Books That Inspired Fashion Designers


As Virginia Woolf writes in Orlando: “Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm.” In this way, Coco Chanel was correct when she purportedly said that “fashion is not something that exists in dresses only,” as it both shapes and responds to the world around us. The fashion collections below are inspired by works of literature and the trends therein contained, whether its the sober clothes of independently-minded Jane Eyre or the tightly-laced bodices taken from de Sade’s velvet boudoirs. Or we could reverse the process as Sonia Rykiel did and pen the novel in response to the clothing. Anything goes in fashion, right?

Jane Marple is a popular Japanese clothing line inspired by the elderly private eye in Agatha Christie’s novels; their copyright is even St. Mary Mead, Miss Marple’s fictitious place of residence. Marple might seem like an old biddy, but she’s both a shrewd judge of character and a fantastic dresser. Check out her lavender cardigan and modest grey skirt above. This woman is dapper.

Juliette et Justine is another Japanese clothing brand; however, they’ve been inspired by the prurient writings of the infamous Marquis de Sade. He wrote Justine in 1789 while still imprisoned, and then penned its darker half, Juliette, ten years later, when he was out of jail. Both were published anonymously; nevertheless, de Sade was found out and thrown into the clinker yet again. J et J trade in mainly “gothic Lolita” attire, so get ready for lace, silky chokers, ruffled dresses, and pin curled tresses.

Shaftesbury 21 is an Australian company specializing in darling children’s attire that costs a fortune. Now your children can look like miniature versions of you (if you are a woman who frequently wears lacy tops with ribbons, or a man who enjoys pairing his neutral-colored vests with navy shirts). Each design is named after either a character or place from one of the Brontë sisters’ novels, such as the Brontë blouse, Linton waistcoat, and Eyre skirt.

Speaking of the Brontës, He Yan , a designer based in Shanghai, launched her Jane Eyre-inspired line last November. Long gentlemen’s overcoats and knee-length trousers are paired with delicate cream-colored dresses in this 56-piece collection, which is called “Simple Love.”

Sonia Rykiel, the queen of knitwear, started writing an erotic novel in 1993 which was originally titled, Textus Nus (Nude Text). She later wrote Les levres rouges (The Red Lips) and Casanova était une femme (Casanova was a Woman).

Rykiel explained to WWD back in 1993: “It’s a love story with three characters — man, woman and sweater. The woman falls in love with a man. She makes sweaters. She speaks to the sweaters like a man. He gets jealous.” She continues, “It’s not my portrait, but naturally, you take from your experiences.”

Gaby Basora launched her label Tucker in 2005, and last year, she offered a collection inspired by Marguerite Duras‘ oeuvre, which features culottes, silky dresses, and draped blouses for the modern woman who is not afraid of experimenting with her style (or of wearing poofy sleeves).

These ladies do look wealthy, skeletal, and, as Tyra would say, fierce, but they do not appear to be spinsters. Regardless, emerging designer Prabal Gurung‘s Fall 2011 line was inspired by the heartbroken Miss Havisham from the classic novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Jaggy Nettle is a Scottish design house with a focus on cashmere and tweed. The sweater here, from Kingdom of Style, was part of a collaboration between Jaggy Nettle and Faber and Faber. The cover of the 1966 edition of The Bell Jar is very much echoed in the fabric’s vertigo design.

Shipley & Halmos‘ conservative Fall 2009 collection was inspired by the philosophy of Ayn Rand. The duo even quoted a line from The Fountainhead in the invitation (“Life must be a straight line of motion from goal to further goal”). Freedom isn’t free, alright?

Elke Kramer, an Australian jewelry designer, was inspired by the story of Ophelia (from The Tragedy of Hamlet) in her latest collection. Nothing says spurned Shakespearean love like a series of weighty bangles, we suppose.