The Wardrobe, Architecture, and Aesthetic of a (Not So) Picture-Perfect Town
I’m a very visual person, so when I sat down to write Cavendish, once those first essential elements of my heroine (Victoria) and the story concept itself (creepy orphanage meets Stepford-esque town) were in place, I began engineering a visual backdrop against which I could tell my story. Essentially, I developed the Cavendish aesthetic.
I began collecting images on Tumblr, and seeking out movies that captured the kind of tone I wanted to convey with Cavendish. I thought about what these characters would wear, what their homes would like, what their neighborhoods looked like. What I ended up with is something like the lovechild of Tim Burton (specifically, Edward Scissorhands and any of his stop-motion animation films like The Corpse Bride) and Edward Gorey, with a dollop of the kind of awesome vintage fashion I wish I had the money for in real life.
In other words, creepy with style?
Below are some images, architecture, and fashion that particularly inspired me as I wrote.
Belleville is all about Gothic architecture and creepy iron gates, immaculate cobblestone streets and perfectly groomed hedges, Victorian mansions and polished mahogany woodwork. I pulled these images from my Tumblr (credit is given when I could find it).
I imagine the inside of the Cavendish Home to look like those two above photos. Tiled floors and lots of winding staircases, walls covered in portraits and dark, heavy cabinets. And that’s all the respectable veneer you see before the Real Crazy begins . . .
The people of Belleville are very concerned with making sure everyone knows just how good they look. So as I wrote Cavendish, I imagined people walking about in clothes like these:
Mrs. Wright, Victoria’s mother, would totally wear this snazzy number when hosting their annual holiday party—which, of course, would be the absolute best holiday party in the whole town.
I just know Mrs. Wright dressed Victoria in adorable clothes like this when she was a wee snotty thing.
Minus the quirky tights and blue shoes, I think Victoria would totally wear this on a weekend when she didn’t have to wear her Academy uniform. She would probably trade in the blue shoes for a nice practical pair of Mary Janes, or rainboots, since it’s been storming in Belleville so much lately . . .
Aw, look! It’s like a little Lawrence! I should note that this photo came from the website of a private school in the UK, as an example of how not to wear your school uniform. Tie loosened, shirt untucked, buttons unbuttoned . . . which is exactly how Lawrence prefers it! Much to Victoria’s horror.
Much better! “See?” Victoria would say to Lawrence, stabbing the photo with one finger. “This is what we’re supposed to look like.” And Lawrence would roll his eyes and purposefully dirty his clothes. Just to make her even angrier.
A peek inside Mrs. Wright’s closet. I’m totally jealous.
Mrs. Cavendish may be evil, but girlfriend is STYLIN’. She would totally wear this while going out shopping in town, and anyone who saw her would say, “Oh, there’s that Mrs. Cavendish. Isn’t she lovely? And such a good soul too, taking care of all those children.” Everyone else would just walk by in a daze, and not even notice she was there . . .
Something like this would be Mrs. Cavendish’s everyday wear, as she goes about her business petting bugs and torturing children. You know, same ol’, same ol’.
I don’t really know what’s up with this guy’s hair, but I know that it needs to stop. Also, this is the kind of suit our friend Professor Alban would wear.
And now for some of my favorite photos for inspiring Cavendish’s general aesthetic—these are photos from my Tumblr and screencaps from a couple of different films that I found especially appropriate.
This is from an Edward Gorey book, although I’m not sure which one. L
Belleville is like the town from Edward Scissorhands, except much wealthier and much less kitschy. Everyone has basically the same house and the same car because everyone is shooting for the same thing—trendy, impressive, reeking of money.
Instead, Belleville’s neighborhoods would look more like this group of houses from The Corpse Bride.
Ignore the creepy man posing Victor over there, and you’ll see what I imagine for the interior of Mr. Tibbalt’s house, except a good deal messier, of course. I also imagine the dorms in the Cavendish Home to have this dreary, prison-like feel.
And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this visual tour of the Cavendish aesthetic. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book!
At the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, you will definitely learn your lesson. A dark, timeless, and heartfelt novel for fans of Coraline and The Mysterious Benedict Society.Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does too.)
But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different. Or they don’t’ come out at all.
If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria—even if it means getting a little messy.
To win a hardcover copy of The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, fill out the form below! Contest is U.S./Canada only. Contest ends September 23rd.
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Claire Legrand is a Texan living in New York City. She used to be a musician until she realized she couldn’t stop thinking about the stories in her head. Now a full-time writer, Claire can often be found typing with purpose on her keyboard or spontaneously embarking upon adventures to lands unknown. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is her first novel, due out August 28 from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. Her second novel, The Year of Shadows, a ghost story for middle grade readers, comes out August 2013. Her third novel, Winterspell, a young adult re-telling of The Nutcracker, comes out Fall 2014.
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Thanks so much for stopping by, Claire! Congratulations on your debut!