This article discusses the clothing trends for the residents of the Council Lands. It is broken down by region and by wealth level, as well as by culture. Wall-builders (poor and wealthy), Puun Ihmisia, Gwerin and Tumnii are discussed.
Poor, rural wall-builders (both human-kin and halflings) wear simple garments throughout their lands. These would be the guilds-men and apprentices mostly, although very rural journeymen would also wear variations on this style. Women and men wear functionally the same clothing, with variations swamped by village-to-village variation.
The basic dress is as follows:
Undergarments: Brais (a short skirt-like garment gathered or wrapped up between the legs). A shirt (knee-length tunic of finer weave, laced at the neck and slid over the head) is worn during the colder seasons. Some wear long loose hose, held up with straps or tied at the waist.
Outer Layers: A shapeless, undyed tunic of varying length, usually mid-thigh or knee-length. Belted at the waist by a cord, from which belt-pouches are hung. Usually with mid-length sleeves. This tunic is often removed when working in the fields, with women wearing an upper-chest wrap for modesty and support.
Those that need more leg protection (foresters, smiths, etc) wear wraps around the legs, laced with leather cords.
During the worst of the winter or during inclement weather heavy cloaks of wool (fur-lined if possible) and caps are worn.
Shoes are leather or wood. In areas with bad weather these are often hobnailed.
Hair and accessories: Hair is worn short (bottom of the ears). Accessories vary by person--the only constants are a small holy symbol, usually carved out of wood and strung on a thong. Wooden beads are common. Cleanliness is culturally significant--sex-separated communal bath-houses (with gender divisions) are common even in poor areas and rough soap and fine sand are used for cleanliness. Even peasants usually have a couple sets of undergarments and a few tunics. Men are usually lightly bearded (except halflings).
Male Halflings: since male halflings are rare and cloistered, they rarely appear in public. When they do, they wear long (ankle-length) simple shirts, belted at the waist. These shirts usually have long sleeves and high necks. Their heads are covered by coifs; extremely conservative families even wear veils.
The Puun Ihmisia (wood elves and some half-elves of the Council) dress very simply, with almost no clothing-related status markers. Clothing and ornamentation is mostly unisex.
The less civilized tribes wear similar clothing, although much of the wool and linen is traded out for felted animal hair.
Undergarments: Both men and women wear close-fit wool or linen (for wealthier tribes) trousers, sometimes with a loin-wrap. The trousers are tied at the waist. Women with larger busts often bind them with a chest wrap.
Outer Garments: Short, close-fit, hip-length tunics are worn with leather belts. Leather coats, also close-fit but usually sleeveless are worn over the top. Those in the woods wear chaps--leather over-pants that cover up to the mid-thigh and are attached to the belt with straps.
These garments are dyed in earth tones--browns, greys, and greens. Festival clothes are similar in cut but of finer materials and often are patterned or beaded in subtle patterns.
Leather boots are the de rigeur footwear. These are usually light and supple.
Hair and Accessories: Hair is worn short, although longer than the wall-builder peasants (usually brushing the neck). Some will wear a single braid down one side that may extend further. Accessories are necklaces of teeth and feathers, mostly. More civilized tribes wear metal jewelry. They prefer stones in blues and greens, with aquamarine and malachite being valued more than in other places. Beads are common, made of bone or stone. Tribes build steam houses/sweat lodges and scrub each other without regard for gender.
Gwerin (high elves) are known for their very elaborate clothing even for the lower-ranking members of society. Since there are very few rural gwerin (and the few that exist mostly dress like wall-builders), this description is for the Housed. The Unhoused follow these trends as much as practicality and (more importantly) money permit.
Male and female dress differ substantially from one another and vary depending on the formality of the occasion. They are described separately below. Some general remarks are common to all, though.
Design: Gwerin dress is always designed and tailored. It relies on multiple flowing layers to produce the effect--no layer is particularly heavy. Much more skin is shown than in other Council garments, whether through sheer fabrics, open-cut clothes, or slits. Bright colors and complex patterns are very common. One particular cantrip, learned by many if not most upper-class gwerin is sartorial elegance, which allows the user to alter the colors of his or her clothing in complex ways, although it does not affect the cut or materials. Embroidery and woven/stitched in jewels are common (with the latter for the wealthy).
