance and bicycling, informed fashion, requiring looser, shorter clothing.

The writing in Gibson Girls is geared toward young adults; the photos and old posters can be marveled over by anyone. Here's one that made me gasp: the one on the right is a piece of sheet music.

I like to think we've made progress.



My Journey Through Reading... said...

Thank God we have made progress! Could you imagine having to wear corsets? I read The Age of Innocence about 18 years ago and loved it. I may have to add it back to my reread list. Have a good week! Are your hand healed?

Terri said...

No kidding. Although I look at some of the things women do to their bodies today (botox, starvation, spike heels) and I wonder....

My hands are pretty well healed, though they still get sore when I use them a lot. Thanks! And I hope you have a good week too.

smallworld reads said...

I loved The Age of Innocence--did a research paper on it in college, many years ago! The Gibson Girls book looks good. I wish I'd known about it when we were studying Fitzgerald this year in the Am Lit class I teach!

Wendy said...

Finally catching up on some Sunday Salon posts! Loved this post, Terri - isn't it funny how sometimes we just happen to pick up books back to back that so well compliment each other? I can see why you gasped! Little good for nothings??!?!? Oh my! Thanks for an interesting post!