1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Clothing for non-humanoid characters

Discussion in 'World Building' started by MrNybble, May 26, 2019.

  1. MrNybble

    MrNybble Troubadour

    There are dozens of races with human level intelligence in my stories. My only beta reader had noticed I didn't describe non-humanoids like centaurs, nagas, or dragons wearing anything. I realized people (human or not) would cover themselves for many reasons. Task for me became to create clothes that would cover a body that didn't function like a human.

    Have any other people found this to be a challenge?
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    Long ago I read a story [set in a sort of pseudo-Victorian Britain] where male Centaurs were required to wear a loin cloth because the sight of an [ahem] excited Centaur was thought to be obscene.
    Gotis likes this.
  3. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Sage

    Modesty seems to be a factor in humans wearing clothing everywhere, whether climate etc necessitates it or not. That may be (at least in part) a result of our upright stance putting our genitals out where everyone can see them. So perhaps creatures that go on all fours (or however many limbs they possess) would not feel the need to hide them. It is also true that upright stance makes the genital area more vulnerable to physical attack and clothing may help protect it. Take away the whole modesty issue and the clothing of non-humanoids could be designed with other practical concerns in mind, protection from the weather, protection of other vulnerable body parts (as with shoes and such).
  4. Mel Syreth

    Mel Syreth Scribe

    Our fair centauride Cecilia wears a skirt to hide her less desirable horse parts. The back of her suit is long so it can drape over her horseback, and it's stitched to a leather belt wrapping around her horse-body, the skirt is fitted onto that belt with hoops. It basically works like a curtain. Then she just buttons the two ends of the skirt halves together under her tail and it's all set.
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    As implied by others, you have two factors to consider: the physical and the cultural. On the former, I doubt a dragon would need to wear anything. OTOH, a centaur might need shoes for the same reasons--and under the same conditions--as a horse. Dirt is dandy but metaled is murder.

    On the cultural side, you have more room to play around. What humans consider indecent, nagas might consider normal. After all, dress codes vary even across human cultures. Consider it an opportunity to make each of your races distinct and distinctive. Oh, and most dress variations have little to do with sex. Head coverings in religious spaces, is one example. Or, think of all the sumptuary legislation aimed mainly at defining social status. Or the robes of office.
  6. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Archmage

    Unless the dragons a shape shifter, like Skip says, I'd doubt they'd need actual clothing. Centaur and naga likely have different standards then humans as much as they'd have cultural differences. My own centaur only wear the amount of clothes they do due to being driven far enough north that they need more pelts and furs to stay warm during the winters and when Baba Yaga is feeling particularly nasty and vindictive. Otherwise they prefer light leathers when not going armored for war and raiding and the tanned hides of their enemies is a lovely fashion statement of theirs.

    The naga of Eld tend to wear less, being mostly in tropical area's to start with and being able to scale up as needed helps with some of the modesty issues when they encounter them. Otherwise they just wear the most basic things they can get ahold of, which are basically bra tops and loincloths which can vary depending on where they rate in the social system.

    I'll also throw my gnolls in here too, given they absolutely don't care about social things outside of their own anyways. They will happily shift form in the middle of human and elven cities to their human form and will get in arguments over modesty and wearing something. The more heavily clothed and armored they are, it usually means they're more dangerous then most. A gnoll in full plate is among the most dangerous things in the world and most people know it. Otherwise they wander around nude or near nude.
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  7. MrNybble

    MrNybble Troubadour

    All fantastic points. Clothes are foremost used for protection. Not all people are as squishy as humans. There is the thing of showing off wealth with clothes. They can display status with garments of all sorts. Then you have the influences of other cultures or others that want to mingle outside their circle. That started a new dynamic for having a mixed populous.

    Dragons do wear clothes in my world. None of them shaft shift so that became a non-issue. Any intelligent race has some individuals that like to show off. What better way than with garments, jewelry, or other accessories. Granted the problem of preserving mobility is always a problem. There are some dragons that wear clothes for the sole reason of protecting other fragile races from themselves. Hard to mingle when say a human fears being near something that is covered in spikes. In that case the clothes are being worn to protect the environment from the wearer.

    My notes are full of things like this when people point them out in my stories. Helps me avoid the homogeneous race tropes.
  8. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Sage

    I would suggest you look at "clothing" as a result of intelligence and technology, along with the anatomical capacity to manufacture. "Culture" developing from there as it evolves to specific groups. Cultural norms, and the creativity and ingenuity expressed within or outside those norms, require a certain amount of intelligence.