Materials: The most common materials are linen, cotton, and very fine wool, all of which are bleached and dyed. The very wealthiest use spider-silk lace as a statement of their wealth and power--this incredibly fine fiber is a gwerin monopoly, produced only in a few locations and the secret of training and care for the giant spiders is heavily guarded. A robe-length of spider-silk lace may be used as a heirloom for generations--some has survived since the Cataclysm. At least one lesser house has had its allegiance traded for a single length of spider silk. Since the founding of the Federated Nations, imported silk or steel-weave is becoming more common, as is cotton. There is considerable condescension to the jumped-up pretenders who wear silk and pretend it to be spider-silk. Fur and leather are only rarely used, and only for things like the soles of shoes or for riding boots as these materials are considered “woodsy” (a strong insult among the gwerin nobility).
Hair: Hair is universally worn long and rarely cut. Only in informal settings is it worn loose, however--it is usually bound and braided or pinned up, gathered with lace nets (sometimes with jewels in them), or otherwise styled heavily. Children wear braids (one for males and two for females) until they come of age; these braids are bound with strips of cloth.
Underclothes Male gwerin wear a fundoshi-like loin-wrap at all times; under more formal clothes they wear a thin under-robe, usually of cotton. This under-robe reaches to mid-thigh.
Formal outer clothes For formal clothes, the outer robes have wide lapels and are wrapped based on rank of house--high houses wrap left over right, low houses wrap right over left. The material of the lapels also varies--high houses use velvets while low houses have plain, narrow lapels of wool or felt.
The outer robes are ankle-length and belted with a sash. The design of the sash usually includes the house sigil and is heavily embroidered along the edges, especially down at the ends. The sleeves are long, often trailing on the ground. Pockets are sewn in the inside of the front of the robe and in the sleeves. When necessary, a cloak is worn over the robes.
Informal outer clothes A bathrobe-style belted robe, usually worn showing the chest. Reaches to the knee.
Footwear & Accessories Soft slippers, with wooden overshoes for protection from bad weather. Metal-work jewelry, favoring silver and decorative metal work over gems. Often a wide necklace or arm bands.
Underclothes Female gwerin wear the same fundoshi as men under casual clothing. Those who are well-endowed wear a chest-wrap as well, but most do not. The undergarments for more formal clothes are part of the clothing itself; nothing is usually worn below the innermost layer.
Formal clothes Formal female clothing is as extravagant as the House’s finances permits It always starts with multiple layers of very sheer materials, cut in form-fitting ways that often restrict movement. Over these is worn a flowing outer robe that is often removed at social events (like a cloak). This is cut or slashed so that the inner garments show through. All of these are low-cut, often backless and are held in place by jewelry or (for the highest Houses) magic. There are never sleeves. The lowest layer is straight against the skin.
Magically-emplaced tattoos or glittering body paint cover the exposed flesh; hair is done up in ornate ways. The House’s wealth is worn in the form of jewelry, the more the better.
Informal outer clothes In informal occasions, Housed gwerin women wear blouses and skirts, usually with multiple thin layers. Everything has flowing lines--no hard corners. Embroidery is common, most done by the women themselves.
Footwear & Accessories Women wear the same slippers and overshoes as men. Jewelry has more gems, but still mostly silver and decorative metal work. A common adornment is a large jewel hanging into the center of the chest from a choker-style necklace. The color and the setting depends on the House.
Tumnii (dwarven) clothing trends run almost exactly opposite to gwerin fashion. Clothing is utilitarian, simple, and shows no gender differences. They say “you can’t live in clothes you can’t work in.” There are very few class differences, although there are differences in patterns and symbols between clans. Wealthy dwarves tend to improve quality of materials and construction, rather than increased ornamentation or flourishes.
Materials: Dwarven clothing is made from wool, fur, and leather. Metal is used for fasteners (with both buttons/hooks and loops made from metal). Fur and felted wool are used for insulation and linings (with fur hats being common); wool is used for the outer, non-reinforced portions. Leather is used as a reinforcement.
