We’ve heard that escapism can be a vice, but we’re ignoring the professionals for now and using our summer reading to transport ourselves to coastal Scotland, 1950s Paris, and the high seas (just to name a few) via a few of our favorite books. Even better? We’re taking style notes from these classic tales and are fully dressing the part. Scroll through our shoppable fashion interpretations of 15 literary masterpieces, and don’t forget to share what you’re reading this summer in the comments below!
The Book: The Bell Jar ($10) by Sylvia Plath
Backdrop: An exciting summer in the New York publishing world, followed by a stay in the mental ward the following autumn in the 1950s.
Tone: A charming college gal with a dry sense of humor and perceptive commentary on 1950s America. No need to go crazy, just keep the pretty feminine embroidered dresses with full skirts alive and well. Pair your frock with some pointy-toe flats, an embellished sweater, and cat-eye sunglasses. We’re also obsessed with this lipstick clutch, and have a pretty good feeling Plath would have something snarky and totally on point to say about it.
The Book: To Kill a Mockingbird ($9) by Harper Lee.
Backdrop: An imaginary district in Alabama fraught with racism in the 1930s.
Tone: An unconventional family of open-minded individuals. Make like the main character Scout with a pair of overalls, a cropped gingham button-down, and blue satin Supergas. Don’t forget a cool leather backpack and a spunky sweater to keep warm.
Shop the Look: Carven Ribbed-Knit Cropped Sweater ($340), Band of Outsiders Gingham Shirt ($260), Topshop Moto Short Overalls ($76), Rebecca Minkoff Julian Backpack ($295), Man Repeller x Superga Shoes ($125).
The Book: Leaves of Grass ($5) by Walt Whitman
Backdrop: A grassy field in the mid 1800s.
Tone: Revolutionary and celebratory yet digestible poetry. We think Whitman would approve of this casual and comfy outfit, complete with oversized mirrored sunglasses, running shoes, simple black trousers, a white collared blouse, and a panama hat. (Warning: if you actually do lie down on the greenery in this crisp white top, grass stains may incur.)
Shop the Look: Mango Collared Blouse ($45), Topshop Notch Back Tapered Trousers ($44), Nasty Gal Panama Hat ($30), Prada Round Mirrored Oversized Sunglasses ($310), Zara Running Shoes ($100).
The Book: Lolita ($10) by Vladimir Nabokov
Backdrop: Initially set in a luxury hotel on the Riviera in the 1930s, and later downgraded to grimy motels in the U.S throughout the 1940s.
Tone: The killer prose and unexpected wit weaved into controversial eroticism make this an unforgettable favorite. Imitate Lolita’s look in this strappy pink dress and classic red flats. Polish it off look with a pearl choker, gold headband, and an updated version of her heart-shaped sunnies.
Shop the Look: Chloe Sevigny for Opening Ceremony Short Dress ($242), Forever 21 Wide-Brimmed Hat ($15), Miu Miu Glitter Cat Eye Sunglasses ($395), Pixie Market Pearl Choker ($16), London Sole Pirouette Ballet Flats ($155).
The Book: Moby Dick ($12) by Herman Melville
Backdrop: America’s favorite imaginary whaling ship to ever hit the high seas in the mid 1800s, the Pequod.
Tone: An epic, uplifting, triumphant, and downright incredible novel—but keep in mind this is one fat book, so if you plan on beach whaling it with this baby while on vacation, pack lightly. Our suggestion? Gold sandals, an airy white cotton blouse, navy-stripe trousers and as we do whenever we go out to sea, these beyond perfect whale studs.
Shop the Look: Isabel Marant Elena Vest ($740), Steven Alan Paloma Blouse ($280), In God We Trust Stripe Sandy Pants ($165), Monserat de Lucca Whale Earrings ($40) Givenchy Metallic Calfskin Sandals ($695).
The Book: A Farewell to Arms ($9) by Ernest Hemingway
Backdrop: Switzerland and Italy on the battlefield during World War I.
Tone: A passionate love story tangled into a tragic and frustrated war story. There’s nothing like a pink and purple camouflage print dress paired with these gladiator sandals to channel the two in one tale of love and war. We also can’t get enough of the hard edge that these little gold rings bring to the outfit.
Shop the Look: Carven Camo Peony Gabardine Dress ($590), Chronicle Gold Ring ($6) Sam Edelman Flat Lace Up Gladiator Sandals ($100).
The Book: Absalom, Absalom! ($11) by William Faulkner
Backdrop: 1830s and early 1900s rural Mississippi in the fictional Yaknapatawpha County.
Tone: A ghost story meets a brilliant and anxiety-ridden Harvard bound teen with a side of the sinful Old South. It’s a notoriously difficult read, but you’ll find it hard to put this book down thanks to the plot (also literally, because Faulkner’s sentences sprawl on for pages). Channel the vibe with this delicate dress, feminine sandals, and matching wide-brim sunhat and bag.
Shop the Look: Carven Embroidered Shirtdress ($690), Calypso Sunny Wide-Brimmed Hat ($395), Karen Walker Plastic Round Sunglasses ($280), Calypso Red Crow Raffia Bag ($495), Barneys New York Lizard-Stamped Sandals ($260).
The Book: Alice in Wonderland ($3) by Lewis Carroll
Backdrop: Down a rabbit hole into a whimsical world.
