The star wore Prada: How great fashion can save a lackluster film

in Fiction by

Any book lover has had the unique experience of watching one of your favorite novels come to life on the big screen. It’s a moment filled with fear that the story will be butchered, forever tainting your view of the book, and awe that you’re finally seeing something you’ve only ever pictured in your mind. I’ve watched some truly awful adaptations of my favorite books (I’m looking at you, The Time Traveler’s Wife) and some truly amazing ones (hello, Princess Bride).

But sometimes the beauty of a movie can triumph regardless of what’s happening in the story. A character will put on a certain dress or suit and make a scene pop in a way that didn’t seem possible in the book. These stylish characters can carry an otherwise lack-luster movie, and permanently change the way you look at your favorite novels.

Here are ten of the most stylish book-to-movie characters:

1. Cecilia Tallis from Ian McEwan’s Atonement

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That green dress! It’s all drapey and romantic, perfectly matching the gloomy-elegance that director Joe Wright brings to this adaptation. But it’s not just about the dress. Every outfit Keira Knightley wears in the film is incredible—from her early flowy dresses to the smart suits and muted colors of wartime.

2. Scarlett O’Hara from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind 

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Fashion is practically another character in this movie, and it evolves as Scarlett does, from the whites and florals of her youth to the deep reds and greens of her maturity. This transformation is definitely more evident in the movie than the book, and nothing can quite match the visual impact of 100 pounds of hoop skirt.

3. Holly Golightly from Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s

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Sometimes an actress so perfectly captures the spirit of a character that it becomes impossible to ever think of them independently again. This is obviously the case of Audrey Hepburn, who became practically synonymous with the little black dresses and clean lines of Golightly.

4. Effie Trinket from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games 

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Does she look ridiculous? Of course. But that’s kind of the point. Actually seeing Effie’s bright, whacky outfits juxtaposed against Katniss’s plain garb was an eye-opener as to how class in this dystopian society worked. It might not be that fashionable, but it is certainly stylish.

5. Andrea Sachs from Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wear’s Prada 

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Here’s another style evolution that had more of a visual impact on film than in the novel. Anne Hathaway’s character was our introduction to the world of high fashion, and we experienced it vicariously as she learned to embrace designer labels and heels.

6. The Elves from J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

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This one is non-gender specific and maybe more of a category than a character but I do not care—I literally didn’t know humans could look so ethereal and lovely. All three Lord of the Rings’ movies are visual masterpieces, and did an amazing job capturing Tolkien’s expansive world. This is one book-to-movie pairing I completely approve of.

7. Noah and Allie from Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook 

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Here’s the case of a not-so-great book turning into a pretty-okay-movie, but OH MAN do I love Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in this. They are perfection, and their impeccable 1940s style is part of their charm. I couldn’t pick just one character—they look too good together.

8. Lucy Honeychurch from E.M. Forster’s A Room With A View 

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Lucy’s buttoned-up, lace-collared style is such a great visual contrast to the passionate nature she struggles with throughout this story. The movie portrays that through her clothing in a way that makes it even more exciting when she’s kiss-ambushed in a field of flowers.

9. Tristan Ludlow from Jim Harrison’s Legends of the Fall

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I’m going to argue that this movie’s success is due to about 2% plot and 98% Brad Pitt’s hat tip. Actually his whole rugged, Western, barely-civilized-though-sometimes-suit-wearing look in this movie is spot on.

10. Cher Horowitz from Clueless, or Jane Austen’s Emma 

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This might be a stretch, but technically Clueless is based on the novel Emma, and Cher had such a huge impact on ‘90s style that it seems wrong to leave her off this list. From knee socks to plaid skirts to kitschy hats, this movie was a style success from start to finish.

Do you agree with our ten stylish book-to-movie characters? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits:

Atonement: http://www.blogforbettersewing.com/2011/04/daily-dress-keira-knightley-in-green.html and http://www.film.com/photos/atonement/attachment/keira-knightley-wearing-a-hat

Gone with the Wind: http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/against-the-wind/

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/05/24/arts/25cell.4.ready.html

The Hunger Games: http://thehungergames.wikia.com/wiki/Effie_Trinket

The Devil Wears Prada: http://news.instyle.com/2012/05/31/the-devil-wears-prada-sequel/

The Lord of the Rings: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lord_of_the_Rings

The Notebook: http://importanceofbeingvintage.blogspot.com/2011/06/to-my-best-friend-finding-true-love.html

A Room with a View: http://importanceofbeingvintage.blogspot.com/2011/06/to-my-best-friend-finding-true-love.html

Legends of the Fall: http://unrealitymag.com/index.php/2009/05/06/a-brad-pitt-career-photo-retrospective/

Clueless: https://www.lamodauk.com/blog/2013/04/clueless/

Rachel Carter grew up surrounded by trees and snow and mountains. She graduated from the University of Vermont and Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction writing. She is the author of the So Close to You series with Harperteen. These days you can find her working on her next novel in the woods of Vermont.

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