Sunday, May 01, 2011

Writing about Style: Fashion Static

The heroines in my manuscripts are like me: fashion conscious (but not conscientious) and bargain hunters by necessity.  We know that Louboutin and Choos are modern classics as far as footwear is concerned.  We are aware of Daniella Issa Heyalel and Sarah Burton as solid new designers.  We know the surface, the popular names, but not the ins and outs of the everchanging fashion world.  We don't read Vogue (Italian or otherwise).

None of us can blow a thousand bucks on a designer dress for a party or five hundred on a pair of shoes.  My heroines and I shop at retail chains and stay within budget.  We work hard for our money, after all, and while we like to look good, we also like to eat and pay the phone bill.

For a romance heroine, being up-to-date on the latest fashions is not a requirement.

Most heroines we read about have a simple, classic style.  Sheath or wrap dresses are perennial favourites for what they do to flatter a woman's body.  Business suits are tailored but feminine, in muted grays or stark black, and they serve well for a tense workplace encounter.  Beneath the suit, you may want a hint of softness -- a silk blouse or lacy camisole, or perhaps a piece of signature jewellery like pearls that were a gift from her twenty-first birthday.

Jeans work well for casual encounters.  Sometimes there's nothing sexier on the hero too!  Sundresses with a light summery print are a must for beachy fun while the swimsuits underneath can be a daringly contrasting bright-coloured bikini or demure black one-piece.  See, with a minimum of description, we can create a full wardrobe!

You don't have to go into full detail over length of sleeves, ruching, and hemlines unless they play a part in the story itself.  You don't want to describe a daring strapless number and then have the hero slipping spaghetti straps off your heroine's shoulders two pages later.  That would be a fiction fashion faux pas.

Where fashion is concerned, simple is better.  Black pumps and little black cocktail dresses never go out of style.  And simple is also timeless.

I am a huge fan of vintage romance novels from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  If you read these "contemporary" romances, you would be surprised at how little the fashion in these books have changed.  A solid pair of calf-hugging boots are still a must, as are good pumps and a pair of strappy sandals.  Great blouses are still silk.  Good jewellery is still gold.

Simple colours like blue, black and red last while hunter green may forever date your heroine in the 1990s.  Anyone remember acid wash jeans?  How many romantic heroes and heroines were sporting those in 1985?  I may have been wearing them too, but I'll tell you that none of my heroines would have been caught dead in them!

Photo courtesy of Suat Eman at

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