Clothing in the Stone Throne varies much more by caste than by region. There are significant sumptuary laws that regulate what can (and cannot) be worn by people of each specific caste, rank, and profession.
Due to the climate of the region (hot and wet), the normal clothing is light and layered.
Materials: Cotton is common, as is silk for the wealthy. Other plant fibers make up a large percentage of the textiles; wool is less common than in the northern nations and is reserved for cold weather and for the poor.
A fiber unique to the Stone Throne is steelsilk--a plant whose fibers, when treated alchemically, become almost metallic. Its production is labor-intensive, the plant is very picky about soil conditions, and the alchemical treatment is finicky and difficult to do right, making steelsilk extremely expensive to produce.While stronger than silk and just as light, it is capable of being woven into very sheer and durable fabric, it isn’t actually as strong as steel. It provides a modicum of cut-resistance, but it’s cost prohibits it from being used as armor for more than the very most wealthy. It shimmers with a metallic gloss--different strains and treatments produce different colorations. The most prized is an opalescent, rainbow shimmer that comes from one small plantation in the Northern District. Enough of this for a woman’s over-robe have sold for the price of a small estate, complete with servants.
Ba (the “unclean” serpent-kin)
The lowest caste, the Ba (those serpent-kin who cannot pass as normal or who have lost their rights) have very little, and wear very little. As the degree of physical warping increases, the amount of clothing worn decreases. Males wear a loincloth (unless they have a snake’s lower body) and as many rags as they can find (or a tunic if they’re employed) during cold weather, as serpent-kin are more sensitive to the cold. Females, depending on their alterations, may wear a sack dress or sleeveless tunic over a loin-wrap.
Some Ba are trusted enough to enter cities and perform menial labor (such as sweeping streets or hauling garbage). These are “employed” (basically owned, except without disposal rights) by a higher-caste master and wear a fused-end metal torc around the neck that bears the sigil of the employer. Those without the torc are not allowed to enter cities, and must live outside villages (but can enter during the day).
If necessary, Ba bind their feet with rags to protect them during the cold or weave rude sandals of reeds.Most go barefoot (those that have feet, anyway).
Commoners make up the majority of the populace. Above the Ba, they can move freely and aren’t tied to the land or to an employer. However, their clothing is restricted.
Restrictions: Commoners are not allowed to wear silk, steelsilk, or fur. The only dye that they’re allowed is a form of yellow (it comes in various shades from a brown to a bright yellow). The only decorative materials they’re allowed are copper (or bronze), bone, shell, and wood. Trousers and coats are forbidden (by forbidding buttons). Hair below the shoulders is forbidden.
Clothing: Most commoner clothing is made of wool, with cotton and linen reserved for festive or formal occasions. It’s frequently undyed; some is sun-bleached (because white is not a dye), although it never gets pure white.
Men and women both wear loincloths or sarongs (skirt-like waist wraps) throughout most of the year. A short shirt or tunic (reaching the waist) is worn if needed. Women may bind their breasts with a strip of cloth, although since the nudity taboo is minimal and most women are not heavily endowed, many do not do so on a regular basis. For formal occasions, each commoner will have a nicer tunic and sarong that they will wear.
Despite the restrictions, commoners (like most Stone Throne citizens) wear accessories. Wooden bangles, woven necklaces with shells or bone (or copper for the wealthy), flowers, etc. Wide-brimmed conical straw hats are worn to keep the sun off. Sandals (wood-soled or woven reeds) are the only common footwear.
Hair is worn roughly cut at the base of the skull/bottom of the ear, pulled back with a thong while working.
The tradesman/skilled professional class is the other pillar of the realm. Many of them (or their close ancestors) were commoners, and they are very protective of their status and are the quickest to keep the commoners (and other Lai) in line. Although this isn’t a formal distinction, there is social pressure separating the lower classes of Lai (those who are involved more directly in the extractive industries and do or direct heavy manual labor) from the upper classes (those who work with refined materials, are artists, or engage in intellectual labor, such as architects, alchemists, accountants and low-ranking priests, to name a few).
Restrictions: The big change is that Lai can wear trousers. In fact, that is the mark of a lai--trouser-covered legs. Calling someone a “bare-leg” is a dismissive insult, because it compares them to commoners. Steelsilk is still forbidden, but the wealthy wear regular silk. They’re allowed blacks, green and red dyes, and take advantage of it. Very few wear the yellows common to the lower classes. Blues and purples are still forbidden. As for ornamentation, they can wear ornaments of silver, jet, and malachite. Hair is allowed to reach the bottom of the shoulder-blades, but no further.
Lower class Lai
Men wear loose trousers of cotton, linen, or wool with a leather belt. If the occupation demands, they wear a short sleeveless tunic or apron, held on by the belt. For formal occasions they wear a fancy, embroidered tunic, usually open at the neck with an embroidered hem.
Women wear loose trousers and a roum--a length of patterned cloth wound around the torso and over one shoulder, secured by a broach. For formal occasions, they wear a short tunic-like dress over their trousers; the dress is slit to show off the trousers.
Both men and women wear sandals; boots are only worn if their occupation demands it. Ornamentation is common, especially for fancy dress. This is usually woven out of strips of silver alloy and set with small malachite or jet shards.
Hair is worn tied back or braided, usually longer than a commoner but not reaching the shoulders.
