Art & Decor Trends

Famous Paintings Inspire Fashion Trends

Kandinsky - Farbstudie Quadrate (Color Study of Squares)Many would argue that fashion is art, and many designers are inspired by literary, performing, and visual arts. Artists argue that art furthers an innate understanding about human existence that philosophy, science, and even nature do not readily provide. The human body is subject to being rendered on canvas and measured for decorations that emphasize our individuality as much as societal labels.

We are living in a recession, which economists have paralleled to the Great Depression, a time when Art Deco was at its height. Think the Empire State Building in New York City. For fashion, this meant a continuance of abstraction and adornment with beads, seaming as decorative lines, and in the Depression hemlines dropped and longer lines were in fashion, which meant less expensive embellishments. Today there is a focus on sustainability, reusables, and individuality. It may also be a little about cheering ourselves up with classics, something with a since of timelessness.

We recently discovered that Polyvore, a site “where people can discover their style and set trends around the world,” has many collections inspired by mastered artists featured at When people shop they create “clips” of shoes and different clothing essentials which they can combine into “sets” and share on Polyvore, Facebook, Twitter, or through email to friends. Let’s see what’s trending based on a few famous paintings:

Girl With a Peal Earring, Vemeer

This set on Polyvore is inspired by Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, painted in 1665. The set features Scarlet Johansson, an Amor & Psyche top, black suede pumps, a Judith Leiber New Bean satin clutch with a touch of sparkle, and popping red makeup.

The items chosen reflect attributes of various decades… the dark red lipstick of the 1930s, made popular by photography showcasing more and more women wearing it. Satin, from the purse featured here, was also a much used fabric of the time. Besides pearl earrings, this set has something else in common. The Girl with a Pearl Earring is also nicknamed “The Mona Lisa of the North,” and Johansson’s debut film was “North.”

The same painting can influence color palettes in clothing choice. 

Girl with Pearl Earing

Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt was known for his embellishment and lavish patterns in his paintings of lovers. The Dale 2 shoes from Icon collected in this set by a fan are a direct depiction of Klimt’s Stoclet Frieze.

Wassily Kandinsky
Some credit Kandinsky as the father of the abstract movement. His works dealt with symbolism and a balance between the scientific and subjective components of color. He depicted the experience of color on the viewer as parallel to the experience of music to its listener. He often contrasted yellow and blue, where yellow is warm and has a longer wave length, arresting the viewer immediately. Blue invokes a deep, almost spiritual, calm as it moves away from the viewer. It’s similar to the western use of red stop signs instead of blue.

Does that dress remind you of a certain era? What about Mod? It’s a subculture that originated in the UK in the late 1950s through the 1960s. However, in wasn’t until the late seventies that North America saw a Mod (“Modernist”) revival.  If the term isn’t enough to jog your memory, perhaps we can spread the inspiration to something more political–the Royal Airforce roundel in the UK.

We challenge you to visit and personalize your fashion sensibility with a favorite painting! What are your thoughts on how visual art has influenced fashion trends?

About the Author

Tiffany Chaney is a freelance writer, artist and graphic designer residing in North Carolina. In 2012, her first poetry collection Between Blue and Grey was released. Find out more about her at