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Twenty years ago today, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone appeared on British bookshelves. No, you’re not so old that your memory is shot; publishers swapped “philosopher” for “sorcerer” when the book arrived in the United States one year later. In the days since the next six editions were released and eight subsequent movies debuted, plenty of other book-turned-movie franchises — The Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent — have exploded in popularity. And while you may have long forgotten about Harry’s wire-rimmed glasses and lightning-bolt scar, the fandom for the boy wizard and his ragtag group of school friends has never waned.
For fashion fans, it’s tempting to imagine what might’ve happened had the Harry Potter series been released now, in the golden age of stylish movie tie-ins. Would there have been a spellbinding HSN takeover? Magical robes on Moda Operandi? Influencers posting Like to Know It links to red-and-gold Gryffindor scarves?!
Since Beauty and the Beast helped sell everything from sneakers to lipsticks and crystal-studded purses to cast-iron skillets, one can’t help but transpose the array of products tied to Emma Watson’s princess to that of her bushy-haired schoolgirl. If Christopher Kane could build a collection around the Beast’s emblematic rose, just imagine the field day Rick Owens or Alexander Wang could’ve had bringing Bellatrix Lestrange’s leather-bound wardrobe to the masses — and how cool Luna Lovegood’s Spectrespecs would’ve looked on shelves next to similar offerings by Karen Walker and Prada.
The timing is unfortunate, but over the 20 years since the first Harry Potter book’s release, the franchise’s iconic costuming has remained more than a Hogwarts Express ride outside of the fashion mainstream. And yet? One could argue that it's more popular than ever.
With The Wizarding World of Harry Potter having popped up at three different Universal theme parks and resorts in the past seven years, the universe established by J.K. Rowling’s double decade-old tome is no longer a figment of the imagination or trapped within a screen. Now, it’s a real place where you can try Florean Fortescue’s ice cream in Diagon Alley, sip Butterbeer in the shadow of Gringotts Wizarding Bank, or get fitted at Ollivanders Wand Shop to perform charms and spells of your very own.
And since these Harry Potter-themed parks pride themselves on being fully immersive — employees are wizards, lighting is disguised as oil lamps, cash is referred to as “Muggle money” — wearing that iconic sweater set with a Slytherin scarf isn’t just a fashionable homage to a film, but a method of fully engaging in one.
That means the real staying power of Harry Potter clothing isn’t the distant memory of Fleur Delacour’s impossibly glamorous blue uniform or the ruffled pink gown Hermione Granger wore to the Yule Ball. It’s the fact that today, right now, children and adults are wearing robes, holding wands, and performing spells outside a Hogwarts castle facade because Jany Temime drew them that way.
The legendary costume designer, who developed the way we see Dumbledore, the Weasleys, and even “He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named” for six of the eight Harry Potter films, purposefully designed outfits that wouldn’t really date. “You have to make something that will be good in 10 years’ time, but at the same time you have to also make it original, so it shouldn’t be boring,” she says of the characters’ clothes.
The niche style of Harry Potter’s school uniforms and wizardry basics isn’t easy to pull off in real life — at least without appearing to have botched a “Baby One More Time” costume — but now there’s an appropriate place to let your Slytherin flag fly, where dressing the part adds to the experience. “I think that when kids are wearing the costumes, they’re not only wearing my costumes, they have a chance of becoming a part of that world,” Temime explains.
The fact that folks can buy a woolen Weasley sweater in a real Hogsmeade shop before popping over to the owlery to send a letter or to Honeydukes for a chocolate frog adds further weight to the looks in a way today’s fashion/film tie-ins typically cannot. There’s a major difference, after all, between wearing a dress that vaguely references The Hunger Games and donning a Quidditch jersey while walking past Dumbledore’s office at Hogwarts, as visitors do in an attraction queue.
Temime, who worked on the theme parks as well, is elated that people choose to wear robes, uniforms, and their preferred school colors when they visit. “I’m quite proud about it. In a way, I feel like I did the right thing!” she laughs.
Harry Potter may have missed the big collaboration boom, but its style legacy has only grown stronger with time. Take a trip to Hogsmeade this summer, and you’ll see international guests of all ages proudly wearing their robes in 100-degree heat. The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, where guests can visit the films’ sets and props, is even opening a Wizarding Wardrobes exhibit at the end of July to allow fans a closer look at their favorite costumes. Harry Potter style has most certainly made its mark — but much like Platform 9 ¾, you’ll only notice it if you know where to look.