Looks from Books: Fashion Inspired by The Jungle Books

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Welcome to the latest edition of Looks from Books, which aims to prove that you can look smart, while still being book-smart, too. Fashion inspiration can be found between the pages of your favorite stories, on well-designed book covers, and in your favorite characters… if you read closely enough.

After the positive feedback on the looks inspired by Peter Pan, I decided to once again approach some classic British literature typically ascribed to children’s bookshelves. For a glance at some wild style, that’s perfect for all of your summer adventures, look no further than Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books!


The Jungle Books book cover via Amazon

Inside Cover

The Jungle Books are a collection of short stories set in the jungles of India, written by Rudyard Kipling, and published in 1894.

Having spent significant time outside of England – being born in Bombay, and returning there as a young man to work in conjunction with the military – Kipling drew on his knowledge of India andits deep-forested jungles to craft his enthralling children’s stories.

Kipling was inspired by the wildlife of India, as well as the people he met when he lived and worked in the country as an assistant editor for a military gazette. By the time the inspiration for The Jungle Books struck him (shortly after his daughter Josephine was born, back home in England) he had more than enough material to build up the moralistic and educational world of Mowgli.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907, and remains, to this day, the youngest person to ever claim the prize. He was also offered the British Poet Laureate position, as well as knighthood, and yet, he turned down both honors, saying he would work better without them.

A Fashionable Literacy

The Jungle Books have been adapted into many areas of popular culture, including movies, music, and more, with the most popular adaptation, of course, being the 1967 Disney animated classic. This film was followed by over ten different variations of the story in other films, including a sequel and a live-action remake from within the Disney franchise itself!

Surprisingly, however, the most recent adaptation of the classic stories comes not to the screen, but to the stage, and with significant assistance from the Disney storyline and music, as well. While the production has been getting high reviews from critics and theater-goers alike, the path to Broadway for the show is a long one: due to the similarities between this new musical and the long-running Disney-on-Broadway juggernaut The Lion King – including talking animals, classic tunes, and similar wardrobe and set stylings – execs are examining ideas of a world tour as a potential better investment first.

So, while it may take you a while to catch up on the most recent adaptations of the adventures of Mowgli and friends, you can always turn back to the colorful, crazy, and classic Disney interpretation for inspiration.

How to Add Mowgli and Co. to Your Wardrobe

By integrating key elements of the works of Rudyard Kipling into your own individual style, you can beat the heat with some wild new looks, straight from the jungles of India, without even having to update your passport!

Imperialism and India


Product Information: Top – Forever 21, Shorts – Forever 21, Jacket – Jack Wills, Headband – Anthropologie, Sandals – Modcloth, Backpack – Karmaloop.

Perhaps the most obvious and involving element of all of Kipling’s works – not just The Jungle Books, but into his other accomplishments as a poet, reporter, and novelist – is that of imperialism; specifically, the British Empire, and its holdings in India. Frequently, readers have interpreted Kiplings’ works to serve as allegories of such rigid and unforgiving societal structures in place at the time; however, much discussion has been raised as to whether his loyalty laid with England, or if he strove to expose the injustices of the system.

Explore these themes by utilizing some military-style inspiration, coupled with opulent accessories, in representation of the strict martial control in the beautiful rural areas of India at the time of imperialism. A utilitarian jacket, khaki shorts, minimalist button-down tank, and rough rucksack capture the spirit of the military rule, while the decadent stylings of the headband and sandals remind us that the issue was grounded in a truly beautiful country.

A “Wild” Cast of Characters

The jungle books get wild

Product Information: Hat – Vans, Sweater – Topshop, Scarf – Delias, Necklace – Macys, Earrings – Shopbop, Shirt – Lucky Brand.

The Jungle Books are, perhaps, most easily recognizable for their (literally) wild cast of characters: beyond humans taking side roles in some of the stories, and Mowgli, the young boy serving as the lead character in others, the anthropomorphic animals take center stage. Characters like Bagheera the panther, Nagiana the serpent, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi the mongoose, Hathi the elephant, and Akela the wolf all remain as iconic characters within the works of Kipling.

Animal overload has never helped an outfit, so limit yourself to sharing the spotlight with specific members of Kipling’s zoological coterie, with specific pieces that pay homage to individual characters, like this striped cap, bird-covered scarf, bear-fanged stud earrings, panther sweater, snake statement necklace, and elephant icon tee.

Keeping it Short

The jungle books keeping it brief

Product Information: Top – Charlotte Russe, Shorts – Lord and Taylor, Earrings – Zappos, Vest – Delias, Clutch – DSW, Shoes – Charlotte Russe.

Each of the stories in The Jungle Books starts off with a short piece of prose, usually a rhyming couplet or quatrain or two, that introduces the characters or describes the themes approached in the piece. Poetry was a great format for the whimsical musings of Kipling, and elements of similar wordplay are on display in multiple pieces of his, including extended works like Gunga Din.

Channel this passion for the shorter forms of Kipling’s poetic stylings by embracing a similar abbreviated nature with pieces in your own style. Small studs, a cropped vest, a sleeveless tank, a simple straw clutch, low flats, and printed shorts all manage to generate interest and maintain an earthy, grounded vibe, while highlighting this strategic and involving brevity in Kipling’s works.

What Do You Think?

Have you ever read The Jungle Books, or any of Rudyard Kipling’s other works? Have you seen any movies based off the stories in the Books, especially the Disney one? What do you think of the new musical? What do you think of the outfits and styling tips? Let me know, in the comments below! 

4 thoughts on “Looks from Books: Fashion Inspired by The Jungle Books”

  1. Great!! I love this series. The first look is definitely my favorite. So cute!

    I’d love to see you cover Around the World in 80 Days, Tarzan, or even Captains Courageous.

  2. @Melodie – Thank you so much! And you are SO right, that is a typo! 🙂 Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

    @Kathryn – Glad to see you like the pieces; that backpack is a favorite of mine, as well! 🙂

    Thank you both so much for your support of my column! Are there any specific books you’d like to see me cover in the future?

  3. That jacket and rucksack in the first look are so good, although the jacket doesn’t seem so nice on the model. I agree with Melodie that the Looks from Books features are really refreshing.


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