David Hartwell’s sartorial splendour 1941-2016

David Hartwell HugoOne of the things that David was known for was his flamboyant and weirdly paired outfits. It was easy to laugh at his clothing choices as either a seriously mutated fashion gene or as someone mocking the need to dress up.

But it was way more interesting than that.

Let me back-up slightly. For reasons involving a hotel screw-up, at the Nebulas in Orlando, I had a suite with two bedrooms, a fold-out couch, and a kitchen. David and his family had… no room at all. So I invited them to stay with me. Bear in mind, I’m still a brand-new author and this felt nerve-wracking and audacious to issue the invitation to David God-almighty! Hartwell.

He and Kathryn and their kids were fantastic. It wound up being like a summer beach vacation, just with, you know, one of the top editors in the field. But during this, we got to talking about clothes.

David was a fashion junkie. I know– I know exactly what you’re thinking. That a man who would wear paisley and pinstripes is not an example of sartorial sense. But wait. He collected haute couture pieces. Those jackets, terrifying ties, shirts, and trousers had been the height of fashion when it was produced.

He might spend years tracking one down. Often, he was wearing them in combinations that the designer had actually intended. When I saw him at conventions after that, we didn’t talk fiction. He would tell me the story behind whatever pieces he was wearing and talk about the designer and the theory behind why this particular combination had been fashionable in its day. He wasn’t buying clothes because they were tacky; he was buying them because he was enjoying this whole meta-conversation about fashion and taste.

It was fascinating and I wish I had taken notes.

So when I look at pictures of David and his wardrobe, I remember that his devotion to science-fiction and fantasy, yes, but also that his passion for the rare and the odd was deeply embedded. I think, in part, that might have been why he’s such a good editor.

Edited to add: Thanks to Liz Gorinsky for pointing out David Hartwell: Fashion Theorist.

It includes Hartwell’s Three Laws of Fashion

  1. To Dress in ignorance of Fashion is to Dress badly.
  2. To Dress knowingly in Fashion is to become invisible.
  3. To Dress knowingly in opposition to Fashion is to have your own style.

And then he goes on to draw corollaries to writing. Read it.

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10 thoughts on “David Hartwell’s sartorial splendour 1941-2016”

  1. Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin)

    I loved his outfits, too, the one and sadly only occasion (a local con in Minneapolis) that I got to meet him. Just went ahead and shared a few of those pictures on twitter.

  2. Michael F. Flynn

    Once at a party, someone said to him, “David, many of the colors in your tie match many of the colors in your shirt.” (Or maybe it was “…in your jacket.”) He of course grinned hugely.

  3. David once told me that he was deliberately setting awry the carefully crafted casual fashions of the Sunday-sailor class of New England society, the class he grew up in.

  4. You know… I think David got that his first rule from Beau Brummel. Via Georgette Heyer.

    Mary, is it just me? Because now I can almost hear Brummel saying that in my head. Hmmm, I wish I had Regency Buck to hand, it feels like that one.

    Thanks for this post. I needed it.



  5. See what I learned today? I thought he had only borrowed and elaborated on a leaf from George Scithers’ style book — except George wore the SAME plaid jacket every time.

  6. Mary, thanks. A facet (one of many) of David’s that some of us didn’t know or recognize. I’ve not said this often – we will not see his like again, which is our loss.

  7. Mary,

    This is by far the best exploration of David’s fashion that I’ve ever encountered. Would you be interested in contributing–this, or something else– to the Hartwell memorial volume that NYRSF is assembling? If so, drop me an e-mail. Thanks!

  8. I am looking at a painting his wife Kathrine did of the Lake Champlain in front of their house and I wondered were she got this unusual color combinations in her work as well as the work of her children and it must have been part of the whole family because there is a Dragon painted on the fence — due to their connection with science fiction and all those odd yet celebratory color combinations everywhere.

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