Artistic License: Three Outfits Inspired by Impressionism

Perfect inspiration for fun Spring outfits.

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Last week, I wrote about being spontaneously inspired by the world around you, and I made three outfits inspired by Shakespeare’s plays. It was such a fun way to practice creativity that I decided to try it again — this week’s theme is the Impressionist painters.

Impressionism is all about light, color, and breaking free from rules. Here are three outfit ideas, each inspired by an iconic painting from one of the great Impressionist masters.

Vincent Van Gogh

outfits inspired by impressionism outfits inspired by vincent van gogh starry night tailored black ankle pants pale yellow blouse fluffy navy cardigan black oxford heels with ribbon bow

Products: Top – Nordstrom, Cardigan – LOFT, Pants – Banana Republic, Shoes – Kohl’s

Everyone knows about Van Gogh and his most famous painting, Starry Night. You probably saw it for the first time in elementary school! Yes, this particular piece is truly timeless — more than 100 years after he painted it, it is still as relevant and beautiful as ever. It also translates beautifully into a statement outfit for a semi-dressy setting or a fun night out.

The bright, haphazard yellow design of the top emulates the frenzied brush strokes of the painting, while the tailored black pants echo the prominent trees in the foreground of the painting. A flyaway blue cardigan borrows its hues from the backdrop of the night sky and lets the yellow pop. If you opt for cropped pants, make sure to wear heels to help lengthen your legs.

Claude Monet

outfits inspired by water lilies outfits inspired by impressionism outfits inspired by monet watercolor floral skirt cream tank top burgundy cropped cardigan clutch bag with floral detailing teal flats

Products: Tank Top – Bloomingdales, Cardigan – Forever 21, Skirt – ModCloth, Clutch – Lord & Taylor, Shoes – Overstock

One of Monet’s early paintings first gave rise to the term “Impressionism,” and his later paintings of water lilies remain among his most popular and enduring works.

To mirror the rich, vibrant hues of the painting, I chose a similarly-colored skirt with floral accents. The cardigan and flats reinforce the color scheme, while a drapey, cream-colored tank top adds movement and light. Meanwhile, floral details on the clutch and flats emphasize the overall theme of the painting.

Edgar Degas

outfits inspired by degas outfits inspired by impressionism outfits inspired by ballerinas silver blazer white tank top silver bow waist belt blush pink ruffled skirt rose gold headband gray bow flats

Products: Tank Top – Gap, Blazer – ASOS, Skirt – Gap, Belt – ASOS, Headband – Kohl’s, Flats – Gap

Degas’ renderings of the ballet are some of my favorite Impressionist paintings of all time; they exude such a compelling mix of movement, delicacy, and strength, all at once.

The basics of this outfit — the blush pink midi skirt and white tank top — imitate the tutus worn by Degas’ ballerinas. But the statement piece in this look is the silver tuxedo blazer, which adds the aura of energy and power that makes his dancers so appealing. The shimmery fabric of the blazer and the metallic belt provide a touch of sparkle to make you the star of the show, while subtle gray flats and a feminine headband maintain the softness of the overall look.

What do you think?

Are you a fan of art history? What are some of your favorite artists or paintings? Would you have interpreted any of these paintings differently? Even professional art critics can’t agree on the ultimate “meaning” of a painting, and that’s the beauty of great art — how it can at once be meaningful in different ways to different people, without being any different itself.

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

15 thoughts on “Artistic License: Three Outfits Inspired by Impressionism”

  1. I am a Textile deisgn student in Engalnd, I think this is fabulous and was wondering whether you could answer some questions for me? It is for my dissertation 🙂

  2. As an art history major I think you might be taking the easy way out. I understand that Impressionism is extremely easy to relate to but it’s also the easiest to emulate. Like Yuki said try Marcel Duchamp, Hannah Hoch (I live for Dada), Gauguin, Cezanne, Pollock, Keith Harring, Max Ernst, Banksy (if you believe that graffiti is in fact art), etc.

    There are many more interesting art movements out there. Even look into tribal/ancient art. Also don’t forget about architecture – it can be just as moving as a painting/ sculpture/ etc.

    With that being said I like the outfits – 2 and 3 more so.

  3. Wow! This is probably my favourite post on this entire website! The outfits you chose are simply beautiful, as are the paintings which inspired them. I love this whole Artistic License series. Keep up the good work!

  4. I am an art history major, so IM SO IN LOVE WITH THIS! genius idea! i love Degas’s inspired outfit. Can i give a little suggestion?…. ok, 🙂 you should go a look inspired by Gustav Klimt, i feel like his paintings have a sort of tactile wuality that could translate to fabrics. i dont know, im just saying. thanks for all the looks!

  5. I’m slowly beginning to become a fan of art history..I love seeing how art evolves throughout the years and how the artists’ lives affected their art.

  6. I don’t think I can say anything that everyone else who has commented already said, but I’ll say it anyway:




    😀 ~Crazy cool! Outfits, inspiration, AND even the comments (LOL! Art nerds! Much love. XP) I’d LOVE to see this series expanded even more. Like, could you go from three to five outfits instead? Or make this like the 10 Movies for Fashion Inspiration series?

    And I would FLIP if you not only did other artists but authors and musicians as well. I think everyone has a good idea but I just want to mention my own.

    Georgia O’ Keefe
    Marcel Duchamp
    Salvidor Dali
    Rene Magritte
    Tribal art
    Hans Christian Andersen

    And that’s all I can list at the moment. Keep up the good–no–GREAT work! 😀

  7. LOVE THIS POST!! Using subjects we study, like literature and art history, is a BRILLIANT way to connect college and fashion.

  8. I’d love to see an outfit inspired by Lichtenstein that doesn’t look too cheeky or crazy! Also, what about outfits inspired by iconic movie moments?


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