The colors of Alina’s kefta represent her attempts to balance wanting to fit in with wanting to be special—and the dangers of trying to fit in. When Alina is first brought to the Little Palace and is fitted for a kefta, the Darkling insists her kefta be black—the Darkling’s color, rather than the midnight blue color that Summoners like Alina normally wear. Alina advocates to wear blue rather than black, which shows that at this point, her main goal is to fit in with the other Grisha who are her peers. She doesn’t want to wear a black kefta, something that’s going to set her apart—people are already fascinated by her because of her rare power, and she doesn’t want to attract more attention than she already has. But advocating for herself in this context is also significant because it shows that Alina isn’t yet comfortable with the Darkling’s advances, or with being so special to him. She wants to appease and fit in with the other Grisha, not the Darkling.
On the night of the winter fete, though, Alina is shocked when her silk kefta arrives—and it’s black, with the Darkling’s symbol included as a gold pendant at the neck. Agreeing to wear it symbolizes Alina’s desire to be special and please the Darkling. At this point, Alina is sexually attracted to the Darkling and accepts his confusing advances, so it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to wear “his” color. However, when Alina finds Mal at the palace and fights with him, Mal unwittingly articulates exactly what’s so sinister about Alina wearing black. That is, other Grisha all wear kefta in a color that symbolizes who they are and what they can do. A black kefta, though, doesn’t necessarily symbolize what Alina can do: it symbolizes who she belongs to, as black is the Darkling’s color exclusively. Alina gets proof that Mal was right when Baghra explains that the Darkling wants to essentially enslave Alina using Morozova’s stag’s antlers, highlighting that getting Alina to wear a black kefta to the fete was an expression of the Darkling’s power and domination more than anything else. It's cathartic for Alina, then, when at the end of the novel, she and Mal burn her black kefta. By burning it, Alina mentally frees herself from the Darkling’s grasp and asserts her independence.
Alina’s Kefta Quotes in Shadow and Bone
The kefta was far too large. It felt soft and unfamiliar, the fur lining warm against my skin. I chewed my lip. It didn’t seem fair that oprichniki and Grisha wore corecloth while ordinary soldiers went without. Did our officers wear it, too?
I pulled the kefta tighter around me, feeling suddenly cold. I remembered the surety that had flooded through me with the Darkling’s touch, and that strangely familiar sensation of a call echoing through me, a call that demanded an answer. It had been frightening, but exhilarating, too. In that moment, all my doubt and fear had been replaced by a kind of absolute certainty. I was no one, a refugee from an unnamed village, a scrawny clumsy girl hurtling alone through the gathering dark. But when the Darkling had closed his fingers around my wrist, I’d felt different, like something more.
“I…If it would be alright, I’d prefer to have blue robes, Summoners’ blue.”
“Alina!” exclaimed Genya, clearly horrified.
But the Darkling held up a hand to silence her. “Why?” he asked, his expression unreadable.
“I already feel like I don’t belong here. I think it might be easier if I weren’t…singled out.”
“Are you so anxious to be like everyone else?”
My chin lifted. “I just don’t want to be more conspicuous than I already am.”
The Darkling looked at me for a long moment. I wasn’t sure if he was thinking over what I’d said or trying to intimidate me, but I gritted my teeth and returned his gaze.
Abruptly, he nodded. “As you wish,” he said. “Your kefta will be blue.”
“Black,” Genya whispered.
His color. What did it mean?
“Look!” she gasped.
The neckline of the gown was laced with a black velvet ribbon, and from it hung a small golden charm: the sun in eclipse, the Darkling’s symbol.
I bit my lip. This time, the Darkling had chosen to set me apart, and there was nothing I could do about it. I felt a little jab of resentment, but it was drowned by excitement. Had he chosen these colors for me before or after the night by the lake? Would he regret seeing me in them tonight?
I couldn’t think about that now. Unless I wanted to go to the ball naked, I didn’t have a lot of options.
“Alina, the Darkling doesn’t notice most of us. We’re moments he’ll forget in his long life. And I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. Just…be careful.”
I stared at her, baffled. “Of what?”
“Of powerful men.”
“Genya,” I asked before I could lose my nerve, “what happened between you and the King?”
She examined the toes of her satin slippers. “The King has his way with lots of servants,” she said.
If the Darkling came to my room tonight, what would it mean? The idea of being his sent a little jolt through me. I didn’t think he was in love with me and I had no idea what I felt for him, but he wanted me, and maybe that was enough.
I shook my head, trying to make sense of everything. The Darkling’s men had found the stag. I should be thinking about that, […] but all I could think about was his hands on my hips, his lips on my neck, the lean, hard feel of him in the dark.
“Just admit it,” he sneered. “He owns you.”
“He owns you, too, Mal,” I lashed back. “He owns us all.”
I fumbled with the tiny black buttons of the kefta. There seemed to be a thousand of them. When the silk finally slid over my shoulders and pooled at my feet, I felt a great burden lift from me.