Ah yes, that time of year when booklovers honor books that have been banned or challenged throughout the ages and celebrate their freedom to read whatever they like. Many of the most important books in my life have been banned at one point or another, and it makes me wonder who has missed out on the opportunity to be inspired by one of these frequently challenged works of literature because it was banned in their county or their country.
By taking part in Banned Books Week, we’re honoring our ability to live free from censorship and embrace new ideas in the best way we can, through reading. But there are a lot of other ways to embrace your love for banned books too. If you’re a baker you could make banned book themed cupcakes, or if you’re interested in film you could have a movie marathon of all the classic films inspired by banned books. If you’re feeling especially inspired, you could even take a road-trip to the cities and towns where your favorite banned books are set.
My second love (after books, of course) is fashion, so I have taken it upon myself to create a weeks worth of looks based on my favorite banned or challenged books. If you like them, feel free to let me know in the comments! Mimicking my favorite fashion bloggers, I will have links for where you can buy all of the pieces featured in this post (or, if I can’t find them, alternatives to all of the pieces).
So, without further ado, here are a week of outfits based on banned books.
Monday – A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams: The first time I read A Streetcar Named Desire was through school for a summer reading project. All I knew about it was that there was a movie made based on the play starring Marlon Brando, who I knew as the anti-hero in my favorite movie-musical Guys and Dolls. This was, however, more information than most of my classmates had, evidenced by the amount of people calling the play “A Streetcar Named Desiree” when we received the assignment in the spring. Because my school had the good sense to not only refrain from banning this classic Tennessee Williams play, but to even encourage studying it, we all learned something that summer.
Whether that something was about the dangers of avoiding reality or simply the name of the play was up to us, but some of us gained a new perspective because we were encouraged to read this often challenged work instead of being shielded from it. This outfit is perfect for a concert or anytime you want a polished, laid-back nighttime look. It was inspired by the play’s main character, Blanche DuBois, who seemed to hold herself and her appearance to a very high standard, despite spending most of her time relaxing at home. This basic black slip provides the perfect canvas to showcase Lush Clothing’s longline kimono, a piece that exudes a more relaxed vibe through its Hawaiian print and its casual, flowy feel.
I actually found the slip while thrifting at the Goodwill, but some great alternatives can be found here
. The kimono is from one of my favorite boutique brands, Lush Clothing, which is sold at Nordstrom’s, Lulu’s, and a bunch of random little boutiques. While the actual blue kimono seems to be from last season, kimonos have fully come back in-style, with some awesome options here
, and here
Tuesday – Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: It feels like Catcher has been everyone’s favorite novel at one point or another. Something about Holden Caufield’s deep-rooted angst and aimless pondering strikes a chord in the thousands of people who read Catcher in the Rye for the first time every year. So it seems strange that Catcher happens to be one of the top ten challenged books according to the ALA (which I am discovering is basically the first and final authority on banned books).
Since the early fifties, this book has been accused of everything from being “anti-white” to violating codes based on language, violence, and “things concerning moral issues.” And since right now, I have accused the people banning this book of being “stupid-heads” because I can’t understand why anyone would come up with such arbitrary reasons to ban a book this amazing (or any book, for that matter).
My Catcher look is an easy everyday outfit, suitable for reading at home, running errands, or sitting on a bench and watching carousels for hours. Holden was a teenage boy, and as we know, fashion isn’t exactly high on teenage boys’ priority lists. So, to mimic a less thought-out ensemble, I paired my favorite dark wash boyfriend jeans
with a cropped white tee
and white Chuck Taylors
. I also tied a black and white flannel shirt
around my waist because for some reason I associate Catcher with plaid. To top it all off, I used a red beret as an homage to Holden’s deerstalker cap, mostly because I couldn’t find a deerstalker cap anywhere on short notice. Holden would probably call me a phony for wearing this outfit, but I’d call him a phony for calling everyone phonies. So, that’s that.
Wednesday – The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling: It’s gotten to the point where it’s hard to imagine a world without Harry Potter. This billion dollar franchise has spawned theme parks, conventions, bands and more, and it has impacted the lives of millennials to the extent that we’re told that college admissions readers would rather pull out all of their hair than read another essay on how Harry Potter changed our lives.
We know which Hogwarts house we belong to (Ravenclaw), we stayed up all night to find the golden quill and enter Pottermore early (and then promptly forgot the website existed), and we all wish we’d grown up to be Emma Watson (yes, even the guys). But some children (and presumably adults) never had the opportunity to grow up with Harry Potter the way many of us did. Whether it’s due to religious objections or fears that the subject matter is too dark, Harry Potter is the most banned book in America.
My Harry Potter look is almost bordering on being a costume, making it perfect for any Harry Potter-themed event, or any costume party where you’re a little confused about the theme and want a costume that can easily be transformed into a regular outfit in case of an embarrassing misunderstanding. The skirt is actually an old uniform skirt from Mills Uniforms, but this skirt from Forever 21
provides a similar look without requiring the years of wear and inches of rolling needed to get the skirt to sit just right. Pairing the skirt with the formerly mentioned white Chuck Taylors and any regular, non-uniform shirt
(preferably one that isn’t grey) makes it scholarly, but not too student-like.
