Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Class Act


Hey. I’m a classy broad. I’ve lost count of the number of twin sets I own. Plaid skirts hang in my closet, and I wear them with flats. My blond bob is many decades old. I have two strands of cultured pearls, one from eighth grade graduation. I nearly have an orgasm when the L.L. Bean catalog comes. In my eternal quest for the classic, I even chose the “classical” incision for my unplanned C-section, not realizing then the “bikini” cut was the way to go even if my bikini days were over.

I have flirted with other styles, but find comfort in the clothes I’ve been wearing all my life. Give me a turtleneck sweater, some penny loafers and a pair of jeans and I am a happy if not stylish woman. But lest you think I’m totally boring, I like funky, chunky hippie jewelry to jazz up my Town and Country self.

You may not be able to tell the book from its cover, but clothes announce to the world how we want to be seen. Writers use clothing to telegraph the character of their characters. Who doesn’t know exactly what J.R. Ward’s leather-clad vampires are all about? In Kasey Michael’s The Secrets of the Heart, Baron Christian St. Clair uses his outré outfits to conceal his serious side. Here’s a passage from Shana Abe’s Georgian-set The Dream Thief:

He wore ebony when everyone else was done up in pastel flowers. His wig was a simple tye when all the other men sported curls upon curls.

We know immediately that Zane is simply dressed and simply elegant.

What are your characters wearing? When you think of a style icon, who do you see? What makes you feel classy?

A dress makes no sense unless it inspires men to want to take it off you. ~Françoise Sagan

15 comments:

elyssany said...

Maggie, great blog. I'm a creature of comfort myself - I tend to wear the same type of outfit day in and day out. Some of my students even threatened to nominate me for What Not to Wear. *g* If I'm just lounging around the house, I go for some velour pants and t-shirt. If I plan on going out, it might be jeans (or my capri gauchos depending on the weather) with a tighter t-shirt.

When I think of style icons, I think of two movie actresses: Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn. They always looked so stylish in photos, magazines, and in person.

In stories, outfits do define a person ... especially in mine. Sam Brody always wears these custom-designed suits by this fabulous British designer Oswald Boatang. The suits look very professional on the outside but on the inside, they sometimes have these vibrant colors. So to me, it says a lot about Sam in that he's hiding a secret part of himself from the world.

And Kate, well Kate loves comfort. I poke fun at myself a lot with what Kate wears since she tends to wear the same type of clothes I do pre-makeover. I think there will always be a part of Kate who loves her graphic t-shirts much to the chagrin of Sam.

BernardL said...

Your post is very funny, but I hated the accompanying picture. :) Your Zane example illustrates one of the few times where dress matters in literature. I tend to dress my women characters the way I like to see a woman dress: simple and elegant, like Melanie Griffith in the movie Working Girl during the bar scene where she first meets Harrison Ford.

terrio said...

First off, great quote at the end there. I used to be the queen of frump. But hitting my 30s, going through a divorce and losing some weight seemed to wake me up. I went from wearing clothes 2 sizes too big to things that fit and the difference was amazing. No more frump for me.

My heroine is tall, leggy and thin but she thinks these are all negatives. She doesn't put too much effort into her wardrobe but I've given her one interesting touch to hint there's more than meets the eye. She has very fancy and feminine undergarments. Since we learn she hasn't been in a relationship for some time, it tells the reader she's wearing them for herself which I think is the best reason to buy and wear lacy undies. And the fact my hero got a glimpse of these undergarments (quite by accident) it has him fantasizing about a woman he thinks he can't stand. Very fun. *g*

Maggie Robinson said...

Bernard, what's not to like? Pearls? Lipstick? Rose-colored glasses? *g*

Ely, Audrey Hepburn was a timeless, ageless icon. I saw a whole bunch of pictures with her in Givenchy and drooled.

Terrio, I like the idea of secret sexy underwear!

Marisa said...

Great blog Maggie. Style has always eluded me and I'm constantly "looking for a look". When I think of a style icon I'm always thinking of Katherine Hepburn - timeless classic - a look I only wish I could achieve.As a reader, when a writer 'gets it right'; 'dresses' their characters with a sense of style - and that could be clothes or an attitude - they've got me from the beginning.

MsHellion said...

My characters dress like me. Jeans, t-shirts, flip-flops, hair up in a clip... My men usually dress a bit better; they have a bit more pride about things...but my women are relaxed about it. Unless they find a really cute black dress on sale at Macy's...then they'll doll up to the 9's and make their men swallow their tongues. But it's a rare thing.

