Thursday, January 11, 2018

Do Clothes Make An Author Unique?

A unique book, Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore by Terry Newman, takes a look at the fashions of great writers, including Samuel Beckett, John Updike, Sylvia Plath, Marcel Proust, T.S. Eliot, Edgar Allan Poe, Toni Morrison, James Joyce, Maya Angelou, Tom Wolfe, Edith Wharton and dozens of others.

The book captivates lovers of fine literature and dedicated followers of fashion.  It delves into the wardrobes of true literary icons – past and present – and shows how they wrote of fashion and how fashion represented or influenced their writings.

The book jacket notes:  “Entertaining features – revealing anecdotes about the authors and their work, archival photography, first-person quotations, little-known facts, and clothing-oriented excerpts,that exemplify their writing style – make this a lively look at the authors we love.”

The author has worked in the fashion industry for over 25 years and lives in London.  She says: “Strands of fashion run through literature, both in the words writers put on the page and in the clothes they put on their backs.  Quite often, the two were intrinsically linked.  The connection between the wardrobes and viewpoints of all these legendary writers may not seem at all obvious on first glance, but rifle through their drawers, and personalities appear and evolve.  Djuna Barnes, John Didion, and F. Scott Fitzgerald are renowned authors who articulate not just with words but also with what they wore, and more often than not, they wore their hearts and words on their sleeves.”

The book summarizes some of these star writers and their dress styles as follows:

T.S. Eliot
“A classic, complete three-piece suit and tie was the wardrobe of choice for T.S. Eliot, who was almost never seen wearing anything else.  He buttoned up and strode out in impeccable style, looking elegant, gracious, and well-bred.”

Gay Talese
“Often accessorized with a statement fedora and a thick cigar, Talese’s personal style is impressive, smart, and full of sophisticated panache.”

Cornel West
“West’s thin-framed glasses are as pleasant as his customary white shirt, black suit, and gold cuff links.  West always looks immaculate, and he said in an interview with The New York Times that he is ever “coffin ready.  I got my tie, my white shirt, everything.  Just fix my Afro nice.  His glasses, however, are the serious icing on the cake.”

Edith Wharton
“In her novel, The House of Mirth, Wharton talks about ‘sallow-faced girls dressed in preposterous hats.’  However, Wharton’s own hat wearing was of the most tasteful and genteel kind.  Beautifully made bonnets by carpet milliners adorned her every outfit. Wharton know how to dress to impress:  she wasn’t nouveau riche.”

Saul Bellow
“He usually wore an Italian Borsalino fedora and, more often than not, a bespoke suit to match.  He didn’t care if he looked overly flamboyant or even a little bit like a gangster.  He wore it easily and with just at any saunter.  When he collected his Nobel Prize he wore a top hat, and in his later years, in his own inimitable style, took to wearing all-American baseball caps from time to time.”

Joyce Carol Oates
“Whether incognito or not, Oates’s glasses look predated geek chic by decades.  She looked quirky, cool and interesting.  In the twenty-first century, Oates’s glasses are then, wiry, and tinted, with small oval frames, that more perfectly fit her face in a growing-old gracefully fashion.”

I conclude with the book’s back cover copy:

“Legendary authors and the clothes they wore presents men and women of letters whose writing bears an idiosyncratic stamp and whose style of dress does the same…this unique volume is a must-have for lovers of distinctive books and looks.”

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby

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