    If your creatures are not inclined to invent tools and invent industry on large, economic production scales... they probably wouldn't develop clothing beyond simple to modify, readily available, already existing natural materials. Likely, as a utilitarian or protective function with some personalized ornamentation or additions if social significance matters.

    If your creatures fundamentally lack refined physical dexterity, their clothing would likely be crude and academically functional. It's relatively simple to weave plant materials, or skin some other creature for additional warmth. Would a dragon the size of a house want to wear a fur cape? How would it go about making it? Could it smelt metal to make buckles and buttons? How would it select and skin the creatures? Tan or cure the hide? Assemble hides together? Would they, lacking the physical capacity but having the requisite intelligence, *commission* such a garment to be made for them by another species? How would they make the exchange and compensation?

    Can you picture an orc, tending fields of cotton or flax? A centaur raising sheep for shearing? Or a minotaur raising silkworms? How about that dragon the size of a house trying to thread an eye of a needle, perching somewhere with a hoop for an embroidery session?

    Modesty, a cultural issue, will probably translate into different species in different ways which makes for good writing material.

    But, when it comes to extreme non-humanoids and wilder creatures I ask myself the questions 1. Could they make it (themselves) in the first place 2. Why would they (need/want to) make it, and 3. Beyond function, do they continually develop fashion or derive status from their bodily coverings?
  9. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    I have some truly alien races in my tales.

    The 'click-tack' (so named by others for the sounds they make; their self designation being unpronounceable) resemble erect centipedes about 3-4 feet tall with multiple broomstick thin limbs. Among other races they venture forth in hooded robes, which combined with their natural psi ability, means they can pass as children or dwarfs.

    The 'Gotemik' (again, actual name unpronounceable) resemble yard-wide crabs, each with a roughly three foot tall pillar emerging from their center, all covered with a thick segmented shell. Some have arm/leg bands to hold equipment, or attach bits of cloth/metal to their shells for ornament or identification.
  10. Gotis

    Gotis Scribe

    My lizard folk have no need for clothes, but have been concurred and forced to comply with human modesty standards. They tend to wear skirts/kilts since pants are uncomfortable on the tail. They're plenty bitter about it. The cat folk have a similar situation. They're refugees from a destroyed island chain and had to assimilate to survive.
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    It might be fun to have humans be forced to conform to the dress code of some other society.
    Gotis likes this.
  12. Corwynn

    Corwynn Troubadour

    All of the so-called Reasoning Species in my setting are humanoid (at least in overall body shape), but they also have major anatomical differences. As a result, I have given a lot of thought to what my non-Human races might wear, and how they might affect what humans wear as well.

    There are three main factors determining how much people wear: climate, class, and species. People living in colder climates will generally wear more clothing, even when they don't have to. Clothing is also a status symbol, and those who are wealthy or high status (or aspire to be) will display this by wearing more and better garments. Lastly, three of the Reasoning Species, Keinai, Welke, and Garru, have fur, so they are inclined to wear less, all other things being equal.

    In most parts of the world, the races live among each other, and influence each others' dress habits. On the one hand, the furred species' relative comfort with nudity has rubbed off on the Humans (and the Kesh, who are also furless), and so Humans are usually less squeamish about it than in our world. On the other hand, the furred species have been inspired by the Humans and Kesh to wear more clothing out of a desire to fit in and look good.

    With the advent of the industrial revolution, cloth is now mass-produced, but due to the vast number of body shapes and sizes (5 species x 2 genders each x multiple body sizes) means that finished garments rarely are. Tailors and seamstresses never lack for work, and sewing is a valuable skill for anyone to have.

    Keinai, Welke and Garru have tails, and clothing for them must include a hole or gap for it. There are several styles of cutaways in skirts and coats, including arch, keyhole, teardrop, and others. The tail itself is often decorated with tail bands. An item called a skel is the tail's equivalent of cuffs or collar.

    Most male, and some female Kesh have horns or antlers. This prevents them from wearing most types of headgear, but the horns or antlers are often decorated by carving, painting, or stringing them with ribbons or chains.

    Due to the higher position of their ears, hats for Keinai or Garru require notches in the brim on the sides.

    Most races of Welke have webbed hands and feet, and so they cannot wear normal gloves and other garments that fit between the fingers or toes.

    There are two basic foot shapes, and therefore, two basic types of footwear: Plantigrade (Humans and Welke), and Digitigrade (Keinai, Kesh, and Garru).

    Fur is often decorated by selective trimming, shaving grooves, or braiding.

    These are just a few points off the top of my head.

Share This Page