The big difference between upper and lower class Lai is that upper class Lai cover their torsos and their shirts have sleeves. Men wear trousers and shirts with the left sleeve loose and long. The right sleeve is short (cap or half-length), since many of these professionals handle pens for a living and long sleeves trail in the ink. The shirts button up the front (at least partially). Men often wear a sash across the chest with iconography indicating their profession and rank.
Female dress is more complicated--it is similar to the Vietnamese ao dai--a short-or-long-sleeve dress worn over billowing trousers. The bodice is fitted, but the skirt is usually only a token--either it is slit to the waist or it is only a single strip of (patterned) cloth. The garment is worn over a thin undershirt or chemise. The collar is high, but the thin fabric and tight fit leaves little to the imagination.
Hair is worn up in a knot or bun, but a single long braid is left that reaches the shoulders. Accessories are similar to the lower class, although there are more of them (multiple bracelets are more common than rings or necklaces).
The Ishal caste is the one that makes the rules, but even they have to obey certain dress standards. Wouldn’t want a Muen (the lowest rank) to pass himself off as a Khun or Luang, now would we? Wool is avoided if possible, and only used for heavy-weather clothing.
Restrictions: No legal limits. Any material they can afford, in any color, with any decoration. Cuts that ape the military or priestly dresses are discouraged, if not outright forbidden.
Muen & Khun: These lower ranks dress similar to upper-class Lai, with a few important differences. For one, they always wear something blue. A trim, a gem, a scarf--something visible and blue, because blue is forbidden to the Lai. The material tends to be finer than Lai clothing, but not by much. Many of this rank aren’t much richer than the wealthier Lai, so it ends up very similar.
Luang (large landowners): Both genders wear variations on the ao dai, called sur ao dai. Mens’ are slightly thicker and usually button up the front, with long flowing sleeves. Their skirts are perfunctory and usually take the form of a set of tails (like on a fancy tuxedo). Male sur ao dai are always white with blue trim, but the trousers they’re worn over vary tremendously in cut and color. Womens’ versions are usually almost diaphanous and worn directly on the skin. They tend to be cut aggressively low in front and back, and feature long flowing trains and sleeves that reach the floor. The colors vary widely and usually include intricate patterns. These are worn with high-platform shoes that restrict movement.
Since these are highly impractical garments, the day-to-day informal wear is much similar to those of lower nobles, just with fancier fabrics and decorations.
Hair is long (often reaching the waist or below), and usually worn down or pulled back in front. Accessories are subtle, but blue stones and forms of jade are prized.
Phra and Phraya: The highest ranks wear whatever they feel like. This often takes the form of variations on military uniforms, but Phraya Ssa’ka has been known to hold audiences in an open-front robe and loincloth. No one dares say anything. Or, for that matter, copy his style. The way to tell a Phra is by their attitude and the deference paid by everyone around them, not by their clothing.
Serving in the military is a privilege--there is no conscription. Part of the deal is that you get status while you’re serving, status equivalent to the lowest Lai if you were a commoner, and a chance to rise through dedicated service. Both men and women serve in the military.
Military uniforms (worn under armor or when not in active combat) are boxy-cut tunics and straight-leg trousers, worn with a leather harness that serves as belt and attaches to the shoulders as well. This is true for all ranks. Higher ranks have better tailors (instead of mass-produced garb) and better fabrics, but the essential cut remains the same. The tunics fall to the middle-upper part of the thigh.
Rough ranks are denoted by the color of the tunic; more specific ranks are told by the collar and decorations on the collar. Common soldiers wear undyed wool (in grey or brown depending on the exact source), while veterans (sargeants, etc.) wear orange. Courtesy officers (lai or commoners who were raised to the rank of muen for the duration of their service) wear red, and blue and purple are reserved for officers of noble rank.
Individual decorations are prohibited officially, but it’s common to see small embroideries on common uniforms or fancy materials or slightly better cuts, etc. on noble officers.
These uniforms are worn with leather boots. Military personnel wear their uniforms even when off-duty, unless they’re nobles acting in their noble role, in which case they wear their appropriate caste clothing.
The priest-bureaucrats are both spiritual leaders and administrators for the nation. While their rank hierarchy (which at the top is comparable in general to a Khun or Luang) is byzantine and convoluted, some general trends in clothing are visible.
Ceremonial Garb: When officiating in religious ceremonies, priests are of two types. Altarites serve at the altars and wear nothing but a heavy leather apron, dyed blood red. This is a simple length of leather with a hole cut for the head and a strap on each side at the waist. Pockets are attached to the front panel on each side for ceremonial equipment. Dancers perform the sacred dances. They wear very thin gowns of silk with nothing else. These gowns are usually slit to maximize the flexibility and freedom of movement of the dancers, who contort themselves and exhibit almost unnatural flexibility, like the snakes they revere.
Ranking Priests: When not officiating, ranking priests (who are usually altarites and serve in the Holy City) wear something very similar to the male gwerin formal robes--a sashed, multi-layer robe worn over trousers. The color and style of the robe, to a knowledgeable observer, pinpoints the rank, political leanings, and exact role of the individual in question.
Ministering Priests: Those priests who serve in the communities (as opposed to in the Holy City) wear a particular outfit known as the phneka (from a word meaning “partial”) when not officiating. This consists of a pair of trousers with one leg cut very short and half an ao dai covering the trousered-leg. A half-shirt (worn so the side that’s open is covered by the ao dai) completes the look, along with a cord belt. This symbolizes that they’re both of the Lai and of the commoners. It is always dyed in a rainbow of colors, but not in any uniform pattern. Honestly, they look kind of ridiculous.