Tag Archives: fashion chick-lit clothes

Fashion for the gentleman writer

Jason KingPhil: If we want to make a big splash in the publishing world then we need an image. Or to be more specific, I need an image. Candice has fashion sense and knows what looks good. I don’t, so some inspiration is required.

Last night it arrived.

Watching a documentary on the 1970’s there was a writer. OK, a fictional writer but a writer nonetheless. He was considered dapper and a real style icon. Best of all, when not writing massively succesful adventure stories, he was a secret agent and wow with the ladies. Wikipedia describes him as a “dilettante dandy” A perfect match for me !

I am of course referring to Jason King, late of Department S.

I recon I could do the cravat thing. With a bit of luck I’ll not look too Nicholas Parsons, not that this is a bad thing. The moustache might take a bit of time but a falsie would do the job for the moment. I need more hair, or perhaps a wig. Thinking about it, that would be a good idea then I could go incognito when required and escape the paparazzi.

As with all plans, there are downsides. In common with most people in the 1970’s, King smoked, but at least he smoked a pipe. I’ve never been tempted but if I was I think pipe smoking would suit me. There’s lots of work involved with cleaning and packing the thing. Best of all you get to say you are nipping in to your favorite tabaconists for a good rough shag.

Jason King - or maybe Phil ?

King’s outfits were many and varied. So varied in fact, that I could turn out to be the colourful one in this partnership and probably need to the bigger trunk to carry the clothing on tour. Something tells me that isn’t going to go down too well !

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Correspondent Trainers

Phil: With all this talk of shoes, I’ve been feeling a bit left out. I wear shoes, but like most men, my shoes come in Black and Brown plus trainers. We actually play on this in the book, describing Gareth as a man more familiar with the concept of not wearing brown in town than modern business practises. It’s a motto I subscribe to, for work my choice has been the classic 3-eye Doc Martin in black – for at least 12 years ! If you ordered Candice that she wear the same style of shoe for that length of time, the only black thing would be your eye…

As I pondered this glumly, I looked down and inspiration struck. Trainers. Not the sort da kidz wear, I’m far too old, and I flatter myself, sensible, to be told what to wear by Dr Nike. No I mean what I used to like to think of as my correspondent trainers.

I can’t remember when I bought these but it was a few years ago. They come from Lands End and were probably in a sale. I picked them because they fitted.

The colour is a sort of dark beige, probably refered to as “stone” which has mellowed thanks to wear and tear – they certainly aren’t “box fresh” but at least I don’t have to worry they will survive a ten minute walk in a car park. The welt extends up across the toe cap and heel giving them a sort of two colour look. Now, I read somewhere that two colour shoes are nicknamed “correspondent shoes” so I always considered these to be “correspondent trainers”.

Needless to say I got it wrong.

The term is actually Co-respondent shoes (Spectator shoe for American readers). A co-respondent is someone named in a divorce petition, in this case the sort of chap who can find himself labeled a cad or bounder. He probably has a moustache and drives an open top Jaguar. Such a despicable fellow will have a preference for the sort of flash footwear that your good honest, hard-working gentleman would consider beneath the pale. The shoes are easily remembered by hotel staff when left outside the room for cleaning while he and the object of his attention are inside doing the dastardly deed.

So my footwear are actually co-respondant trainers. All I need now is some top lip fur, a suitable open top sporty number and develop a raffish persona.

Which makes me think of characters for the next book. Perhaps not though, I think our two leading ladies would eat him alive !


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Wallowing in ChickLit

ChickLitPhil: This post was supposed to be decorated with a picture of a lovely, gooey, delicious and totally indulgent cupcake. Our plan was to meet up for lunch at a Brimingham cafe which makes excellent cakes so we could plot world domination and I could listen politely to stories of recent holidays. Sadly, as my train passed through Dorridge, I received a text “Going to have to cancel today im afraid as at home sick”. Since Candice isn’t one to take a day off lightly, I assume this has no connection with it being her turn to pay for the goodies !

Anyway, I was on a train and it wasn’t going to turn back just for me. I’d arranged to give blood in the afternoon anyway so this meant an extra hour and a half of spare time in my day. No matter, Birmingham is a big place with plenty to entertain anyone for a day.

One of the places I had intended to visit was the Central Library. This impressive building, a fine example of Brutalist architecture, is being demolished and replaced with something modern. The new home a few metres away will be made of glass and be all very whizzy but I wanted to have a wander inside the old one before it changed too much. The interior is confusing for the first time visitor but I eventually ended up in the engineering section marvelling at the many shelves of car repair manuals or “bloke-lit” as you might term them. Soaking up the studious air in the place made a little bit of me wish I’d not been too thick to go to university. I could have been one of the badly dressed men studying the intricacies of gearbox design, delving deep in my subject and moving into my own ivory tower.  As it is I tinker with old cars and bits of metal but know that I don’t belong there.

