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Sunday, 6 August 2017

Dress-up Jane Austen: A Review

I am probably not the best person to review this book, as I am not very skilled at crafts, but I am over 8 years old (!) which is the target age group, and I do love all things Jane Austen, so here we go!

The first few pages of the book give some historical background and describe the fashions of the day. I am not a costume expert but the fashions appear to be broadly correct, and based on fashion prints and contemporary illustrations. There are two dolls to cut out, and fourteen costumes in total.

Obviously a book aimed at children cannot give a detailed social history overview, but I was a little surprised to read that ‘Young women had to find husbands to look after them as they couldn’t have jobs and earn money like today’.

Working-class and even middle- class women worked - as mantua-makers, lace- makers, ran businesses, etc.

And of course Jane Austen earned money as a novelist – she was very proud of her earnings. (Mary Shelley depended on her writing income, too). So it would have been nice to have had Austen’s earnings mentioned.

On the practical side, I found it tricky to get the dolls to stand up, especially when you try to hang the clothes on them (which is why Lizzie Bennet is not wearing her wedding dress in my photo, right). I also had to ‘turn up’ the dolls’ shoes as the costumes, when attached, seem slightly longer than the dolls.

When cutting out the costumes, you have to be very careful not to cut into the tabs (very young children would find this difficult I think) – slightly bigger and longer tabs would be easier to cut out and hang on the dolls.

On a positive note, ‘Mr Darcy’ has a very dark complexion (which adds a nice touch of diversity). The dolls’ costumes (above left) are very attractive and appropriate for a range of social situations: shopping, walking or riding, going to a ball, and of course a wedding outfit. There are some additional accessories to cut out, too.

‘Dress-up Jane Austen’, by Catherine Bruzzone and Hennie Howarth will be released on 1 September. It would make an attractive gift for a fashion-conscious young lady, and I think Janeites will enjoy it, too.

NB. The author was given a free copy of the book for review purposes.

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