Undergarments: A loin wrap is usually the only undergarment worn. Particularly well-endowed females will bind their breasts to keep them out of the way.
Outer Clothing: Both men and women wear trousers and shirts that lace part-way down. The trousers are close-fit, but not constraining. Knees and elbows are often reinforced with leather patches. Heavy leather boots (often with hobnails) are worn at all times (except in a family’s private quarters. There they are exchanged for personalized slippers. The boots are kept polished to a fine shine.
In very cold weather, dwarves wear long leather and fur coats with fur hats (in the East Asian/Russian style).
Colors and Decorations: Dwarves spend much of their time in darkness, as not all interior tunnels are well lit. Since color is hard to see in this darkness, they tend toward earth tones. All colors are clean--the browns aren’t muddied, the greens are pure greens, the white is bleached white, but the palette is simple.
Dwarves wear accessories commonly. They braid their beards or hair through stones or metal rings and wear torcs around the neck. More than anything, all mountain dwarves wear bracers or armlets. These are made of polished metal, carved scrimshaw fashion into elaborate and clan-specific designs. These armlets serve as their identification when bodies are discovered after an accident, and are returned to the grieving families. Husbands and wives have matching patterns. Hill dwarves aren’t as obsessive about their armlets, but most wear them, especially for formal occasions.
In formal circumstances, a dwarf will wear an open-necked shirt that is elaborately embroidered with clan, lineage, and status markers. Those with special status may wear a torc with a gem in it, the color and type indicating clan and status.
Hair: Many dwarves cut their hair short (but not the beards). Dwarven hair (facial or otherwise) is kept braided except under special circumstances. The braiding patterns are intricate and clan-specific, but certain styles indicate age.
Unmarried children (for all adults are married) wear cut their hair (including beards) short. Never clean shaven, but no more than a few inches, and never braided. As a child reaches adulthood and approaches their marriage, they grow their hair out (but still trim the beard). Part of the wedding ceremony involves the newlyweds braiding each other’s hair for the first time. After that, they let the beards grow (but can keep the hair short if they choose). Beards are braided as soon as they’re long enough--the exact styles and decorations depend on the clan.
Broken dwarves (those whose spouses died or abandoned them), if they survive, unbind their beards, indicating their status. Exiles are, as part of the sentence, compelled to shave their whole body; a rune meaning “outcast” or “traitor” is etched into their foreheads. If such a dwarf is found with a beard or hair, they are immediately put to death.
The clothing worn by wealthy wall-builders varies by region, although Southshore and the Sea of Grass share fashion (and so are not listed separately). This mainly only holds for the larger landholders and townsfolk; in villages the class distinctions are very small if apparent at all.
General Comments: The Dreamshore is experiencing rapid shifts in fashion, with push-back from the more traditional elements. The introduction of bright dyes from other nations (and the spread of mineral dyes from the dwarves) has sparked a hunger for brightly-dyed and patterned clothing, as well as experimentation at the individual level. There are a few commonalities, but the details vary widely. The Lady Coldwind is considered a fashion trendsetter.
Compared to the central regions, the Dreamshore is a throwback to old fashions. Except for the new forms being created, most fashion seems about 20-30 years out of date, and provincials are looked down on when they come to the capital. In return, Dreamshorers consider central Council people to be magpies, constantly chasing shiny new looks. The central Council is also considered to be scandalously improper for the tight and revealing looks worn there.
Materials: Due to inclement weather, much more fur and leather are worn than in the Sea of Grass. Wool is the dominant material, however. The local sheep are coarse-wooled and don’t take dye as well as the wool from the plains; the wealthy try to import their materials. Furs from predators are valued highly--the more dangerous the better. Winter wolf fur is particularly valued.
Underwear: Male dreamers wear a loin wrap or a pair of fine-wool short pants, often with a button. An undershirt (usually either undyed or bleached wool) covers the upper body.
