Glamourdaze meets author Tam Francis
World War Two, jitterbug dresses, swing dancing, swanky cocktails, and vintage living are hinted at in THE GIRL IN THE JITTERBUG DRESS back clover blurb! Everything a Glamourdaze gal could want in a summer read all wrapped up in a compelling fiction novel written especially for vintage enthusiasts.
Successful vintage lifestyle blogger, swing dance teacher, and novelist: Tam Francis.
GD: What can we expect from reading your debut novel? Why did you pick the 1940s as your focus?
TF: GitJD is a heart-warming, coming-of-age story with a bit of steamy romance, lots of vintage fashion, music, and dance. Readers follow one gal, June, in the 1990s during the big vintage swing resurgence and with the other character, Violet, readers are immersed in the 1940s at the beginning of WWII.
Although I adore the glamour of the 1920s-1950s, the music and fashion of the late 30s and early 40s speaks to me on a level that sends my toes to tingling.
The women of that era particularly impress me as they could transform from factory or farm worker, to glamour-pusses all in a twenty-four hour period. I like the idea that we (women) can and be all: hard-working, intelligent, daytime dames and absolute bombshells when we want to be.
Also, being a navy wife with a husband who was frequently deployed to combat zones, I have much respect for the women of that era and how they showed they didn’t have to look like a man to do a man’s job.
GD: At what age did you begin your interest in period clothing? Do you wear vintage often yourself, and what are your favorite dresses?
TF: Honestly, as far back as I can remember. My parents were always very thrifty, and we often went to swap meets and second hand stores. I would choose a few pieces that reminded me of the black and white movies—Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers—and would incorporate them into my young wardrobe.
By high school, I was a full-blown vintage fashion gal, wearing mostly what I called “Doris Day Dresses.” And if I could find any excuse to wear a long gown, I would. I still do. I also dabbled with what I call the Greta Garbo and Kate Hepburn trouser look.
I’ve worked many different jobs from retail, to waitressing, sexy secretary to cosmetic manager, and I ALWAYS incorporated vintage. These days I write and substitute teach part time, and the kids and teens get a kick out of my vintage outfits.
As for favorites, I love the way rayon feels on me and how forgiving it is as I struggle with my weight. I have a gorgeous 40s blue rayon that I wear more than any other. I also have a few full-length numbers that I wear to parties and events when I know I won’t be dancing. I’m hoping to get back into this pretty, pink gown with matching bolero that truly makes me feel like Ginger Rogers or Hedy Lamar!
GD: We have grown accustomed to looking at glamorous pictures, in print, television, film, and online. How do you go about describing fashion in a way that can rival looking at it?
TF: I try to write about how a particular piece of clothing makes the character feel. How a gabardine skirt feels unfurling when in a dance spin. Or how a beaded dress hugs the body like a protective sheath. Or how a crepe wool coat with a fur color tickles the chin and makes a character smile.
Many would argue that my use of fashion in fiction is superfluous fluff and indulgent. It isn’t. Fashion isn’t frivolous. Fashion can inspire us, make us feel confident and empower us, and it’s something we have personal control over.
GD: Do you immerse yourself in the past when writing? What kind of inspiration did you use for the book’s fashions?
TF: I do immerse myself. I often start with music. As you will notice, each chapter is a song title, and if you listen to the song, it will often give you further insight into the tone or theme of each chapter.
When deciding on clothing for my characters, I almost always refer to classic movie star portraits. I especially like the photography of George Hurrell and use many of his photographs as a jumping off point for what my characters are wearing and how their hair and make-up are done.
I also have go-to movies like The Women and Orchestra Wives, which have wonderful fashion, as well as some of the bobby-soxer teen movies of the era like “Twice Blessed,” or “Jive Junction.”
GD: Can we see more vintage inspired fiction from you in the future?
TF: Absolutely! If you like ghost stories, check out Ghostoria: Vintage Romantic Tales of Fright. One of the stories has a character who is possessed by her vintage dress. I’m also in final editing and layout for the sequel: The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress Hops the Atlantic. And I have finished the manuscript for The Flapper Affair: A 1920s Murder Mystery Time Travel Romance. Besides that I blog in mostly short-story format with talk about vintage living including dance, music, and vintage era book reviews (or other books set in a vintage era complete with my vintage rating system). I’d love to see you on my blog with comments about any of the vintage lifestyle posts and have you leave your review of the novel on Amazon!
Thanks to Tam for chatting. So far from what I’ve read of the book, I’m loving it, and I think you will too.