Brian Centrone - Flash Friday Q&A
Updated: Apr 5, 2021
This week, in the Flash Friday Q&A hot seat I have Brian Centrone. Brian is a writer, editor, and fashion historian whose literary interests range from Gothic tales of the South, to poetry, to the history of menswear, to men not wearing much at all. Welcome to Friday Flash Q&A, Brian!
You've written short stories, dramas, poems, and one novel. Which is the most exciting and which is the most challenging for you?
Working in each of those genres comes with its own set of excitements and challenges. I would say short stories are probably the most exciting for me. I don't write nearly as many of them as I would like, but there is definitely something about a short story coming together that thrills me. This is also true when I am editing short stories. I felt the same excitement seeing the Dress You Up writers' stories coming together as I do for my own. The most challenging would have to be novel writing. The amount of time and focus it takes to tell a compelling, complex story of that length can be difficult to sustain. I have been working on a second novel for some time now, and the fits and starts of it have made writing this book one of the most challenging experiences.
What was it that made you fall in love with fashion history, and if you could bring back (or forward) any one era of fashion, what would it be?
I have always been a lover of fashion, but it wasn't until I saw the Manus x Machina exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (cough, seven times, cough) that I fully understood fashion had a powerful history, that there were stories there to be told, and that I wanted to help tell them. One of the reasons I was compelled to edit Dress You Up was because I knew stories could be told about or through fashion that would resonate with readers.
I wouldn't bring back the entire era, but I would love for current menswear to take more of its cues from 18th century men's court dress. Those embroidered suits are absolutely divine. Occasionally a house like McQueen or Dolce & Gabbana will do gorgeous embroidery on a man's suit jacket and I think, yes, let's embroider all the suit jackets!
Dress You Up is your first collection since 2014's Erotica and Salon Style. Why the pause?
Wow. That does make it seem like a really long time! But there hasn't actually been a pause. Erotica was a collection of my own work, while for Salon Style I served as editor to a wonderful mix of fiction, poetry, and art from other amazing writers. After those two releases I set to work on a second novel. I was also writing short fiction, poetry, drama, and essays, which appeared in various publications. I oversaw two anthologies by another editor, as well, taking an editor-in-chief role. Of course, then I added fashion-history scholarship to the mix, but I never fully stopped writing or publishing creatively. So, pieces of me have been scattered around between then and now. Dress You Up is the first big project that ties together my past and my future. I think readers will be pleased with the outcome.
You're based in New York City. American culture gives us this idea that every young writer and fashion designer goes to NYC to make their mark, almost like a rite of passage. Do you think that's still the case in reality?
Yes and no. This idea has certainly been romanticized. You have to be a hard worker to succeed in New York City. You have to hustle. Writers and designers still come. It’s a competitive game out here. One can certainly be creative and successful from anywhere. Dress You Up is full of writers from around the world. I have been blown away by the talent coming out of the US and Canada, the UK and EU, Australia and New Zealand. Even though New York City has an almost magical appeal to writers and designers, you don't have to make the pilgrimage here to make your mark. I guess the thing to watch for now is how/if the pandemic will change the city and the allure it has for artists.
Dress You Up edited by Brian Centrone is now available through your preferred e-book store.
Brian Centrone is a writer, editor, and fashion historian specializing in menswear and pop culture. He is the editor of Dress You Up: A Capsule Collection of Fashionable Fiction, Salon Style: Fiction, Poetry & Art, as well as the co-editor of Southern Gothic: New Tales of the South. His fashion research has appeared in Threads magazine, the FIDM Museum Blog, the FIT Fashion History Timeline, and the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Film and Television Costume Design (forthcoming). He is the author of the novel An Ordinary Boy and two short story collections, I Voted for Biddy Schumacher: Mismatched Tales from the Mind of Brian Centrone and Erotica.