Last autumn I had fun doing a fall fashion blog. This year I haven’t really done fall fashion shopping, mostly because I splurged a lot over the summer, notably on the dress above in three different colors (black, coral, ivory, all very much or sale). It’s a dress that goes anywhere, from picnics to the black tie and the lace is remarkably sturdy, a plus for the mum of a toddler. Fortunately, lace is still very much in for fall, so I’m still wearing the dresses a bunch with cardigans and sweaters.

But thinking about fall fashion prompted me to think about what designers Suzanne and Cordelia and Laura might wear if they lived today. I think Suzanne and Cordy would both wear a lot of my favorite designer (the source of my three lace dresses) Alice Temperley of Temperley London. Not just as a nod to the author, but because the fluid, elegant, romantic but not fussy look seems to suit them both.

I browsed for them both on the Temperley website (very fun because they would have a much more generous clothing budget than I do :-). I could see Suzanne wearing this dress to a tea or luncheon (or to work, because a modern day Suzanne would certainly work). This dress also is perfect for Suzanne day to dinner and time with the children. Cordy might wear this to a cocktail party. I could see Suzanne in this dress (one of my favorites of Temperley’s Autumn/Winter collection) at a dinner party or the theater. Or during the day with a cardigan and flats. They could make a dramatic entrance at a black tie event in matching evening gowns, Suzanne in red, Cordy in blue. 

Or for contrasting evening looks, I could see Suzanne in this and Cordelia in this.

Laura, on the other hand, I see as a bit more tailored. I could see her wearing a lot of L.K. Bennett, another favorite I haunt during sales. I could see Laura in this day dress, or this for dinner, or this for something more formal.

What sort of clothes do you think Suzanne, Cordelia, Laura, and others in the series would wear if they lived today? Designers, brands, styles? What present day celebrities have looks that might be similar to theirs?

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Those of you who follow this blog regularly may know that fashion is one of my escapes. When reading any fiction, even something completely different from my own work, makes me feel inadequate and second guess myself, I take refuge in fashion magazines. When I need a mood lift I plan a special outfit (or go shopping). When i came home form the hospital with Mélanie, dressing up and doing my hair and makeup was my way of holding on to who I was in addition to being Mélanie’s mummy.

I thought it would be fun to do a fashion-centric post as a change of pace (and a break from a thorny plot conundrum I’m trying to iron out). I have a weakness for some wonderful designers like Temperley London, Moschino Cheap & Chic, and Burberry that I can only afford at about 70% off (and even then I shop very selectively). This means I do a lot of my shopping on sites like theoutnet and yoox. I get some fabulous bargains, but it means my new clothes are often a few seasons, even a few years old. Fortunately, i tend to like styles that are fairly classic and I wear my clothes for years (in my recent post about my week of events, I wore dresses that ranged from brand new to six years old). Still I love the fall fashion issues of Vogue and In Style with lavish spreads that detail the new styles and trends of the season, and I manage to try out some of them.A few that intrigue me this season:

1. Animal prints. I love animal prints, particularly leopard. My mom loved them as well, as Mélanie is currently on her fourth pair of leopard print flats (the first were a baby gift from a stylish friend). I found the dress above on Saks Off Fifth and got it entirely with bonus points (guilt free shopping!). It’s from the winter resort collation but it’s in lovely autumnal tones. I’ve been wearing it a bunch and may wear it to Thanksgiving dinner.

2. Burgundy, Always one of my favorite colors. Burgundy bags have been all over fashion magazines and websites this fall. I looked for one but couldn’t find one I liked that also fit my requirements of being 1) roomy enough to accommodate a laptop, papers, and baby gear, 2) Mélanie proof (inside able to stand up to mushed up banana, melted chocolates, and sunscreen spills), and 3) mostly non-leather (as a vegetarian, I feel hypocritical carrying a purse that has more than the odd bit of leather trim). In the end i got an updated version of my bilberry Longhamp, the new le Pliage Neo which i trade off with my older Planetes to make both last longer.purse

3. Midi skirts. I have a bunch of different skirt and dress lengths in my closet, butI love the new longer skirts and dresses that are in right now – great for bending down on the playground. I’d like to get one of the full, below the knee skirts that seem to be everywhere this season. It’s a look that feels very fresh now, but that’s classic and that i’d wear for years. I haven’t got one yet, but I like this one from J. Crew and this one from Reiss, though in both cases I’ll probably wait for sales.

