The New Dress Summary, Glossary and  Easy Activity Sets

The New Dress Summary


The New Dress Summary

“The New Dress” by Virginia Woolf is a short story about the character Mabel Waring. She is constantly thinking about her new dress negatively. For the party she wears an old fashioned dress thinking as original deliberately. May be that was affordable for her economic condition. On reaching the party and watching the other partygoers, she feels self-conscious and insecure. She worries that her new dress is not appropriate for the occasion. After greeting the hostess, she goes to look at herself in a mirror, immediately deciding that it’s not right. She imagines the other guests are looking at her mockingly.

She curses herself for wearing that yellow dress in the name of being original. She continues to condemn herself for wearing that old-fashioned dress. When Rose Shaw in the party praises her dress, she feels she is being mocked.
Mabel tries to think of some way “to lessen this pain.” She describes her situation in agonized terms, as if she is not be mentally stable. Mabel compares herself with fly in the saucer and all other partygoers as beautiful butterflies dancing on the floor. She doesn’t take anything on positive note. She considers Robert Haydon’s remark as polite but insincere.

In her stream of consciousness she tries to think back to how happy and comfortable she felt at the dressmaker’s room.  The kind Miss Milan pinned her hem, asked for her measurements, and tended to her pet canary. However, the world in the party is different. She expected Charles Burt commenting on her dress as charming. Instead he asks her to get a new dress. She rebukes herself for caring about what others think of her.

Mabel recalls growing up in her unremarkable family and her dreams of romance and adventure in far-away lands. She thinks about her reality, including her marriage. She thinks of special, lonely moments in her life, which she describes as delicious and divine. These were the only moments when she felt truly happy and fulfilled.

She wonders if these moments will become more and more infrequent as she gets older. She wants to find a way to be happy. She decides to pursue self-improvement and transformation through some helpful, astonishing book, or an inspirational public speaker. Having talked herself out of her internal crisis, she gets up to leave the party. Before she goes, she approaches Mrs. Dalloway, assuring the hostess that she enjoyed herself at the party.


annul – reduce to nothing

appalling – very bad

archeology – scientific study of material remains of past human life an activities

botany -a branch of biology dealing with plant life

bulging – swollen

clamour – a loud continuous noise

cormorant – large diving seabirds

coy – bashful

creaking – making a harsh, high pitched sound

decrepit – elderly and infirm

detached – aloof

dignified – august, distinguished

dingy – gloomy and drab

dowdy – unfashionable

etymology – scientific study of the history of a linguistic form (words, grammar)

fretful – restless

fructify – to bear fruit

furbishing – to give a new look to

gesticulating – using gestures

grudgingly – in a reluctant manner

lolling – hanging loosely

misery – physical and mental distress or discomfort

odious – extremely unpleasant

orgy – excessive indulgence

paltry – inferior

pluming – profound

to indulge in pride

deep or intense

pucker – a small fold

puffed up – inflated, swelled


remorselessly – affectless

repulsive – arousing intense distaste or disgust

rigged – manipulated

satirical – sarcastic

scrolloping – possessing heavy floral ornament

simpered – smiled in an affectedly coy manner

slinking – moving quietly with gliding steps

slouched – stood or sat in a lazy way

sordid – unpleasant

squint  – to look with eyes partly closed

vacillating – wavering between different opinions

vanity – excessive pride

weevils – small insects/beetles

wobbly – uncertain movement

Activity Set 1(Questions and Answers, New Dress class 12)

Read the extract and complete the activities given below:(12)
Mabel had her first serious suspicion that……………………. came into Mrs. Dalloway‟s drawing-room.

A1. True or false: (02)
i. Mabel was not happy with her dress. True
ii. Mabel had an inferiority complex from her childhood. True
iii. Mabel decided to wear new dress for Mrs Dalloway‟s party . True
iv. Mabel was too much negative about her dress and approach in general. False

A2. Proofs / evidences: (02)
Find out proofs or evidences that shows that Mabel is thinking too much of her dress  . Ans: The following sentences proves that Mabel is thinking too much of her dress  . “What‟s Mabel wearing? What a fright she looks! What hideous new dress!”

A3. Describe: Write down the reactions of Mabel and the people around her in the 
party when she appeared in The party. Ans : Mabel wears the dress willingly. But when she reached the party, she reacted as if she is inferior. She imagines that people around her are making fun of her. She remains aloof from the gathering in the party.

A4. Personal Response: (02)
What would be your reaction if you realise that the dress you have chosen for a special occasion was not properly stitched and you are not  comfortable in it. Ans: If I realise that the dress I have chosen for a special occasion was not properly stitched and I am not  comfortable in it, I would change the dress if possible. Otherwise I will manage to be cool in the party.

A5. Language study: (02)
a) She could not beat off. (Use “be able to” and rewrite)
Choose the correct option and rewrite the sentence.
i) she is not able to beat off.
ii) She was not able to beat off.
iii)She were able to beat off.
iv) She could able to beat off.
b) What a hideous new dress! (Make it Assertive)
Choose the correct option and rewrite the sentence
i) It is really a hideous new dress.
ii) How hideous dress is it!
iii) Wasn‟t it a hideous dress?
iv) How was her dress?

A6. Vocabulary: (02)
Find out words from the extract which mean the following.
i. A strong belief  – conviction
ii. Cruelly – relentlessly
iii. Very ugly  – hideous
iv. Lack of courage – cowardice

Activity Set 2

Read the extract from ‘The New Dress’

(Mabel had her first serious ……………………………………….. for young people to stick pins into.)

A1. Complete the web-chart.

Fashion for Mabel

A2. She did not dare to look in the mirror. Give reasons.

A3. Pick out the lines showing the inferior complex of Mabel.

A4 Write your attitude towards a person out of fashion.

A5. Language Study

  1. She could not be fashionable. (Rewrite as affirmative.)
  2. Why not be original ? (Rewrite as assertive.) 

A6. Give the meanings of – 1. dummy 2. precisely 3. edge 4. endurable


  1. Fantastic blog post! Your writing style was engaging, and the information you shared was spot-on. I’m eager to learn more, so click here for further resources.

  2. Good activities, I feel that the personal response A4 in the 1st extract needs to framed in different manner to avoid Wh question. Even web needs to have 4 answer options for easy marking.
    Appreciate your efforts for working towards students betterment.

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