How My Wedding Dress Inspired My Crime Novel by Aoife Clifford

How My Wedding Dress Inspired My Crime Novel by Aoife Clifford

I am a chatty bookseller. I love to talk to customers about their choices, what they have been reading and introduce them to a new favourite book and sometimes they introduce me to a book that becomes a favourite of mine. It is the best part of my job. One day a customer started talking to me about the autobiography of fashion designer, Alannah Hill, and how she also loved fashion. I enjoyed hearing this customer’s passion and how certain items of clothing fascinated her. She told me about a particular dress, a very striking deep red dress. It had been in a particular shop’s window in Melbourne, over fifteen years before. There had been a picture of it in a magazine that she had cut out and kept with her. Every time she moved house, she thought about throwing out that picture, but she kept it, even though she really couldn’t explain why. There was something about that it that was special, and she had always wondered what had happened to the dress.


I was able to give her the answer because the dress she described was my wedding dress.


I am not really interested in fashion, so I was not at all keen on wedding dress shopping. It was one of my more fashion-inclined sisters who dragged me to that shop and as we walked in the door, she saw that dress and said that’s your wedding dress. She was right. I tried it on. It fitted perfectly. I found my perfect dress within thirty seconds of dress shopping.


The next week I brought in a picture of me on my wedding day, wearing a dress that belongs to me, but also, in a funny way, that I now share with my customer, for her to keep along with the old, faded, magazine cut out from fifteen years ago. A couple of years later she came back into the bookshop and asked if it was alright with me, she would like to get a painting done of that dress to hang on her wall. I said that sounded lovely. One day I hope to get to see it. Perhaps, I’ll wear my wedding dress for the occasion.


Now, I am a words person – I trained as a lawyer and now I write books and work as a bookseller – but this conversation made me think about the power of art in our everyday lives and how some people, like my customer, interpret the world so visually. It made me think about how one piece of art (or a dress) can be so important to a person, and I thought that would be fascinating to try and write a crime novel where most of the clues are visual. In my book – When We Fall – my main character is a word’s person like me but realises that the official explanation for a series of deaths is wrong, and has to follow the trail of visual clues which include tattoos, sketches, photographs, paintings and architecture, to discover the truth about what has happened.