legendary authors and the clothes they wore

Dress for the book you want to write, not the book you’ve written.

by James Anderson
29 June 2017, 2:25pm

Joan Didion

Back in the 90s, Terry Newman worked at i-D for a few years, before eventually going freelance and contributing to a myriad of other magazines and newspapers. She then became a mum to two boys and later embarked on a new career as a Senior Lecturer in Fashion Journalism at UCA.

Her latest project is Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore, a fascinating book that combines her love of style and writers. In the book she explores in detail the memorable looks of famous wordsmiths from past and present -- including Patti Smith, Joe Orton, Truman Capote, Zadie Smith, Bret Easton Ellis, Jacqueline Susann, Allen Ginsberg, Quentin Crisp, Joan Didion among others -- many of whom have been stylish sources of inspiration to fashion designers around the world. We caught up with our old friend Terry to find out more...

Allen Ginsberg with artist Slava Mogutin

When did you start working at i-D, Terry?
I started as the office junior in 1995. I spent my time in the beginning answering phones, doing the post and putting the classified adverts together -- this was pre-internet, so our classified ads at i-D were a bit like a print version of Facebook with lots of young designers promoting their stuff. Then I was made the first ever shopping editor, after badgering the then-editor, Avril Mair, and the fashion director, Edward Enninful, if I could have my own pages to write and style.

What's your fondest memory of your time here?
There was an amazing energy at i-D during the 90s. The place was full of incredible people who were driving a moment in time and I learnt loads. Scott King was the art director and he made everyone's pictures look fantastic. He attracted fabulous photographers like Wolfgang Tillmans and Juergen Teller who shot fashion for the magazine. It didn't seem odd that an 18 year old was the fashion director -- Edward Enninful really led the way. I remember coming into the office and seeing Alek Wek sitting at his desk and just thinking she was the most amazing beauty I'd ever seen. Edward discovered her.

Is Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore your first book?
I contributed to Fashion Now and Fashion Now 2, and also Soul i-D - all lovely i-D books that were thrilling to be involved with, but this is the first one of my own.

Truman Capote

Have you always been a book-ish sort of person?
I've only ever really been into two things: books and clothes. All the authors in Legendary Authors are heroes to me and I love their writing and also their un-styled style -- their novels have inspired me, as they have many.

What initially prompted you to make the book?
When I was growing up and reading all these magical authors, it seemed that they were as interesting as the books themselves and I loved them too and their own personal stories. Quentin Crisp and Oscar Wilde were romantic and exotic characters - certainly to me, going to school in Streatham! Flagrant individualism has always fascinated me and all the authors in my book go their own way so it seemed quite an obvious thing to write about.

Which authors are your personal stylish favourites?
I honestly love them all, but if I could be one of them in a parallel universe it would be either Simone de Beauvoir -- slightly frumpy, but beatnik-y and cool. Or Patti Smith -- odd, remarkable and androgynous. Or Nancy Mitford -- a classic English eccentric.

Were any particular authors deemed not 'quite right' to be included in the book?
One of the other points of this book is that it doesn't matter if you aren't quite right. These authors were never really fashionable in their time -- apart from perhaps Zadie Smith now -- and yet they all have a unique style that made them original and authentic. That's what interests me most about clothes -- style and how people make them their own. It's much better to make your own fashion rather than follow it.

Quentin Crisp

Why do you think so many authors have this hugely individual sense of style?
Writers often have their own world and they inhabit it the way they please and dress for themselves without worrying what anyone else thinks. Quite a lot of the time brilliant writers are single-minded and artistic and can't help but be themselves and this exudes in both their books and their looks. This of course is really attractive.

While putting together the book, did you stumble upon any particularly fascinating nuggets of stylish writer-related info that you were previously unaware of?
I grew up obsessed by Joe Orton and then became obsessed by Vivienne Westwood when I was at university, so it was a bit odd that I only made the connection between the two of them when I was researching this book. Orton's famous Loot play posters featured cut and paste ransom-style lettering that inspired Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne's punk styling. Also, one of Orton's planned but not written plays was called Prick Up Your Ears and this became one of the World's End classic T-shirts, with a screen print of a gay orgy on it. Orton famously said sex was the only way to infuriate middle-England and of course SEX was the name of Vivienne and Malcolm's shop in 1974, too.

Did authors of the past dress better than authors of the present?
Well, Patti Smith still looks amazing and I love Zadie Smith. There are lots of writers who dress well, but the thing is today if you get into the public eye, you normally have a stylist and that can take away the spontaneity of a look. That didn't happen in the past -- certainly not with these authors, whose wardrobe was all their own making.

Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore by Terry Newman is published by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins, on 27th July, £20. Pre-order via


Text James Anderson
All images creative commons

legendary authors and the clothes they wore
terry newman