The House of Mirth


While sewing on this dress, for some unknown reason, I thought about Lily Bart.

Many years ago, I accompanied my daughter to Aix-in-Provence for a language course.  My reading companion was Edith Wharton’s THE HOUSE OF MIRTH.  Published in 1905, the book gets its title from Ecclesiastes 7:4: The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

The protagonist is Lily Bart, 29 and unmarried. Lily will not marry the man she really loves because he is not rich thus dedicates her time trying to find a wealthy husband.  Unfortunately, Lily sabotages all of her possibilities for marriage as she unwittingly gets involved in a scandal that will eternally ruin her.

I remember quite well the night I finished reading THE HOUSE OF MIRTH because I cried and cried. Why did the book touch me so much? Was it just because I was tired from travelling or because I was leaving my daughter alone in France for a month?  Or because I was just overdosing on empathy?

At the turn of the century, tableau vivant parties were quite trendy.  The idea was to recreate a “living picture”  where a group of people dressed up and, with the use of props, tried to recreate a famous painting.

At one point in the book, Lily is invited to take part in a Tableau Vivant for a High Society fashion event. She portrays herself as Mrs. Richard Bennett Lloyd by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Lily would like to be seen as beautiful and pure instead of as an attractive woman desperately trying to find a rich husband – the person she really is.

Lily was stuck in a pose.

(left) Jean-Antoine Watteau: Ceres/Summer (right) Lily Bart/Gillian Anderson poses as Watteau’s “Summer” in a “tableau vivant”

Tableaux vivants: The Tableau Vivant in Literature + TABLEAUX VIVANTS, Living Pictures and Attitude in Photography, Film, and Video.

Other:  Dulce Dolce, «so I did a colour comparison instead. Matching some of my favourite Dolce & Gabbana outfits to vintage travel posters, so that i can dream about going to exotic destinations and looking awesome at the same time».

The Muy Marcottage dress pictured above, “House of Mirth”, is made from second hand clothing bought at the outdoor market near my studio (San Lorenzo, Rome).  The clothing was cut up then completely hand sewn together again. If you are interested in the dress “House of Mirth,” contact contact Julia & Co.

About Art for Housewives

The Storyteller....
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2 Responses to The House of Mirth

  1. Pingback: THE HOUSE OF MIRTH – Muy Marcottage

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