A woman in a plaid suit outfit

When fashion and literature—two of my favorite things—come together, I know it’ll be a good read. Both change and adapt throughout the generations, but you never forget the good ones. The style icons of classic literature leave an impression in our memories by letting their own flair shine through the pages.

You can picture them dressing a certain way or loving certain styles. They often exemplify unique trends of their time. Fashion may be invisible on the page, but through small details like a hair ribbon or a velvet dress, history and fiction come to life. 

Here are some classic style icons from literature spanning from the Regency Era to the mid-20th century and tips on how to channel their looks.

Emma Woodhouse from Emma

The inspiration for modern-day Cher couldn’t be any less feisty than her ’90s counterpart. Instead of miniskirts and scrunchies, Emma’s fashion mirrors the sophisticated high-tier society of Regency Era Britain. From satin-cropped jackets to fine lace details and bright pastels, everything about her style, like her personality, screams drama. If Kitty Bennett was richer, then she would have killed for these looks. 

Nancy Drew from Nancy Drew

A young, female Sherlock Holmes come to life, Nancy Drew was probably one of my top heroines growing up. Her intellectual vigor, curiosity and kind of (OK, a lot) nerdy personality oozes into her iconic plaid skirts, cardigans, knee socks and headbands. Staying true to the classic detective uniform, she’s bringing back the vintage tartan and tan but elevating it with her own vintage flair. 

Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby

The sleek, dark counterpart to Daisy, Jordan always radiates an aura of mystery and glamor that the sunny “it” girl of Fitzgerald’s classic doesn’t quite nail. Jordan is the sporty, cool and collected one of the duo. Her golfer daytime look pairs sharply with her evening ensembles: bedazzled collars, slinky dresses and chain pearls—all iconic styles of the Roaring ’20s. 

Diana Barry from Anne of Green Gables

There’s a reason Anne envied that girl’s puff sleeves—a hundred years later and we’re still obsessed with them. If Anne is the soulful praise girl, then Diana is the elevated post-Victorian princess. She’s sharp, poised and collected. Her schoolgirl looks are always ready to take the next step up toward womanhood. 

Katerina (Kitty) Alexandrovna Shcherbatsky from Anna Karenina

If there’s one outfit we probably remember from the 2012 movie adaptation, then it’s Kitty’s gigantic, puffy white ball gown. No surprise to any true Tolstoy fan that her evening ensemble resembles a wedding dress. Her hopeless and childlike fixation with romance will only be cured by Levin. Until then, however, we can still enjoy her youthful, girlish fashion.

Who are some of your favorite female heroines from classic literature? How do you imagine they’d dress today?

Image via Sarah Kehoe, Darling Issue No. 15

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