Saturday, 11 July 2015

down the rabbit hole

Below is my second Vogue Talent Contest entry. It's an article on literature and fashion. I hope you like it!

Vogue US

The unbreakable ties between literature and fashion

In popular culture, bookworms are often presented in stock dress codes of kooky jumpers, ill-fitted jeans and glasses as if to show that they are too intellectual for a thing as frivolous as fashion, which, after all, as Oscar Wilde once said, “is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” But some of the best style icons can be found in literature: in Daisy Buchanan’s delicately embellished drop-waist dresses in “The Great Gatsby”, Holly Golightly’s idiosyncratic brand of chic in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and even in the scruffy androgyny of Oliver Twist. With Alice In Wonderland at Thom Browne and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Dries Van Noten, the Spring/Summer 2015 collections bridged the world of words and the world of wardrobes. Literature provides decorative descriptions in the tech-obsessed modern world where images of runway shows and fashion bloggers alike are so immediate and accessible.

Vogue US

Writers have been trying since the dawn of time to capture the world as they see it, but now photographs are much more accessible than poetry and prose. However, the beauty of the written word is that it is always open to boundless interpretation. Often I have heard people complain that the actors cast in a film adaptation are not how they imagined the characters to look when they read the book. I have always found that I imagine not the faces of the characters, but what they wear. Whether the character comes across as sophisticated or quirky, finding sartorial inspiration from a piece of literature is a more socially acceptable form of fancy dress.

To see the immensity of the impact of literature on fashion, you only have to look back to 2013 when fashion went crazy for the Jazz Age with the impending release of the new film adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.” Though the film had a more widespread direct effect on fashion trends, it was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s luxuriant prose that initially sparked the visual inspiration behind Baz Luhrmann’s stunningly devised motion picture. The writer who coined the terms “Jazz Age” and “flapper” defined the era in his own words and in all of our imaginations. Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2012 collection encapsulated the sparkle and glamour of the Gatsby era with a modern fierceness through the introduction of sharp tailored jackets and eye makeup that was almost intimidating in its boldness.

In the early to mid-20th century, there was a definite sub-culture of bohemian writers, from Hemingway and his contemporaries in Paris to the Beats who went on the road across America with Jack Kerouac. The movements adopted a very distinctive aesthetic. The women dressed in black whilst they drank black coffee, smoked cigarettes and wrote poetry. Though there is photographic evidence of many of these writers’ looks, the idea of their clothes is perhaps more enticing than any evidence of their style. Their outfits and their lifestyles have come to represent the caricature of the bohemian writer; one that can be embodied whenever one wishes their imagination to escort them to a jazz bar in 1920s Paris.

By Antonio

One book with a particularly bottomless source of style inspiration is Lewis Caroll’s Alice In Wonderland, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Caroll’s classic inspires both traditional feminine pieces and quirky Mad Hatter or Cheshire Cat inspired ensembles to depict a world where anything goes and the more unique, the better; a motto that buzzes around a lot in fashion. Thom Browne’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection went down the rabbit hole to a place where eccentricity rules. The myriad of shapes and colours that Browne invented were often so bizarre that it very much felt as though the show was set in Wonderland. The exotic headdresses were perhaps a nod towards the Mad Hatter’s craft. Like “The Great Gatsby”, the release of Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland” in 2010 catalysed the use of the story in many a fashion editorial; with the blue dress taking centre stage, demonstrating the timelessness and durability of symbolic clothing in literature.

For many, writing is a very visual art. The image is created in the writer’s imagination then translated onto the page. Then, at the end, it must be cohesive and pleasing to read. The intricate nature of poetry is comparable to the meticulousness of haute couture. Each lexical embellishment adds to the piece which, in the end conveys a very particular beauty.

Vogue US

Fashion is undoubtedly a key part of literature; where would Scarlet O’Hara be without her red dress? Dorothy without her ruby slippers? William Shakespeare wrote that, “fashion wears out more apparel than man”, but, whilst many transient trends may shift with the seasons, the most iconic characters’ clothing will always remain a reminder of the world’s favourite books.  

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