Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Fashion Fancies: Cathy Dollanganger


Hello April! And welcome to the second instalment in my 'Fashion Fancies' series, where I take a fictional or historical character and create some outfits for them that I imagine they would wear. Last time I dressed Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, but this time round I decided to go properly fictional and put together some outfits for Cathy Dollanganger, the protagonist of the Flowers in the Attic saga by Virginia Andrews.

I don't think I've raved sufficiently about Flowers in the Attic here on my blog to quite communicate my intense love of the whole saga and plot line, which is partly because I only managed to get to the fourth book before I had to interrupt my Dollanganger family marathon for the sake of actually reading material for my extended essay. Nevertheless, once I have that done and dusted and have read the dreaded Mansfield Park (sadly necessary for my final exams) I fully intend to pick up where I left off with the fifth book.

The story is told mostly from the point of view of Cathy, who lives an idyllic life with her parents, older brother and twin brother and sister in Pennsylvania in the late 1950s. But when her father tragically dies in a car accident, she and her siblings are taken by her mother to live in her childhood family home, Foxworth Hall, until such time as the mother's father will forgive her for running away from home, accept her family and leave them his immense fortune. But until that happens, Cathy and her siblings must be kept hidden away in a distant part of the house, for what is supposed to be a matter of days but slowly turns into years. The story in the first book is about their life in the attic, how they cope with captivity, the family secrets they discover, and eventually how they plan to escape.

What I love about the story though is how dreamy and eerie the narrative aesthetic is at times: the innocent children are only allowed to play in a dusty attic full of decaying antiques and old books, which is also where Cathy also practices her ballet exercises. There's also a whole undercurrent of sickness, death and religious fear which makes it really interesting to read in contrast with the other more pretty and delicate aspects of the narrative.

1. Prim and Proper
This is the kind of thing I imagine Cathy would have worn on a normal day when her life was still peachy, or even at the beginning of her imprisonment when she still had hope that they wouldn't need to stay hidden for long. We're talking a 12-year-old girl in the 1950s, so I imagine she would have plenty of pastels and cutesy dresses like this, not to mention the schoolgirl shoes which I'm majorly lusting after.

2. Exploring the Attic
The staircase from the children's single room to the attic is described as extremely steep and narrow, so I think Cathy would have some more practical clothes for exploring the vast attic, and later for climbing out onto the roof of the house with her brother - as they often to do soak up the sunlight. Even though I did a whole research project on fashion in the 20th century last year, I'm not entirely sure jeans were that popular in the 50s, so let's just let that slide.

3. Ballerina
I based these outfits mostly around the ballet theme as it's such an essential part of Cathy's life both during her time in the attic and afterwards, when she finally becomes a famous dancer. I feel like this dress really captivates the quintessential floaty & graceful ballerina vibe, and the romantic lace is also very consistent with the story's contrast of beauty and tragedy. With little else to relieve the boredom over the months in captivity, Cathy also reads a great deal of the forgotten attic library, although she initially refuses to touch the books because some are infested with insects.

4. Nymphet
No spoilers, but on a few occasions Cathy even rivals Lolita with her nymphet vibes, so this outfit is a representation of those parts of the story in her life after the attic. Nuff said.

I hope you enjoyed this post - next time I will be dressing the creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky Wednesday Addams!


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