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Looks from Books: Fashion Inspired by Dune


Welcome to the latest edition of Looks from Books, which aims to prove that you can look smart, while still being book-smart, too. Fashion inspiration can be found between the pages of your favorite stories, on well-designed book covers, and in your favorite characters… if you read closely enough.

In the comments of our last post on The Outsiders fashion, we found many fans of the book’s setting, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Inspired by the hometown spirit, I decided to look at the history of my own beloved Tacoma, Washington, and selected not only a fellow T-town dweller, but also a former student of the University of Washington: Frank Herbert, author of the sci-fi epic Dune!

a vintage Dune book cover via Amazon

Inside Cover: A Little Bit of Background

Dune is an iconic work of science fiction, covering political upheaval, court intrigue, and romance on the kind of grand scale that only sci-fi novels can provide: We’re talking multiple warring planets and families caught up in the schemes of a manipulative empire.

The novel focuses on the dealings of the House Atreides (especially the heir of the family, Paul, and his concubine mother, Lady Jessica) after Paul’s father, Duke Leto Atreides, is granted control over the desert planet of Arrakis (the most lucrative and inhospitable fiefdom in the empire), a move made by the suspecting and double-crossing emperor in hopes of eliminating the family, because of their status as a dangerous threat to empire control.

Many consider Dune to be the best science fiction epic ever written. It has received widespread positive reviews ever since its original publication, and even the prolific sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke called it most comparable to Lord of the Rings. It won the Hugo Award in 1966 and the first-ever Nebula award, and spawned the rest of the lengthy, and still best-selling, Dune saga, as well. 

A Fashionable Literacy

Dune has been adapted into one major motion picture, and one miniseries for the SyFy Channel.

The movie itself, produced in 1984, was a failure with fans – who critiqued the dissimilarities in plot – as well as with wider audiences, to whom the mythology of the novel proved nearly incomprehensible.

The miniseries, produced in 2000, fared better with critics, and was, up until 2004, one of the three highest-rated programs on the still-growing SyFy network.

Plans for another film adaptation were made in 2008; however, after numerous departures from those in head positions, the project was finally scrapped in 2011.

As with other science fiction works, the fashion present within the context and culture of the novel might prove difficult to translate into everyday looks. With the unique pseudo-historical context of Dune’s societal structures – a mix between the futuristic and the feudal – this difficulty is increased even further. However, that’s not to say that it’s impossible: plenty of hyper-futuristic looks have hit the runways in the past few years, from the liquid legging trend to the holographic trend, and the digital prints trend.

How to Add Fremen Fashion to Your Wardrobe

By integrating key thematic elements from the novel into your daily looks, you can also pay homage to one of the most enduring science fiction epics of all time, without having to travel to outer planets to do it!

The Quest of the Warrior

Product Information: Skull Tee – Tillys, Faux Leather Pants – Kohl’s, Bomber Jacket – Nasty Gal, Linked Metal Necklace – Dorothy Perkins, Gladiator Sandals – Asos, Aviator Sunglasses - Metro Park.

The essence of the story focuses on the coming-of-age – and coming-to-power – journey of young Paul Atreides, following his growth from a mourning young boy to a fierce leader of a massive, devoted army. This popular trope within science fiction works – the Warrior’s Quest – entails revenge, political takeover, and an age-old prophecy for our protagonist, and requires, of course, his total assumption of the mindset of a fighter, both mentally and physically.

Channel this essence of a warrior by way of edgy statement pieces, like a skull tee and leather pants, paired with the hallmarks of other kinds of fighters, like the sandals of a Roman gladiator, the aviator shades and bomber jacket of a fighter pilot, and the linked metal – in necklace form – of a medieval knight’s chain mail. All of these pieces feature some kind of tie to the stereotypical status of someone who strives to protect, fight, and conquer for those who stand beside him.

Contrast of Desert Dwelling vs. Water Dependence

Product Information: Blue Studded Shirt – Buckle, Faux Leather Shorts – River Island, Desert Boots – Asos, Utility Jacket – Forever 21, Wide-Brimmed Hat – Quicksilver, Dagger Necklace – Forever 21.

Within the harsh and unforgiving sands of the desert planet Arrakis, there lives a primitive, yet highly successful race of people, called the Fremen. The Fremen, instinctively and intuitively connected to their surroundings, have developed the uniquely adept ability to thrive in the treacherous terrain. Because of the oppressively hot and sandy conditions in which they live, the entire structure of their culture revolves around the conservation and preservation of water.

Draw on this focus of water as central to life by deliberately contrasting it against the harshness of Arrakis’ sandy dunes: build the foundations of your outfit from pieces like a utility jacket, leather shorts, desert boots, and a wide-brimmed sun hat, while allowing the central focus of the look to be a studded chiffon top that’s blue and flowing, like water. A dagger necklace completes the look, for reasons obvious to those who have read the novel!

Addiction and Power

Product Information: Lace Detail Top – Dorothy Perkins, Colored Jeans – Tillys, Suede Flats – Free People, Infinity Scarf – Dorothy Perkins, Top Handle Bag – Metro Park, Earrings – 1928, Arrow Bracelet – Topshop.

