Clothing For Fantasy Characters?

Discussion in 'Research' started by D. Gray Warrior, Sep 12, 2018.

  1. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Master

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    I've been doing research on clothing and how the climate and geography can affect what cultures wear. What are some general guidelines to follow?

    Also, does anyone have any interesting sources on Renaissance era clothing, particularly for lower and middle-class (if the middle-class existed back then?
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Valar Lord

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    I keep it simple and usually riff of an existing culture or two to give the feel I want.
    After that I make it suit the available conditions, use the available materials [and that included dyes] and make it functional. I work out what rich and poor clothing will look like [if that is important]. Is clothing of the wealthy very different or just made from finer materials? Is there specific clothing [colours, materials...] that only certain people can wear? Are there penalties for wearing the wrong colours/clothing?
    Nothing specific. There are clothing and costume books out there and a lot of google-fu can bring up results. Everyday clothing does tend to get overlooked but unless fashion is a thing, it probably doesn't change that much.
     
  3. EponasSong

    EponasSong Acolyte

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  4. Laurence

    Laurence Grandmaster

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    Start with the climate and what's needed to be comfortable in said climate. Then, for each social class, consider the cheapest / most elaborate, least / most formal versions of clothes that meet those requirements. Also slot in one crazy naked fella per act.
     
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    What research have you done so far?
     
  6. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Lore Master

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    Based on having looked into many different clothing styles as part of my research for my work in progress including Middle Eastern, East Asian, Southeast Asian and European styles here's a few basic things to keep in mind:

    1. Colours and fabrics were indicators of wealth and aristocracy. Thus many colours were off-limits for the poor because they lacked the relevant title and they could not afford many of the fabrics. Having your peasants wear wool, cow skin (e.g leather) or even cotton is accurate enough to use for most settings. In Europe farmers were required to wear black. Thus, check the Sumptuary laws in relevant books and on websites if you intend to set anything in a feudal Asian or medieval European setting.
    2. In the tropics the heat and humidity makes the wearing of heavy fabrics like wool or linen impractical. In the colder climates your character will die of hypothermia if they wore flimsy fabrics like silk or light cotton. In very hot and dry climates people are usually covered head to toe to avoid being burned by the heat. In very wet climates, especially in the areas affected by the monsoons, women will wear layered clothing because light fabrics become see-through when wet.
    3. There's a very practical reason why your female protagonist should never go into battle with skirts or dresses: these garments can get caught on nails, hooks, spikes, fence or gate ornaments or other obstructions. That could be potentially deadly in a combat situation. If you ever see images of female pirates you will notice they wore pants. Ditto with female soldiers and bandits.
    4. Everyone, even peasants, wore undergarments. They were a practical necessity rather than optional.
    5. Leather armour was, in reality, as hard as iron and steel armour but had the advantages of being cheaper to make, cheaper to buy and being more flexible than the iron or steel armour that only rich knights could afford.

    I would add more guidelines but I haven't slept in 24 hours and my brain isn't functioning properly.
     
    Night Gardener likes this.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    The only legitimate reason for not sleeping in twenty-four hours is if your name is Jack Bauer and you've been busy saving the country. Other than that, get some shut eye!
     
  8. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    Sumptuary laws are something I've not much bothered to consider for any of the worlds I've used, although perhaps I ought to. Most generally, I've used automatic limits based on wealth. One exception is that in my current WIP, members of my minority culture are not allow to wear or use swords or certain fighting knives with particularly long blades.

    The Elizabethen sumptuary laws seem rather complex as worded, included a large range not only of colors and fabrics but exactly how those colors and fabrics could be used. E.g., for women:

    None shall wear

    Any cloth of gold, tissue, nor fur of sables: except duchesses, marquises, and countesses in their gowns, kirtles, partlets, and sleeves; cloth of gold, silver, tinseled satin, silk, or cloth mixed or embroidered with gold or silver or pearl, saving silk mixed with gold or silver in linings of cowls, partlets, and sleeves:


    except all degrees above viscountesses, and viscountesses, baronesses, and other personages of like degrees in their kirtles and sleeves.

    Velvet (crimson, carnation); furs (black genets, lucerns); embroidery or passment lace of gold or silver: except all degrees above mentioned, the wives of knights of the Garter and of the Privy Council, the ladies and gentlewomen of the privy chamber and bedchamber, and maids of honor.

