Styling Characters Out of your Imagination
Like to love to read. I love to read more because I like my book club. And I like my book club more because Karin Tanabe is in it. She is an author; she actually was introduced to book club because she is an author, and came to present her first book The List during considered one of our meetings. She was so fun, friendly and fabulous that we asked her to affix as a reader.
Last week, she played both parts in our book club. Reader and writer. She talked about her just released second book, The price of Inheritance. Set as it’s (for probably the most part) in Newport, Rhode Island, our evening involved champagne and crabs (as she said, “the fitting form of crabs”).
Karin Tanabe (courtesy of Lauren Roche-Garland)
What fascinates me most about both of her books is the fashion and style that comes through, mostly because she is so good at describing her characters’ wardrobes. So I had to ask her how about how she creates her characters’ distinctive styles.
AP: Tell me about Jane Dalby- she is the primary character in your book that resonated with me from a style and fashion perspective. She could be very, very rich, very barefoot, very classy. She wears crewneck cashmere sweaters, 3 gold bangles, an 8 carat engagement ring from her grandma and a wedding band; she wears white jeans regardless that it is winter, and likes to be barefoot. She has great hair, dark with blonde highlights – Jackie Kennedy hair. Just a little makeup: mascara and blush.
KT: Some pieces of clothing stand out to me. Some colors stand out to me. In the case of this book, green was the theme color for the Dalbys. Green conveys envy and money. The Dalbys wore a variety of green – green cashmere, specifically. That color represents a lot in my book – yet another reason I wore that dress in my book reading.
KT: Yes… the book takes place in a resort town in winter. The individuals who live there are so rich, so old money, they are actually casually rich and really understated. Plus, I love cashmere. I wear it religiously. This theme of understated old money can also be why they only have sailboats don’t have yachts. Sailboat clothes are very old money. Like Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina… Mega-yachts are such a nouveau riche concept. I thought lots about sailboat clothes: white jeans, navy blue jackets, cashmere, three gold bangles that Jane wears on a regular basis.
AP: I loved those recurring gold bangles and the sound they make. Tell me more.
KT: It is an old money thing to have a signature piece – not a new thing every season, not the most recent and perceived greatest, but the identical amazing thing that you simply always wear. Like Jane’s 3 bangles.
AP: Jane is always barefoot in winter…. Is not that cold
KT: There is something nice about being barefoot in huge mansions; it indicates a certain level of comfort, which we wouldn’t find in nouveau riche. So comfortable, not trying to impress. After all, the assumption is that Jane has perfect toes, probably dark red since it is wintertime.
AP: OK, let’s switch to Carolyn. She is the principle character, certainly one of my favorite passages within the book is when she has a monologue in her head about the various outfits in her wardrobe – beige, St. John, Coco Chanel, backless, depending on the shopper she is meeting with.
KT: Carolyn (this is Carolyn in NYC) is a large pleaser. She has grown up around all this money and wants to be at the highest of her game. She dresses more for other people rather than for herself (quite the opposite to the Dalby sisters). She is trying to keep up with the Joneses, both professionally and in her private life. She is going to wear what she things will advance her professionally. Her makeup jewelry and shoes are very, very done. She wears quite a little bit of makeup. Her accessories are Chanel flats and Louboutin heels. Things that are very outwardly expensive because it matters to her and her clients.
AP: Yes, but then she moves back to Rhode Island for a bit…
KT: Carolyn in Rhode Island is Carolyn without the need to live – which she has lost… She also puts on a couple pounds… Once her career is shot her clothes are shot too. Her everyday outfit becomes firemen’s’ sweaters, old jeans and riding boots.
AP: So what about your style How would you describe the way you dress
KT: I really like signature pieces. I believe they are so interesting. Donna Tartt was on Vanity Fair’s best dressed because she always wears men’s clothing – always men’s suits. I have always liked that idea. I do not yet know what my signature fashion style or item is. I like global things. I like to dress like a world traveler – think Gucci meets National Geographic…
AP: What’s your favorite item in your closet
KT: A classic YSL evening tuxedo. I bought it because I used to be invited to a party in a palace in Monaco white halloween wigs in the course of the Gran Prix and that i had 2 hours notice and ran into town. I wore it with no shirt underneath – no shirt, yet a number of jewelry. That was a fun night!
AP: What about the fashion item you most want, that you just wouldn’t have
KT: I would like something by Delvaux; it’s a Belgian brand like Hermes but less people know of it. Specifically, I need Le Tempete in black crocodile. Like the Hermes Kelly bag but more undercover. I also desire a “vavavoum” evening gown. Gucci or Marchesa, very low cut, with plenty of silver sequins. I will buy this dress for myself when somebody buys film rights for either of my books!
AP: So who inspires your style
KT: I am an enormous pants person, I really like sporty American classic clothing like what Katherine Hepburn wears. I also love Cate Blanchet, she dresses in a way that is very elegant and age appropriate.
AP: What’s your favorite fashion movie
KT: That is easy – The Talented Mr. Ripley – the clothes are too good to not watch…
AP: Any favorite fictional characters in books whose style you look as much as
KT: Yes! Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk is the ultimate story of a traditional girl who wants to be an actress in NY; she reinvents herself and her wardrobe and changes her name. Within the movie she is played by Natalie Wood. I also love Jordan Baker in The good Gatsby. I believe she has better clothes than Daisy. She is long and lean and more modern and very much a golfer. And of course Jay Gatsby himself – the truth that he wears a pink suit is one of the best things in literature fashion-wise.
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