Pretty Clothes


“As if it isn’t enough that you want to be beautiful, that you want to have pretty clothes, that you want it like hell.” (Rhys, 25).

In the novel Voyage in the dark by Jean Rhys we see Anna discuss the importance of pretty clothes. Throughout, the book she compares her clothes to the fashion that is being worn in London. It is clear that having nice clothes is a major necessity for her. According to an article I read Anna wasn’t the only one obsessed with fashion. Fashion was to be seen as visual art, but people looked at and wanted it for different reasons. The article I read states “According to traditional views, art is fundamentally serious. whereas Fashion is frivolous and concerned with social or sexual surface, not basic aesthetic issues” (Hollander,27). The article goes on to discuss how clothes has modernized. It discusses what women wore in the 1300s. It states, “Women maintained the ancient robes and gowns and hoods and veils, allowing them all to drag and drape and float with varying degrees of excess, and occasionally stiffening them” (Hollander, 29). Then it goes on to establish what they started wearing by the 19th century. It states they wore “Well-cut jackets that flatteringly skimmed the figure had already become a standard feminine necessity, and neat hats and short hair showed the real forms of female heads and necks, as they had done for male ones” (Hollander, 32). Based on the article I was able to see a lot has changed over time. Today, fashion in London is still a big deal and women are into modeling their lovely outfits.

Other than Anna mentioning the pretty clothes she discusses how bad people want to have pretty clothes. To me that made me think about how desperately they wanted it and the fact that they probably would do anything to get it. In doing some research I came across an article that discusses how dressmakers were committing shoplifting crimes in stealing blouses, and fabric just to make the pretty clothes they longed for. The article states that a dressmaker named Evelyn Seymour “was sentenced to three years’ penal servitude for stealing a jacket and a cape from a draper’s shop in West London in 1899” (Meier, 420). That was her first arrest. “In 1912, She was sentenced to three more years for stealing a blouse” (Meier, 420). After analyzing this article, I see the extreme and desperate measures that some people take to own and have pretty clothes. Thankfully, Anna did not take this route. She desired and hoped for the nice clothes but did nothing that would jeopardize her freedom and end up in trouble for it.


  • Hollander, Anne. “The Modernization of Fashion.” Design Quarterly, no. 154, 1992, p. 27., doi:10.2307/4091263.
  • Meier, William M. “Going on the Hoist: Women, Work, and Shoplifting in London, Ca. 1890–1940.” The Journal of British Studies, vol. 50, no. 02, 2011, pp. 410–433., doi:10.1086/658279.
  • Rhys, Jean, and Carole Angier. Voyage in the Dark. Penguin Books, 2007.