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Fashion Inspired by Howl’s Moving Castle


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.

This week, we picked something a little light and fun to brighten up the frosty gloom of the current weather systems hitting the US. We’re searching through the pages of a classic young adult high fantasy novel – Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle:

Howl’s Moving Castle cover via Amazon

Inside Cover

Howl’s Moving Castle is a well-known high fantasy novel written by British author Diana Wynne Jones, and was first published in 1986.

The novel follows the story of Sophie Hatter, eldest of three siblings, and thus most likely to fail should she and her younger sisters set out to seek their fortunes. After a chance encounter with a witch in her hat shop, Sophie is transformed into an old woman, and in her journey to find a reversal for the curse, she finds a cantankerous fire demon named Calcifer, an eager apprentice named Micheal, an intimidating hopping scarecrow, a dog that’s not quite who he seems, and, of course, the titular Wizard Howl.

The novel was not necessarily an immediate success, but grew to earn the Phoenix award twenty years later from the Children’s Literature Association for its strong rise from a relative lack of popularity. It has since spawned two accompanying novels, called Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways, and found renewed popularity through its 2004 movie adaptation.

A Fashionable Literacy

Howls moving castle movie poster
Movie poster via IMDB

Howl’s Moving Castle was adapted into a feature film in 2004 by the acclaimed animation studio, Studio Ghibli, helmed by director Hayao Miyazaki. The visually stunning and impressive film actually broke box office records in Japan, and even went on to be nominated for an Academy Award in 2006 (after having been released in the US, Britain, and Canada in 2005).

The film is markedly different from the novel in many ways, including in the motivations and attitudes of some of the main characters, as well as the dramatic ending. However, despite these changes, and the fact that the author had no input in the use of her story, Diana Wynne Jones absolutely loved the studio’s take on it, and called the film “fantastic.” She was especially fond of the castle, which she never imagined really having feet, and confessed to having several models of it around her home, as well as many of Calcifer the fire demon, one of which sat in her fireplace.

How to Add Sophie to Your Wardrobe

By integrating key elements from the story into your own looks, you, too, can add some of Jones’ fantasy and whimsy into your every day life! (Dashing wizard companion not included.) Also, because Sophie’s job is to decorate hats, we decided to include one in every look.

Once Upon a Time

Howl's moving castle outfit fairy tale

Product Information: Dress – Modcloth, Hat – Modcloth, Bag – Accessorize, Shoes – Charlotte Russe, Nail Polish – Butter London, Necklace – Modcloth.

Howl’s Moving Castle is a well-known work of high fantasy that touches on and hints at many tropes and stereotypes from classic fairy tales, like wicked stepmothers and the futility of an eldest of three siblings setting out to seek their fortune. Even the opening sentence admits that, in the land of Ingary, things like “seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist” and our character’s own sister goes to study magic at the home of a practicing witch.

Throughout the novel, Sophie juggles these kinds of fantastic perceptions while battling the truths of her fanciful world, and, as such, nothing is quite like what you’ve read in fantasy stories before.

Integrate this whimsical realm of Ingary into your own look with bright colors, fanciful detailing, and retro silhouettes. A striking teal dress, bright coral shoes, and sunny yellow nail polish lend the outfit some light, while a faux embroidered bag, a cute bird’s nest necklace, and a flower-decorated cloche hat add some old-school sentimentality and sweetness.

Something’s Witchy

Howl's moving castle outfit witchy
Product Information: Skirt – Charlotte Russe, Necklace – Forever 21, Top – Forever 21, Shoes – H&M, Hat – Nasty Gal, Jacket – Charlotte Russe.

Sophie’s fanciful world is rife with both good and evil powers. The king has his own appointed wizard, the mysterious Wizard Howl’s behemoth of a castle wanders the countryside, and everyone lives in fear of the ruthless Witch of the Waste. Whether it’s good or bad, Sophie knows it’s best to look out for magic, but despite her care, our heroine still finds herself on the receiving end of one of the Witch of the Waste’s infamous curses.

Integrate a little something wicked into your own ensemble via daring cuts, unexpected details, and dark shades. An asymmetrical cut skirt, cutout booties, and puffed shoulders on a blazer make for bold design choices, while a striped crop top and a wide-brimmed hat bring some edge to classic pieces. A heart necklace brings the look together, just like the powers of both the Witch of the Waste and the Wizard Howl depend largely on their hearts.

Gets Better With Age

Howl's moving castle outfit better with age

Product Information: Cardigan – Urban Outfitters, Boots – Aeropostale, Dress – Modcloth, Hat – Nordstrom, Socks –  Urban Outfitters.

The main catalyst for Sophie’s adventures turns out to be – as in many other fairy tales – the curse of a jealous witch. Sophie – ever the level-headed one – simply thinks that being an old woman is probably more suitable for her than being young was, anyway! Even with her new age and difficulties, Sophie sets off immediately to find the witch to turn her back, which is where the real fun begins. Sophie, mostly unencumbered by the aging curse, is a force to be reckoned with, even for an accomplished wizard.

Channel Sophie’s aging curse into your own getup by pairing simple, comfortable pieces with throwback flair, inspired by Sophie’s own look, as detailed in the book. A gray dress with lace accenting bring to mind Sophie’s gray dress and lace shawl, while lace-up brown boots stand in for her own. Knee-high socks and an oversized sweater lend some warmth, while a classy cloche hat tops the outfit off perfectly, just like Sophie’s own hats.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of Howl’s Moving Castle? Have you ever read any of Diana Wynne Jones’ other books, like Castle in the Air, or the House of Many Ways? Have you sees Miyazaki’s take on the story? What do you think of the outfits and styling tips? Let me know, in the comments below! 

