Made Up Quotes – Dorothy Parker

As part of the Made Up Initiative, I thought it would be fun to dig out sewing-themed extracts from books I’ve enjoyed. I’m going to embrace the whole spectrum of books – from children’s novels (oh yes please!) to non fiction, high literature to beach reads. Clothes say a lot about us, and people’s observations of clothes say even more.

vogue bedside

First, an essay written in 1919 by Dorothy Parker, the queen of satire:

Do you ever stop and wonder what has become of the old-fashioned girl, the heroine of the sweet romantic love-story? Surely you remember her, the before-the-war heroine. She wore checked gingham frocks that she made herself, and she used to go around the house all day long giving it little homemade touches. When evening fell, she put on a simple little white muslin dress, modestly, not to say uninterestingly, high of neck – this gown, too, was her own original model – and tucked a single rosebud in her hair, just over the left ear, where it used to drive the hero wild. Thus attired, she would run down to the garden gate – that was as far away from home as she ever got through all the story – and wait there, in the sunset’s rosy glow, for the hero to come home from his day’s work at the factory.

            Gentle reader, that heroine is no more

The Vogue Bedside Book II, Edited by Josephine Ross, Century Hutchinson 1986

What do you think? Do you agree with Dorothy? Are the days of gingham frocks and standing at the gate far behind us? And when we sew a gingham dress in 2015, what does that say about us? I found it ironic that on the same day as I read this essay, I’d just bought several metres of gingham flannel.

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32 Responses to Made Up Quotes – Dorothy Parker

  1. Oh my goodness, I think she is no more, that she finally opened that gate and kept running, screaming into the night!

  2. We are so fortunate to be free! Poor, poor women that had and HAVE to live as prisoners of decorum!! (the last novel I read, A Splendid Thousand Suns, talks about them)
    Regarding the ginghan, we are in the same page, I just got some real thing from the UK, and I am going to sew myself a gingham classic frock! It is the pattern of the summer!

  3. Hila says:

    Mmm my make for Made Up is a button up frock….in a check gingham….already cut. Ah well, at least I now have an idea for a photo shoot😃. Just finished reading The Notebook last night and this quote immediately took me back into the book.

  4. Gingham is lovely – but for me it is all about school cookery aprons, school summer dresses and kindergarten overalls. I don’t want to wear school uniform ever again!

  5. Julia says:

    Yup, she’s gone; but her legacy of home sewing remains, even if Ms Parker slightly despises it!

  6. sewchet says:

    I don’t know – apart from the high-necked gown my life sounds a lot like this! I await my ‘lover’ (husband) with a G&T at the ready:)

  7. Melody says:


    I’m mental for it this year! I think as long as it doesn’t look like a school dress, you’re fine regardless of anything!

  8. sew2pro says:

    Hm, I love DP. She’s usually so quotable but I don’t recognise the heroine she describes. Even the child-like love interest in Crime and Punishment was a ‘working girl’, the wet Dora Copperfield got what she deserved and was replaced by feistier Agnes and as for Elizabeth Bennett, she was always off on long walks which when you translate it to nowadays (i.e. replacing long skirts with lycra) would make her an ultra-runner!

    Gingham flannel sounds soft and comforting: perfect for the end of summer. But I hope it’s not pale blue because of the other Dorothy (Oz…)

    • Jen (NY) says:

      She reminds me of heroines in Anthony Trollope’s books, especially the Barchester series, and particularly The Small House at Allington. There was muslin, I’m sure, and lots of hand work…

  9. Carolyn says:

    I’m currently reading a book on the history of knitting – how it turned from a necessity into a leisure activity. So too with sewing. While I’m glad that woman waiting by the front gate is long gone (at least where I live), I still love the idea of adding handmade touches to my home… as long as it’s after *I* get home from a long day at the office! 🙂

    • CurlsnSkirls says:

      Could you give details on that history of knitting book? Sounds interesting – thank you in advance! del

      • Carolyn says:

        It’s actually a knitting pattern book but has some great historical sections sprinkled throughout the patterns – Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby. There is also some really interesting info on historical knitting in Folk Socks by Nancy Bush. Both books came out quite a few years ago, but I enjoy re-reading them. 🙂

      • CurlsnSkirls says:

        Thank you very much for these details, Carolyn! 💕

      • Alison says:

        I have a book called “the history of handknitting”. Had to get it via AbeBooks because it’s out of print.
        Another fab one is “no idle hands: a social history if American knitting” both highly recommended.

