When the Giller Prize is handed out on Nov. 10, few of the literary types in attendance are likely to be wearing lavender pants or puffy white shirts, as Oscar Wilde did during a well-documented speaking engagement in 1882. That doesn’t mean, though, that contemporary writers are devoid of sartorial presence. Who is the next-gen Tom Wolfe (inseparable from his ivory three-piece suits and straw hats) or Joan Didion (oversized sunglasses, plain turtlenecks, theatrical ankle-length skirts)? Globe Style flips through the style books of five modern authors whose fashion and cosmetic sense is as distinct as their words (and also offers tips on stealing their looks).
Emma Straub: The flower child
The novelist behind The Vacationers, one of the year’s must-reads, dresses in cheerful stripes, florals and gingham dresses (and, as she recently defended in an Elle magazine essay, muumuus). It is her frequent hair decor, however, that has emerged as a signature: rosettes, knotted headbands and floral hair adornments worn casually, with sundresses and other happy frocks, to her to readings and appearances.
Want the look? Slip on a crown of fabric flowers from Headmistress, now on sale (from $14.50 through www.loveheadmistress.com).
Donna Tartt: The dandy
Just as Fran Leibovitz is noted for her Anderson & Sheppard suits, the petite powerhouse of The Goldfinch and Secret History fame is given to tailored masculine suiting with a foppish touch: frock coats with notch lapels, fitted three-button jackets with slant pockets, even traditional tangzhuangs, the colourful embroidered Chinese jackets. Tartt seldom wears dresses (when she does, styles recall the early 1930s), but she often opts for neckwear, from bright silk Windsor knots to loose cravats. Also in her repertoire: French cuffs, straw boaters, patterned socks, loafers and, on occasion, leopard-print gloves. To accept the 2003 Orange Prize, she borrowed a page from Tom Wolfe, wearing a white-on-white suit.
Want the look? Don the long, tailored Ticket Pocket coat from Smythe’s fall 2014 collection ($795 at Holt Renfrew).
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The red-carpet fox
Just as Zadie Smith does when she pairs her head wraps with chunky Poindexter specs, award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie keeps makeup minimal and pops a rich crimson lipstick. The writer noted for her strong female characters is just as confident in her fashion choices, which typically include structured dresses in clear, saturated colours. At the London premiere of the film adaptation of her 2013 novel Half of a Yellow Sun, for instance, the writer wore a striking lacy red dress; at the Toronto International Film Festival opening, she went for a fashion-forward peplum gown in canary yellow with just a flash of burgundy.
Want the look? Consider the black and yellow geometric colour-block dress from Canadian designer Caitlin Power’s spring 2015 line.
Karl Ove Knausgaard: The bear do
It isn’t what Karl Ove Knausgaard has in his closet that’s memorable – it’s that impressive facial hair. Knausgaard, the serial Norwegian autobiographer, has probably the most famous literary beard since Farley Mowat, the hirsute Canadian writer and environmentalist who died in May. How does the international sensation keep his salt-and-pepper scruff so consistently short and spiky? Only Don Johnson knows for sure.
Want the look? Stop shaving, stock up on Musky Barber Shop essential-oil spray by Vancouver’s Happy Spritz ($28 for 100 ml through www.happyspritz.com) or Christine Chanter Botanicals Beard Oil ($30 for 30 ml through www.christinechanter.com).
Michael Chabon: The new bohemian
Over the years, Chabon has moved from casual henleys and tweed to crisp, brightly printed dress shirts and, in one photo op, outrageous red trousers. Indeed, the author of Wonder Boys and Telegraph Avenue has been wearing enough artfully loud paisley-patterned shirts to keep Robert Graham in business. They – and he – certainly make a statement.
Want the look? Try the slim-fit shirts patterned with Mexican skulls or psychedelic circles from the Swedish shirtmaker Eton ($295 each through www.etonshirts.com).