Artistic License: Three Outfits Inspired by Poetry

Art imitates life, fashion imitates art.

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library busts figureheads poetry

I think all of us can agree that fashion is an art. But there’s a subtle point to that statement that many of us may overlook. If fashion is art, that means that every day, every single one of us has the opportunity to be an artist.

Being an artist doesn’t have to be about what you do for a living. Art is a mentality for living life. It’s audacity in imagination, the desire to create something new, and most importantly, a willingness to be inspired by spontaneous moments and arbitrary events.

I had such an experience as I was walking around my campus last week. It was a warm Thursday evening, and everywhere, people were getting ready to celebrate the weekend. For some reason, the phrase “midsummer night’s dream” popped into my head, from Shakespeare’s play of the same name, and all of a sudden I thought — “that would be a great outfit for going out tonight.”

That’s when I realized that all of his plays, loaded with drama and imagination and fascinating characters, were top-notch creative fodder for fashion inspiration. With Shakespeare as my muse, I created the three outfits below, each drawing themes and ideas from some of his best-known and most-loved plays.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

black studded tunic indigo jeans silver feather earrings black strappy sandals outfit

Products: Tunic – Michael Kors, Jeans – DKNY, Earrings – LC Lauren Conrad, Sandals – JCPenney

When I think of a “midsummer night,” the first thing that comes to mind is this delicious shade of rich indigo blue, so I chose to make that color the central element of this outfit. The studded black tunic evokes a quality of surrealism and uncertainty, true to the atmosphere of the play, while black strappy sandals and whimsical leaf earrings echo the play’s natural forest setting.

Romeo and Juliet

blush pink cardigan white jeans floral blouse rose earrings nude ballet flats outfit

Products: Top – Lulus, Cardigan – Banana Republic, Jeans – Gap, Earrings – Kohl’s, Flats – J.Crew

No reference to Shakespeare would be complete without some mention of Romeo and Juliet. Florals, ruffles, and blush tones convey Juliet’s naiveté, romance, and hope. White denim keeps the look structured and adds a dose of assertiveness and self-confidence. 

Twelfth Night

gray boyfriend blazer nude lace tank top gold pendant necklace gingham tie-waist paper bag shorts brown oxford flats outfit twelfth night outfit Shakespeare inspired outfit

Products: Top – JCPenney, Blazer – Charlotte Russe, Shorts – Target, Necklace – Banana Republic, Oxfords – ModCloth

In the Twelfth Night, Viola is the messenger page of the Duke of Orsino, who thinks she’s a boy. He has no idea that she’s actually a woman, and that she’s in love with him. (Spoiler: In the end, he finds out, and they get together.)

This outfit plays up the androgynous look, with menswear-inspired staples like the structured blazer and the oxford flats. Meanwhile, a simple nude top and thin pearl necklace add subtle and irresistible romantic detail.

What do you think?

Do you agree or disagree with my interpretations of each of the plays? Some of the references might be a little superficial. Inspiration is just a spark to ignite your own creations, and that’s the whole point of artistic license.

What inspires your fashion choices? Movies, music, and TV are typical inspirations; I definitely get tips from chick flicks and period films. But what about subtler inspirations, like books, buildings, art, history… maybe even food? Share your ideas with us — inspiration is contagious!

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

24 thoughts on “Artistic License: Three Outfits Inspired by Poetry”

  1. Thanks for the great ideas. I love your outfit suggestions and am always excited to see new ones. Btw, I’m way past college age, but I’d like to think your suggestions help me stay separated from the mom jeans crowd.

  2. I’m an English major & absolutely obsessed with this post! I always get inspired by poetry, but I’ve never really thought about transferring that inspiration into clothing. You should do more of these type posts!

  3. Great idea! I’m actually taking a class right now on Shakespeare’s comedies and we just finished Midsummer Night’s Dream and are about to start Twelfth Night, so it only make sense that I adapt my fashion!

  4. The outfits are wonderful, but the title of the article irks me. Although Shakespeare was a poet, Midsummer, R&J, and Twelfth Night are not poems. As the author stated, they are plays. They are meant to be performed and observed, not read. Since the author clearly knew these pieces are plays, why entitle the article Three Outfits Inspired By Poetry? I know I’m being nit-picky, but I can’t help it in this case. Still great outfits, though. :]

  5. I guess you found your muse! Awesome post and I would love to see more like this. An exciting new fashion challenge! Tonight will be The Tempest Tuesday I think …

  6. this was definitely my favorite post! i love the idea of combining written works with fashion– some might say it’s superficial but i think it’s absolutely novel and intriguing. good work 🙂

  7. Gah! I adore Shakespeare AND I adore all of these outfits. I’ve been inspired. I’m probably spending the rest of the day making literary-inspired outfits.

  8. I love the originality of this post! I haven’t seen anyone attempt this before…

    I really like the Midsummer outfit, even though it doesn’t reflect the comedy of the play. It still has elements of the play and I can see what you were going for.

    I would love to see you do more outfits based on poets or even writers. What makes them so different from “film-inspried” outfits is that we have no visual reference for them – so the outfits really are a true reflection your interpretation of the story.

  9. i really love the idea of taking inspiration from Shakespeare, it is deffently more original, then say, Gossip Girl. I personally find my fashion inpiration from fashion editiorals, the weather, literature (Jane Austen’s work in perticular), works of art, ect.

  10. I love Shakespeare and I love the outfits, but not so much the combination here. Twelfth Night is great, but I think Midsummer and RJ are backwards. Midsummer is a comedy; it’s happy and kind of silly, so it should be light-colored. R&J ends with two tragic suicides, so it should be darker.


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