Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Beauty and the Books

The Guardian is surely a newspaper after my own heart. The latest Guardian Weekend, which I co-incidentally picked up on the tube (I normally read the news online) was a fashion and literature special, with an interview and accompanying shoot of the lovely Emily Mortimer dressed up as her favourite literary heroines. Here is one of the looks, no prizes for guessing this one:

There was also an accompanying 'fashion-spotter's guide to literature' which was nicely entertaining and led me to start thinking about my earliest fashion/literature memories and realising that a lot of them co-incide.

The first books I can really remember reading to myself and loving are the Enid Blyton boarding school books. Mallory Towers, The Naughtiest Girl At School... I loved them. Maybe this can explain my affinity with the preppy side of fashion: striped blazers, argyle socks, pleated skirts.

But my very very favourite book when I was younger was Ballet Shoes. I simply worshipped it and must have read it at least 10 times. When I try to analyse what made me love Noel Streatfield's work so much, I begin to notice how much attention she pays to what the characters are wearing, where they got their clothes, even how much they cost. This is a description of making white frilly organdie frocks for an audition:

'Nana went out at once for the stuff, and as soon as she got back, she cut them out, and Mrs Simpson, Sylvia, and cook formed a sewing club to help her. Cook made the slips, Mrs Simpson whipped the frills, which took hours, and Sylvia made up one dress and Nana the other.'

Maybe it is my adoration of Ballet Shoes which has fed my love of ballet pumps (I have a pink satin pair) and impractical silk dresses. Even the austere Jane Eyre takes pride in her simple grey silk dress, a garment which has always stuck in my mind as something I'd like to wear.

Whether there is a direct correlation between my style and the styles of my favourite literary heroines is definitely very questionable, considering the fact that I do not own a single green velvet dress (Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind owns plenty), even one trench coat (a necessity for Holly Golightly) and have a distinct lack of ethereal Rodarte-style fairy costumes, which most of my childhood heroines would have worn. However it was interesting to realise that there is one thing that many of my favourite literary characters share: an interest in clothes.


  1. lovely post. I'm going to have to think on this a bit...

  2. It's one thing to be enamored of literary style, and another to be able to live it.

    Maybe someday you will buy a trench, or a gray silk dress. Who knows?