If you're a bookworm, you probably know what it feels like to get a little too attached to your favorite fictional character. Even after you finish the last sentence, they tend to stick with you throughout the years, whether it's because they taught you something about yourself, the world, or how you want to live in it—and sometimes, they also influence your sense of style.
A few weeks ago, we honored our favorite book characters and indulged our interior design obsession by imagining how they would decorate their homes today, and now we're taking a sartorial approach. With Halloween just around the corner, we figured it was good timing to imagine how the likes of everyone from Ophelia of Hamlet to Elio and Oliver of Call Me By Your Name would dress today. Whether you want to look stylish and use clothing you probably already have or you'd prefer to go all-out and win the Halloween costume crown at a monster bash, these costumes inspired by your favorite characters could be just what you're looking for.
Clarissa Dalloway from Mrs. Dalloway
The Book: In classic modernist form and Virginia Woolf style, the novel spans just one day, yet the rich interior lives of the protagonists give us enough wisdom for a lifetime. The book itself wrestles with notions of self, perception, connection, and materialism, mostly garnered through the perspective of the book's namesake, Clarissa Dalloway.
The Character: We join her in her day as she prepares for a party she's throwing that evening all while reflecting on her own choices and sense of self.
Their Style in Their Words: "Here she is mending her dress; mending her dress, as usual, he thought; here she's been sitting all the time I've been in India; mending her dress; playing about; going to parties."
Get the Look: Considering that it takes place in early 20th-century London, where socialite Mrs. Dalloway throws the best parties in town, the outfit should be fancy and fabulous, with a healthy dose of Edwardian English pizzazz. She has a thing for flowers, too, so florals are a must.
Elio and Oliver from Call Me By Your Name
The Book: Before Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer stole (and broke) our hearts onscreen, there was the book, and if you thought the movie was moving, just wait. Call Me by Your Name is set in a fantastically romantic seaside town on the Italian coast. There's plenty of steamy summer romance and sexual self-discovery, but it's also a tale about the love and support of family. Both uplifting and heart-wrenching, it'll have you yearning for young love and an Italian vacation (or both, preferably at the same time).
The Characters: Elio is our precocious yet fresh-eyed protagonist and narrator. He's one of the only Jewish people in his Italian town, and though he's well liked, he spends much of his time playing tennis, reading, and practicing music. Oliver is the oh-so-sexy scholar visiting for the summer to help revise Elio's father's book. He has an air of pomp, but his charm and constant sunbathing win us over.
Their Style in Their Words: "The shirt, the rolled-up sleeves, the rounded balls of his heels slipping in and out of his frayed espadrilles, eager to test the hot gravel path that led to our house, every stride already asking, Which way to the beach?"
Get the Look: The book feels like it's set in a different time, an endless Italian summer in a hard-to-pin-down era. Yet, we know our protagonists are often clothless or in stylish swimwear. Oliver seems to always be wearing espadrilles and a billowy button-down shirt with sunscreen in tow. If you want to dress as the duo, have the Oliver to your Elio wear a short-sleeve chambray Oxford.
Mariah from Play It as It Lays
The Book: Set amid equal parts Hollywood glamour and grit in midcentury Southern California, Play It as It Lays' Mariah is as poignant and wise a figure she is jaded and neurotic. The scenes of her leaving her Beverly Hills home to drive out to the desert are beyond stylish. Though she lives in the middle of a city and in Palm Springs, she often dreams of a home by the sea.
The Character: Mariah is a heartbreaker, and not just the fictional kind; we're talking third-wall-breaking, reader-be-warned kind. She's eccentric and troubled, predictable in her unpredictability, and obsessed with the past, but she's also wilding underestimated. In reality, she displays indefatigable commitment, compassion, and kindness in the midst of a callous and morbidly materialistic Hollywood world. She's not like the "the women with whom she shopped and planned restorative weeks in Palm Springs and La Costa, the women with the silk Pucci shirts and the husbands on perpetual location," as she describes them.
Their Style in Their Words: "The mussels on any shore Maria knew were toxic. Instead of calling Les Goodwin she bought a silver vinyl dress, and tried to stop thinking about what he had done with the baby. The tissue. The living dead thing."
Get the Look: Mod midcentury statements meet whimsical nostalgia and glamorous metallic that never try too hard—Mariah has a quasi-bohemian air to her. It'll be the embodiment of both the beauty and the danger of Southern California.
The Greasers from The Outsiders
The Book: S.E. Hinton was 15 when he started writing the book, so a youthful spirit makes this coming-of-age story especially gripping and resonant. It's an epic tale of the bond between brothers and the strength of friendship, but it also delves into class conflict and violence.
The Characters: The six protagonists are known as the Greasers. There's the youngest, Ponyboy, who is also our bookish and poignant narrator; Sodapop (hi, Rob Lowe), the handsome, free-spirited middle brother; Darry, the eldest brother, authority figure, and leader with devilishly good looks (he's played by Patrick Swayze, of course); Dallas, the tough guy and only Greaser who doesn't actually grease his hair; Johnny, one of the younger boys who often seems like a deer in the headlights; and Two-Bit, the trouble-making class clown.
Their Style in Their Words: "Snapped up his jeans jacket and flipped up the collar." And later, "All I had was a pair of jeans and Soda's old navy sweat shirt with the sleeves cut short."
