By Zoe Walker - Viva magazine, NZ Herald -Wednesday Oct 26, 2011
A picture tells 1000 words but frequently it is the written word that inspires the imagination. Viva fashion writer Zoe Walker explores how characters described in fiction have influenced her - and fashion trends - through the years.
Film and art may continue to be the most common cultural influences on fashion, but it is the impact of literature that has always intrigued me.
The idea of a genuine interpretation of a writer's portrayal rather than a straight literal homage of art or film appeals most - and there have been many memorable fashionable literary interpretations.
Literature is rife with sartorial inspiration, with the illustrations and prose of childhood classics sparking that initial interest in costume and awareness of the power of clothing - the black robes of a villain, the beautiful gowns of a princess.
Zoe the Doll by Michele Danon-Marcho, given to me as a young child for obvious reasons, was surely the root of my ongoing obsession with Peter Pan collars; Zoe's wardrobe of pretty dresses could pass now for something from Luella or Twenty-seven Names.
Then there was Ludwig Bemelman's Madeline, still a favourite after all these years - oh, how I longed to be her with her red hair, wide-brimmed hat and bright blue coat (and again, a Peter Pan collar). And, like most bookish little girls entering Louisa May Alcott's world for the first time, I fell for the tomboyish charm of Little Women's Jo and still think of her "scribbling suit" when I sit down to write. ("Every few weeks she would shut herself up in her room, put on her scribbling suit, and 'fall into a vortex', as she expressed it, writing away at her novel with all her heart and soul, for, till that was finished, she could find no peace. Her 'scribbling suit' consisted of a black woollen pinafore on which she could wipe her pen at will, and a cap of the same material, adorned with a cheerful red bow, into which she bundled her hair when the decks were cleared for action.")
There was another, somewhat less classic, bookish literary character that provided some childhood inspiration too: Sweet Valley High's Elizabeth Wakefield.
Pascal's infamous description of Elizabeth and her twin Jessica, repeated in every single book - the same shoulder-length, sun-streaked blond hair, the same sparkling, blue-green eyes, the same perfect skin, spectacular, all-American good looks, identical lavaliers they wore on gold chains around their necks - is forever ingrained into my psyche and reads rather hilariously like a modern-day celebrity profile.
Read the rest of Zoe Walker's interesting piece at the NZH.