June 30, 2014
I very much enjoy novels by female writers that take place in and around the 1960-1970s. Cassandra at the wedding by Dorothy Baker fits nicely into this category. Just as with the first entry, this book also has two lead female characters who both wear the same dress. The book follows Cassandra as she returns from Berkley to her family home to attend her identical twin sister Judith’s wedding. Cassandra is a complicated character with unpredictable motives and actions. The dress in question is mentioned a few times in the book along with descriptions of other garments and outfits. I loved the idea of a dress with a back pleat and had a strong idea of how it would look.
It was a white dress, and it would probably do for a wedding. In fact I didn’t even have to wonder about it – it was very simple and elegant and costly, it would do for anything anywhere, and my grandmother, high as her standards are, would know it when she saw it and thank me for doing her so much honor. (p.7)
The dress lay there quietly and unobtrusively white against the white paper, but with extreme elegance and style. Easily the best dress I’d had since seventh grade.
I think I was expecting Judith to whistle and Granny to chirp, but neither one of them made any sound at all; so I took hold of the shoulders and lifted it out of the box and told them it was the kind of dress that doesn’t give the best account of itself lying in a box. Or hanging on a hanger, for that matter. The way it fits is the thing. And the way it’s made.
“This back pleat for instance,” I said. I turned it over and showed Granny the beautiful tailor’s tacks that held the pleat at the top and the bottom, and granny looked and didn’t say a thing.
“Pure silk,” I said, starting to feel like a saleswoman making a hard sale to an unconvinced customer. Two unconvinced customers. And then when I looked away from the dress I saw them looking at each other in a way that was hard to interpret. It was as if they were sharing a private joke. And they were, of course, but I had no idea what it was. All I could tell was that something was wrong with either me or my choice.
“It’s obvious enough you don’t like it.” I said and Jude sat there looking first at the dress and then at gran with this puzzled and puzzling look on her face, a sort of combination of astonishment and dismay.
“I didn’t say I didn’t like it,” she said in a rather low, un-emphatic voice. “I’m crazy about it. I was crazy about it before I ever saw yours.” (p.63-64)