Dispatches | January 31, 2007

I like to dress people.  No not button up their shirts, zip their pants or tie their shoes, but pick out their clothes and make them wear the outfit I’ve selected.  Perhaps it’s just one more way to dictate my taste.

I also like to imagine how I might outfit my favorite authors if they were in their prime today.  First, I’d tell Anais Nin to move out of the junior’s department.  The Whatever-Happened-to-Baby-Jane look has never been in style.  I’d introduce her to more age appropriate clothes at Forth & Towne.  Sylvia Plath loved clothes but in her late-twenties was locked into the 50s collegian look, which I’d replace with European styles from Garnett Hill — cashmere, wool, anything Eileen Fisher.  Of course, Ann Sexton with her willowy limbs and air of sophistication belongs in nothing but Ann Taylor sheath dresses and black cocktail numbers.  Elizabeth Bishop could trot around the globe in head-to-toe Territory Ahead while her mentor and friend Marianne Moore might stow her black cape and tricorn hat for St. John’s knits, particularly their new resort collection.  Edna St. Vincent Millet should keep it feminine and ethereal in Max Studio’s flapper-inspired frocks but occasionally mix in a slightly more sophisticated piece from Cynthia Steffe or Nanette Lepore.

The men are an easy fix:   Hemingway is all about Eddie Bauer and Fitzgerald is totally J Crew.  The Beats in their standard Chinos and Oxford shirts are eternally classic.  Perhaps that’s why Gap was able to feature the King of the Beats without the slightest alteration in their “Kerouac Wore Khakis” advertisement campaign. 

And then there are some writers like Isak Dinesen whose sense of style launched “The Out of Africa” fashion trend fifty years after the publication of her most celebrated work.  The stately high-necked blouses and ankle-long tailored skirts is an enduring look that can still be ordered from a J.Peterman catalog (yes, it really exists).  For me that tops a Pulitzer Prize in literature any day.