Fashion and music have an incredible relationship, one that in a circular cycle always comes back to its origin of innovation and evolution. Musicians and fashion designers alike are well in their adulthood, filled with experienced and a better understanding of their world – one would hope. So when we look at their body of work, you can see the dress that comes from a dream they had, a melody inspired by a heart-break, shoes one wished they had when in high school or that made them feel powerful. Teens throughout the world connect with the music and fashion these artists put out and ultimately, fuel the commercial agenda to create, create, create.
In The Before Now And After Then, author Peter Monn takes the emotional concept of fashion and music to tell the story of a senior in high school who is finding out who he is and exploring his own identity. His best friend, Cher, serves as the exaggerated version of who he wants to be, a fun girl who’s loud, experimental with her looks, strong though fragile, not afraid to speak her mind though not strong enough for the consequences they bring, and a wild spirit that is scared of what the future holds.
As The Before Now And After Then progresses, Cher changes her look several times, entirely based on how she feels and what she’s going through at the given time. One day she’s a Free-People type of hippie and the next she’s all about the neon colors and styles of the 80s. Her rollercoaster of self-discovery fueled by her love of fashion and self-expression serves as the highly entertaining sub-story to Monn’s book. Monn talks to PATTERN about the development of Cher, what inspired her creation and a little insight into what Cher is really like.
What inspired you to create a character like Cher?
When I was in high school, I had a small group of friends, all girls, who dressed crazily, listened to music filled with angst and awe and dreamed of a better future. Their clothes, our clothes, seemed to represent a message we were sending into the world. It was vital to me that I create a character like those girls who were essentially my heart stone during my high school years. They helped me create who I am today and I don’t think I would have ever been able to liberate myself.
How would you describe Cher’s fashion and musical taste?
Cher is most comfortable in black leggings, a black t-shirt and a black skirt. Throughout the book, her style changes depending on her mood, but that’s who she really is at her core. My friends and I loved black in high school, and I still do. I didn’t really think much about it at the time but her wearing all black was a minimalizing factor in keeping things simple. Her style really represents where she’s at in the book. I also played off of several people who were close friends in high school and stole their style sense. Her musical tastes is very 80’s punk; The Smiths, The Cure, Bauhaus, The Jesus and Mary Chain. She loves the classics too; Don McClean’s American Pie and Joplin both make cameos in the book. And of course Cher. What I really wanted to show by her character was how music and style are definite concrete ways we identify ourselves, whether people want to admit that or not. Our clothes, to some extent, are our costumes. We pick them deliberately.
How does Cher’s self-discovery translate into her style?
Without giving away too much of the book, she changes styles with every major event that happens to her within a very short period of time. I think the most important “costume” she wears is in the final scene because it defines who she’s become. Think of it this way; people wear black and grey to funerals, we wear sweaters and flannel on cold days. When we fell disgusting and don’t want to do our hair, we throw on a hat or a scarf. Cher is an exaggerated version of all of those things but I think if people are really honest with what they see in her, they’ll be able to realize we all do it to some extent.
If The Before Now And After Then were to become a movie, what celebrity do you see playing Cher?
Oh wow! You know I never expected to get such a strong response about Cher. At first, people either loved her or hated her, but now I have received so many requests on a back story to Cher that I’ve decided to work on a novella just about her. I’m a very visual person and the entire time I wrote about her, I visualized Susan Sarandon’s daughter Eva Amurri who was in both The Banger Sisters and Saved. She’s probably too old now, so I’m not sure. Somebody nobody knows.
What parts of you do you see in Cher?
There are actually parts of myself in all of my characters. I think what bled from me into Cher was an realistic view of the world from a child’s perspective. Cher doesn’t really want to grow up, not really, but she realizes it’s happening whether she likes it or not. She’s also very honest about her circumstances and the possibility of her dreams. The other part about her that is most like me is that she will do something completely embarrassing but not even realize it. She doesn’t care because she’s not aware. If she knew people were laughing, she’d probably be very hurt.