Librarians, in reel or real life, have not historically been lauded for their style; or, rather, so-called “librarian style” has entered the realm of stereotype. This is mostly due, I would argue, to the prevailing “Spinster Librarian” character type, wrapped up in frumpy, ill-fitting, and buttoned-up cardigans, midi skirts, sensible shoes, and glasses on a chain. This kind of stereotypical clothing, which could even be seen as a kind of uniform, serves a purpose for the “Spinster Librarian” character type, visually demonstrating the conservative and rule-abiding nature of that role.
But we are more stylish than people might think — in real and reel life!
Real librarians’ personal style is as diverse as the field of librarianship, as evidenced in websites like Librarian Wardrobe, whose tagline is “Not always buns and sensible shoes, librarians at various types of libraries have different styles (and dress codes).” A closer look at reel librarians reveals a wide range of stylish choices captured on cinema, as well, for both male and female reel librarian characters. Let’s take a closer look at stylish reel librarians, shall we?
A quick note: Compiling this initial list was quite unscientific. I first jotted down a list of stylish reel librarians — from nothing more than my memory — and found the list to be quite extensive! I then narrowed the list down to 5 female and 5 male reel librarians to highlight on the blog.
This week, I’ll focus on stylish female reel librarians; next week is for the boys!
All the librarians in Desk Set (1957):
The reel librarian style in the classic comedy Desk Set deserves another mention — and a spot on this list! Here’s what I’ve written previously about the stylish ladies of Desk Set:
They are smart, sassy, and feminine, which their wardrobes reflect. Favoring timeless ’50s silhouettes of full skirts and cinched waistlines, they wear dresses as well as separates (cardigans, twinsets, sweaters). Although their clothing is quite simplistic in shape, the color choices are quite bold and striking. Bottom line, their collective style is both classic and comfortable. Perfect for the modern librarian!
Mary in Party Girl (1995):
Parker Posey as the title character in the 1995 independent film Party Girl is a reel librarian revelation, complete with striped tights and thick-soled ankle boots. As Mary, she starts out as an irresponsible, irreverent party girl clad in vintage threads and club gear. She has to sell most of her vintage clothing and starts working at a local public library to pay off the money her godmother paid to get her out of jail, eventually (spoiler alert!) realizing she is meant to be a librarian. (The signs were already there. After all, she did organize her friend’s jeans — and another friend’s record collection!)
The film serves almost as a backdrop for Mary’s glorious wardrobe and style choices, full of thrifted and vintage combinations. Mary is definitely not afraid of color or pattern-mixing! A thoroughly modern and fun-loving reel librarian with a wardrobe to match.
Her memorable outfits are also showcased on the film’s posters and DVD covers!
Susan Harper in Twisted Nerve (1968):
In the 1968 thriller Twisted Nerve, Hayley Mills plays Susan Harper, a lovely young librarian studying for a teaching degree. As I said in my analysis post about the film:
Susan is a classic Spirited Young Girl character type: a young, physically attractive, intelligent, and modern girl who is working temporarily at the library. […] And along with Ali McGraw in Love Story (1970), she’s one of the best-dressed reel librarians ever! Behold the blonde-haired cuteness:
Jenny in Love Story (1970):
In the classic weepy Love Story, Ali MacGraw stars as Jenny Cavalleri, who is working as a library assistant at Radcliffe when she meets Harvard law student and jock Oliver (Ryan O’Neal). She is a music major — fulfilling the Spirited Young Girl character type in this film — and her style is a mixture of classic and bohemian. We get to see a range of outfits and style choices, from casual tees to winter layers to her wedding dress!
Roe in the Aurora Teagarden Mystery Movies (TV, 2015- ):
In this series of mystery TV movies, Candace Cameron Bure plays Aurora ‘Roe’ Teagarden, a young librarian with a skill for sleuthing. Roe’s fashion sense is subjected to many negative comments throughout the TV film, but I didn’t agree with this style criticism, as I also stated in my review post of the series premiere. Roe’s style of cardigans, coats, and layers looks cute, relatable, and modern to me.
These are not exhaustive lists, and my opinions expressed here on the stylishness of the librarians are based on personal and biased opinions.
Do you agree or disagree? Do you have more stylish reel librarians to add to the list? Please share and leave a comment!
Next week, check back for stylish male reel librarians!
- A Bone to Pick: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery (TV movie). Dir. Martin Wood. Perf. Candace Cameron Bure, Marilu Henner, Lexa Doig, Bruce Dawson. Hallmark, 2015.
- Desk Set. Dir. Walter Lang. Perf. Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Gig Young, Joan Blondell, Dina Merrill. 20th Century Fox, 1957.
- Love Story. Dir. Arthur Hiller. Perf. Ali MacGraw, Ryan O’Neal, John Marley, Ray Milland. Paramount, 1970.
- Party Girl. Dir. Daisy von Scherler Mayer. Perf. Parker Posey, Sasha von Scherler, Guillermo Diaz, Liev Schreiber. First Look, 1995.
- Twisted Nerve. Dir. Roy Boulting. Perf. Hayley Mills, Hywel Bennett, Billie Whitelaw. Charter Film Productions, 1968.