Sophia Bennett has always wanted to write books. Her debut novel Threads won the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition. Sales of over 100,000 copies followed, with rights sold in 10 countries, and a TV series currently in production with Lime Pictures for Nickelodeon. Sophia is mad about the fashion world and has written for several national newspapers. She lives in London with her husband and children. Sophia will be appearing at the 2012 Hay Festival.
In Sophia Bennett's children's book 'Threads', fashion fairy tales really can happen. Nonie, Edie and Jenny are best friends with very individual tastes. Nonie's a real trend setter and her passion is fashion. Humanitarian Edie is on a mission to save the world. And budding actress Jenny has just landed a small part in a Hollywood blockbuster. But when these three friends meet a young African refugee called Crow, sketching a dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum, they discover a common passion and somehow find a way to make all of their dreams come true. [Description from Amazon.co.uk's product page for the paperback release of Sophia Bennett's kids novel 'Threads'.]Also, from The Guardian:
Sophia Bennett's top 10 stylish reads
The author of Threads and The Look picks her favourite writing about the fashion world, from Dodie Smith and PG Wodehouse to the latest on-trend blogs
"I thought, when I was writing my first fashion-based book for young teens, that the shelves of my local bookshop would be full of stories about feisty young heroines making clothes, putting outfits together and discovering new styles. After all, girls love fashion, don't they? And some boys do, too. Developing your image is one of the big challenges of growing up. But to my great surprise there were hardly any books that seemed to do justice to the joyful, and sometimes daunting, prospect of finding a style that fits.
And so my choices of stylish reads range far and wide. Some were already classics when I was growing up; some are non-fiction; some are being written as we speak. These are the stories I have turned to when I've needed some style inspiration over the years. The newer writing tends to be on blogs, because that is where the fashion world's writing talent is happening these days. Feisty young heroines, I've discovered, are going online and doing it for themselves."
Sophia Bennett's debut novel Threads, about fashion and the plight of a young African refugee, won the Times/Chicken House children's fiction competition. A Nickelodeon TV series is currently in production. Her latest novel, The Look, tackles the story of a girl who is spotted by a model agency at the same time as her sister is diagnosed with a serious illness.
1. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Dodie Smith wrote this book in America, in self-imposed exile during the war. Despite the sun and safety of LA, her nostalgia for home seeps into every page. Cassandra and Rose Mortmain are growing up in straitened circumstances in a decaying English castle, surrounded by faded grandeur, never sure where the next meal is coming from. 17-year-old Cassandra writes about her family with pin-sharp, unsentimental wit. She sees the holes in their clothes and the make-do-and-mend desperation of their artistic stepmother, Topaz, as she tries to send them out into the world. We see sea-green, home-dyed silk tea dresses and outrageous, inherited beaver-lined coats. The sisters can't help being glamorous, in true, eccentric English style. Vogue would adore them.
2. Style Rookie
Tavi Gevinson became an internet phenomenon when she started blogging about fashion from her home in Chicago, aged 11. Now, at the grand old age of 16, she is an established arbiter of taste. And that taste is kooky and off the wall, as indeed it should be for any experimental teenager. She writes like an angel, has an astonishing repertoire of pop culture references, and takes great pictures. No wonder all the fashion greats are queuing up to be a part of her world.
3. The Queen's Clothes by Robb and Anne Edwards
I have had this book since 1977, when it came out in time for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. It is a record of some of the most important outfits worn by the Queen in the first half of her reign and it's special because it includes the original designs, examples of the extraordinary embellishment and an explanation of the symbolism that went into designing each state dress. It was the first book I read that took fashion seriously as a craft, and explained the thought that goes into presenting an iconic image to the world. Did you know, for example, that the Queen's skirts are weighted, so they don't fly up in the wind? Now you do.
4. Flowers for Mrs Harris by Paul Gallico
Set in the 1950s, this little novel by Paul Gallico is my favourite fashion book of all time. Mrs Harris is a no-nonsense East End charlady. She wins a little money on the pools and manages to save some more by working extra hard and cutting out biscuits – her one luxury. Eventually she has exactly enough to fulfil her girlish dream of going to Paris and buying a Dior evening dress. If anyone deserves a fairytale dress, it's Mrs Harris, who transforms the lives of everyone she meets at the little House of Dior. But she hasn't saved enough money for Customs duty. (This was long before the EU.) How will she get it home?
