Editor’s Note: Fashion is one of those topics that a world building wiki could spend thousands of words on if you let it. While I have no objection to this wiki eventually reaching that stage – I like world-building fashion, and I know at least one of my players does, too – certain sacrifices have had to be made to get things off the ground.
Skyfall’s general mode of costuming is inspired by the deliberately simple fashions of England and France in the thirteenth century. If you start there, you will not go far wrong (and if you share your thoughts, the wiki will expand!). However, keep in mind that Nova Primus is considerably warmer than Europe, because it is considerably farther south. Thus, Novans generally wear fewer clothes than thirteenth century Europeans did, and are more concerned about keeping rain out than warmth in.
Although clothes vary some in style and cut between rich and poor, the greatest differentiation in clothes is their fabric. Novans pay great attention to the fabric clothes are made of, as well as how they are dyed and embellished.
Wool, most commonly sheep’s wool, is the most common fabric on Nova. Wool is valued for its ability to produce a tight, waterproof fabric, perfect for keeping out Nova’s year-long rains. Wool is the primary cloth of the poorer classes, because it is fairly cheap, but even the rich make use of everyday wool clothes (these usually being distinguished in some way such as being a finer fabric or from a rarer breed of animal such as the cashmere goat).
Linen is a slightly higher “class” of cloth than wool, valued for its relative lightness and its smooth, cool feel. Linen is more expensive than wool, being labor-intensive to produce. Most Novans own only linen underclothes, while the rich use linen as their primary outerwear fabric.
Cotton can only be grown in Nova Primus’ higher interior elevations and is considered the richest of the vegetable fibers. Cotton is not as smooth as linen, but it is softer, and can be made a much lighter fabric. For this reason cotton is used by the wealthy for their undergarments.
Silk, including fabrics such as velvet and satin, is the most expensive fabric on Nova, even in regions where it is produced locally. Silk is valued for its smoothness and shiny finish, and so is used only for outerwear, and only by the rich.
Leather is used for accessories such as hats, gloves, and shoes. Leather is expensive, but tough, so most Novans aspire to own at least a pair of leather shoes. Leather is also used as a fashion accent, and soft lambskin is valued by the wealthy for clothes that directly contact skin such as gloves, breast bands, and even occasionally hose.
Fur is used as a trim accent by wealthy and poor alike. Fur is generally used not for warmth but as a water seal; a fur lining at the top of boots, for instance, can help keep water out. Different kinds of fur are more or less highly valued depending on their waterproof properties and rarity. Squirrel and cat fur is used by poorer Novans, while the wealthy prefer furs such as ermine, vair, and stoat. The fur of aquatic animals such as seals is even more highly prized, otter fur most of all.
Novans use the term “underwear” to refer to shirts, loincloths, corsets, and breast bands (though never hose or stockings, which are considered a separate category). Any or all of these three may be worn in combination.
Shirts (or camises, for women) are primarily intended to keep the rough fabric of the outer garment from scratching against the skin. Shirts may have short sleeves, though short-sleeved shirts are only for men engaged in hard labor. Women engaged in hard labor have camises with loose upper sleeves, which may have vents cut in them. Otherwise, both shirts and camises have long sleeves cut close to the arm, open from the elbow and buttoned at the wrist so that the sleeves can be turned up in hot weather. More expensive shirts and camises have more buttons, potentially all the way to the elbow. Shirts and camises may be fastened at the throat with a simple drawstring, though it is more fashionable to use a broach. Those entitled to bear arms often use an escutcheon- or lozenge-shaped brooch with their coat of arms.
Breast bands are worn by many women to support the bust, although a woman is considered fully dressed without one. Breast bands are ideally made of linen, cotton, or lambskin. Most breast bands are bandeau style, although women with heavier busts often add shoulder straps. Compared to the corset, the breast band is a lower-class garment, although it is also worn by wealthy or upper class women dressed for work.
A much more expensive garment for bust support is the corset, necessary to achieve a fashionable female silhouette with narrow waist and uplifted bust. Corsets provide support to the bust, and are thus not worn with breast bands. Novan corsets are generally cut straight across the top and boned with steel or, if a woman can afford it, whalebone (whalebone is preferred as the more comfortable of the alternatives). Novan corsets are shapewear, but their primary purpose is to shape a woman’s silhouette rather than achieve specific measurements. A properly fitted corset can thus be worn all day and, within the limits of its range of motion, many women find them more comfortable to wear than to go without. However, a corset does restrict a woman’s ability to bend her abdomen, which makes them uncomfortable to wear for many kinds of activity. For this reason even noble ladies typically wear breast bands during the “work day,” and change into a corset for social functions. Corsets are beyond the means of poor women, and even the well-to-do consider them prized possessions.
