7 Sep 2014

Writers Who Had Good Taste

When it comes to writers, literary taste is considered to be their most, if not solely, important quality. But when it comes to people whose profession is a writer, it's not only their taste in words that we judge. It's their taste in many other things - manners, eloquence, gallantry, elegance, and, of course, their taste in clothing. After all, how else do you make an impression on people who haven't read your books yet?

1854-1900, Dublin-Paris

First thing that comes to mind when mentioning Wilde's name is his belles lettres, inexhaustible wit and most beautiful style of writing. A true jeweller of words, Oscar Wilde supplied many literary almanacs with famous aphorisms and deep insights into human nature.
It is known that his mother, Jane Francesca Elgee, used to dress little Oscar in girl's clothing - perhaps, to take revenge for having a boy instead of a long-wished girl.

In Oxford, Wilde was always ultra-fashionably dressed, sporting culottes (knee-breeches commonly worn in the late Middle Ages and early Rennaisance by upper-class gentlemen), silk stockings, lemon-coloured gloves, and a waistcoat embroided with flowers. Every piece he wore, however, was chosen with perfected taste of a true dandy. Just like Wilde's writing style, his clothes were always artful, memorable, and elegant.

Oscar loved neckties and neckerchiefs, buttonholes, and jabots. Usually he would always have a cigar or wear a stylish cane. And at winter a coat with a big fur collar was a must.

Oscar Wilde was a true reveller: he loved expensive things, first-sort hotels, restaurants, beautiful people - such as Alfred Douglas, also known as "Bosie". Wilde mercilessly spent his fortune on trying to please the young man, whom he spoilt with expensive gifts and whose every caprice he indulged.

1899-1977, Saint-Petersburg - Montreux

"I'm an American writer, born in Russia, educated in England, where I studied French literature before moving to Germany for fifteen years... My head speaks English, my heart speaks Russian and my ear speaks French." - Vladimir Nabokov
Nabokov's famous phrase clearly characterizes his cosmopolitanism, which was mostly, of course, oblidged by his life circumstances. Born into the family of then-famous polititian, little Volodia got an excellent education at home.

Nabokov loved to read. He swallowed the books in impressively huge portions, and always seemed to be needing more. According to some sources, at his juvenile age Nabokov read about 3000 books in 3-4 years. By 14-15 years Vladimir had read, or re-read, complete works of Tolstoi in Russian as well as all works of Shakespeare in English and Flaubert in French. 

The light shade of aristocratism cultivated in Nabokov´s childhood also extended to his dressing, which, however, was always well-balanced without any kitchy details. Nabokov loved tweed jackets in light or dark colours, classic shirts and tennis outfits. The random visitors of Swiss forests, where the writer used to spend most of his spare time hunting for butterflies, were always amazed at this elderly but prompt and lively man wearing a cap and golf socks, running about among the thickets with a butterfly net.

Many people considered Nabokov to be lofty and arrogant mostly due to his elegant manner of speaking and ridiculously extensive vocabulary. And indeed, some of his novels are a hard nut to crack. In reality, however, Nabokov was a very friendly and cheerful person with a contagious laughter of a child. A child who was always wearing a superb, excellent-fitting suit.

Nabokov's suit Nielsen and Cie

Shoes Bata Goodyear

Writer's pince-nez and etui

1915-2005, New York - Connecticut

There is an opinion that Arthur Miller (not to confuse with Henry Miller) owes his fame to his even more famous wife - Marilyn Monroe. They were married for 4 years, and, of course, this marriage became the most examplary and immaculate in the U.S. society of the 20th century. 

He - a macho and an intellectual, supplying theatrical world with first-rate plays. She - the most gorgeous woman of her time. At the first glance, their relationship seemed quite unusual. It is known that it took Marilyn a year to win Miller over  - a tall, unarguably handsome and charismatic man, always with a pipe or a cigar in his mouth. The writer never stood out for being an eccentric in clothing: he preferred wearing classic suits, usually of white or black colours.

Miller saw Monroe as a serious dramatic actress, rather than another blond bimbo, as most people did. Magazine covers, Hollywood smiles on the photographs and a generally vanilla image of the couple was an antipode of their real relationship. Marilyn was difficult to handle - a sweetheart in the morning, by evening she used to turn into a demonic creature gulping down tons of sleeping pills. 

"Thanks" to Marilyn, for quite some time Miller lost his inspiration and ability to write - the owner of the myriad of awards, including the Pulitzer Prize (for Death of a Salesman), the author of most popular plays couldn't produce a single line. Nevertheless, Milled is considered to be one of the most productive writers of the 20th century. 

1835-1910, Missouri-Connecticut

"What can be more depressing than the somber black which custom requires men to wear upon state occasions? A group of men in evening clothes looks like a flock of crows and is just about as inspiring." - Mark Twain
In 1906 Twain suddenly began wearing exclusively white. But it seemed so perfect an image for him, that now it is impossible to imagine Mark Twain wearing any other colour.
The famous writer gave hygiene as his reason for preferring white - which was either a way of stirring up the attention of the society, or senile extravaganza. Or both.

On formal occasions, Twain would wear a suit of white broadcloth, "as immaculate as newly fallen snow", white enameled leather shoes, the coat, lined throughout with white silk, white velvet collar, white trousers with a white silk braid down the outside seams, and a huge white mane of hair instead of a hat. During the day, he preferred a light flannel suit - also white, of course.

It was only four years before his death when Mark Twain publicly announced that he would henceforward wear white because it corresponded to the original costume of one of the characters invented by him, Adam (Extracts from Adam's Diary). Shortly after his seventieth birthday, he also declared that he was old enough to wear whatever he desired.

"There is absolutely no comfortable and delightful and pleasant costume but the human skin. That, however, is impossible. But when you are seventy-one years old you may at least be pardoned for dressing as you please." - Mark Twain

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