Everything Countess Ellen Olenska wears in ‘The Age Of Innocence’

Erika W. Smith
Jun 7, 2016 · 2 min read

A dark blue velvet gown and diamond headdress

“[The new figure] was that of a slim young woman, a little less tall than May Welland, with brown hair growing loose curls about her temples and held in place by a narrow band of diamonds. The suggestion of this head-dress, which gave her what was then called a ‘Josephine look’, was carried out in the cut of the dark blue velvet gown rather theatrically caught up under her bosom by a girdle with a large old-fashioned clasp.”

A giant fan made out of eagle feathers

“Ellen Olenska bent her head slightly, keeping her own pale-gloved hands clasped on her huge fan of eagle feathers.”


“What can you expect of a girl who was allowed to wear black satin at her coming-out ball?”

A red dress and amber beads, which seems the most normal thing here, but is still somehow scandalous

“Little Ellen was in crimson merino and amber beads, like a gipsy foundling.”

A velvet bonnet and meditative eyes

“As she spoke she untied her little velvet bonnet and tossing it away with her long cloak stood looking at him with meditative eyes.”

Basically a Little Red Riding Hood costume

“Madame Olenska, heedless of tradition, was attired in a long robe of red velvet bordered about the chin and down the front with glossy black fur.”

A stylish green monkey muff (?????)

“She had on a black velvet polonaise with jet buttons, and a tiny green monkey muff; I never saw her so stylishly dressed.”


“She was dressed as if for a ball. Everything about her shimmered and glimmered softly, as if her dress had been woven out of candle-beams; and she carried her head high, like a pretty woman challenging a roomful of rivals.”

A fur coat and a fur hat with a heron wing sticking out of it

“Archer, remaining seated, watched the light movements of her figure, so girlish even under its heavy furs, the cleverly planted heron-wing in her fur cap, and the way a dark curl lay like a flattened vine-spiral on each cheek above the ear.”

A sealskin coat, a muff, a veil, and violets

“As she stood there, in her long sealskin coat, her hands thrust in a small round muff, her veil drawn down like a transparent mask to the tip of her nose, and the bunch of violets he had brought her stirring with her quickly-taken breath, it seemed incredible that this pure harmony of line and colour should ever suffer the stupid law of change.”

Erika W. Smith

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Writer, editor, feminist. Find me at BUST magazine and Femsplain.