Photos via TikTok.

These TikToks reimagine classic paintings as outfits

Mona Lisa could never.

by Laura Pitcher
12 January 2021, 11:09am

Photos via TikTok.

When Leonardo da Vinci was painting the Mona Lisa, it’s doubtful that he imagined his famous portrait of an Italian noblewoman — dressed in dark, plain clothes —  would inspire a slew of fit pics, let alone become the backdrop to a series of videos on TikTok. Yet many, many years later one of the app’s latest trends sees its young users turning to the old masters’ art for fashion inspo.

The “outfits inspired by paintings” trend was started during quarantine by Jessie Keogh, whose videos capture the essence of well-known artworks through colours and patterns. Instead of trying to replicate the clothing worn in the paintings themselves, Jessie uses her own clothes and accessories to capture their vibe. The videos have become immensely popular among her nearly 700K followers, and have inspired other stylists on the app to participate in the trend.

“I first started this TikTok series in April after seeing an outfit moodboard on Instagram and was intrigued by the idea of making outfits inspired by paintings,” Jessie, an 18-year-old student living in Dallas, Texas told i-D. “I’m an artist so I’ve always loved art and studying it, which ultimately pushed me to make the TikToks.”

She chooses the art pieces based on her personal favourites, most often referencing Impressionists like Claude Monét, Vincent Van Gogh and Pierre Auguste Cot, of the Academic Classicism school. “These two art eras really capture the ethereal uniqueness and aesthetics that I like to capture in my outfits,” she says. In one video, Jessie pays tribute to Charles Schridde’s “Moondance” with a blue long-sleeve crop top and a floral pink skirt, in another she drew on the softness of Amorsolo Fernando’s “Bathing by the river” with a sweeping shawl.

“The response has been lovely too. I’ve had over a hundred people message me in the past year on how my fashion and confidence in my style has pushed them to explore their own style,” she says. Many, she adds, enjoy her other outfit videos inspired by emojis, songs or films too. “I think that’s because it’s something ordinary that most of us know, put into a new perspective with style.”

Vasti Bayani, a 22-year-old living in Nevada, followed Jessie’s lead by creating his own classical art-inspired outfits. He was drawn to the idea of experimenting with colours in his wardrobe. “Recently I’ve been incorporating more and more colours and colour combinations to my outfits to show what I’m capable of,” he says, “and the best way to show that is to show famous art as outfits.”

Vasti runs the online vintage store, Scarfxce Closet, so the majority of his clothes that he wears are thrifted. His videos have a sense of calm and confidence, capturing the colour palettes of famous paintings while still creating a look that’s extremely wearable. Choosing each piece of art based on its popularity, Vasti wants the paintings he’s interpreting to be easily recognisable to his audience. “A lot of classic art is new to younger generations that are on TikTok, so seeing the beauty of it will definitely draw you in,” he says.

How classical artwork and culture will be interpreted by the next generation is often discussed under the assumption that young people are less interested in the past. But this trend, along with the sheer number of makeup videos inspired by classical artworks, suggests TikTok users are totally inspired.

Michelle Sánchez, a 20-year-old living in Mexico, says the trend helped her bond with her art enthusiast sister. “My sister and I have very different tastes, even though we are twins, and her huge love for art is one of the things that I admire about her,” she says. “Recreating artwork helped us to bond over something that we both like.”

Michelle, who has over half a million followers on the app, also creates outfits inspired by anime, Netflix and emojis, and uses TikTok as a tool to connect with fellow stylists around the world. “Ever since I was a little girl I have dressed ‘different’ than other people. I grew up watching social media stars that gave fashion recommendations and tried to recreate outfits that I liked,” she says. “Social media platforms played a huge part in my love for fashion. Inspiration is everywhere.”

The most famous classical artwork may still hang on the walls of galleries and museums, but it’s infiltrating TikTok and inspiring a whole new generation of creatives. Equipped with only their wardrobes, they’re leading a classical revival in the most contemporary of settings.

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