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It’s time to ditch the flannel and dust off the accessories, ...

Ideas

It’s time to ditch the flannel and dust off the accessories, darlings

Real-life book launches are back and you know what the crowds are like, so best you dig out the jewels and scarves

Sunday Times books editor
Then everyone will know you're distinguished and only read literary novels with a capital L.
SAY IT WITH PEARLS Then everyone will know you're distinguished and only read literary novels with a capital L.
Image: 123RF/mtoome

I am going to riff off another column, but it was too great an opportunity to miss because a) I can highlight a fabulous author and b) I get to write about earrings. The delightful Emma Straub, best-selling author of All Adults HereThe VacationersModern Lovers and Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, has written a hilarious column for Lithub called Emma Straub’s Advice for What to Wear to a Book Launch: “Back to basics. Just hot dogs, babka, and gratitude for vaccines.”

The author toured her 2020 novel virtually.
The author toured her 2020 novel virtually.
Image: Supplied

She breaks down what she wore for her first: “Fascinators, poufs, rhinestones. Red lips, maybe even eyeliner. I was fucking going for it. Those were the halcyon days.” Further on she discusses what she wore and why for her next two book launches. Then she writes about the gloom of Zoom, when, in 2020, she virtually toured her novel All Adults Here . She writes: “No matter how much my beloved agent and editor and publisher tell me otherwise, that is how it feels, like a void. I did a thousand Zooms, and enjoyed them, because it was the only chance I had to talk to other adults without my children in the room, but man, what a sad time. 0/10, do not recommend publishing a book at the very beginning of a global pandemic. (This goes for all other jobs, too, including parenting.)” 

Now, getting ready for her next book tour, an actual one, she hopes, for her latest book, This Time Tomorrow, she is going back to basics and not taking anything for granted. “No glamour, no feathers. Just hot dogs, babka, and gratitude for vaccines. Here’s hoping I see you out there in the world. You can wear whatever you want. I will compliment you on it.”

It made me think of the book launches and festivals (the Kingsmead Book Fair is happening in Joburg on Saturday) that are finally taking place in person again. Are people dressing up? I know I am trying my best, but I am forgetting to wear earrings. The horror, I know, because members of the book launch crowd are particular about what they wear. I need to have those statement earrings. And there can be different statements. Pearls: “I am distinguished and I only read literary novels with a capital L.” Large, colourful earrings could be many statements all at once: “I read quirky, funny novels that feel like hugs” or “I read serious non-fiction and I know what is happening in the world, so don’t mess with me.” Depending on the launch, I could go with many different types. I have loads. 

Scarves are integral to the outfit throughout the year. I have scarves to suit the occasion and the weather. Light, gossamer, silky ones in the summer; woollen, infinity ones for the cold months. But I keep the colour neutral. No gaudy yellows with lime green swirls. If in doubt, go with beige or grey.

Then there are the necklaces. Beaded ones are a must and can be worn at any launch at any time of day. Long, silver chains with fancy pendants are a prominent feature as well. Or wear both, as well as the scarf, and really fit in with the book crowd.

But as Straub says, I don’t take for granted that these in-real-life launches are happening. It makes me happy to dive into my cupboard and choose an outfit that is not mostly flannel. Have to remember to put on those earrings though.

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