Get the Look: You can easily dress up as any Greaser on your own or make it a group deal and have each person portray a certain character. Opt for a Canadian tux or a leather jacket and then throw on some Chuck Taylors. Whoever is Two-Bit should wear a Disney tank. You could also take a more literal route and dress up as a horse with a halo as a reinterpretation of the infamous line, "Stay gold, Ponyboy."
The Dancers from Swing Time
The Book: Swing Time a coming-of-age tale set in London and West Africa that dazzles its readers with vivid imagery and gripping storytelling. Beyond the captivating language, Zadie Smith employs interesting narrative techniques. The nonlinear, fragmented structure subverts conventional notions of chronological time and storytelling, and the use of the first person also invites the reader to grapple with the notion of female subjectivity.
The Characters: Both of the protagonists are mixed-race girls who become childhood best friends with a shared love of dance but eventually grow apart and go on to live very different lives as adults. The narrator, who remains nameless throughout and prefers singing to dance, doesn't build a successful career as a dancer, while Tracey, her best friend, is a prodigy and dances into adulthood, winning awards and finding success. We get great descriptions of other people's style throughout, like this one: "She was wearing a beret as if wearing a beret were the most natural thing in the world."
Their Style in Their Words: "Her leotard was pink, her tracksuit bottoms were pink, her cover-up ballet cardigan was mohair and pink—yet her shoes were silk and yellow... I was bitter about this, too. Yellow had never been mentioned."
Get the Look: The book is set in the '80s, so think puffy, over-the-top layers and tracksuits in head-to-toe-pink.
Ophelia from Hamlet
The Book: William Shakespeare's tragedy is truly unforgettable, and Ophelia's descent into madness is what really stuck with us from high school English class. If you need a refresher, this is the play about a vengeful Danish prince (Hamlet, of course) haunted by his father's ghost and tormented by his awful uncle Claudius. He's the one who famously posed the question: "To be or not to be."
The Character: Though she's a notoriously one-dimensional, male-penned character, there have been countless performances and reinterpretations of her that give her more depth and humanity. Just think of Kate Winslet's "mad scene" performance (if you haven't watched it yet, your life is about to change).
Their Style in Their Words: "When down her weedy trophies and herself Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide; And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up."
Get the Look: Opt for a nightgown, flower crown, long princess hair (wavy auburn wigs are encouraged), and perhaps a floral silk bustier, should you have one lying around.
Ishmael from Moby Dick
The Book: Moby Dick is about the adventure of monomaniacal captain Ahab's impossible pursuit of catching the legendary white whale. In what's known as the great American novel, the whale's proportions are only challenged by the heft of the actual book itself. But don't let that scare you off, for this literary exploration of good and evil, identity and perspective, commodification and capitalism is well worth the lengthy read.
The Character: Oh, Ishmael, you had us at the first line when you told us to call you by your name, so approachable and relatable yet quite epic. His clothing is more understated than Ahab's, whose signature, as he describes, is a "slouched hat and guilty eye."
Their Style in Their Words: "Chowder for breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes. The area before the house was paved with clam shells."
Get the Look: While we don't necessarily have the stamina to survive a life at sea like Ishmael does, we'd definitely like to take on the role for the evening. It's the high seas in 1800s Nantucket, so think a cable-knit fisherman's sweater, khaki high-water pants, and a newsboy cap, and then layer on a classic wool vest and carry around a spear thrower.
Astrid from Crazy Rich Asians
The Book: A man from Singapore brings his Chinese American girlfriend home with him for a high-profile wedding, which is when she discovers just how crazy rich he is and what that entails. With a cast of hilarious and filthy-rich characters, it's all about absurdly extravagant (but delightful) displays of wealth and finding and honoring true love in between all the over-the-top parties and the shibboleth of family traditions.
The Characters: There are so many fabulous characters to gain style inspiration from, but we particularly want to emulate Astrid and her impeccable (and impossibly expensive ) taste in diamonds.
Their Style in Their Words: "You'll need ten new outfits per season, so you won't be ashamed to be seen in public."
Get the Look: In the upper echelons of modern-day Singapore, everything is over-the-top. They are, after all, crazy rich… So the more that's dripping in gold the merrier.
Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye
The Book: The book opens as the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, drops out of prep school, and we end up joining him on his venture into New York City's rich underground. It explores the ideas of innocence lost, self-discovery, identity, belonging, and connection.
The Character: If you're sick of the phony conformity of our grown-up world, Caulfield will be the perfect person to commiserate with thanks to that iconic morose insouciance. He's also hilarious in his descriptions of others who are tiring to be someone they're not (though he falls into the same traps). For instance, when he says, "You should've seen the razor he shaved himself with. It was always rusty as hell and full of lather and hairs and crap... He always looked good when he was finished fixing himself up, but he was a secret slob anyway." There have been academic articles written about his sense of style, if that gives you an idea of his vibe.
Their Style in Their Words: "Then I took my hunting hat out of my coat pocket and gave it to her. She likes those kind of crazy hats. She didn't want to take it but I made her. I'll bet she slept with it on."
Get the Look: How does one dress when they're trading in a high-society prep school for the underbelly of mid-1900s New York City? Caulfield will show you the way. Think slightly grungy yet meticulously curated (you know the type). Consider some leather lace-up combat boots, a peacoat, a scarf, and a small top-handle suitcase, and don't forget his iconic red hunting hat, the most important piece of all.
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