About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Women v. Men in Clothing Descriptions

Vicki Delany aka Eva Gates needing more
than a paragraph to describe
Moira, my friend at her excellent blog Clothes in Books, has made me more conscious of the role of clothes in books. Prior to reading her blog I was more conscious of the descriptions of settings and the physical features of characters. Probably as a male I am also less aware of clothes.

The last book I reviewed, Booked for Trouble, was partially notable for me now in how clothes helped define characters. 

Booked for Trouble is a cozy with the primary characters being women. I expect the book is more credible because of the attention paid by many women to their clothes.

The first book in the series, By Book or By Crook, saw the sleuth, Lucy Richardson, who is 30 years of age and a recent Bostonian, now resident on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, going through her wardrobe for the perfect outfit for a first date with the Mayor. As quoted in my review Lucy sets out her choice:

It was unadorned, cut without much shape, but made of excellent linen. If I wore it with the black leather belt that had come with the yellow dress, it would give me some much-needed curves. But stark black seemed so ….. Boston. I eyed a three-quarter-sleeved yellow sweater, cropped at the waist that I’d bought for something to throw on over shorts if a summer evening turned cool. The sweater would give the outfit a pop of color.

In Booked for Trouble, Lucy displays a sense of style that is evident in her casual summer work wear as a librarian:

I wore my summer work outfit of black pants cut slightly above the ankle, ballet flats, and a crisp blue short-sleeved shirt, tucked out.

Lucy’s mother, Suzanne Wyatt Richardson, is a Bostonian society member who grew up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Suzanne dresses to maintain her image of perfection even for a day at a resort:

This morning she again wore Ralph Lauren. White capris, a black-and-white-striped sleeveless, scooped-neck T-shirt. A white linen jacket with black lapels, collar and cuffs was hung neatly on the closet door. For today’s jewelry, she’d chosen diamond stud earrings, a thick silver necklace, and a matching bracelet.

For a family supper:

Mom, as could be expected, was flawlessly turned out in an oatmeal pantsuit with a bright pop of color provided by a red shirt and ruby earrings.

Suzanne's perceptions, more accurately prejudices, of people are evident from her comments on how other women are dressed. Lucy has good taste but not enough for Suzanne. Looking at her daughter on a Sunday morning, when Lucy is not working, Suzanne’s first reaction is to Lucy’s clothes:

“You need a sweater or a jacket to wear over that T-shirt. The sleeveless look is not all professional, never mind that the First Lady seems to be able to get away with it. Much larger earrings would look better on you. I have something you can try.”

Suzanne is a woman for whom clothes define the standing in society, all she really cares about, of a woman.

Lucy is less driven by appearances though she wants to look her best.

What is striking is that the clothing worn by men are barely noted. Hotel manager, George Marwick:

      He wore a dark suit with a name badge that said GEORGE,

When one of Lucy’s suitors, Mayor Connor McNeil arrives for a quiet drink with Lucy at the Lighthouse Library (after hours) his appearance is summed up in:

      His tie was askew and his top shirt button was undone.

Later Connor is described as:

He looked suitable for meeting his date’s mother in crisply ironed gray slacks and an open-necked blue shirt

Alas, while a paragraph may be needed to describe what one of the women are wearing the men’s clothes are lucky to generate a sentence. Maybe there will be more in the next book of the series.

Having seen how little attention was paid to what the men were wearing in Booked for Trouble I shall have to see whether men’s clothing have a role in future reading.


  1. Oh, this is really interesting, Bill. I wonder if there is a difference between the way men and women write about clothes. I know, for instance, that Len Deighton provides quite a bit of description about clothes (on both sexes). Other authors don't (both male and female). Hmm....This is really fascinating. And I agree completely, by the way, about Moira's terrific site.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I will have to see what the next male writers I read say about clothes.

  2. What fun! I love the pic of me you dredged up to illustrate this. As I woman I see women's clothes as much more complicated than men's. Maybe I'm wrong but I have an image of men just throwing any old thing on whereas women have to match shoes and jewllery and all the rest. And of course always worry about "does this make me look fat"

    1. Vicki: Thanks for the comment. It is a distinctive photo of you! I will speak only for myself. I do not throw on any "old" thing but do not agonize over clothing. For work I wear suits and ties and sometimes cufflinks and pocket squares. I do my best to put it. I cannot say I have ever heard a man worry about clothes making him look fat though suits are tailored to minimize bulges,

  3. Bill, I, too, never paid attention to clothes worn by the various characters in books till I started reading Moira's blog. Detailing something as mundane as clothes (a male point of view) lends colour to the narrative and is often a key element in the story.

    1. Prashant: I agree with your comment. Details about clothes can certainly add to books.

  4. Great stuff, Bill, and thanks for the shoutout. You make your point about the difference between men and women's clothes descriptions very eloquently, and convince me I should read more of Vicki Delany.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I was glad to mention your blog. I hope you will get to read more of Vicki's books.

  5. Fun post Bill. Moira's blog has made me look at clothes in books differently too...though I am one of those few women who couldn't give a damn about clothes (I wish "the future" in which everyone where's the same outfit every day would hurry up and get here).

    1. Bernadette: Thanks for the comment. I hope "the future" is not a Mao suit.

  6. Fantastic post - Great explainations and thinking.I'm looking forward to what you have for us next..!
    Men's Clothing