The proposal to write a review for this novel started innocently enough -- I was having lunch on a porch of a restaurant during a beautiful spring day in St. Simons, Georgia when I received an email from an associate of Simon & Schuster (and for those of you who don't know, Simon & Schuster is one of the four major publishing house based out of New York City.) As I skimmed through it, I thought to myself,
this has got to be spam. But then certain specifics of the contents of the email made me immediately think otherwise. The books that I've reviewed on this blog are mostly style books and I have yet to do one on a novel, but those aforementioned details of the email, one of them being that it's written by New York socialite Tinsley Mortimer, and after actually having read the book, Southern Charm, definitely persuaded me to reconsider.
If you're wondering why the name Tinsley Mortimer sounds so familiar, it's probably because there's a pretty good chance that you've heard or read it somewhere before or even watched her reality show High Society on CW (that's certainly where I know her from) or even spotted her as a guest star in shows like Gossip Girl, America's Top Model, and The Fashion Show (you know, the other fashion design show with Isaac Mizrahi on Bravo before he became a judge on Project Runway All Stars.) The title of the book is pretty much explanatory because Tinsley is a southern belle turned New York City socialite and fashion mogul. Aside from being featured on the pages of Vogue, Women's Wear Daily, Harper's Bazaar, and Marie Claire, Tinsley also served as a beauty ambassador for Christian Dior and currently designs handbags for Samantha Thavasa.
"The only way you're going to survive, the only way you're going to succeed, is if you stay true to yourself... I'm saying keep curling your hair."
Even though Southern Charm is a novel, you're going to figure out pretty quickly that the story itself mirrors Tinsley's personal experiences pretty closely and perhaps for good reason. Besides, isn't it easier to write about something that you know? The story is about a privileged southern girl named Mary Randolph Mercer Davenport, or Minty Davenport, who grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and moves to the big city to escape her post-UNC Chapel Hill life and pursue a design career in fashion. I mean, what better place to pursue such aspiration than the mecca of Fashion? Minty visited New York City several times before as a child and thanks to her bed time readings of Eloise at the Plaza, she always had this image of the big city as this wondrous and glittery place full of life and adventure, as opposed to the concrete jungle that it really is. She quickly learns this lesson upon her arrival and the rest of the story is pretty much about her navigating her way around this fast-paced and cut-throat industry, carving out her own niche, and creating a new home for herself all while trying to stay true to who she is and what she believes in. I won't spoil the main plot of story for you, but rest-assured that there is definitely drama, betrayals, lies, love and romance, and lots and lots of fashion.
The thing about these kinds of books is that a healthy imagination is a requirement. And even if you're a visual person but simultaneously a fashion enthusiast like myself, it's not very hard to picture the people, the places around New York City, the events, and of course the clothes, the shoes, and accessories. I suppose that's what I love the most about this book is the imagery that it paints for the reader. Intentional or not, it does a really good job in portraying the nature of the main characters based on how they're dressed. (I mean, what else are we going to be talking about, this is a Fashion Blog!) There's a great deal told about this story and the people in it through through the imagery of their clothes specifically in terms of literary concepts like metaphors, symbolisms, and contrasts. And of course this is especially true of the main character, Minty, who after all is the focal and driving force of the entire novel.
- 1st NY Event at the Saks Fifth Avenue Charity Luncheon
Bright Pink Alice + Olivia baby doll dress with an empire waist and black patent leather Mary Jane Manonolo heels.
- Job opportunity brunch at Swifty's for Ruth Vine PR
- Office attire for RVPR
- Baron Guggenheim party
- Kevin Park "muse"/brand ambassador meeting
- Frick Ball
- Philippe Dinner with Tripp after New York Page Six blast #2: PARTY OVER FOR SOUTHERN DEB?
- Oscar de la Renta wedding dress boutique
- MET Ball gown by Kevin Park
Minty Davenport's first New York City event was at the Saks Fifth Avenue charity luncheon as a "seat filler" favor for her sorority Big Sister Emily Maplethorpe, the PR manager for Saks. It was a total fish out of water experience for Minty and not to mention she stood out like a sore thumb in a pink Alice + Olivia dress while all of the most influential people in fashion in that room (designers, stylists, magazine editors) are all dressed in black. Like I said, intentional not, this was a great way to make the distinction that Minty's character is not like everyone else in this new place. That pink dress was a great contrast for a wide-eyed, ambitious girl, new to the city compared to the jaded New Yorkers and natives all dressed in black. A similar situation happened when Minty met up with Emily for brunch at a place called Swifty's where she landed a job as Ruth Vine's assistant for her Fashion PR company. While everyone around her on a Saturday morning was dressed in earth tones and browns, Minty, once again with her Southern roots distinctly displayed, wore floral-print tea-length dress.
The moment that she began working for Ruth Vine is when her fashion began to transform and accommodate all the other changes in her life including the fast-paced and detail oriented facets that her new job demanded. The initial scene at the offices of RVPR finds Minty in a black Theory pencil skirt, white blouse, but with a little hint of color from her jewelry. It has been made evident that while she's certainly welcoming the changes and adjustments in her life and new career, she still tries to hold on to a little bit of herself in the form of color in something as simple as a statement necklace. Then as she meets all these new people in the city and attends several luxurious events and parties, her color palette slightly shifts to grays, blacks, and nudes. And the rest of the dresses that follow is just as significant as the one proceeding after it.
The Frick Ball (even if it's not as grand or as big of a deal as the MET Ball) symbolizes Minty Davenport's societal debut to New York City and of course she wore her one of a kind debutante gown in which she was later featured in the famous New York Times "Sunday Styles" pages. And on top of the entire Minty and Tripp love fiasco (engagement at the Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve, the planning of a grand wedding in Charleston, Tabitha Lipton scandal which led to a a premature courthouse elopement, and of course the London disloyalty which lead to their demise) Minty fell in love with this Oscar de la Renta wedding gown worthy of a fairy tale and of course, not every story has a fairy tale ending. She finally realizes that maybe life in New York City is nothing like Eloise at the Plaza. But she eventually gets her fairy tale ending when Kevin Park -- an up and coming designer who she becomes a brand ambassador for, who she helps launch his brand to superstardom on the pages of Women's Wear Daily and the racks of Barneys and Neiman Marcus, and designs an exclusive handbag collection for -- invites her to be his date to the MET Gala. The MET Gala is a fundraising event held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted by Vogue and most importantly made popular by Vogue's editor in chief, Anna Wintour. So all of the glamour and exclusivity is pretty much implied. And with such a special occasion such as this, it is only fitting (and almost a tradition, think Kate Moss wearing Marc Jacobs with March Jacobs as they ascend the historic steps of the MET) that Minty wears a one-of-a-kind dress designed by the designer that she's accompanying -- a "barely-found-in-nature-let-alone-on-a-couture-dress" peony pink dress to be exact.
Southern Charm is a great read for every dreamer and fashion enthusiast out there and perfect for a summer beach read. I'm very thankful that Simon & Schuster even considered the Stylist Fashion Blog to feature this book and our readers can even enter a sweepstakes in which you can win a signed copy of the book along with other great prizes (click image below.) This book is available to order now onlline (Amazon or Simon & Schuster) or at bookstores near you.