The world’s great books give us quotes and sentiments to live by; with 26 rearranged letters they pull together entire universes and quaint countryside towns.

TEXT: VITA O’BRIEN

Plenty of us live by quotes pulled from our favourite novels, but how often do you look to your stacks for sartorial inspiration? Here are a few examples of why you should:


Just Kids by Patti Smith

Patti Smith’s memoir about her relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and their early years in New York together, is a love letter to friendship and art. If you’re living in a shitty flat wondering what you’re doing and trying to decide how to best split your last 10 bucks till payday, then reading this might make you feel a little less alone.

“But he was certain of one thing. He was an artist. And for that he would never apologise.”

There is a freedom and joy in the clothing Patti and Robert wear in their photographs, and a fluidity between them that reminds me of the portrayal of Laurie and Jo in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation Little Women. Band tees, denim, layers of beautiful necklaces and beat up boots. Need I say more? Patti and Robert are without a doubt iconic, but a large part of the inspiration I pull from this book is the absolute love and trust that seemed to exist in their friendship. It makes me want to dress with an attempted graceful freedom; to wear my heart on my sleeve literally and figuratively (*cut to me embroidering hearts on my shirt sleeves*). 

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The ultimate semi-posh university read full of mythology, mystery and seriously enviable looks. If you haven’t yet read this modern classic, all you need to know is that The Secret History follows a year in the lives of the six members of the exclusive Greek class at Hampden College and what happens during that year is supremely messed up. However the writing is beautiful and I’m pretty sure everyone I follow on Instagram had a moment of wanting to dress like one of the characters in this book after reading it.

“Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.”

If you like the I-fell-asleep-in-the-library-and-am-also-super-hot look, then you really don’t need to look much further than these troublesome kids. To do so, reach for cashmere jumpers, oversized crisp white shirts and a billowing coat. Throw in a touch of Camilla with a straw hat and pale silk slip dress or lean towards Henry with dark, well-cut suiting. Dress like you’ve a secret to keep.

Necklace of Kisses by Franscea Lia Block

This one is perhaps less likely to be on your bookshelves, but it had to be included because it is a treasure trove of inspiration. A little bit of context: Necklace of Kisses is the penultimate installment in Block’s series called Dangerous Angels, which follows Weetzie Bat and her friends and family through the 90s as they navigate young love and a life in LA that is complete with pink cars, genies and dresses scrawled with poetry. After the first book, Weetzie steps out of the spotlight and we jump between the experiences of her children and friends, but in Necklace of Kisses we return to her unique perspective, albeit years later and in a post-9/11 world where things are much less sparkly. The book opens with Weetzie packing for a vacation away from her life at the Pink Hotel.

“The world was a scary, sad place and adornment was one of the only ways she knew to make herself and the people around her forget their troubles.”

There are too many incredible outfits described in Necklace of Kisses to count, but the one that has stuck in my head, since first reading it around five years ago, is maybe the simplest Weetzie look ever and is composed out of a men’s extra-small white tank top, black silk gabardine trousers tailored to fit, a studded belt and orange suede trainers. Sorry, but doesn’t that make you drool a bit? I think I will now spend my life in search of the perfect black trousers and I’m not even a little ashamed about it.

Related Stories