During what reporters describe as a record breaking cold front in November, I find 34-year old Bianca Turetsky curled up in a white Eames bucket chair in her living room. She looks very much like I’d expect any full-time writer to dress: skinny, grey jeans that have stretched from prolonged sitting, a classic, navy, cashmere sweater that’s unassuming in its quality, and crumpled ballerina slippers that have seen better days. Her hair is loose and a little tangled – how long has she been sitting there? Does she realize the window is open and a blizzard is on its way? I can imagine Bianca stationed in that very spot for days and just getting up when nature or her editor calls. I understand why she says that writing the The Time-Traveling Fashionista books is “an exercise in wish fulfillment”, a vintage shopper’s dream to live vicariously through her protagonist’s historical adventures. “The idea came to me after visiting this really fun vintage shop in New Haven called Fashionista Vintage and Variety,” she recalls. “I tried on a pink party dress that belonged to a Mrs. Baxter from Newport, Rhode Island. The owners of the store were telling me a bit about her, and I couldn’t help but wonder what her life was like, what the last gala or fancy event was that she wore this dress to. Was she in love? Was she happy? And how in a way, her memory and story was being preserved through this garment. My protagonist Louise actually gets to be Mrs. Baxter.”
Bianca Turetsky grew up in Connecticut, an only child. She had “a lot of books, cousins, and a cat named Bernard.” She studied English Literature in Boston – she always wanted to be a writer – and moved to New York to intern at Rolling Stone and Paper magazine. Until she wound up at Julian Schnabel‘s studio and worked as his assistant for eleven years – she quit just two months ago. Her departure was scary at first, and she misses her less-than-ordinary, unpredictable job, but she’s also relieved. For the first time in more than a decade she’s able to turn off her phone and disconnect from this world, only to dive into one that takes her to places like the 1963 Hollywood set of Cleopatra, or the ballroom of the Titanic or the palace of Marie Antoinette in Paris. In her books – she’s now written three and they are being translated in different languages – Louise Lambert “visits different historical eras through magical vintage and antique dresses. The novels are historical fiction told through the fashions of the times.” I don’t know much about teen literature but I am pretty sure her plot is unique in its educational intentions. Her audience is mostly 8 – 12 year old girls, who come to the mother-daughter book clubs where Bianca reads and send her adorable fan mail. “It’s often in brightly colored crayon and includes the girls’ own fashion sketches,” she smiles adoringly. She saves everything.
Her own vintage collection consists mainly of little dresses, because, well, she‘s little. She doesn’t own a ton of vintage either but every piece is special to her. “In New York City there are so many great vintage stores that I sometimes have to pretend they don’t exist or else I’d be broke,” she laughs. “I shop when I’m traveling, because I like to go to flea markets and it’s nice to have a shirt or dress that reminds you of a trip.” She props a plate with cookies on her desk and still nurtures the same cola she had when I came in. It’s also hard to pinpoint her style. It’s as if PJ Harvey and Zoey Deschanel met at boarding school and snuck out to smoke cigarettes. “I shopped at thrift stores when I was in middle school (my protagonist’s age) but at that time no one else really got it, and I felt kind of odd,” she shrugs. “I grew up in a town where Abercrombie was the gold standard.” She stores her sweaters in a kitchen drawer, her coats in the hallway and the rest behind sliding doors in the bathroom. “I have no closets in this apartment!” she sighs. “I bought it after a break-up.” She shows me a black, beaded bracelet, that looks old, but pretty and tells me how she likes my dating stories. And as if to give me an idea for a follow-up she says: “The ex who gave me this invited me out to dinner a few weeks ago, and after two hours, just before we left the restaurant, he finally tells me he’s engaged.” Dating catastrophes aside, it seems that Bianca is finally back to basics: still surrounded by books, a cat now called Cleopatra and the cousins…? Maybe she’ll introduce them to Louise in a book one day.