Artistic License: Fashion Inspired by the Romantic Poets

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My first item of business this week is to give a shoutout to all our amazing CF readers who commented on my last post: You guys have incredible taste. I loved your suggestions for future themes for this column, and I'm hoping I can cover as many as possible in the coming weeks!

This week, my muse was the British Romantic poets -- thanks to our readers Marina and Paula for the idea! I happen to be obsessed with them myself, so I'm more than happy to oblige the request.

Some background information for those of you who aren't familiar with the Romantic movement: Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement in 18th- and 19th-century Europe that emphasized the sublimity of human passion and the divinity of nature; it originated as a reactionary movement to the Enlightenment, which glorified scientific exploration and rational thought. (That was a dramatic over-simplification, but it will suffice for the purposes of this article.)

Alright, enough textbook stuff -- let's get to the fashion.

Inspired by Lord Byron

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes.

She walks in Beauty

Cardigan - Urban Outfitters, Romper - Urban Outfitters, Earrings - Miss Selfridge, Bracelet - Kenneth Jay Lane, Shoes - Urban Outfitters

She walks in Beauty is one of Lord Byron's most widely-known and most popular works; we can't help but be seduced by the author's feelings of fascination, admiration, and wonder for the girl in the poem.

For this outfit, I focused on the poem's juxtaposition of aesthetic darkness and internal light. The simplicity and understated elegance of the romper is contrasted by the cardigan's starry shimmer. I kept the accessories luminous but not gaudy, to reflect "A mind at peace with all below, / A heart whose love is innocent!"

Inspired by William Wordsworth

Wither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, its fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality

Top - Forever 21, Jeans - American Eagle, Headband -, Necklace - Lucky Brand, Shoes - ModCloth

I remember feeling breathless the first time I really sat down to read Wordsworth's Ode on Intimations of Immortality -- the rhythm and weight of each word resonated within me stronger than music. For this outfit, I drew from Wordsworth's theme of initial disillusionment followed by a deeper appreciation of life's beauties.

I wanted to incorporate florals into this outfit, because the poem is loaded with natural imagery, and I chose this particular tunic because it seemed faithful to Wordsworth's representation of nature as grandiose and majestic. Slightly distressed pale denim pairs nicely with the muted colors and reflects the element of disillusionment. I chose accessories in soft spring colors to complement the tank top and keep the outfit on-trend.

Inspired by John Keats

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a musèd rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath...

Ode to a Nightingale

Dress - ASOS, Socks - The Sock Boutique, Shoes - Michael Antonio, Earrings - Dorothy Perkins, Necklace - ModCloth

For some reason, reading this poem always makes me feel drunk; it's something about Keats' word choice and the rhythmic sway of each line. The imagery of Ode to a Nightingale is darker and more cryptic than that of Keats' other poems, which is why I thought it would be interesting to make an outfit from it.

The feathered shoulders of the dress and winged earrings are specific references to the nightingale in the poem. In addition, strong shoulders are still in as we go into summer and fall, so there is a trendy element to the choices as well. I chose dark over-the-knee socks to amp up the excitement factor of this outfit, then added caged wedge heels and a dramatic fringed necklace for attitude.

What do you think?

What's your favorite literary movement? If you're a big fan of Romanticism just like me -- which poems are your favorites? I wish I had been able to cover Blake, Shelley, and Coleridge as well -- I chose these three poems because I thought they lent themselves well to many of the hottest trends this season. Let me know what you thought of my interpretations!

I'll try to alternate between literature and art every week, so expect a post that's visually-inspired next week! Most likely I'll explore a theme or artist that's more modern, since we've been going back in time a lot. Let me know your thoughts!