Tone: Everyone is mad in Wonderland, so nothing makes much sense, and everything is full of imagination and bursting with bright color. Not to mention, Alice’s iconic get-up is one for the books. But in an effort not to look too much like a walking cartoon, try a long sleeve frock with a blue silk turban, a Peter Pan collar necklace, and sweet loafer mules.
Shop the Look: Zara Long Sleeve Dress with Buttons ($100), Jennifer Behr Built Turban Headband ($225), Rossana Fani Eugenia Collar Necklace ($127), Jeffery Campbell Loafer Mules ($105).
The Book: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ($5) by Maya Angelou
Backdrop: The southern states of Arkansas and Mississippi and the Northern California cities of Oakland and San Francisco during the 1930s and 1940s.
Tone: A remarkably moving and raw narrative about resilience and dignity among trying circumstances, which exhibits a mastery of language. Embody the title’s abstract themes and metaphors with a feather shift dress, a bird-print top, and suede feather-embroidered booties.
Shop the Look: Pixie Market Birdie Top ($48), By Malene Birger Amdi Feather Embellished Shift Dress ($300), Sophia Webster Tia Ankle Boots ($695).
The Book: On the Road ($9) by Jack Kerouac
Backdrop: As the title suggests, state-hopping on the open road in the 1950s.
Tone: Meet the fun-loving and conformity-hating friends with happy feet who gave the term “counter culture” a whole new meaning. Pink silk shorts paired with an open denim button-down shirt and striped red tee is just like the Beats: sassy, smart, and stylish, but still plenty casual, so you can get into trouble comfortably.
Shop the Look: Uniqlo Long Sleeve Denim Shirt ($30), A.P.C. Striped Tee ($130), Valentino Mikado Shorts ($588), Celine Sunglasses ($316), Play by Comme des Garcon Chuck Taylor High Tops ($110).
The Book: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Backdrop: The fictional town of Macondo, an enchanting universe with colorful jungles and mirrored cities during the Creation era and throughout the 1900s.
Tone: Reality and fantasy hold hands to become one over seven generations, as you witness the rise and fall of the Buendia family. If you want to be anything like this masterpiece, dress in a bright palm-print playsuit, pink and tangerine mirrored sunglasses, wildly printed flats, and a subdued dusty pink jacket to mellow it out.
Shop the Look: H&M Straight-Cut Jacket ($35), Topshop Palm Playsuit ($96), Sunpocket Tangerine Sunglasses ($120), Calypso Raffia Parma Clutch ($95), Kenzo Metallic-Leather Ballerina Flats with Embroidered Tigers ($370).
The Book: Tender is the Night ($10) by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Backdrop: 1920s South of France.
Tone: Beach-y bliss and a glamorous lifestyle, interrupted by the aftermath of hushed liaisons. What else can we expect from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s exploration (and exploitation) of idealism? A feminine playsuit topped off by round spectacles and a lip-print scarf is the perfect outfit to represent the stylish characters’ lavish lifestyles.
Shop the Look: J. Crew Eyelet Jumpsuit ($298), Dries van Noten Sunglasses ($270) Saint Laurent Silk Chiffon Scarf ($495), Jeffery Campbell Loafers ($135).
The Book: Giovanni’s Room ($11) by James Baldwin
Backdrop: Beginning in New York and ending up in Paris in the 1950s.
Tone: Hot-blooded love affairs and a desperate act of murder, along with the accessible yet genius prose that is so quintessentially James Baldwin. Try a pink shirtdress or a gingham A-line skirt and pointy-toe flats for a thoroughly ’50s-inspired look.
Shop the Look: Vivetta Shirt Dress ($260), Topshop Gingham A-Line Midi Skirt ($96), Karen Walker Praise Maker Sunglasses ($350), Sigerson Morrison Galatea Shoes ($350).
The Book: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest ($12) by Ken Kesey
Backdrop: A rigidly run asylum for the criminally insane.
Tone: At the whims of cruel and vindictive nurses, the loveable inmates, especially infamous Randle, struggle to find fun and fulfillment. Make like the quirky Randle with a white duster coat and top the look off with this sleek handcuff bracelet in gold, a pair of gold Birkenstocks, and white cropped trousers for a maddening whiteout.
Shop the Look: Charlie May Sleeveless Duster Coat ($575), Zara Flowy Studio Trousers ($100), House of Holland Peggy Striped Round-Frame Acetate Sunglasses ($250), Cast of Vices Handcuff Bracelet ($275), Birkenstock Catania Sandals ($120).
The Book: To the Lighthouse ($8) by Virginia Woolf
Backdrop: A lovely summer home on the coast of Scotland in the early 1900s.
Tone: Intricate family dynamics that reveal philosophical profundities, which requires some heaving lifting (as to be expected with a Woolf novel). A lace-trimmed dress or shorts and top, along with a straw hat and ankle boots, are so fitting for a long walk on the Scottish coast it hurts. Especially because this seaside getaway is not in our near future, but hey, a girl can dream.
Shop the Look: H&M Ruffled Blouse ($30), Miu Miu Lace-Trimmed Crepe de Chine Dress ($1,185), Pixie Market Edda Crochet Shorts ($46), Scala Jackal Hat ($40), Ray-Ban Sound Metal Sunglasses ($118), Polmo Bernadette Leather Booties ($300).
Band of Outsiders Gingham Cropped and Boxy Shirt ($260)
Chloe Sevigny for Opening Ceremony Short Dress ($242)
Barneys New York Lizard-Stamped Ankle-Strap Sandals ($260)