13 Fashion Moments From Classic Literature That Make Us Want to Dress Up

I'll always have a deep and abiding love for a good old-fashioned movie makeover montage. I love the upbeat music and the way our patient protagonist is suddenly caught up in a whirl of makeup brushes, sassy but helpful friends, and cool new clothes from the aforementioned friends' generous closets. I love the way she'll inevitably emerge at the top of the stairs looking like a new person. Maybe it's because we all love a good transformation narrative, but a makeup montage is deeply gratifying — if a bit shallow.

While cinema will probably continue to whirl through makeup montages until the end of time, literature has the opportunity to go a bit deeper. When people get dressed in books, it's rarely just about the new ball gown. Fashion in fiction is explanatory, symbolic, and full of foreshadowing; we experience the embarrassment that comes from wearing an old dress, the pleasure of a new pair of dancing shoes, or that icy feeling of intimidation that comes from entering a room of well-dressed people. Some of my favorite scenes in all of literature have to do with clothes, not because the clothes are so strange, or scary, or lovely — but because they say so much about the person wearing them.

1. Mrs. Havisham's horrifying wedding dress, Great Expectations

2. Holly Golightly's ultimate Little Black Dress, Breakfast at Tiffany's

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3. Scarlett O'Hara's dress made from curtains, Gone With the Wind

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4. Daisy and Jordan in white, The Great Gatsby

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5. Lily Bart's expensive wardrobe, House of Mirth

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6. The "height of fashion," A Clockwork Orange

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7. What the rich people wore in Jane Eyre

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8. The brand names in American Psycho

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9. The secret to being truly chic, Vile Bodies

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10. Kitty's ball gown, Anna Karenina

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11. The Artful Dodger's jacket, Oliver Twist

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12. Meg's makeover montage, Little Women

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13. Cinderella's magical dress, Cinderella

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Images: Universal Pictures (2); Lionsgate; Paramount Pictures; Loew's, Inc; Warner Bros. (2); Sony Pictures Classics; Focus Features; Lions Gate Films; Film Four; Columbia Pictures (2); Wikimedia Commons