She soon had a clientele among the girls, cheerful, stoical, good-natured creatures who petted the baby and took to spending their off-duty moments in the workroom with Fanny. There was nothing downtrodden about these girls; they regarded ordinary married women with scorn and pity.
A Family Romance, ch. 3
But it probably has its roots in her affection for the modes and mores of the eighteenth century. The girls, during the Occupation, became, we learn, mistresses: they were, as Brookner puts it, 'elevated to the status of regular mistress'. The conservative imagination, far from being outraged by such goings on, instead is almost reassured by a sense of tradition and continuity.