Style Diaries: Lucy Caldwell

Lucy Caldwell, 29, the Irish-born, London-based award-winning playwright and acclaimed novelist talks to Kate McAuley about her inspirations, style icons and dancing in a vintage flapper dress on her wedding day.

Why did you choose to become a writer?
For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a writer – and I’ve always written. Storybooks, magazines, the things many children do. I just never grew out of it.

Who or what inspires you creatively?
Reading the Paris Review Interviews with writers. It’s really humbling and inspiring to hear what great writers say about writing. And reading anything, really: anything and everything.

How and where do you do your best work?
First thing in the morning, before the day and the day-to-dayness of life has had a chance to intrude. Solitude, complete quiet, the internet connection on my laptop disconnected. But if I’m working intensively on something I can go on all day without really realising.

What are you working on at the moment?
My new novel is published in February and a new play premieres in March. Both were big projects. Your creative batteries get pretty flat when you’ve finished something. And beginning something is always terrifyingly daunting. So I’m just about gearing up to start the next novel.

Who is your style icon and why?
Lou Doillon – or her mother, Jane Birkin. I love that sexy, messy, effortless French look.

What’s one piece of clothing every woman needs in her wardrobe?
A black cashmere poloneck.

Describe the best outfit you’ve ever worn.
A fringed, Flapper-style little black dress designed and worn by Naomi Campbell in a charity auction. How it made its way to a vintage shop in Belfast and into my hands is quite some story. I wore it with rose gold nappa Rupert Sanderson shoes, a Fendi clutch and fuschia lipstick, and danced all night with my Spencer Hart-suited husband: it was our wedding party.

What look do you love but doubt you could pull off?
A Jean Seberg crop. The shortest I’ve been is a bob.  One day…

What do you wear when nobody’s looking?
Caught in the act! As I type I am wearing: leggings, shapeless jumper of indeterminate colour, big woolly cardigan, Ugg boots, yesterday’s kohl pencil, glasses. My standard writing uniform. On bad days there are pyjama parts in there, too.

What was your most memorable fashion faux pas?
A Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story! t-shirt, leggings and Oxblood Dr Martens, circa 1991. I was ten, and thought I looked the bees’ knees: until I heard a friend’s mother asking my mum how on earth she could bring herself to let me go out looking such a sight.

What is your most treasured piece of clothing or jewellery?
My brand-new wedding ring, and my 1920s style, dropped waist, backless wedding dress!

Do you read any of the fashion or style blogs? What’s your favourite?
I try not to – I work from home, and it’s too easy to lose hours that way. My best friend, who is far more style-savvy than me, sends me good looks from Garance Doré ( and The Sartorialist ( from time to time.

Where do you shop?
In my dreams: Margaret Howell, Prada, Chanel, Rupert Sanderson. In reality… TopShop and my mum’s wardrobe… and I love Comptoir des Cotonniers.

What is your most extravagant sartorial purchase?
I once almost – so very nearly almost! – blew an entire term’s student loan on a pair of Chanel knee-length boots with gaiters. I wish I had – I miss them every autumn – they really are the ‘one that got away’.

Describe your style in five words.
Ali McGraw meets Zelda Fitzgerald.

Lucy’s latest book, The Meeting Point, is out on 3 February.

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