      • CurlsnSkirls says:

        Thank you very much! Will see where I can find these.

  10. I have three different colors of gingham waiting to be made into shirts, with matching solid colored skirts. … I don’t wait by the front gate, but there’s a decent chance I have dinner waiting when my husband gets home (I get hangry, and I’m sticking to that as my reason).

  11. Truly a different world. I am the last home every evening so this would never happen in my house. Surely to have time to make all those frocks and household touches that she would have had someone doing the cleaning for her? Maybe I am just a slow sewer. 🙂

  12. Jen (NY) says:

    Hmm. My gingham shirted spouse sometimes prepares a lovely dinner when I come home from the office. Not exactly the garden gate, but it’s NY after all.

    I don’t think that other girl ever really existed, but her presence in the movies, books and minds of the time probably put some pressure to conform on young wives. Then, eventually, there was the 60s, and then the 70s. (Not to mention the women who worked earlier during the war).

    Gingham itself is fine. Personally, I used to associate it with a rural American look or young girls, but it looks fresh today, especially in non-pastels. The afore husband’s shirt (Uniqlo) is mini black & white gingham.

  13. Nadine says:

    Oh my. I was going to buy some gingham to make up some slopers (NOT to be worn in public). Gingham is still sweet on little girls. I’m willing to wear a big black and red check shirt over blue jeans while chopping wood. So, no rosebud over either ear!

  14. Talya says:

    I don’t think she’s gone – I think she just stopped waiting for the hero to come home, and went out to change the world HERSELF.

  15. CurlsnSkirls says:

    Soft gingham flannel in an autumnal colour would be yummy to snuggle up in once our weather turns cooler!

  16. Jacana says:

    The children’s book that comes to my mind that mentions sewing is Peter Pan. Wendy sews Peter’s shadow back on see at

  17. I’m a fan of gingham frocks, but glad to be on the other side of the garden gate. My favourite childhood heroine was Anne of Green Gables. “It is ever so much easier to be good if your clothes are fashionable.” Living in hope that Marilla would allow her to have puffed sleeves.

  18. Can’t really say the “gingham girl” really existed in my family. Even my grandmother wore trousers (but then she did go to Art School – definitely a euphemism for not-conforming). But I like gingham, perhaps we should be reclaiming it from the school uniform / girly frock territory? I think a flannel gingham shirt would be great.

  19. Jane Collins says:

    Hi Karen

    Your book excerpt brought this youtube video to mind 100 years of fashion in 2 minutes which I came across yesterday. The first outfit isn’t gingham but fits the image in my mind of the sweet romantic heroine.

  20. me says:

    I like gingham but I LOVE Buffalo checks.. Could be the wild west in me.

  21. Mags says:

    We have reclaimed the gingham! What better than to wear it in our very different lives?

  22. Helen says:

    Lovely idea with the quotes! Do you know the book Just Right (although Amazon tells me it’s called Just Right for Christmas, I’m sure that’s not what our version is called. Anyway!). It’s a great kids book about sewing and using every last scrap of fBric. It’s a favourite in our house, and “she snipped and she sewed” has become our mantra!

  23. Leigh Ann says:

    But are we really free? If women used to be the prisoners of convention, today we’re still prisoners of societal expectations. It’s just that those expectations are different now, and we’re being told what to do by a different group of people. Instead of waiting at the gate, we’re supposed to despise the idea of waiting at the gate, and by extension, those who do. We’re still being told what we should do or think.

    But Dorothy Parker and gingham? Yes to both.

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