Fashion Insider Plum Sykes on Her Stylish Murder Mystery Novel

The famed Vogue journalist talks about the glitz, glamour and gore of her latest novel

Author Plum Sykes with designer Zac Posen and Anna Wintour. Picture / Getty Images

Unless you’re thinking of the late designer Gianni Versace, fashion and murder aren’t two commonly associated topics. But English-born journalist Plum Sykes — who previously worked at US Vogue, and appeared in the first Sex and the City film — begs to differ, with her third novel weaving the two together with humour and wit.

With Party Girls Die in Pearls: An Oxford Girl Mystery, Plum has moved out of Manhattan where her earlier books — romantic comedies Bergdorf Blondes and The Debutante Divorcée — were set, venturing to the hallowed halls of Oxford in 1985.

Although it wasn’t until 1988 that she studied at the university, you get the sense Plum drew from first-hand experiences for her very stylish murder mystery.

What was your life like in 1985?
I was only 15 years old. I was studying hard at school and spending a lot of time at the weekends with my ponies.

What was the most scandalous moment during your time studying at Oxford?
I think one of my memories of a very crazy party was when I went to the Piers Galveston Society party,which was held in a barn outside Oxford. There were pigs’ heads on wooden stakes outside the barn and I was very freaked out. I still enjoyed the party immensely…

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How do you approach weaving fashion into your novels?
I always do masses of research into the clothes of the time and I think that clothing really helps to give a sense of time and place in a novel.

What impact do you think social media has had on fashion as a whole?
I think it has made fashion more democratic and enabled it to reach far more people. At the same time I think social media can be very destructive for young girls.

Dead or alive, who would you most love to read Party Girls Die in Pearls?
Agatha Christie. Because she is my murder mystery heroine.

You recently spoke about your experiences with sexism during your time at Oxford. What are your thoughts on the current state of feminism?
That’s a very complicated question, but I do think that women’s rights are in a much better place now than they were when I was a young girl. I do admire women such as Sheryl Sandberg for putting her head above the parapet and fighting for more equality in the workplace.

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How do you balance awareness for current events and the need for escapism in your own life?
I’m not sure if anyone ever manages to balance these two things perfectly. Right now I think that current affairs — particularly the situation with Trump in America and Brexit in the UK — is drowning out most other things.

Where is your happy place?
I love being on my horse in Gloucestershire riding; so peaceful.

Which item in your wardrobe is currently your favourite?
A new pair of Nili Lotan camo trousers I just bought in East Hampton.

Party Girls Die in Pearls: An Oxford Girl Mystery, by Plum Sykes, published by Bloomsbury, $30.

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