Author Bianca Turetsky on her Debut Novel The Time-Traveling Fashionista
by Teen Vogue April 06, 2011
An ode to vintage clothing and an exciting adventure to the Titanic all wrapped up in one pretty pink package, The Time-Traveling Fashionista (Poppy), is an enthralling read for fashionistas of all walks. The first in an impending series, this novel follows thirteen-year-old Louise Lambert, a quirky, somewhat out-of-place seventh-grader obsessed with vintage finds and classic glamour. After being invited to a mysterious fashion sale, Louise tries on a gorgeous dress once worn by a Miss Baxter, and she’s transported to an era of decadence and luxury—a story that’s especially brought to life thanks to the tome’s pretty fashion illustrations throughout. Teen Vogue caught up with author Bianca Turetsky to chat about her inspirations, her shopping advice, and the scoop on the real Miss Baxter.
What was your inspiration for this book?
The book came about through an experience I had trying on this pink dress at a vintage store in New Haven, Connecticut—Fashionista Vintage & Variety (fashionista-vintage-variety.com). The women who run the shop, Todd and Nancy, are amazing. They know everything about buying and shopping for vintage and are so excited to share their stories and knowledge. They started telling me a story about this Miss Baxter who wore this dress in New Haven, and I just couldn’t shake it—how her story was kept alive through the dress. And then all these strange coincidences started happening too . . . I looked up information about the Titanic and found that there was a Miss Baxter who was a first-class passenger on the ship, and that’s kind of where the idea started.
What do you hope girls will take away from The Time-Traveling Fashionista?
There are a lot of girls who are interested in vintage clothing, which is so cool because it’s such a great way to express your individuality—through other people’s clothes. I hope to inspire vintage shopping and a sense of curiosity behind the history of the clothes.
Main character Louise has a serious passion for thrift shopping. What are some of your personal favorite vintage shops?
The Brooklyn Flea—there are a bunch of different vendors there, and in the winter they hold it in a big bank, which is cool. Also, Ritual Vintage, in Soho [NYC], is a great shop, and I’m actually doing an event there with the book. I like Olives in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, too.
“True fashionistas do not shop at the mall,” write Glenda and Marla, the two fairy-godmother-type characters in the book, in their closing letter to Louise. Do you think that even girls who aren’t particularly vintage- or designer-savvy will appreciate this novel?
I think so. I hope so! [Louise’s] best friend could care less, which I’m sure a lot of girls can relate to. There’s still something universal in her character—maybe about feeling a little out of place at school and finding your own way through your own passions.
Can you relate to main character Louise? How would you compare your thirteen-year-old self with her?
I do relate to her: I was an only child, I had this out-of-control hair that I only now am figuring out what to do with, I had braces, I was on the swim team. I was always dressing differently, and felt that I didn’t feel like everyone else. It was kind of like, “How did I end up in this suburban high school?” Louise definitely has much more exciting adventures than I did, though!
What are some of your favorite classic movies, in terms of style inspiration?
I love Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and I buy clothes if they remind me of a movie; I’ve definitely bought a lot of pieces based on that one. There are a lot of French movies that have great style—like ones with Brigitte Bardot. For inspiration, I always turn to old films before I go shopping!
Who are some contemporary young actresses you feel do a good job at embodying the type of Old Hollywood glamour Louise idealizes?
I think there are a lot of young actresses who are really getting into fashion on the red carpet. Hailee Steinfeld designed her own dress for the Oscars and it was nice, old-fashioned, and totally age-appropriate!
Who are some designers who you feel create especially beautiful pieces that embody Old Hollywood style?
I love the Rodarte sisters. Even if they’re not necessarily Old Hollywood-type clothes, their pieces refer to movies, and they’re always telling a story, so they have some history—even if they’re new pieces.
What are your top tips for vintage shopping?
- Get the people who own the store involved—they’re so invested in pieces, so they’ll know what’ll look good and what fits. The fits are so odd that it’s nice to have someone there to help who knows what they’re doing.
- If something smells weird, you probably shouldn’t pick it up. I know from firsthand experience that you just can’t get some smells out, no matter how hard you try!
- You can do so much of it online these days. There are some great websites, blogs, and forums. So even if you are living in the suburbs with only a mall near you, you can get your hands on these great things. A few of my favorites are:
- If it’s tight in the store, then it’s going to be really uncomfortable after a long night, as a lot of vintage clothes don’t have stretch—they’re superfitted and structural, so it’s not worth it!
What can we expect from the second book in the series?
I just got back from doing research in Paris, so it’ll be a French adventure . . . I can tell you that much! I found a great vintage store there called Odetta.
How many books in the series can we look forward to?
Right now it’s just second in the works [due out April 2012], but there could be more!
For more info on The Time-Traveling Fashionista (including news, contests, and giveaways!), visit timetravelingfashionista.com.