Grit's been chock full of eye candy this week--striking street styles snapped by Desmond, Fashion Week faves offered up by Chassity, and behind-the-scenes beauts from Ayoka and the gang. It's been AWESOME. And amid the bevvy of these pose-filled posts came Stephanie's. Inspired by both poses and prose, it stood out--an uber-creative spin during this week so full of Charleston fashion. So before you hit the tents (or the restaurants or the sidewalks) this weekend, take this lesson in fashion from Stephanie, E.B. White, and Will Strunk.
Writers are, for the most part, a stylishly ho-hum, hunched-over lot, too much hovering over a desk, not much strutting around looking glam. Skinny jeans keep words from flowing; stilettos stifle the ability to go get another handful of Cheetos every time I get stuck on a phrase or waylaid by clunky transitions. Scarves and blingy bangle bracelets get in the way of typing. Yoga pants and sweatshirts are my professional attire—God forbid I have to go to a special event, like Charleston Fashion Week!
Evidently I’m not the only writer whose affinity for words is stronger than her (or his) fashion flair. The fabulous Eudora Welty was all tweed and neutrals—yet she gave us some of the world’s most evocative stories, without one bit of frill.
JK Rowling, bless her muggle heart, hit the red carpet wearing upholstery (perhaps a nod to the literary darling, Scarlett O’Hara?).
Clearly, I ain’t one to talk. I don’t quite understand fashion—it’s a foreign language to me. Like Calculus. I appreciate good clean lines and classic style; I vote for comfy over trendy anyday, and frankly, I think that many of the get-ups I see strutting down the runway could use what every writer loves: a good editor. And who do you turn to for editing advice? Strunk & White, of course.
So, in the spirit of Fashion Week, I offer my own makeover of the inimitable Elements of Style—E.B. White and Will Strunk’s timeless and flawless guide to good writing, to demonstrate that good prose can, in fact, make a good pose. (And if your wardrobe still suffers, at least your writing might improve.)
Strunk & White’s “Elementary Principles of Composition,” applied to the catwalk:
In Prose: Choose a suitable design and hold to it. "A basic structural design underlies every kind of writing…. A sonnet is built on a 14-line frame...The more clearly the writer perceives the shape, the better the chance of success.”
In Pose: In clothes-speak, I take this to mean: find what styles and shapes work on your frame, and stick to it. Just because someone deems absurdly short bubble skirts to be “in” doesn’t mean you should wear one.
In Prose: Make the paragraph the unit of composition. “The paragraph is a convenient unit, it serves all forms of literary work….”
In Pose: This, of course, translates to: Little Black Dress & Good Pair of Black Pants. Will serve all forms of fashion needs.
In Prose: Use the active voice. “The active voice is more direct and vigorous than the passive….’I shall always remember my first trip to Boston,’ is better than, ‘My first trip to Boston shall always be remembered by me.”
In Pose: Whether in Boston or elsewhere, dress vigorously and directly, don’t hide behind or under slouchy, passive clothes. Make an active statement, be bold, but be you.
In Prose: Put statements in a positive form. “Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, noncommittal language…. As in, ‘She was not very often on time,’ becomes ‘She usually was late.’”
In Pose: Yes, I am usually late because I’m usually dilly-dallying trying to decide between tame, noncommittal outfits that I should just toss. I’m not exactly sure how to dress in a more positive form, but I’m working on it.
In Prose: Use definite, specific, and concrete language. “Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract…. As in: ‘A period of unfavorable weather set in’ becomes ‘It rained every day for a week.’”
In Pose: In fashion terms, maybe ditch the vague-ish oversized shirts that now parade as short, short, short dresses. Go on, wear a real dress. Cover one more inch of thigh—it won’t hurt you.
In Prose: Omit needless words. Need we say more? (They would be needless words, no doubt).
In Pose: Over accessorizing is like a run-on sentence or a too-wordy blog post (watch it!). Err on the side of tastefulness. Any fool can put on ridiculously high heels and layer too many trendy layers in that mismatched mode that simply says “trying too hard.” But how many Jackie O’s are there? How many Audrey Hepburns? Edit, dear friend. Edit.
And if you’re feeling a little underdressed, come find me. I’ll be in the yoga pants and sweatshirt, taking notes.