Book-Inspired Fashion: The Paper Swan by Leylah Attar

Is blood thicker than water? Put that to the test with fashion inspiration from this romantic family saga.
Publish date:

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.

Cover photo via Amazon

Cover photo via Amazon

As 2015 is starting to wrap up, I’ve been pressed to choose books that will both translate into accessible fashion inspiration and be of possible interest to the readers of College Fashion.

The Paper Swan is a new book that I discovered purely by chance, noticing it largely because of a combination of the title and the book cover, both promising the fragility to be discovered within its pages.

It didn’t let me down, and it struck me as a book that is accessible despite its weight as a (short) family saga because it’s tempered by romance, relatable narrative voice, and non-stop action.

Reading Between the Lines

The Paper Swan by Leylah Attar is a brand new book, published just a few months ago in 2015, and it is typically categorized as New Adult or Contemporary Women’s Fiction. 

Among other things, this novel has been lauded for its role in promoting diversity in popular fiction, being set in hazily vibrant Mexico and embodying familial values that are at once different and similar from traditional American values. Additionally, many major and minor characters have Mexican heritage, but this book doesn’t try to market itself as a “minority fiction” book – and it shouldn’t have to.

This novel is based primarily around Skye, the beautiful blonde outsider who wields more power than she knows, and Esteban/Damian, whose past has hardened him and changed his persona (and identity!) beyond recognition. Their lives are traced from a very young age until they are creeping into middle age, encompassing 3 family generations.

The beginning of this book, like just about 90% of the novel, is incredibly fast-paced and action-packed, and introduces Skye as a spirited woman who desperately fights her kidnapper Damian and relies on the positivity in her life in order to get through the traumatic event. In a major plot twist, however, the kidnapper who arouses strange emotions in Skye is revealed to be an older, very much changed Esteban, who can’t bring himself to kill her.

It’s not a standard mushy love story, however. The following events include a sliced off fingertip, charged sexual tension, a paradisiacal tropical island, and years in prison. You’ll find tons of heartache, lost love, crushed dreams, secrets, and most importantly, hope.

I’ve created three outfit sets based on Skye and Damian’s relationship, and have attempted to not include any major spoilers. That, however, was difficult because of the swift passage of time in this novel, so I’d advise you guys to not read the second outfit description too closely if you want to avoid any spoilers.

1. Black Ice

I saw his eyes. They were dark. Black…

Yet here was a different kind of black. It was black ice and burning coal. It was well-water and desert night. It was dark tempest and glassy calm. It was Black battling Black, opposite and polar, and yet still… all black.

I could see my mother’s necklace suspended in Damian’s eyes. It reminded me of what it’s like to stand between two mirrors, staring at the seemingly endless line of images fading into the distance. There was something in his eyes, in his face that I couldn’t place. He seemed mesmerized by the locket, like he’d fallen into some kind of a daze.

He had a chink in his armor after all. (8%)

Black Ice.jpg

Product Info: Top, Jacket, Skirt, Heels

Literally, Skye is examining Damian’s eyes on the deck of the ship on which he has kidnapped her, but I chose this scene because this is the moment in which he becomes human to her despite his cruelty and violence. While it only lasts for a second, it gives her hope that he might not be as cold-hearted as he appears. This image, however, is immediately shattered when Damian tosses Skye’s cherished necklace into the ocean, refusing her attempt to bribe him for her freedom.

This scene appears early on in the book, and moments like these, layered with brutality and confusion, make up the dynamic between the two characters until the climactic moment when Skye realizes that Damian isn’t a stranger at all, and that his actions are fueled by reasons far more personal (and dangerous) than she had feared.

This outfit has both sharp and soft lines and an all-black monochromatic color scheme because of Damian’s image, which is at once flat and dynamic. It's an extremely simple look because of his initially one-dimensional impression, but remains interesting because of the multiple textures. 

2. Fragile Forms

We only picked shells that had been battered by the waves, smashed and worn so thin that they turned into iridescent slivers of light. Those were the ones MaMaLu loved best. We made necklaces for her. I sorted them by size and shape while he carefully made a hole through them. That was the hardest part – tapping a nail through their fragile forms without breaking them.

I collected a few shells before heading back inside, feeling like I was reclaiming little pieces of me. Here, on this remote island… I was getting back in touch with myself… There was a sense of freedom, a sense of simplicity that I didn’t know I’d been missing. (53%)

Fragile Forms.jpg

Product Info: Romper, Swimsuit, Shoes, Necklace

After several near-death experiences, and even resigning herself to death, Skye learns the truth about the brutal transformation Esteban had undergone to become Damian. After struggling through the vestiges of lingering feelings, vengeance, anger, and sorrow, they reconcile and attempt to heal on an island after Damian receives a severe injury. Although Skye had made a call to her father on the ship in order to let him know that she was alive, they remain on the island for quite a while before being discovered by Skye’s father and his team.

In just a few weeks, Skye transitions from re-falling in love with the boy she had never forgotten to being torn in two by the two men she loves most in the world: her father and Damian. The aftermath of being taken off the island extends into several long years of prison and exhaustion, and both Skye and Damian evolve from passion-driven twenty-somethings to adults that reflect and mature.

This scene, however, taps into the beauty of nature, simplicity, and isolation – the calm before the storm. MaMaLu, Damian’s late mother and Skye’s previous caretaker, binds the two together long after her death because of their shared anecdotes of love and sorrow.

I’ve put together an outfit that is relaxed, due to the island setting, but that also reflects a bit of fragility and gentleness, similar to the idea of falling back into the easiness of reconnecting with those closest to us. In this case, Skye effortlessly glides back into the easy relationship she had once had with Esteban, after learning to forgive one another.

I'm partial to rompers and dresses in these cases because they're classic, but are incredibly easy to throw on without worrying about too formal or too casual at the beach.

3. Story behind a Story

In the grand scheme of things, we do the best we can, all of us, and we make up our stories as we go along; we write them and direct them and project them into the world. And sometimes we get other people’s stories, and sometimes we don’t, but always there is a story behind a story behind a story, linked in a chain that we can only see a small part of, because it’s there when we’re born and it continues after we’re gone. And who can comprehend all of it in one lifetime? (80%)

Story behind a Story.jpg

Product Info: Top, Skirt, Shoes, Hat, Headband

I didn’t want to spoil the twist at the end of the book (although it’s admittedly easy to guess), so I went with a quote that appears amidst a heavily emotional reunion between the protagonists after years of separation.

This book is marketed as a family saga, as I’ve already mentioned, and although this book is shorter than you would expect given how much time it covers, it certainly succeeds in expressing the intricacies of family. This book juggles two points of view and a lot of story, and this quote illustrates how even that is only the tip of the iceberg.

This outfit is inspired by the shape of traditional Mexican clothing, although I've toned down the colors to more earthy tones. The setting, after all, is an important element in this book that ties into the history and culture of the characters, and serves as literal common ground for their communication and reunion.

I chose a white blouse in part because I wanted to represent a blank slate, in which stories are forever being recorded, retold, and remembered. The skirt is loose but feminine, and the accessories tie together the rest of the neutral colors in a subtle way. 

The floral headband is a simple finishing touch that adds a bright pop of color without being overwhelming. 

In the next Book-Inspired Fashion post…

I’m going to explore a Young Adult novel that is one of the many new Fairy Tale retellings that have been incredibly successful in recent years. It’s based on Beauty and the Beast, which is one of my favorites, but it puts a very different twist on the world and magic of the enchantment.

Your Thoughts?

As always, I’d love book recommendations, whether they’re books I should read, or books that you’d like me to cover for the column. What would you like to see more of?

Related Stories