5. Party Frock by Noel Streatfeild
"Inside was a box. It was tied up in the lovely way Americans tie up parcels, with yards and yards of fine scarlet and green ribbon. When that ribbon was taken off the box and the lid lifted there was a card lying on top of the tissue paper. The card said: 'I have just remembered that you are now tween-age, and must be ready for this.'"
In this lesser-known story by Noel Streatfeild, Selina Cole is growing up in post-war England, with no occasions to wear an organdie dress with a blue satin sash. So one is created: a pageant. Her can-do cousins take charge and the whole village comes together to make it happen.
It's never really about the clothes: it's about what happens in the clothes. I'm quite sure the story of the dress, and the friendship, and the excitement of creating a big event, were at the back of my mind when I was writing Threads.
6. The Jeeves stories by PG Wodehouse
I discovered Wodehouse in my teens, when I was busy with exams and needed some light relief. The stories of Bertie Wooster and his butler, Jeeves, were at least 50 years old by then and are now practically historic, but I would still recommend them as an antidote to teenage stress. And from a style perspective, the well-meaning, well-funded Bertie is probably one of the best-dressed young men to have lived in comic fiction.
'"Jeeves,' I said coldly. "How many suits of evening clothes have we?"
"We have three suits of full evening dress, sir; two dinner jackets –"
"For practical purposes two only, sir. If you remember, we cannot wear the third. We also have seven white waistcoats."
"Four dozen, sir."
"And white ties?"
"The first two shallow shelves in the chest of drawers are completely filled with our white ties, sir."
Carry on, Jeeves, 1926
Many of the stories revolve around Jeeves's disapproval of Bertie's more adventurous choice of hat, suit stripe or dress shirt collar. But given the extent of Bertie's wardrobe, peace is usually, if not always, restored.
7. My Mother's Wedding Dress by Justine Picardie
Justine Picardie is my favourite fashion journalist. This thoughtful collection of short pieces about clothes that have mattered to her is really the story of a family, more than a wardrobe. Which is as it should be. Justine captures the delicate relationship between clothes, people and the memories they make. The wedding dress in question was a corseted black cocktail dress, by the way. I have one very like it, inherited from my grandmother, and just as precious. Justine has a blog, too.
8. Adorkable by Sarra Manning
Sarra Manning's new book for older teens has a touch of Tavi Gevinson about it. Jeane Smith is a school-age girl who runs her own dorky lifestyle brand, has half a million followers on Twitter and is a respected guru on all things teenage. What I love about her – apart from her nonchalant ability to wear grey hair, a ballgown and tiara to a sweaty gig in North London – is her no holds barred modern feminism. Jeanne says what she means, wears what she likes, questions what she's told and is ready to take on the world. She may have questionable taste in hair dye, but she's an icon for our times.
9. Vivienne Westwood by Claire Wilcox
She is a dame, an iconoclast and a fashion goddess, and I gave her a speaking part in Threads. This book is based on a retrospective of Vivienne's work at the V&A in 2004. It describes her collections, from the early days of punk, through her Pirates collection in the 1980s, her Watteau-inspired ballgowns and notorious platforms of the 1990s. When I go to schools and festivals to talk about my books, we often end up talking about my shoes. They are pink plastic Vivienne Westwood Melissas, decorated with red hearts: the only heels you can wear in festival mud, and which are also infused to smell like bubblegum. Not a feminist statement at all, but I smile every time I wear them. (They're comfortable, too.) The woman is, frankly, a genius. We're lucky to have her.
It's not all history. The bloggers at Fashionista manage to make several entertaining stories a day out of current events in the fashion world, without ever taking themselves too seriously. The site is sardonic. It has a feminist edge, taking issue with the lack of female designers to be honoured recently and recommending a list of its own. It celebrates the artistry and is happy to prick the pomposity of the world it loves. "Fashion is fun", it says. And if you do it right, and don't let it overwhelm you, this is actually true.