Artistic License: Fashion Inspired by the Romantic Poets

An ode to poetry-inspired outfits.

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ink and paper photo

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 brightMeet in her aspect and her eyes.

lord byron inspired outfit poetry inspired outfit she walks in beauty outfit sequin jacket black romper gold pearl earrings gold pearl bracelet black strappy flats

Products: Romper – Target ($20), Jacket – Urban Outfitters ($68), Earrings – Macy’s ($24), Bracelet – Etsy ($28), Flats – Kohl’s ($20)

Total Outfit: $160

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 kimono jacket’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 giveThoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

William Wordsworth outfit poetry inspired outfit ode on intimations of immortality outfit floral wrap top gray distressed skinny jeans teal flats coral nail polish gold coral necklace

Products: Top – American Eagle ($40), Jeans – Old Navy ($20), Flats – DSW ($30), Necklace – Kohl’s ($18), Polish – Ulta ($5)

Total Outfit: $113

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 wrap top because it seemed faithful to Wordsworth’s representation of nature as grandiose and majestic. Slightly distressed gray denim pairs nicely with the muted colors and reflects the element of disillusionment. I chose accessories in soft spring colors to complement the floral wrap top and keep the outfit on-trend.

Inspired by John Keats

Darkling I listen; and, for many a timeI 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…

john keats outfit outfit inspired by poetry ode to a nightingale outfit feather black dress wing earrings pin up tights black over-the-knee boots

Products: Dress – Forever 21 ($33), Tights – ModCloth ($12), Boots – Nordstrom Rack ($34), Earrings – Icing ($8)

Total Outfit: $87

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 accents of the dress and winged earrings are specific references to the nightingale in the poem. I chose dark over-the-knee boots to amp up the attitude and excitement factor of this outfit. Over-the-knee boots are still in as we go into summer and fall, so there is a trendy element to the choices as well. Seamed tights add attitude and an allusion to the structure of the poem.

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!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2010; it was completely updated and revamped in 2018 by Sharon with new photos, outfit sets, and information.

5 thoughts on “Artistic License: Fashion Inspired by the Romantic Poets”

  1. AMAZING post! I think Keats outfit is awesome, I can see where you come from making it for that poem.
    I agree on the where is Blake?

  2. I agree that Keats doesn’t look right.
    Where’s Blake!? He’s the forefather of the Romantics (and the best in my opinion!).


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