Outer clothing: Over their underwear, males wear trousers, usually leather-reinforced wool, bound by leather cords. This look is a signature of someone from this region. A half-buttoned or laced shirt, usually waist-length and long-sleeved with cufflinks goes over this. Over this they wear (in public, at least) a leather or padded and embroidered coat that reaches the knees. This coat buttons up the front and the buttons are often very highly decorated. A heavy leather belt (from which hangs pouches and purses, as well as weapons) binds the whole together. Males wear round, brimless caps of leather (with fur linings for the winter) almost constantly.
Only the belt and trouser straps are not dyed, the rest is usually dyed a bright color (red being very common).
Hair, accessories, and footwear: Hair is worn to the shoulders, either loose or pulled back by a leather cord. Being bald is something to be ashamed of. Leather-soled boots (sometimes entirely leather) are worn on the feet. Men wear few accessories--occasionally a ring or a bracelet.
Underwear: Women wear one or more shifts or slips of fine wool. Corslets may be worn, but often aren’t except by the most vain.These shifts usually reach the lower calf. A loin wrap is occasionally worn, but not frequently.
Outer Clothing: Wealthy women wear dresses most of the time; separate skirts and bodices are only present for the younger ladies. The dresses are long, reaching the ankle. Necklines vary (with halflings having the lowest necklines), but few show much cleavage. Dresses tend to be pulled up under the breasts, emphasizing the curves. From there they fall in full lines. Sleeves are long and widen toward the end. Made of wool, velvet, and fur, the gowns are dyed in rich colors and heavily embroidered. Very wealthy women might include small or glass beads in the embroidery so that it glitters in the light.
During the winter, women wear heavy coats of fur and leather, as well as fur hats. Their boots may be fur-lined during this season as well. Scarves are worn--often only the face is shown.
Hair, accessories, and footwear: Women wear similar boots to men. Their hair is similar in length, but tends to have more braiding. It is very rarely worn up. Hoods or hooded mantles are worn, but are considered a bit outmoded. Women wear more jewelry, usually in the form of rings or necklaces. Ears are generally not pierced.
Sea of Grass/Southshore
The great plains and open terrain of this region combine with the vast herds of sheep and the extensive fields to produce the biggest wool and linen producing region of the Federated Nations. This has significant effects on the dress of the people--even the poorest wear high-quality textiles. The other major effect is the overwhelming guild influence. This produces a significant standardization of look.
General Trends Wealthy wall-builders in this area wear more linen and less fur and leather. Those are reserved for functional or protective garments, not every-day wear. Cloaks are much more common here than in the north or east, most of them hooded. Winter cloaks are lined with sheepskin/lambswool rather than wild fur.
Outside of Rauviz (which follows Kaelthia’s lead more quickly), the clothing trends at this time mimic those of Kaelthia about 5 years ago. Information and fashions take time to diffuse as people are transferred around.
Undergarments: Men wear fitted breeches of fine linen or wool, as well as an undershirt (with possibly a single lace at the neck). Codpieces are coming into fashion, but are relatively subdued as of yet.
Outer Clothing: Both formal and informal clothing is similar in cut; the differences are in quality of fabric and in ornamentation. Each guild (and sub-guild) has regulations about cut, decorations, and colors; a local can tell exactly the status and occupation of a man by his clothes. Some things are relatively constant across the guilds, however.
Men wear wool or linen jackets that close in the front with buttons or laces. These range from simple, sparsely decorated jackets worn for every day to elaborately embroidered jackets handed down from master to master for festivals. These jackets mostly have high, stiff necks and long sleeves ending at the wrists.
On the lower body they wear trousers that button up the front (and occasionally have buttons on the lower cuff to fit tight over boots). These are relatively snug, but not extremely tight fit.
Footwear and accessories: Men wear polished leather boots. Jewelry is simple; a choker necklace or simple metal rings. Hair is worn down at the jawline, usually not held back at all, simply tucked behind the ears.
While guilds do dictate colors (to some degree), women are much more free in design and decoration for their clothing.
Undergarments: Women wear shifts, often multiple layers at a time. For formal occasions they will strap themselves into corsets to push their breasts up and narrow the waist.
