Fashion inspiration can be found anywhere, and books are incredible sources for style innovation. Book-Inspired Fashion explores these treasure troves, and brings them them to you in looks inspired by vibrant characters, far away lands, brilliantly woven plotlines, and more.
As an English major, I read a lot of literary fiction and classics in my classes. The Call of the Wild, however, is a novel that I recently picked up on my own. It met all of my expectations as a riveting, emotional read, and I’m glad to be able to share with all of you today!
Reading Between the Lines
The Call of the Wild was first serialized in a magazine in 1903, and soon released in a single volume due to its extreme popularity. Jack London’s own life experiences colored the text, and his research resulted in the graphic, chillingly-intense details found in The Call of the Wild.
The premise of the book surrounds the harsh gold rush in the Yukon in the late 1800s, that yielded few fortunes to the thousands of men who scrambled to the North. Sled dogs were hotly sought after, and the protagonist of this book, Buck, was stolen and sold in order to labor in this cruel exploration of the northern territories of Canada and Alaska.
In the novel, Buck’s actions and behavior directly reflect his treatment by humans. He cycles through different owners, each with distinct personalities and ways of living, and Buck evolves dramatically with each experience.
Eventually, the spirit of the wild seduces him, and he embraces the way in which his ancestors roamed and hunted before the generations of domestication that tamed them into mere pets. This signals rebirth, and also calls into question whether every domesticated animal has that streak of nature within them, waiting to be released.
While I do love animals, I have never been involved in anti-animal-cruelty movements. This book, however, struck a chord in me, despite being a fictional account of a dog that likely never existed. Buck’s life evokes empathy, fear, pity, and so many more emotions because he is portrayed in the same way that a human would be portrayed – except without a voice to tell the world what has happened to him.
Although I've written this article to display the outfit sets I’ve created to illustrate the most prominent passages in the book, I would like to ask readers to think again before allowing animals, whether or not they have owners, to be mistreated.
And as always, please beware of detailed spoilers in the second and third outfit descriptions!
1. First Snow
At the first step upon the cold surface, Buck’s feet sank into a white mushy something very like mud. He sprang back with a snort. Mort of this white stuff was falling through the air. He shook himself, but more of it fell upon him. He shook himself, but more of it fell upon him. He sniffed it curiously, then licked some up on his tongue. It bit like fire, and the next instant was gone. This puzzled him. He tried it again, with the same result. The onlookers laughed uproariously, and he felt ashamed, he knew not why, for it was his first snow. (London, 12%)
After a worker steals him from his comfortable home, Buck is sold as a working dog in the wake of the gold rush. Unlike the huskies that make up most of the group, Buck has been chosen for his bulky size, and is shocked by the cruelty he experiences in the north. His spirit is severely put to the test after a brutal beating by a man with a club, which teaches Buck the “law of club and fang,” which guides him through much of his life.
His first owners, François and Perrault, are French-Canadians that work the dogs fairly in their sled duties, and Buck learns to respect, albeit grudgingly, the power of the club (and men). This is not because Buck feels submissive to his owners, but because of his cunning, intelligence, and adaptability.
I chose this scene of Buck’s first snow, because it highlights the stark contrast of Buck’s change in environment (from the Southland to the Northland), and also demonstrates a naïve side of Buck that utterly vanishes as he lives and grows in the harshest of conditions with the deadliest of companions.
This outfit, therefore, channels a more youthful look, and is weather-appropriate for (first) snow despite being slightly dressy. This is intentional because it is Buck’s first time experiencing the cold snow, with lots of uncertainty in how to deal with the environment.
The denim pinafore dress is unique in a subtle way, and I layered a simple white blouse underneath for warmth. I added the beanie and tights for warmth as well, and loved the rabbit design because it ties in an animalistic element in a cute, rather than vicious, way.
2. Born of Fire and Roof
But in spite of this great love he bore John Thornton, which seemed to bespeak the soft civilizing influence, the strain of the primitive, which the Northland had aroused in him, remained alive and active. Faithfulness and devotion, things born of fire and roof, were his, yet he retained his wildness and wiliness. He was a thing of the wild, come in from the wild to sit by John Thornton’s fire, rather than a dog of the Southland stamped with the marks of generations of civilization. (London, 68%)
Despite experiencing the greatest, most passionate love of his life after being saved by John Thornton, Buck’s last (and arguably, only) owner, Buck is forever changed by his experience in the wild. In particular, his third set of owners proved drastically ignorant and violent, with Thornton stepping into the narrowly save Buck’s life.
This is followed by what I consider the most shocking moment of the book, in which the rest of the sled dogs that had accompanied Buck for so long, drown along with their three owners after they are foolishly lead into weak ice.
Luckily, Buck feels the ecstasy of true happiness with John Thornton, and this stems from the partnership they have with each other. It makes both of them happy, and earns them respect, fame, and wealth.
Typically, I use a red or pink color palette to convey any kind of strong love, but this time, I went with a bright yellow because it symbolizes happiness as well as fire. This is the most feminine and least practical of the three looks because this is a period of Buck’s life in which he feels safe, loved, and comfortable.
Yellow, often found in nature, also fits because Buck has allowed his inner wild spirit to thrive alongside his content life with John Thornton and his other dogs. While the force of the wild eventually grows stronger within Buck, it is neither unmanageable nor impractical at this point in the book.
I used the floral print of the shoes in order to sprinkle some nature onto this outfit, and kept all the accessories neutral in order to keep the yellow dress as the center of attention.
3. Heard in the Other World
From far away drifted a faint, sharp yelp, followed by a chorus of similar sharp yelps. As the moments passed, the yelps grew closer and louder. Again Buck knew them as things heard in that other world which persisted in his memory. He walked to the centre of the open space and listened. It was the call, the many-noted call, sounding more luringly and compellingly than ever before.
And as never before, he was ready to obey. John Thornton was dead. The last tie was broken. Man and the claims of men no longer bound him. (London, 96%)
It’s truly tear-jerking when John Thornton, along with every other living soul in his camp, is killed while Buck is away. Yes, Buck gets his revenge, but he is never the same. John Thornton was the sole force pulling Buck from the call of the wild. After John's death, Buck joins the wolf pack as its leader.
The part of the book that touches me most is that Buck is seen annually returning to the area in which John Thornton was killed, despite having separated himself from the human world.
I fought against including the faux shearling (sheepskin) vest in this outfit, but included it not because of Buck, but as homage to the “hairy man” that was John Thornton. The nickname itself turned Thornton into a figure that was more primitive than civilized, and so this outfit is a lot less sophisticated.
Buck’s transformation from domesticated dog to wild animal inspired me to break the rules just a little bit by using - gasp! - leggings as pants. The leggings are fleece-lined to trap in warmth and comfort, and I paired them with a clean sweater, tree-print socks that remind me of a forest, and sturdy boots that can handle lots of walking.
In the next Book-Inspired Fashion post…
The Call of the Wild is an easy read in terms of its length and simplicity, but pulls no stops in its gut-wrenching descriptions of brutality and violence. So next week, I’m going for a book that is both an easy read in a technical sense, and a story that is easily digested.
Next week's book is not as famous as the other books I’ve covered – it's possibly the least well-known book I've chosen – so instead of leaving a hint, it’ll just be a surprise. I will say that it’ll take you for a whimsical whirl of historical romance, though.
How does The Call of the Wild rank among your favorite classics? Let us know in the comments below!