4. Sweater dressing. I love sweaters and knit skirts and dresses (one of the many things I love about autumn). I got this dress on sale over the summer (another 2014 resort piece) with the idea that it would be great for fall (and now we’re having a heat wave or I’d be wearing it this weekend – its says something about Bay Area weather that I wore it several times over the summer).7.17.14TracySSC

Then of course there are wish list pieces like this dress and this skirt that I won’t even let myself think about until sale time. Fortunately it’s a pretty timeless loo.

Do autumn leaves make you think about new clothes? If so, what do you think of the season’s trends/ If not, what else do you look forward to as the days shorten and the light turns rose gold?












A few weeks ago, thanks to my work at the Merola Opera Program, I had six days in a row of events. This meant a lot of childcare juggling and the fun and challenge of putting together six outfits for events involved a lot of the same people. In days after, catching up on sleep, email, and housework, i thought about characters like Suzanne and Cordelia, whose adventures occur amid a social whirl, whether in London, Vienna, or Paris. I don’t think I’d properly considered how exhausting those events are, quite without the added intrigue and adventures their encounter. Going out every night, choosing gowns and jewelry, and constantly needing to be “on”. Do you ever think about that when reading about characters existing in the whirl of the London (or other city) season?

Here, in pictures, is a look at my week. I managed not to repeat the same dress!

With Mélanie at my talk at Book Passage about the Merola season

With Mélanie at my talk at Book Passage about the Merola season

snuggles after Mummy talked

snuggles after Mummy talked

With Merola participant Casey Candebat at a Merola Signature Event

With Merola participant Casey Candebat at a Merola Signature Event

With Merola alum Quinn Kelsey and my friend Amii at another event

With Merola alum Quinn Kelsey and my friend Amii at another event

Opening night of Merola's production of "A Streetcar Named Desire"

Opening night of Merola’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”

With Merola alumna Maria Valdes at another event

With Merola alumna Maria Valdes at another event

Mélanie needing some mummy time before the Saturday "Streetcar" matinee

Mélanie needing some mummy time before the Saturday “Streetcar” matinee

In their work as spies, Malcolm and Suzanne often make quick changes to their appearance to suit a new role. I’m used to writing such scenes for them. I’m less used to thinking about it in terms of myself. Until yesterday. It was the opening night of the Merola Opera Program’s wonderful production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. After spending the afternoon stuffing inserts into programs, I had a quick dinner with Mélanie and a couple of colleagues and then hurried back to the theatre to meet one of Mel’s wonderful babysitters. While quickly going over details with the babysitter, I pulled a hair of feels from the toy bag and exchanged them for the flats I was wearing, took off the cardigan I’d been wearing all day over my black cocktail dress, unwound the long linen scarf I had wrapped around my neck and thew it over my shoulders as a shawl.

It was only when I was hurrying  up the street to a pre-performance reception (combing my hair as I walked)  that I realized I had just made the sort of quick change Suzanne often makes (such as in Imperial Scandal when she transforms herself into a shopgirl to go into Le Paon d’Or). It was also just the sort of scene I might put in a book to dramatize a working mom balancing her multiple roles.

As  a multi-tasker, I’ve always been grateful for multi-tasking clothes. As a working mom, I’m more grateful for them than ever. Day-into-evening dresses (nothing like black to stand up to the dust of a theatre and the smears left by toddler hands), earrings one can sleep in, sweaters that can be easily stowed in a diaper bag, a bag that works as purse, diaper bag, and computer bag, scarves that double as shawls, a light weight trenchcoat the works over everything. I have a pair of black satin heels that basically live in the car or the toy bag.

Do clothes help you balance different parts of your life? Which pieces are particularly good multitaskers?  Writers, do you think about clothes to define different roles your characters play?