Then, adding the Ravenclaw scarf and wand is all you need to take the outfit from “after-class private school student” to “Hogwarts chic.” My scarf and wand are from the incomparably wonderful Whimsic Alley store in Los Angeles, but if you can’t make the trek, there are some great alternatives on Etsy
Thursday – On The Road by Jack Kerouac: I’m going to be 100% honest here – I’ve never actually read On the Road. I can’t speak to its merits as a book or its impact on my life because I really have no authority to. But I have always loved the idea of the Beat Generation. They eschewed materialism, embraced non-conformity, and became the new bohemians. They were a part of the San Francisco Renaissance, and I imagine they drank a lot of black coffee. I think that deep down, under the disgust that books are being banned at all, the Beats would be a little proud that one of their seminal works was banned, because it showed that their frenetic, hedonistic lifestyle was getting under their enemies’ skin.
The beats probably would’ve hated this outfit, since they really did hate materialism and subsequently didn’t care much for fashion. This outfit reflects more of a Hollywood version of a “beatnik,” since it was actually inspired a bit by the beatnik dance sequence in the Audrey Hepburn movie Funny Face. The top is Topshop’s $16 Rib Crop Tee in Black
. I own this shirt in two colors, the black and the light pink, and they’re the most useful things I own. Beyonce, the Queen herself, also owns this shirt in at least two colors, the black and the light blue, according to her Instagram. I paired the black tee with a basic black skater skirt and a pair of vintage leather boots to create an all-black look perfect for lurking around coffee shops, record stores, or concerts for bands with names like “Dot Hacker” or “Diarrhea Planet.”
Friday – 1984 by George Orwell: What do the U.S.S.R. and Jackson County, Florida have in common? You could probably guess what I’m about to say: They all banned George Orwell’s dystopian epic 1984. Its detractors have waffled between accusations of the novel somehow being “pro-communist” (despite its origins as an anti-Stalinism satire) or “anti-government,” while some have just stuck to the age-old complaints of the book featuring too much sexual interaction. The book being banned at all is a little ironic, considering its harsh commentary on the dangers of governments abusing their power and censorship.
Still, it just proves how relevant 1984 remains even thirty years after the titular date has come and gone. In fact, sales of the novel actually increased by seven times after the mass surveillance leaks that occurred just last year. A book this timeless is always worth a read, just try not to get too freaked out by the similarities between George Orwell’s imaginary world and our own.
While denim overalls are coming back in style with the rest of the nineties, I took my blue jumpsuit and made it an updated version of the outer party’s uniforms from the world of 1984. An easy, ready-to-go outfit, this jumpsuit from the Turkish brand Batik Clothing looks great as a stand alone piece and as a throwback to the futuristic uniforms envisioned by George Orwell back in 1949. I had trouble finding a website for Batik Clothing, so some similar pieces can be found here
Saturday – Arabian Nights: I remember my mom reading a children’s version of Arabian Nights (known to many as One Thousand and One Nights) to me when I was younger every night before I went to bed. Each night I would hear Scheherazade tell a story that would save her life, until eventually the book was finished and there were no more stories to tell.
While it did not actually take 1,001 nights to finish this book, it did take a good chunk of time, so I have many fond memories of hearing "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp," “The Ebony Horse,” and other watered-down versions of stories from Arabian Nights throughout my childhood. Soon I’m going to revisit these stories as an adult, and I feel lucky to have the freedom to read a work that has influenced Voltaire, Neil Gaiman, Alfred Tennyson, Tolstoy, and countless others who have shaped the way we look at literature. Despite its massive importance to literary culture around the world, 1001 Nights has always been controversial, still being banned in not only small towns, but in whole countries.
My Arabian Nights-inspired outfit is my go-to outfit for travel and for everyday fashion. It’s been with me from my hometown to France to Turkey to England and everywhere in between. The top is from Lush Clothing (circa 2013), and the always comfortable maxi skirt is from a brand called Mono B. I bought both of these at a small boutique near my house (so small that it doesn’t have a website), but some similar alternatives can be found here
, and here
Sunday – The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: As we all know, the 90s are coming back with a vengeance. Or the early 2000s are, and people like me who are slightly too young to know better are confused and melding the two in our minds. I’m honestly not sure. Either way, Stephen Chobsky’s modern classic about American teens in the late 90s experienced a major popularity boost partly due to a movie that came out in 2012 starring the always gorgeous Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Ezra Miller.
The novel is basically the Catcher in the Rye of the 21st century (even though it was technically published in the last year of the 20th century), and has been banned across America for depicting drug use, homosexuality, promiscuity, and other things that teenagers have almost definitely heard of prior to having this book as assigned reading.
My Perks outfit takes an almost too literal approach with the full midi skirt’s floral print (which was from the Goodwill, but similar styles can be found here
) and my “I Swear Guys, It’s Coming Back In Style Soon” scrunchie
. Paired with a red bralette (that I found last year, so an alternate style can be found here
) from Urban Outfitters, I think it’s an appropriate modernization of an outfit that Emma Watson Sam would have appreciated.
Pictures by Kira L. Jones Photography, follow her on Instagram @differentascanbe!
What’s your favorite banned book? Tell me in the comments or tweet me @kristypirone on Twitter!