The main reason the desert planet of Arrakis is such a highly sought-after fiefdom is because it is home to the Universe’s most precious and expensive commodity: the spice “melange,” which can gain its consumer precognitive and computing mental powers, while simultaneously causing instant addiction, with death befalling those who no longer consume it. Because of the importance of the spice, Arrakis is one of the most vital holdings within the Landsraad, and those who control the landscape are almost instantly ensured wealth and prestige. The addiction to spice is married with an addiction to power; whether it is the power granted by the spice itself, or simply by the success that follows it.

“Melange” is described in the novel as being very similar to cinnamon. Create an ode to the spice into your own outfit by showing an addiction to that same rust-colored hue, in a take on the monochrome trend, while showcasing status symbols of power within it, using copper and rose-gold jewelry, a sleek pair of colored skinny jeans, a studded top-handle bag, a beautiful lace-paneled top, and a shimmery infinity scarf.

What Do You Think?

Have you ever read Dune, for a class or for pleasure? Have you ever read another work of fantasy or science fiction similar to Dune? What did you think of the novel, its grandiose scheme, and the elements at play within the plot? Have you seen the movie or the miniseries? What do you think of the outfits and styling tips? Let me know, in the comments below! 

Posted on on April 10, 2013 / Filed Under: Inspiration / Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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12 Responses to “Looks from Books: Fashion Inspired by Dune”

  1. 1
    April 10th, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    This is so great! Dune is amazing.

  2. 2
    April 10th, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    /*o*\ I love you for this so much. Would like to see outfits inspired by the philosophies of the Houses, the Bene Gesserit, or the Golden Path.

  3. 3
    April 10th, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Dune. My favourite novel. The outfits are very cool!

    I think the “power” outfit could have used an infusion of blue, due to the blue eyes that spice-users acquire and the outfit was about spice, but the pieces are very cool. Good job.

    However, the statement “the spice ‘melange,’ which can gain its consumer precognitive and computing mental powers, while simultaneously causing instant addiction, with death befalling those who no longer consume it” bothers me a bit. The Mentats (computing mental powers) gain their abilities from Sappho juice which is a wine from roots, not from spice, and instead spice grants the ability to bend space, which enables space travel.

    Great article, though.

  4. 4
    April 10th, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Jordan! I was originally planning on incorporating turquoise jewelry into the “Addiction and Power” outfit set, but I couldn’t get it to look right. Still, great minds think alike, right?

    I wanted to explain my word choice a little bit as well: when I was talking about the powers granted by the spice, I wasn’t talking about Mentats at all (though I can understand the confusion: mental abilities can only be differentiated around so many different groups, from the Mentats to the Bene Gesserit, right?). Instead, I was talking about the general heightened awareness that spice provides, which includes analyzation and computing powers, as well as a catalyst for “space travel,” like you mentioned. It can also be used to extend life, provide healing properties, and is used by the Fremen (like in the case of Paul) to initiate clairvoyant and “genetic memory” access. I can totally appreciate how the brevity of my descriptions might have been a bit difficult to interpret, though!

    Once again, thanks for commenting!

  5. 5
    April 10th, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    Also, can I just take a minute to tell you all how much I appreciate your comments? I was totally terrified to even think about doing a Looks from Books for Dune, simply because I wasn’t sure how many people would like it. Just the fact that there are already three of you, feelings strong enough to comment, all being so positive, is really amazing. I love you, readers! <3

  6. 6
    April 11th, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Thank you for the clarification on the description! Yes, there’s superhuman mental abilities like the Bene Gesserit, who use spice, and then… the Mentats.

    Can you imagine my surprise when I logged on tonight and saw this post? I applaud you guys tackling such a daunting work – I too would like to see more from Dune. On that point, science fiction from all eras holds a wealth of fashion inspiration that I hope to see delved into more deeply in the future.

    Keep up the good work.

  7. 7
    April 11th, 2013 at 1:41 am

    So I actually haven’t read this book yet…although I don’t know why. I love sci-fi and most of my family members love this book. Anyways, I’m going to make it a priority to read this book now! Great outfits though! I especially like the 2nd one!

  8. 8
    April 14th, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    have not read this book yet but the first outfit is amazing!

  9. 9
    April 19th, 2013 at 5:11 am

    WOW. Just wow. My friends and I are totally geeking out over the fact that you made a DUNE fashion inspiration article! Thank you soooo much! Loving the the desert dwelling and water dependence contrast outfit. It’s really got a good balance of the two elements. I’m not comfortable wearing faux leather or leather shorts but I can easily find some brown or cargo shorts as a substitute :)

  10. 10
    April 19th, 2013 at 5:15 am

    And Savannah– I am so glad you did this fabulous Looks from Books post and look forward to more geek-outs!!! I want to see more of these. I was already familiar with Dune but these book-inspired posts have also been a great way to expose me to different books.

  11. 11
    January 2nd, 2015 at 3:11 am

    There is SO MUCH you could have done with this. House colors. Bene Gesserit dresses. etc. You did read the book, didn’t you?

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