Sasha’s unfailing belief in the redemptive and transformative power of clothes, make-up and accessories may only yield fleeting results, but ‘the sensation of spending’ is for her akin to sinking into a tub of foamy, warm water. Rhys understood the psychological value of new clothes, echoed by George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier:
In 1937 keeping up a veneer of respectability mattered far less than at the turn of the century, but it still mattered, and Sasha, despite her hatred of her fellow ‘Anglaise’ is still English enough to keep up this veneer. She daydreams of ‘bracelets studded with artificial jewels, red, green and blue, necklaces of imitation pearls, cigarette-cases, jewelled tortoises…’
By 1937, women’s (daytime) hemlines had risen again, after dropping dramatically at the start of the decade in keeping with the bleak austerity of the Great Depression, following the above-knee frivolity of the daring Roaring Twenties. It was still a voguish, modernist era for women’s dress – a last gasp of luxury (for those rich enough to enjoy it) soon to be replaced by the utilitarian austerity of wartime threads.