Tinsley Mortimer Talks Books, Benefits & Poofy Party Dresses

Spencer Cain

Tinsley Mortimer is a ubiquitous name on the New York social scene. After catching the eye of famed society photographer Patrick McMullan, she became a young darling of the ‘ladies who lunch’ set, attending a different benefit every night in a different designer gown. But she quickly learned that New York notoriety doesn’t come without its pit falls. Soon, she found herself embroiled in a highly publicized divorce with former hubby, old money scion Topper Mortimer.

As we all know, the gossip columns aren’t exactly sympathetic — especially to somewhat of a New York newcomer. But after taking a break from the stressful scene, Tinsley is back and better than ever — with a brand new book in tow. Her debut novel, Southern Charm, comes out May 1. By the way, it’s adorable. If you were a Gossip Girl junkie in high school like me, it’s like literary candy. Read it by the pool with a glass of Pinot.

I caught up with the bubbly blonde the other day. Check out our chat below!

Spencer Cain: What was your inspiration for the book?

Tinsley Mortimer: This was my first time ever doing this. I originally wanted to do a style guide and I started working on that, and then talking to some publishers and different people, they were like, “You should write a novel. You know this world so well.” The backdrop of New York, the fashion and the glamour is great to work with. The fact that I’m from the South and can look at New York from this outsider way provides a different perspective. For me, not being from the city and always wanting to come here as a child and wanting to be a part of it, and then finding myself here now being a part of it is so exciting. Anyone can accomplish it. You can come to the city and make it. Obviously, there are a little tips throughout the book on how to do it.

SC: How did your Southern roots translate to the big city?

TM: I realized that when I first got to New York, I felt like I wanted to hide that I was from the South. It was because of my Southern roots, and being raised by a Southern mother. I was wearing lip gloss in 4th grade! All of the specific details, color and all of these things made me who I am in New York. And obviously, not just what I physically wore, but the sort of manners, and being more open and able to talk to people, that’s what made me who I am today in New York. I don’t think I’d be able to accomplish what I’ve done had I not been brought up in the South.

SC: Do you feel like a jaded New Yorker now?

TM: I still don’t feel like a jaded New Yorker. I’m in awe so many times of the life I get to live here. There was a moment when I felt overwhelmed by the city, I took a little time off — just because of personal situations in my life. Writing this book has allowed me to see New York again the way I used to. I’m excited to go back to these things that I address in the book, like the Frick. I’d like to get back out there and enjoy New York the way I did.

SC: Many of the events in the book parallel real life situations (i.e. the infamous fashion show incident that set Tinsley and Olivia Palermo against each other in the media). Did you include anything to set the record straight?

TM: Obviously, this book is a fictional story, but clearly there are moments that do reflect actual things that happened in my life. It’s not about setting the record straight or anything — I’ve just had some crazy stuff happen to me! I think they are really good moments for a book. I have a lot more too, and a lot more was edited. I don’t think any of this book is malicious. I don’t think it’s a tell-all. I think it’s fun and juicy and gossip, and obviously people who know me are going to be doing a guessing game as to who’s who. There’s no one person in particular. It’s composites of people. The main character of Minty is very much me, but there’s a lot of Minty that’s really not me. And my mother Scarlett represents my mom, but there’s also a lot that’s not her. I’m also very much in the character of Tabitha. That’s a lot of me too. At one point these were very serious moments in my life, for example the Socialite Rank scandal, that personally did hurt my feelings, but they are too good not to include! There’s a lot of stuff you can’t make up. But again, there was a lot more to even say. As you know, it’s all put in different contexts, and it’s a completely made up fiction story. And that’s that. I know that I’m not hurting anybody, I’m doing my thing, I’m proud of myself and that’s all I can do. If someone doesn’t like it, I’m sorry.

SC: The main character in the book Minty’s style certainly parallels yours. How do you keep your bubbly and unique style alive in a city dominated by black?

TM: My style has definitely evolved as I’ve lived in New York. I’m definitely more confident with myself, you know. There are things that will always be a part of my style. I do wear color, I love to wear color. I’m happier in a dress. It’s easier to put on a big poofy party dress than it is to put on jeans and a t-shirt. To put on jeans and look casual and also cute is harder than putting on a party dress, getting my hair curled and wearing full makeup. So, it’s just what I feel comfortable in and enjoy. For the most part, it was all about color, dresses, and feeling confident in what you wear. I don’t want to leave the house in what I don’t feel comfortable in. If I don’t feel like myself, I’m not going to have fun. Like, tight leather pants are amazing and cool. But I don’t look good in them. If I wore them, I’d be thinking the whole night, “Oh my God, does my butt look big?” Of course trends do gradually comes into your wardrobe, but overall, you just have to wear what makes you feel comfortable. For me, that’s a pink poofy party dress! That’s what makes me feel like me, I’m sorry!

SC: What are your summer fashion essentials?

TM: I do like those long, flowy dresses. I’ll stick to halter dresses and things like that. I will never wear flats. They’re not for me. I love wedges, I just got some cute new Louboutin ones that I love. I’d also wear a cute Alice & Olivia dress with a pair of Converse. I know that Converse are technically flats but I don’t put them in that category. I also love white in the summer too. Of course, I do color, since it makes more sense then than in the dead of winter. I am loving the neon and colored jeans trend, even though I usually don’t like to wear pants.

SC: What are you looking forward to doing?

TM: Getting back out there! I took a little break for a second. I look back at those pictures from a few years ago when I was out all the time. It just started to get a little much for a second, so I took some time off. I’m going to a lot more now. It’s like the old days! But it’s fun again!