Tavi Gevinson caused quite a stir among Donna Tartt fans last week when she posted an Instagram photo of a custom-made jacket inspired by Tartt’s 1992 novel The Secret History. Designed and sewn by Stephanie Marano, a Brooklynite and fellow book lover whom Gevinson, the Rookie founder and influencer par excellence, happened to meet on a subway platform, the jacket is equal parts awe-inspiring and allusive. The response on Instagram was enormous, and now Marano’s exclusive “book jackets” have become the must-have piece for any bibliophile worth their salt.
FREAKING OUT at this Secret History jacket completely custom made by @god_save_the_misanthropes we met on a subway platform last summer and I posted a picture of her shoes and she messaged me and asked for my favorite book—turns out she makes BOOK JACKETS and that The Secret History was PERFECT for one. I can’t believe all the details and the crests and that she made it Henry’s!!!! One of the most painful things about reading that book is how badly you just want to LIVE IN IT (before um you know) and now Hampden has been MADE REAL. Thank you Stephanie!!!!
Marano, who is originally from New Jersey, studied at F.I.T. before taking a job in the fashion industry after graduation. She makes the intricate jackets in her spare time, having previously made a Lolita inspired one after catching a screening of Kubrick’s adaptation. After Tavi’s post featuring her jacket went viral, Marano’s Instagram page now has over a thousand followers, and is currently open to custom orders. Below, catch our conversation about the creative process, how books can inspire fashion, and more.
So, the way that this kind of all started was from a remnant of a t-shirt that I’d split with a friend of mine. I had this chunk of a Lolita t-shirt, and the way that the script was written, it reminded me very much of vintage varsity lettering. I thought it would make a cool varsity jacket, and that’s what I decided to use it for. Then, I just went back and reread the book, and kind of tapped into all of the themes and motifs and references that I was finding throughout it. And then I decided since it was kind of an older book, I wanted to go with vintage things. I also really liked the idea of repurposing stuff, like sustainability and everything.
Since [the Tavi Gevinson jacket] was the first one that I was really immersing myself in, the process was definitely more intimate. I read the book through twice. I listened to the audio book throughout the entire process. I started taking note of all the references to different elements of nature. And obviously all the classical references, all of the references to ancient Greece and ancient Rome, too. It’s a great project because it’s an excuse to read and research and learn more. And yeah, I’ve been really enjoying it thus far. But it’s certainly time-consuming.
Yeah, something like eight or nine months. I work full-time also, so any free moment that I had was dedicated to the jacket. Lots of late nights. And I had given her a much shorter timeline, initially. By the time I reached the end of it I was like, “Wow, she’s going to hate me for being so late with it.” But she was super great and totally understanding about it. And I’m glad she liked it.
I was planning on doing The Bell Jar before I met Tavi. Because I really love working with PVC, and so I was planning on doing something with that. Like maybe just constructing the entire jacket and then doing a shell of PVC over the whole thing. I still think that it’ll happen at some point in the future. I asked some of my [Instagram] followers what they thought should come next, and a lot of people were rooting for The Bell Jar. But obviously if customers want certain things, those are gonna take precedence over everything else.
I usually try to break down a vintage item. So, the first one, the Lolita jacket, I had this really hideous shirt– like really, really ugly– but I loved the print. And the print almost looks like rotting fruit, because whoever mocked up the colors on this shirt made the flesh of the pears this taupe color. So it’s gaudy and garish, and also the idea of rotting fruit for a story like Lolita just seems kind of perfect. So, yeah, I took the shirt and deconstructed it. And since the first one was for myself, I was able to fit it pretty easily.
But for [Tavi’s], I started with a vintage faux Astrakhan coat– because Camilla in The Secret History wears one. And also there’s a scene when they’re at Francis’s country house, and he’s singing a song about black sheep. And they’re all sort of black sheep. I thought [the material] sort of lent itself to the darkness of the story.
Obviously you have a really strong background in fashion. But you also have a pretty strong interest in literature. Had you always wanted to combine this love of literature and fashion in some way? Or was it more, as you said, coincidental?
Yeah, it was a series of events that also came about very organically. I always just needed an excuse to read more, because I love reading. And it was one of the things that I didn’t permit myself the time to really enjoy. So it was born of this idea– if I make this into a project, then I get to read a little more.
I would love to be able to do full collections based around novels, that included the jackets. I just think there’s so much in there, in The Secret History, that you could play with. So many references, like to be able to design a full collection around that would be amazing. I’ve considered doing jackets for different characters. I kind of pictured this jacket as being owned by Henry and inherited by Camilla. I think that that could be a really interesting way to turn it into a full collection.[Making jackets] is probably my favorite way to get creative, like delving into the intricacies of something. It’s funny because it’s stemming from someone else’s art. I think really good art comes from other good art.