Moving on I found the fiction mezzanine which is home to the exact opposite of engineering corner. The shelves are bright, the books small and pretty, much like the readers. Along one wall, there are the “books for women”. I knew this because someone had been busy with the computer to replace the boring old labels seen everywhere else in the library with bright pink ones bearing the legend “Chicklit”.

They didn’t need to bother though because something else gave the contents away. The covers were all pastel shades. Titles were written in a handwriting style font. In pink.

Since I had the time I decided a bit of research was in order. This is, after all, the biggest selling category of fiction so it seemed sensible to find out as much as I can. “Know your Enemy” as they say.

Once I’d got past the colour schemes I noticed several other points:

  • The description on the back starts with a womans name. This will be printed in a brighter colour than the rest of the text. In the odd case when this isn’t true, there will be a name in the first 3 words.
  • Once you write a novel then you are on a roll. There were very cases of an author only having a single book on the shelves. Many had half a dozen, all of which looked the same apart from the title.
  • The readers like to know what the author looks like so a glamorous photo beside the bar code on the back is common. As I looked at the pictures, I now wonder if I’m too ugly to write chick-lit.

Writing the synopsis appears to be very similar to good writing for the web. Here you have to try to include as many key words as possible so the search engines can find you. I guess that the browsers in a bookshop work the same way as readers of a web page. They don’t take in all the words, just spot the jewels that appeal to them. As an example, I give you “Lorna is up to her eyeballs in debt but can’t help bidding for the newest Jimmy Choos on eBay”. See what they did ? You like Jimmy Choo shoes, you like eBay, you don’t enjoy opening the credit card bill each month, this book is about you ! Buy it now !

In the end though, amongst all the stuff about marriage breakdowns, new men on the horizon and life changing activities, I found a real gem. Out of all the dust jacket blurbs, you simply don’t get better than this:

Sometimes life can be as complicated as a knitting pattern.

Wise words indeed.

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What is a peplum frill ?

Phil: You know how it is; after years of writing about proper blokes subjects like boats and trains and greasy car maintenance, you get stuck into producing a novel and find you have fallen into the pink, fluffy, pit of chick-lit.

I don’t really know how this happened. When we first talked about the book, in my head there was something Tom Sharpe-ish going on. A bit less pervy stuff maybe, but definitely lots of funny set-pieces and preposterous ideas. Laugh out loud funny stuff.

The thing about working with someone else though is that your ideas get an immediate editing. The sort of thing that all writers ideas get, but instead of this happening at the end of the process when the manuscript is complete, they take a beating straight away. This is good as they never grow from mere acorns into sacred cows but you can find things eveloving in directions you didn’t expect. Quite exciting really.

Gradually, as e-mails pinged back and forth and lunchtime chats fleshed out the plans, Kate took over. Kate Smith, the main character that is. To put it in a nerdy way, she is Darth Vader in our Star Wars story but with better clothes, less space ships and no breathing issues.

In fact the clothes became more and more central to the story. Kate’s wardrobe defines her. It’s not just about appearance but (and this is where it gets chick-lit) her moods and personality are summed up by the contents of her wardrobe. It would be going too far to suggest that clothes are all that matter to her but she does use them in a way a male character wouldn’t. Not just her either, once you get into this stuff, everyone gets the treatment.

All this is fine but it leaves me marooned. I mean, I can understand why I don’t need a spanner suitable for Whitworth threaded bolts but am lost when it comes to outfits. For example, apparently different brands of jeans fit differently. Who knew ? I thought they just fitted or didn’t and if they didn’t then you picked a bigger waist size or longer legs.

All this means it’s a good job I have a co-writer. Now when I need to know what someone is wearing, I send an e-mail “Candice, what shoes are required for walking around a field in the summer ?”. I’d guessed “old ones” but apparently the correct answer is “Gladiator sandals or wedges”. Also, when I fire a block of text over, the next time I see it the paragraphs have added brand names. Chick-lit it seems should read like a shopping list.

Which brings me to peplum frills.

One of our minor characters wears a jacket with one and my first response was “What the hell is one of those ?”

Tentatively looking on teh interweb, I find it is “a flared ruffle attached to the waistline of a dress, jacket, or blouse”

That wasn’t much help. So, emboldened by the knowledge that I wasn’t about to inadvertently surf porn at work, I looked at the pictures. This helped, it’s the frilly bit at the bottom of a womans jacket. To my eye, an extraneous bit of detail stuck on by designers hoping to persuade gullible customers that they need a new jacket even when the current one hasn’t worn out yet.

I enquired further. According to Candice, you might wear a jacket with a peplum frill to distract the eye from a “fat arse”.

Genius. Without describing the person, you are saying that she cares about her appearance but is a little heavier than she would like to be. That’s why I need a colleague. Mind you, with all these cup cakes we are eating now I’m wondering if there are any blokes jackets with the same feature…


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