Lulu Guinness

Before we looked to glossy magazines for our daily dose of fashion inspiration, it was the sandy-coloured pages of novels that would provide the perfect fashion advice. The industry and its integral business of clothes and accessories have been discussed and dissected in a plethora of books, from classic novels such as Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, where clothes are introduced as a commodity with much more purpose than to keep us warm: “They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us”, to modern-day literature, like this month’s Culture Cloud contributor Marian Keyes’ novel Further Under the Duvet, which includes the line: “If I was given a choice between world peace and a Prada handbag, I’d dither. (I’m not proud of this, I’m only saying).”


Devil Wears Prada and more recently Techbitch - otherwise known as The Knock-Off in the USA – both gave a unique insight into competitive fashion-focused worlds, taking the reader beyond the clothes and behind the scenes. While the inimitable Alexander McQueen looked to literature for inspiration for his designs, using Darwin’s ‘Origin of the species’ as influence for the ethereal Plato’s Atlantis collection.
Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s gave the world a first glimpse into the timeless chic of Holly Golightly’s simple black dress and pearl combo and provided a vital tutorial that less is quite often more, while Stendhal’s On Love taught us that “Nothing is so hideous as an obsolete fashion.” Oscar Wilde however provided a much more linear approach with his words of wisdom, backing the notion that as long as it’s your own original outfit, your fashion credentials are safe, as he lamented in An Ideal Husband: “Fashion is what one wears oneself.What is unfashionable is what other people wear.”


Image credits: Fashion designer Tina Kalivas - Harry N. Abrams/Christian Dior – V&A Press Office – L’Enfant Terrible – Paramount Pictures – Photographer Stefan Sieler – Penguin Random House – Photographer Rosie Hardy