November to me is The Secret History month. Its entire duration just embodies the aesthetic of the book perfectly, in gloomy twilight that sets in whilst you’re still sitting in lectures, the last few dark gold leaves clinging to nearly-bare trees, and the deeply unsettling chill of the wind that forces you to dig deep into your wardrobe for your warmest jumpers.
The Secret History aesthetic speaks to a much more general trend of academic style, a sort of cozy prep if you will, one quite akin to the landscape of St Andrews in the weeks following daylight savings, as the sun slips away earlier and earlier with each passing day. It’s also the time of the semester when academia hits us the hardest, with deadlines all clumped into the same week, chaining you to the library and forcing you head-deep into peer-reviewed articles and essay writing. Donna Tartt’s beloved novel is notoriously based upon the author’s time at Bennington College in Vermont, in a university setting not unlike St Andrews where much of the same pretension and privilege ran rampant. To be quite honest you could feasibly lift the novel’s plot — a classics-induced Bacchanalia that escalates into multiple cases of murder — and recast it here and it would work quite the same, though I suppose our crime rate remains too low for murder to be a fathomable incident in our seaside university town.
The academic style which The Secret History is so closely associated with in my mind easily emerges out of my own wardrobe in patent leather loafers, plaid skirts and oversized navy blazers, copious amounts of wool blends, ribbed turtlenecks, and the color palette of a late Scottish autumn: tans, forest greens, ripe burgundies, and subtle stretches of gold. It’s a specific style easily applicable to the St Andrews fashion scene, especially when all you feel you ever do is trek to and from the library.
And I certainly can’t claim to be the only one fashionably inspired by Tartt and her work; designer Kate Sylvester put out an entire collection called Tartt for the fall/winter 2015 season that certainly embodies the blasé lifestyle of The Secret History’s idiosyncratic cast of characters. Many of the collection’s looks would fit right in on Market Street, at polo, oryour econ tutorial. It’s clear that no matter where you look for academic inspiration, St Andrews fits right in.
‘Beauty is terror’ is the well-known maxim often quoted out of the novel, but in the case of beauty in fashion in the style which the novel produces, you get more of a sense of the cozy and the bookish than anything else. As deadlines begin to wind-down, it’s my own personal dreamvision to be able to curl up with a copy of The Secret History and whisk myself away to a an aesthetic world not unlike our own, plaid wooly blazer donned.