Of course, Mark Twain tells us: Clothes make the man. Naked people have little to no influence on life. (Or something real close to that.) I wonder what he'd think of all the half-naked celebrities today?

Class act. I think it's the ability of not just what you say, but what you don't say. Something I'm horrible at. I usually say too much.

Tessa Dare said...

I have no fashion sense. None. I hate shopping with a passion, even from a catalog. I buy clothes from the range of Gap stores (Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic when I'm feeling flush) because I know what size I wear in their stuff and don't need to try things on. I could (and mostly do) live in V-neck tees, sweaters, and jeans.

Because of this, I'm so glad I write historicals. I can write with much more authority about what was fashionable in 1807 than I can do the same in 2007. Half those brand references in a JR Ward novel are completely lost on me.

RevMelinda said...

I will never be elegant or stylish. "Square" is more like it (physically as well as fashion-wise, LOL)--just need a kerchief thing to channel my inner/outer babushka.

I love shoes, however. No manolos for me, must have an athletic shoe sole/soul.

So Skechers Mary Janes
in brown fish brocade,
Privos in lime green,
and Ahnus in both blue and red suede
make me a Happy Woman indeed.

Just noticed I've written some lovely rhyming doggerel. How nice! I'll put the line breaks in. . .

Lenora Bell said...

I nearly have an orgasm when the L.L. Bean catalog comes.

Hee hee! You made me laugh, Maggie. I think we've discussed this before, but I love vintage clothing from the Victorian era through the early 60's. I used to want to own a vintage clothing store before the romance dream arrived. I have racks of satin and velvet dresses that I hardly ever wear.

Unlike Tessa, I live for shopping. I could happily spend five hours in a thrift store (and all too frequently do).

I love writing historicals so that I can geek out on the fashion details. But my current heroine seems to favor sever black dresses and no adornment. She may need a makeover half way through the book. Oh how I love a makeover.

Maggie Robinson said...

RevM---shoe poetry! You've found your fetish! I love shoes too, although I've been in flip-flops and sandals so long my feet are not going to appreciate confinement soon.

Lenora, I love vintage clothing too. Go get dressed up, and undress your heroine!

Hellion, I do the jeans, but T-shirts just aren't right on me. Somewhere I have one that cost $50 from a Rolling Stones concert that I've never even worn.

Tessa, when you're at your book signings, maybe you should get Lenora to become your personal shopper so you can be tres chic!

Marisa, Katherine Hepburn---now THERE was a class act!

Gillian Layne said...

I love the thought of "dressing" everyday--the shoes, the jewelry, actual nail polish, perhaps. Then I go to work and have kiddo sneezing and crawling all over me, and I'm thinking, yup, jeans and polos for me.

And we would have great fun shopping together--you should have seen my face when we visited the LL Bean mother ship in Freeport. We were all running between the buildings like crazy people. Fun!

irisheyes said...

I dress very simply. I've become a little more fashionable over the years but I still don't want to think a lot when I dress.

I love jeans and polo shirts/crew neck tshirts. I don't like t-shirts with sayings on them. My DH lives in them!

My biggest problem is shoes. I have to wear gym shoes (New Balance) and there isn't a whole lot that goes with them besides jeans and the occasional Dockers. Also, I'm usually freezing cold. So I layer. A lot! Turtlenecks, sweaters and fleece. I love Old Navy.

As for heroes and heroines - I like men who look good in jeans or Dockers, a mock turtleneck and loafers. If I were to write a heroine's wardrobe it would probably be a lot like me - jeans and comfort. I do, however, love the fancy undies idea Terri. It tells a lot about a person.

anne said...

Maggie, I do sooo wish to contribute something meaningful to the discussion, but I SIMPLY CANNOT GET PAST THE PICTURE OF THAT PIG!!!! ROFLMAO a thousand times...

Lenora Bell said...

That's funny you suggested I be a personal shopper. My friend just accepted a corporate job but she didn't have the right clothes. I took her to my favorite thrift store and for $75 found her a whole new coordinating wardrobe (at least 20 pieces). It was so much fun! If you live in the PacNW, you're welcome to come and raid my closet for Halloween...

Maggie Robinson said...

Anne, I was going to illustrate this with a lovely White painting of a spremely classy lady in black--- but I just fell for the pearlized pig.

Irish, my girls are addicted to Old Navy, especially online.

Gillian, in the two school districts I've worked in the past nine years, we've been forbidden to wear jeans. Boo.

Lenora Bell...personal shopper to the stars (and a star herself, of course. ;) )