evelyn waugh brideshead revisited

Fashion Moments in 20th Century Literature

There are countless iconic costumes and stylish characters that have emerged from television and film throughout the 20th century but what about those costumes and characters we imagined ourselves? Literature is full of fashion moments and the beauty of them is that they will all look slightly different in each of our minds.

Sometimes though, it’s hard to get the image given to us by the film adaption out of our imaginations and free it up for how the author wanted them to really look. Take a look at some of these descriptive passages for the original fashion moments in some of the last century’s greatest stories.

Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

“It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim, cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks. Her mouth was large, her nose upturned. A pair of dark glasses blotted out her eyes.”

Though it’s hard to get the image of Audrey Hepburn out of your mind when thinking of Holly Golightly, these are the words that inspired Hubert de Givenchy to dress her in one of the most iconic film costumes of all time.

Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby

“They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house.”

Despite our image of Daisy as the epitome of 1920s flapper style, there are very few descriptions of her physical appearance. However, it’s a fair assumption based on the era it’s set and her standing as a high society lady. She’s often seen in white too, symbolising her innocence.

A Clockwork Orange

“The four of us were dressed in the height of fashion, which in those days was a pair of black very tight tights with the old jelly mould, as we called it, fitting on the crotch underneath the tights, this being to protect and also a sort of a design you could viddy clear enough in a certain light…. Then we wore waisty jackets without lapels but with these very big built-up shoulders (‘pletchoes’ we called them) which were a kind of a mockery of having real shoulders like that. Then, my brothers, we had these off-white cravats which looked like whipped-up kartoffel or spud with a sort of a design made on it with a fork. We wore our hair not too long and we had flip horrorshow boots for kicking.”

Another look which has been immortalised in film, but reading this description may change the image in your mind. The curious uniform of the Droogs was all part of their sinister psychopathy and interesting musing on future fashion.

Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited

“He had on a smooth chocolate-brown suit with loud white stripes, suede shoes, a large bow-tie and her drew off yellow, wash-leather gloves as he came into the room; part Gallic, part Yankee, part, perhaps Jew; wholly exotic.”

A vision of flamboyant preppiness, the description of Anthony Blanche is clearly based on Waugh’s own time at Oxford in the 1920s, a place where dressing the part was as crucial as getting the grades.

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