06/21/2011 10:43 am ET | Updated Aug 21, 2011

Interview with Bianca Turetsky, The Time-Traveling Fashionista

the time-traveling fashionista

"A new dress doesn't get you anywhere; it's the life you're living in the dress and the sort of life you had lived before, and what you will do in it later." - Diana Vreeland

I love this quote from Diana Vreeland but what if... what if... a beautiful vintage dress could actually take you back in time?

That's the situation that faces Bianca Turetsky's heroine in her delightful debut novel for young readers, The Time-Traveling Fashionista, which is chock-full of time-travel, adventure, friendship and loads of gorgeous vintage fashion.

This amazing new series promises to keep young fashionistas spellbound as they join seventh-grader Louise Lambert on her time-traveling adventures, which will continue with the release of the second book of the series in April 2012.

bianca turetsky author pic

So I'm especially pleased that, although hard at work, Bianca Turetsky took the time to chat with Zuburbia about her vintage clothing collection, about how this book is inspiring young girls around the world to be excited about vintage clothes, and about mom-daughter relationships.

When I was growing up, I can remember devouring the Nancy Drew series and I love that today's young ladies can now read about the adventures of a young vintage fashionista. What inspired you to create Louise Lambert and take her on her vintage clothing adventures?

Ooh, I was such a huge Nancy Drew fan too! Thank you for that comparison!! The idea came to me about 5 years ago after visiting this amazing vintage shop in New Haven CT, called Fashionista Vintage and Variety. It's owned by these two fabulous women, Todd and Nancy, who know everything and anything about vintage clothing. I tried on this pink party dress that belonged to a woman named Mrs. Baxter from Newport, Rhode Island, and I couldn't help but wonder what her life was like, what the last gala or fancy event was that she wore this to. Was she in love? Was she happy? And how in a way, her memory was being preserved through this garment.

sandra suy illustration for the time-traveling fashionista

It's a magical dress of rose-colored silk that transports Louise on her first time-traveling trip. Do you remember any particular clothing items that had real significance to you or that you associate with important events in your own life?

There's quite a few, but most recently I wore a yellow vintage Fendi dress to my book release party. I think I started searching for that dress before the book was even finished, and it was perfect! I'll always keep it. Some girls dream of their wedding dress, I grew up dreaming of what dress I would wear to my book party :)

This first book in the series transports us back to 1912 and the Titanic's maiden and final voyage. Why did you choose that era for the first book in this series and can you give us any hint of future time periods that you might be featuring next?

I've always been fascinated with the Titanic, and this was a good excuse to really delve into it. And I tried to put poor Louise in the most dramatic situation I could think of! As for the next book, (which I'm just revising now!) I'll give you a hint; I took an amazing research trip to Versailles and to Paris, the birthplace of haute couture. So Louise is going to have some sort of fabulous French adventure on the horizon!

The illustrations by Sandra Suy are simply fantastic and are a wonderful element of the book. Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to work with her and your thoughts on the role the illustrations play in helping to tell your story?

Aren't they incredible?! They were drawn by a fashion illustrator from Barcelona named Sandra Suy who none of us have actually ever met. Everything was done over email, she sent us illustrations and we corresponded like that. She totally got the tone and feeling of the book. She's so mysterious, I feel like she's a time traveling fashionista herself!

You have a wonderful companion website that is bringing together young fashionistas from around the world where you encourage them to "celebrate our differences, time traveling fashionista websiteembrace our similarities, and blaze our own sequined strewn trails." What are you learning from all the lovely young ladies who have become your fashionista fans and the young ladies you've spoken to at schools around the world?

Meeting and hearing from these girls has truly been the best and most surprising part of the book. When you're writing it's such a personal and isolating experience, that to see the story really resonate with girls from around the world has been awesome. Even if they're not as obsessed with vintage clothing as Louise (or myself), everyone is trying to express their individuality, and yet wants to be part of a community. I remember how important books were to me at that age, and what a relief it was to recognize myself in characters, like "Thank god I'm not the only one who feels like that!" If I can provide that for one girl then I've done my job.

I fondly remember reading books with my daughter when she was younger and I love that you recently launched The Official Fashionista Mother-Daughter Book Club. Can you tell me what you hope to accomplish with the club and how you think mothers can best encourage their daughters to develop their own authentic sense of style?

I think that books are such a great springboard for larger discussions, and I know my mom and I read a lot together when I was growing up. I wish there was a Mother-Daughter book club we could have joined together! I'm very lucky and have an amazing mother who always encouraged me to be myself, even if that was in flux. If I wanted to wear men's ties to school for a year (which I must admit I did) she certainly wasn't going to say anything.

I understand that you are a vintage fashionista yourself. Can you tell me a little bit about the favorite items you've collected?

sandra suy illustration for time-traveling fashionista 2

One of my favorite things in the world is wandering around a flea market. If there is a heaven, I imagine it being something like a giant flea :) I have a gorgeous collection of completely impractical vintage slips. And when I was in Europe writing the second T-TF book, I went to this amazing vintage store in San Sebastian called Marigorri and found a gorgeous long white tiered dress with handmade lace trim that looked like something Dolce and Gabbana made for last spring's collection. The dress probably dates back to around 1910 -- just the period I wrote about in The Time-Traveling Fashionista. It fit me perfectly, and I got a bit of a chill when I tried it on. It just seemed like some sort of sign that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. The fabric is so delicate that I'm afraid to wear it out of my apartment, but I love it.

In The Time-Traveling Fashionista, Louise confesses that if she could eat dinner with anyone it would be Lucille Duff-Gordon. Who would your fantasy dinner partner be?

It's more of a personal answer, but I never met my grandparents on my dad's side who were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. They died before I was born and had such a vastly different and more difficult life than I do, only two generations later. I'd love to hear their stories and thank them for risking everything so I could have the luxury of a life where I can write about fashion.

I'm sure the women I coach will find it inspiring that you completed this book by waking up a little bit early every morning and writing an hour a day. So how many days did it take you to complete and what advice do you have for women who feel a book inside yearning to spring forth onto the page? Are there any daily habits you practice that you feel contribute to your success?

Thank you! The book took over five years to write, which at the time felt like an eternity. For me, and I think many authors, writing is roughly 75% discipline and 25% inspiration. I knew the only way this book was going to get done was if I wrote something every morning, even if I'd rather sleep that extra hour (which was often!) So my advice would be don't sit around waiting for the muse to strike, you need to show up at your computer and the inspiration will follow. Most of the time that I was writing The Time-Traveling Fashionista I didn't have an agent, and definitely didn't have a publishing contract, but I did it anyway, and that was how I knew it was going to be my life's work. Even if I never got paid for it. I feel incredibly lucky that the book eventually did find a home at Poppy, and that they did such a great job with the final product. But even if I'm not working on a particular project, I still write every day, and that will be a lifelong habit for me!

Thanks so much, Bianca!

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