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.
The stormy autumn weather stirring up Seattle right now has found me retreating inside more often for some quality time with my bookshelf, and the old tome that’s been getting a bit of a workout features equally tempestuous weather: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë!
Wuthering Heights book cover via Amazon
Wuthering Heights is a Gothic novel – now considered one of the great English classics – written by Emily Brontë and published in 1847 under the pseudonym Ellis Bell.
The story of a tempestuous love given way to anger, resentment, and revenge, the novel follows the lives of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, and all those surrounding them who were involved in the dramatics of their relationship. The story is seen through the eyes of an outsider, named Mr. Lockwood, and takes course over the unique setting of the moors of England, specifically, the estate of Wuthering Heights.
Brontë was inspired to publish the novel after the success of her sister Charlotte with her work, Jane Eyre. Emily died a year after her novel’s release, at the age of 30, making it her only published novel. Charlotte managed its posthumous editing and second edition, releasing the novel under her sister’s rightful name of Emily. The now-iconic works of the sisters, and their respective romantic pairings, will likely forever be compared as two of the most enduring British 19th-century classics of all time.
A Fashionable Literacy
A poster for the 2011 adaptation of Wuthering Heights via IMDB
The novel has been adapted for musicals, ballet, opera, and even a graphic novel, but arguably, its most successful adaptations have been done for film. And, as classic adaptations are wont to inspire, everyone has their favorite version.
The most recent adaptation was produced in 2011, and is notable for its interesting casting decisions. Whereas previous versions adhered to the predominant Hollywood standard of casting above age, this incarnation stuck closer to book description in casting Kaya Scodelario (Effy Stonem in Skins), who was 18 at the time of filming. Heathcliff’s description as “dark-skinned gypsy in aspect” inspired the casting of James Howson, the first-ever film version of a Heathcliff from African descent.
This film adaptation made further changes to the original story. The majority of the second half of the novel was omitted, as was the character Mr. Lockwood. Upon the film’s release, director Andrea Arnold was widely praised for her naturalistic and unconventional approach to adapting an already difficult novel.
How to Add Catherine to Your Wardrobe
By integrating some of the key elements of Wuthering Heights into your own look, you too can channel the passion, dynamics, and drama of the novel, without looking like you’re stuck in the 19th century!
The self-destructive consumption of passionate love between Heathcliff and Catherine is the source of the main conflict in Wuthering Heights. The wild, tempestuous affair brings chaos to those around them, tearing apart relationships and inspiring hatred in others.
This feeling consumes the novel as well, despite the fact that both characters aren’t present all the way through. There are also specific ties to the wildness of their setting on the moors and in the weather of the novel, therefore making the relationship a stormy one… literally.
Integrate this all-consuming passion in your own look by emphasizing movement, dynamics, and exaggeration in number. An eye-catching maxi skirt and a flowing kimono-style cardigan bring breezy movement and exaggerated sizing, while multi-buckled boots and a stack of rings emphasize volume.
A stormy tie dye shirt brings the naturalistic side of the relationship into play. The overall outfit, including the nail polish, takes inspiration from the turbulent love in dark, murky hues of purple and black.
What A Gentleman
In the novel, there is an emphasis placed on the juxtaposition of the stately and elegant versus the wild and undignified, specifically in the competition between Edgar Linton and Heathcliff for Catherine’s affections.
However, this idea has ties to more than just personality: at the time of the novel’s authorship, the easily questionable status of the gentry and the fluctuating position of what it meant to be a gentleman made the small middle class into a muddle of social strata. The precarious status of “gentlemen” – between the immovable aristocracy and the poorest of the bottom class – created a unique tension, especially in the areas of the country where there wasn’t much society in general. Hence the clash between Wuthering Heights and neighboring estate Thurcross Grange.
Integrate this into your own look through play between elegant, controlled pieces and tough, grunge basics. A draped button-down, a minimalist black bag, and trim trousers all have sharp and elegant vibes. The studded boots, matching headband, and denim jacket give the proper look a little more edge.
Repeating the Past
In Wuthering Heights, a large amount of the enduring drama stems from the repetitive cycles of abuse, anger, revenge, and neglect from various characters. This was set in place during the childhood of Heathcliff and Catherine and carried through into their children in the next generation of hurt and betrayal.
For instance, the abuse of Hareton by Heathclifff mirrors the abuse he experienced at the hands of Hindley, while the passing of Catherine’s name and the “Earnshaw” eyes to her daughter add deeply complex layers to the ways the characters relate to each other. The only end to the enduring cycles of destruction and hatred comes from new love.
Integrate these repetitive and cyclical patterns into your own ensemble by focusing on length. For instance, an infinity scarf and full skirt involve continuous loops of fabric, while knee-high socks and tall boots themselves are long. A headband with wraparound detailing also adds to the look, while keeping the outfit monochromatic creates the illusion of height. The variations in texture, pattern, and brightness keep the color familiar, but not too matchy-matchy.
What Do You Think?
Have you ever read Wuthering Heights, or any similarly-minded British literature? Have you had it assigned for an English or Literature class, or a lecture? What did you think of the novel, and the elements at play? Have you seen a movie adaptation? What do you think of the outfits and styling tips? Let me know by leaving a comment!