    None shall wear any velvet in gowns, furs of leopards, embroidery of silk: except the degrees and persons above mentioned, the wives of barons' sons, or of knights.
    Cowls, sleeves, partlets, and linings, trimmed with spangles or pearls of gold, silver, or pearl; cowls of gold or silver, or of silk mixed with gold or silver: except the degrees and persons above mentioned; and trimmed with pearl, none under the degree of baroness or like degrees.

    Enameled chains, buttons, aglets, and borders: except the degrees before mentioned.


    Satin, damask, or tufted taffeta in gowns, kirtles, or velvet in kirtles; fur whereof the kind groweth not within the Queen's dominions, except foins, grey genets, bodge, and wolf: except the degrees and persons above mentioned, or the wives of those that may dispend £100 by the year and so valued in the subsidy book.

    Gowns of silk grosgrain, doubled sarcenet, camlet, or taffeta, or kirtles of satin or damask: except the degrees and persons above mentioned, and the wives of the sons and heirs of knights, and the daughters of knights, and of such as may dispend 300 marks by the year so valued ut supra, and the wives of those that may dispend £40 by the year.

    Gentlewomen attendant upon duchesses, marquises, countesses may wear, in their liveries given them by their mistresses, as the wives of those that may dispend £100 by the year and are so valued ut supra.

    None shall wear any velvet, tufted taffeta, satin, or any gold or silver in their petticoats: except wives of barons, knights of the order, or councilors' ladies, and gentlewomen of the privy chamber and bed chamber, and the maids of honor.

    Damask, taffeta, or other silk in their petticoats: except knights' daughters and such as be matched with them in the former article, who shall not wear a guard of any silk upon their petticoats.

    Velvet, tufted taffeta, satin, nor any gold or silver in any cloak or safeguard: except the wives of barons, knights of the order, or councilor's ladies and gentlewomen of the privy chamber and bedchamber, and maids of honor, and the degrees above them.

    Damask, taffeta, or other silk in any cloak or safeguard: except knights' wives, and the degrees and persons above mentioned.

    No persons under the degrees above specified shall wear any guard or welt of silk upon any petticoat, cloak, or safeguard.


    [Details, facts and information about the new Sumptuary Laws called the 'Statutes of Apparel' relating to women as decreed by Queen Elizabeth I on 15 June 1574.]​

    —It would seem that nearly every level of the royalty and nobility and various offices of state could be recognized at a glance.
     
  9. FifthView

    FifthView Istari

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    Part Two, because the original post was too long:

    The decree for men makes this even more obvious, perhaps because men held a lot of those offices:

    "None shall wear in his apparel: Any silk of the color of purple, cloth of gold tissued, nor fur of sables, but only the King, Queen, King's mother, children, brethren, and sisters, uncles and aunts; and except dukes, marquises, and earls, who may wear the same in doublets, jerkins, linings of cloaks, gowns, and hose; and those of the Garter, purple in mantles only.

    Cloth of gold, silver, tinseled satin, silk, or cloth mixed or embroidered with any gold or silver: except all degrees above viscounts, and viscounts, barons, and other persons of like degree, in doublets, jerkins, linings of cloaks, gowns, and hose.

    Woolen cloth made out of the realm, but in caps only; velvet, crimson, or scarlet; furs, black genets, lucernes; embroidery or tailor's work having gold or silver or pearl therein: except dukes, marquises, earls, and their children, viscounts, barons, and knights being companions of the Garter, or any person being of the Privy Council.

    Velvet in gowns, coats, or other uttermost garments; fur of leopards; embroidery with any silk: except men of the degrees above mentioned, barons' sons, knights and gentlemen in ordinary office attendant upon her majesty's person, and such as have been employed in embassages to foreign princes.


    Caps, hats, hatbands, capbands, garters, or boothose trimmed with gold or silver or pearl; silk netherstocks; enameled chains, buttons, aglets: except men of the degrees above mentioned, the gentlemen attending upon the Queen's person in her highness's Privy chamber or in the office of cupbearer, carver, sewer [server], esquire for the body, gentlemen ushers, or esquires of the stable.

    Satin, damask, silk, camlet, or taffeta in gown, coat, hose, or uppermost garments; fur whereof the kind groweth not in the Queen's dominions, except foins, grey genets, and budge: except the degrees and persons above mentioned, and men that may dispend £100 by the year, and so valued in the subsidy book.

    Hat, bonnet, girdle, scabbards of swords, daggers, etc.; shoes and pantofles of velvet: except the degrees and persons above names and the son and heir apparent of a knight.

