Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1999 film, The Talented Mr. Ripley
Where but in our imaginations do the real style mavens and trendsetters live? Who but the characters living between the cover and the epilogues can stand up to the test of fashionable time? Movies and television certainly spark fashion mayhem, but it can be argued that the true style icons started on the written page (and that most of the silver screen’s stylish came from books anyway — decades of readers envisioned Marge Sherwood’s patrician nipped-waist ensembles before Gwyneth Paltrow slipped into them in Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley).

We remember the singular look of Carrie Bradshaw in Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City as much as we do Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Or the make-do-with-what-you-have stylings of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. And let’s not forget the dashing men — whether you love or loath them — from James Bond and Maxim de Winter to Dorian Gray and Patrick Batemen. The Virgin Suicides’ Lisbon sisters did for Seventies louche bell-bottoms what Edith Wharton’s Lily Bart did for muslin dresses.

Here, a few of our favorite literary characters with memorable style.

The Lisbon Sisters in Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides
Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations
Zuleika Dobson in Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson
James Bond in Ian Fleming’s Bond series
Carrie Bradshaw in Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City
Lily Bart in Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth
Dorian Gray in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
Holly Golightly from Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Orlando in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando
Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind
Maxim de Winter and Rebecca in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca
Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
Lady Brett Ashley in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises
Nick and Nora Charles in Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man
Cecilia Tallis in Ian McEwan’s Atonement
Patrick Bateman in Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho
Marge Sherwood in Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley
Katharine Clifton in Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient
Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke in Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa
Lynn Bracken in James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential
Dominique Francon in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead
Emma Woodhouse in Jane Austen’s Emma

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