Formal Outer Garments: Women wear high-necked, empire-waist dresses of fine materials that leave their arms bare (although they wear shawls or sheer jackets frequently). Frequently the bust of the dress will be made of a sheer material and fit very tight so as to accentuate the bust line without actually revealing it.
The lines of the dresses are usually simple; from the high waist they fall in wide folds. The expense is in the embroidery--they are embroidered in complex patterns that incorporate the guild and status colors and motifs.
Informal Outer Garments: Around the house and while visiting informally, women wear long shift dresses, belted or sashed at the natural waist (with the belt pouches attached). These are usually sleeveless or have detachable long sleeves.
During the winter they wear heavy wool and felt coats, lined with lambswool. Cloaks are preferred to hats.
Footwear and Accessories: Soft-leather half-boots are the informal footwear. Slippers (often with fancy beadwork) are the formal footwear of choice. In formal situations, hair is worn up off the neck, with decorations (jewels, beads, etc) woven into it. Informally they wear their hair down, loose and long (often to the middle of the back or the waist).
As the capital and largest city of the Council Lands, as well as the home of many of the gwerin and visitors from other lands, the fashion scene is the most active of anywhere in the nation. At the same time, the conformist nature of Council culture makes it change in near lockstep.
General Trends: Clothing in Kaelthia is fancier than in most other places, even for the lower socioeconomic groups. Everyone scrimps and saves to acquire one good piece. The mode changes on a yearly or biannual cycle. Currently the trend is toward elaboration--frills, ruffles and large codpieces on men. The only part that doesn’t change is the colors. Those are fixed by the guilds.
Male Clothing: Fashionable men wear frills and ruffles--shirts with large collars and pleated shirts. The newest trend for the very fashionable males is very tight tights (often requiring a tailor’s assistance) with excessively-large codpieces in bright patterns, worn with short tunics with puffed, ruffled, and slashed sleeves. Decorative motifs are very common and elaborate, including overlapping and out-sized necklaces. Ear piercings are starting to become common.
The older-fashioned men wear open-front jackets and trousers (much like in the Sea of Grass, except not buttoned up) with starched, bleached shirts and less jewelry.
Female Clothing: Womens’ fashion is an evolution of the Sea of Grass style (large skirts and high waists). The high collars have been replaced by very low, square-necked bodices, revealing large amounts of cleavage. Heavy necklaces descend into that gap. Skirts are even bigger and corsets are mandatory, often paired with mechanical contraptions that hold the skirts out.
A new trend is the wearing of hats. Big, fancy, gonzo hats. Hair is worn up and decorated and often incorporated into the hats. Getting into such a hat is a procedure in and of itself. Like men, women wear much jewelry. Piercings are rarer than on men, however.
Moon’s Vengeance Foothills
In this largely Tumnii region, the wall-builders take cues from the majority. Unlike the very practical Tumnii, however, the wealthy like to show off their wealth.
General Trends: Most of the clothes are wool, but linen, fur, and leather are also common. Colors are dark; the guilds’ sumptuary regulations don’t reach here. Blacks, browns, dark greens, greys, these are the major colors. Competition and exhibition is in quality of materials and tailoring, not in design or decorations. Clothing is much more practical than in the Sea of Grass or Kaelthia, being closer fit and less encumbering (especially for the ladies).
Male Clothing: Men wear shirts, coats, and trousers, and boots very similar to those in the Sea of Grass, but with darker colors and less-elaborate embroidery. Hair is generally kept shorter and simpler than in the other regions. Unlike the other regions, most men have one or both ears pierced and set with a simple stud. The exact design and jewel in that stud is indicative of the standing of the person in question. During the winter, they wear fur coats much like in Dreamshore.
Female Clothing: Women wear close-fit dresses without corsets and with many fewer layers than to the west. Collars are high; a trendy pattern is to leave a diamond-shape opening in the center of the chest, displaying cleavage and a lacy, brightly-colored shift covering the bottom half of the window. In general, colors are dark but the trim is brightly colored. Women also wear accessories--jewelry in the form of bracelets, rings, diadems, and necklaces worn outside the dresses. It’s said that women wear the wealth of the family around their necks, like walking banks. Heavy fur coats are worn during the winters.