    Silk other than satin, damask, taffeta, camlet, in doublets; and sarcanet, camlet, or taffeta in facing of gowns and cloaks, and in coats, jackets, jerkins, coifs, purses being not of the color scarlet, crimson, or blue; fur of foins, grey genets, or other as the like groweth not in the Queen's dominions: except men of the degrees and persons above mentioned, son of a knight, or son and heir apparent of a man of 300 marks land by the year, so valued in the subsidy books, and men that may dispend £40 by the year, so valued ut supra.

    None shall wear spurs, swords, rapiers, daggers, skeans, woodknives, or hangers, buckles or girdles, gilt, silvered or damasked: except knights and barons' sons, and others of higher degree or place, and gentlemen in ordinary office attendant upon the Queen's majesty's person; which gentlemen so attendant may wear all the premises saving gilt, silvered, or damasked spurs.

    None shall wear in their trappings or harness of their horse any studs, buckles, or other garniture gilt, silvered, or damasked; nor stirrups gilt, silvered, or damasked; nor any velvet in saddles or horse trappers: except the persons next before mentioned and others of higher degree, and gentlemen in ordinary, ut supra.

    Note that the Lord Chancellor, Treasurer, President of the council, Privy Seal, may wear any velvet, satin, or other silks except purple, and furs black except black genets.

    These may wear as they have heretofore used, viz. any of the King's council, justices of either bench, Barons of the Exchequer, Master of the Rolls, sergeants at law, Masters of the Chancery, of the Queen's council, apprentices of law, physicians of the King, queen, and Prince, mayors and other head officers of any towns corporate, Barons of the Five Ports, except velvet, damask, [or] satin of the color crimson, violet, purple, blue.

    Note that her majesty's meaning is not, by this order, to forbid in any person the wearing of silk buttons, the facing of coats, cloaks, hats and caps, for comeliness only, with taffeta, velvet, or other silk, as is commonly used.

    Note also that the meaning of this order is not to prohibit a servant from wearing any cognizance of his master, or henchmen, heralds, pursuivants at arms; runners at jousts, tourneys, or such martial feats, and such as wear apparel given them by the Queen, and such as shall have license from the Queen for the same.
    "​

    Seems there was a dual purpose for these sumptuary laws. First and foremost, this created a hard line between various social classes and ranks within the society. Second, issues related to trade played a role. In England, wool was a major product and export, so "Woolen cloth made out of the realm" was forbidden except in some circumstances, and also, although I don't think these two Elizabethan decrees addressed it, importing and manufacturing cotton was forbidden, so as not to compete with the wool industry.

    All these issues aside...the two extended quotes above might give a good idea of the sort of clothing that would appear in Elizabethan England.
     
  10. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Lore Master

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    You should also have a sensibility in your story about what styles of clothing would be considered "traditional" vs. "Out of style or old-fashioned".

    Sumptuary laws and caste dress-codes aside, the less well to do, or the more practically inclinated, usually don't discard clothing unless it's too damaged to wear and unable to function properly.

    The Russian aristocracy is a good example. Prince Peter (I think) went to Europe, saw what Europeans were wearing and came to the conclusion that 'Russian traditional clothing' was crude and lacked sophistication. Nevermind that it was imparitive and practical to wear layers of furs, tall fur-lined boots, quilted coats, etc. He made a decree that all the noble peoples had to wear the flimsy fancy imported stuff and the people HATED IT.

    If you do not have maids or servants, then you have to be able to dress yourself without assistance. That's a different kind of practicality to consider.

    Fashion also depends on trade, and inversely endemic resources. I agree with others posting that fashion and garments depend inextricably to climate, then resources. Cultural significance superimposed. That's why some humans today in less westernized areas opt for body 'decoration', more than 'covering' their bodies with "clothing". Clothes, in some regions, are rather impractical.

    If you're going for Renaissance-esque sensibilities, pick up a costumery book designed for either historic reference or pattern drafting. McCalls at one point published a "decades" or "centuries" series that was fairly respectable, but I do not know how 'far back' they researched.

    If you can hop on YouTube, find seamstress Angela
    Clayton. She blogs and posts videos. She shifted more recently to Patreon, but still updates her open-sources. In her links and descriptions are resource books to historical fashion (now costumery) that are authentic to the time periods you're looking for.
    I sew, and I find her videos fascinating. She even makes authentic 'undergarments'. What you might find interesting is the process of her 'getting dressed' in the time period. It's an ordeal. I do not know of any male tailors or sewers currently undertaking historically accurate fashion reproduction, sadly.
     
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