Secrets and Magical Dresses in Karen Foxlee’s The Midnight Dress

A few years ago, I read a special book.

It’s called The Midnight Dress and it’s by Karen Foxlee, an Australian author from Queensland. I was drawn to the cover (check it out below – it’s divine…) but I didn’t realise how quickly or deeply the story would suck me in.

I think I devoured it over a few days; quite an achievement for someone with a new baby and a three-year-old! But I just could not put it down.

This week, I finally made the cookies I had envisioned as I started reading this magical story, and to celebrate I decided to reread it and rediscover why it had touched me so deeply. Of course, I fell in love with it all over again!

The Midnight Dress follows the journey of Rose, a teenager who is dragged by her father from place to place as he searches for work. When they arrive in a small Queensland town, Rose is certain things will end the way they always do – with her father losing his job. But this time and this town are different.

Rose soon meets Pearl, a precocious girl who attends the same school, and the two girls from an unlikely friendship. When Rose confesses she cannot afford a new dress for the upcoming town festival, Pearl suggests she seek out Edie Baker, a local dressmaker who may or may not be a witch…

Enchanting. Mesmerising. Sumptuous. Mysterious. Lush. These are the words I would use to describe the setting of this glorious book (Edie’s house which is crammed full of random objects, the mountain with it’s secrets and stories, the small town that smells of sugarcane…) and the story, which revolves around creation of Rose’s dress and the fact that one of the girls mysteriously disappears afterwards.

I felt that the character of Rose was particularly well drawn. I could see her so clearly with her halo of red hair, her black eye makeup and her freckles. Foxlee certainly has a way with words- she manages to extract maximum impact from such little descriptions. Everything is fodder for her word magic! Leaves, rain, taffeta, wild animals… The reader is drawn along by the mystery of the disappearance, but I think the delight is really in the writing which shifts and swirls like a piece of tulle which cannot he pinned down.

If you love magic realism, Australian fiction and a great story, you will adore this book.

And if you would like to discover an easy way to make gorgeous, Midnight Dresses, please read on for a cookie tutorial!

Midnight Dresses

You will need:
Icing tinted Royal Blue (Americolour) with a touch of Navy (Americolour)
Icing tinted Super Black (Americolour)
Stencil (available from Spotlight or cake decorating shops)
Black sanding sugar (available from Spotlight or cake decorating shops)

Step 1. Outline and flood your cookies using a Number 2. tip and your Royal Blue icing. Allow to dry overnight.

Step 2. Place your stencil over the cookie.

Step 3. Squiggle some of the Super Black icing over the stencil. Spread it carefully across the cookie using a rubber spatula. Take care not to apply too much icing, or it will squish out the sides.

Step 4. Apply the black sanding sugar over the icing/stencil.

Step 5. Carefully peel off the stencil and brush off any stray sugar crumbs.

Serve with a cup of tea and enjoy another chapter of Karen Foxlee’s The Midnight Dress.

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