The Case For At-Home Glamour

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At the beginning of Angela Carter’s final novel Wise Children (1991), twins Dora and Nora Chance are getting ready to celebrate their 75th birthday. The showbiz duo have lived out a raucous three quarters of a century, tripping from the dusty curtains of British pantomimes to artificial forests built in Hollywood studios, and back again. Steeped in many decades’ worth of stage costumes and party frocks, they maintain an ongoing devotion to all things theatrical. “We put on our faces on before we come down to breakfast,” Dora remarks, “the Max Factor Pan-Stik, the false eyelashes with three coats of mascara, everything… Our fingernails match our toenails match our lipstick match our rouge. Revlon, Fire and Ice. The habit of applying warpaint outlasts the battle.” It being their birthday, they’re also wearing their “best kimonos… Real silk, mine mauve with a plum-blossom design on the back, Nora’s crimson with a chrysanthemum… Underneath, camiknickers with a French lace trim, lilac satin for me, crushed rose crepe for her.” It’s a great image, the two arrayed for a morning at home, highly stylized but slightly tawdry single septuagenarian sisters living alone but for the elderly first wife of their father (as with all the many tangled family connections and tensions in this novel, it’s complicated). 

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