William Shakespeare is My Fashion Idol

Vivian McInerny
4 min readDec 10, 2021

Top style tips from the Bard

Photography by Dalton Smith on Unsplash

William Shakespeare is my fashion idol.

It’s not because of his puffy pantaloons or saggy tights or frilly Elizabethan collars though I could make a solid argument for a pantaloon revival in the New Year. They’re probably more comfortable than yoga pants. And one could discreetly carry snacks in the folds of fabric. Have you ever tried to do a downward dog with a full-sized candy bar stashed in the tiny pocket stitched into the waistband of most yoga pants? Don’t.

Back to Shakespeare. Say what you want about his sonnets and plays. It’s his fashion writing that has real impact on my closet. What! You didn’t know the Bard was practically the Diana Vreeland of his time? While the stylish editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue gave us such idioms as, “Pink is the navy blue of India.”And “Fashion must be the most intoxicating release from the banality of the world.” It was Shakespeare who penned perhaps the most timeless fashion advice ever put to paper when he wrote “. . . apparel oft proclaims the man.”

This advice from Hamlet, given by a father to a son who was about to head to France, still holds true centuries later. (Seriously, consider it before boarding a plane to Paris.) It’s usually interpreted as “clothes make the man” but I think that’s almost the opposite of what the father was saying.

Granted, I know next to nothing about Shakespeare but he did write in English which just happens to be the one and only language in which I can (fairly) confidently claim fluency, so I am going to take him at his word, specifically this word; proclaims. Proclaims is defined as “declares publicly” or “gives an outward indication.”

So clothes don’t make the man but they say a lot about him. (Not to make you paranoid, but your clothes are talking about you right now. Do you have any idea what they’re saying? Trust me, everyone else does.)

When I wrote about fashion for a daily newspaper, one of my favorite assignments was to go out with a photographer to ask people what they were wearing in their everyday lives, and why. The first one we ever did was in January 1998. Photographer Ross Hamilton and I wandered to an urban mall a few blocks from the newsroom in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Vivian McInerny

Career journalist, essayist, fiction writer, and life-long spirit-quester.