Strong sun, that bleach
The curtains of my room, can you not render
Colourless this dress I wear?—
This violent plaid
Of purple angers and red shames; the yellow stripe
Of thin but valid treacheries; the flashy green of kind deeds done
Through indolence high judgments given here in haste;
The recurring checker of the serious breach of taste?

No more uncoloured than unmade,
I fear, can be this garment that I may not doff;
Confession does not strip it off,
To send me homeward eased and bare;

All through the formal, unoffending evening, under the clean
Bright hair,
Lining the subtle gown. . .it is not seen,
But it is there.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem The Plaid Dress

1 Comment

  1. Chris says:

    The poet is speaking about the guilt she feels by not wanting to be held to follow the “moral” code established by the garment that she wears. The plaid dress, symbolic of Catholic school girl and the Catholic religion, is a constant reminder to her to maintain those high virtues. She states “through high judgements given in haste,” then counters with “the serious breach of taste,” on a literal level the author speaks about the lack of fashion of the plaid dress, but on a deeper level, she is letting us know that she does not deserve to wear the colors of purity because she is unclean. Even with “confession” or “clean bright hair”, she is still marked by an unclean act that has shamed her. In the opening of the poem, the “sun” could also be symbolic of the “son of God” and she pleads with him to wash away her sins by making the dress, representing her religion the root of her guilt, basically disappear. What is the sin she has committed? Unpure thoughts maybe? If you read the biography info on the author, she was openly bisexual and in the time period of her life, it was clearly unacceptable. This poem may be about Edna’s first unpure thoughts about other women or sex in general.

Leave a Reply to Chris Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.