Posted on on January 29, 2014 / Filed Under: Inspiration / Tags: , , , , , , ,

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27 Responses to “Fashion Inspired by Howl’s Moving Castle”

  1. 1
    January 29th, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    I picked up this book on a whim and couldn’t put it down! It was fantastic.
    I haven’t seen the movie yet :(
    I love this post and I think the outfits represent everything perfectly!

  2. 2
    January 29th, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    I love the book and the movie! They are just so cute!
    Your first and third outfits are perfectly vintage! The third outfit perfectly matches Sophie’s persona! I love it!

  3. 3
    January 29th, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    “Howls Moving Castle” is one of my absolute favourite books from my childhood (and I still love it as an adult) so this is fantastic :) Its great that you included the hats as well. I’ve yet to see the movie so I will have to get on that now!

  4. 4
    January 29th, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Howl’s Movie Castle is AMAZING. I was first introduced to it through the movie (which I loved), but after I read the book I like the movie much less. Many of the changes were, in my opinion, for the worse, but the book is AMAZING. Not a huge fan of the other two which I’ve also read though.

  5. 5
    January 29th, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    I love Howl’s Moving Castle! Cute ouftits :)

  6. 6
    January 29th, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Savannah, Howl’s Moving Castle is one of my favorites books and movies! That purse in the first outfit is going on my wish list :) Great article!

  7. 7
    January 29th, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    I love the movie! I actually own it. I think all these outfits are so Sophie. She would channel vintage vibes all the time, especially with her hats. She’s an old soul, and I love how you interpreted that to create looks.

  8. 8
    January 29th, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    This is perfect. Everything about this. The outfits are so on point. As for the movie, I’m a die-hard Miyazaki fan. I read the book at an older age, so (contrary to what everyone else is saying? o.o) I thought the movie made Diana Jones’ story even more magical.
    amazing amazing everything

  9. 9
    January 29th, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    I was just watching this yesterday with my roommate, and I definitely squealed when it came up on my newsfeed! Love that book, and love the first and last outfits as well.

  10. 10
    January 29th, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    I preferred the book to the movie, but I absolutely loved the theme song, “Sekai no Yakusoku” or “Promise of the World.” I must say that the world and fantasy of Howl’s Moving castle is colorful and vivid.

  11. 11
    January 29th, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    I love Howl’s Moving Castle! thank you for making this post

  12. 12
    January 29th, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Ah! Thank you so much!

  13. 13
    January 29th, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Literally my favorite post to date! Absolutely obsessed with both this book and the movie! :)

  14. 14
    January 29th, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    How come your archives link is broken? It doesn’t show anything past Jan 26?

  15. 15
    January 29th, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    The book and the movie are both among my favourites! Thank you for doing them justice :D

  16. 16
    January 29th, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Definitely a favorite from my high school days. I wish you had done more of the characters though, especially Howl and Calcifur. I feel like they are so important to Sophie day to day as the story develops.

    Can you do a follow-up one with Howl, the scarecrow and Calcifur? I think that would be awesome!

  17. 17
    January 29th, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    Excellent job! It would be great to see an entire Miyazaki series!
    Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, etc. Or even Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (This one’s Masami Hata, but still amazing!) I would love to see how these translate into everyday attire. :)

  18. 18
    January 30th, 2014 at 3:04 am

    I think it’s pretty cool using animations as an inspiration, I like it! I’ll be trying that for movies too. If you’d share this to the WGWT community( , I think they’d like it too! They’re also very fond of different styles of outfits! I think this process would be perfect for their taste too!

  19. 19
    January 30th, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Great inspiration here! I love the Once Upon A Time dress, also the red jacket and totally the sand-brown boots!

  20. 20
    January 30th, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    I second Mary’s Miyazaki/Hata request! I’m actually surprised, what with Anime being so visually beautiful and interesting, that I don’t seem to see many people taking fashion inspiration from it. Spirited Away and Arrietty, (and Howl!!) in particular are absolutely stunning.

  21. 21
    January 30th, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    I LOVE this. You nailed these outfits.

  22. 22
    January 30th, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Oh you BETTER do Howl next. He’s got the potential for his own post!

  23. 23
    January 30th, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    First of all, thank you for doing this. I fall in love with Howl the second i watched the movie. I am currently reading the book, and enjoying every page.

  24. 24
    January 31st, 2014 at 5:30 am

    I love this~! Howl’s Moving Castle is one of my favorite books AND movies! I agree with the above commenters, that this should be expanded to include more characters, and to do a Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli series~! I fangirled so hard about this post~

    The best part is that each outfit includes a hat~! ;)

  25. 25
    January 31st, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    I AGREE!!! Please do a Ghibli fashion series!!

  26. 26
    February 1st, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I’ve been following this website for years now and I literally squealed when I saw the post. Howl’s Moving Castle has been my favorite book/movie since I was 8 and you could some what say Howl was my first crush. THis was a great post and please please please do another one of either Howl or a Hayao Miiyazaki movie.

  27. 27
    February 1st, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    LOVE IT, especially the “Better with Age” one! Howl’s Moving Castle is my favorite in all its incarnations. I’m sad you didn’t do some Howl outfits, but then again all you really need to do for Howl is find the most ridiculous items of clothing you own and then wear them all at once, so… =)

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