Loincloths are worn only occasionally, primarily to protect the loins from chafing. They may be worn as riding gear, but more commonly by soldiers or others who have occasion to wear heavy trousers. Occasionally loincloths are worn for erotic effect, although this is not a mainstream taste.
Men’s primary outerwear garment is called a gardcote, sometimes shortened to cote or coat. This is a tunic-like garment that is rectangular through the torso and flares out below the waist. A gardcote’s skirt lengthens with a man’s social station, from mid-thigh to about mid-calf (or pretension to station; merchant skirts are often quite long). A gardcote’s sleeves are usually no longer than the elbow, but include a second armhole at the armpit so that a man can slip out of the sleeves entirely in hot weather. A gardcote’s skirt is usually split in the front and back, which is particularly helpful for horseback riding.
Men’s legs are typically covered by hose, which cover the foot and typically extend to the bottom of the shirt (whose length varies, but is always long enough to cover the buttocks and genitals). Hose are kept up by points, lengths of fabric or ribbon that tie to the hem of the shirt. If a man expects his legs to be seriously chafed by his work, he typically protects his hose with tall leather boots. When this is insufficient, or boots are undesirable, men wear trews, close-fitting garments that cover the legs. Trews are a single garment, held up by a waistband, though they often leave the crotch uncovered. Trews are made of heavier fabric than hose, and even sometimes reinforced with leather.
Hose are somewhat difficult to make and relatively fragile, so the poor cannot always afford them. Braies are an alternative to hose for the poor or those who perform hard labor but do not need (or cannot afford) the leg protection of trews. Braies are loose-fitting pants that fall below the knee. The legs are longer in the back than the front, and loose enough that they may be tied to the waistband to shorten them for hot weather.
Knights and men-at-arms, if entitled to bear arms, may wear a tabard, a simple rectangle of fabric with a hole in the center for the head, that bears their coat of arms in the front and back. Tabards are worn by both male and female knights, as well as men- and women-at-arms.
A man’s outermost garment is a mantle. Men’s mantles are rectangular cloaks fastened at the throat by a brooch or, for a more fashionable look, by one or more cords that cross the chest and hold the corners of the mantle at the shoulders. Mantles should be long and wide enough to cover a man’s shoulders, arms, and legs in the (likely) event of rain. They are usually made of tightly woven wool or thick fur to keep out moisture. However, wealthy men may wear mantles of a rich fabric such as silk or silk velvet. These mantles are strictly fashionable, and must be protected from rain by a second mantle. As this is hotter than most men prefer, the richer inner mantle is often shorter than the outer.
Mantles thrown insouciantly over the shoulder connote a man of confidence or action, while a mantle draped over the arm is a statelier and more dignified look. Mantles may be draped in many ways, and the study of mantle draping is a major component of Novan fashion.
Women cover their camise with a kirtle, a close-fitting tunic-like garment that extends just past the waist that laces up the front to provide some of the support of a corset. Kirtles are typically sleeveless, though a rich kirtle may have billowing half-length sleeves.
Women’s legs are covered in a skirt (usually a separate garment, though the fashionable ideal is for the skirt to be one piece with the kirtle, in which case the entire garment is referred to as an undergown). Women generally do not wear full-length hose as men do for reasons of temperature, though if they can afford shoes they may wear stockings that reach just below the knee and are held up by garters.
When not working, women add a gown over their clothes. Novan gowns include a close-fitted bodice and long sleeves fastened by one or more buttons at the wrist. The sleeves may be solid or, if a woman has camises whose sleeves she feels are appropriate for society, the gown’s sleeves may be slashed to show the contrasting color of the camise. A gown’s skirt falls at least to the ankles, but is ideally longer. A longer skirt provides an elegant train in the back and may be lifted in the front to show the contrasting color of the undergown.
An important accessory to a gown is the girdle, a long belt worn on the hips so that it slopes to a point in front, with the tail of the belt hanging low. Girdles may be simple rope, but as they are one of a woman’s first pieces of jewelry, they may be very rich. Expensive girdles may be finely tooled or jewel-studded leather, or even chains of medallions made of precious metals.
Women wear mantles as do men, but women’s mantles are cut as oval lengths of fabric with a section cut out of one long end. The corners of the cut-out section are fastened at the throat by a brooch (or a simple knot, in the case of the poor) or held at the shoulders by one or more cords that run across the chest. Women’s mantles are typically longer than men’s, which makes draping them attractively even more difficult. A poorly draped mantle is a mess of fabric, but a well-draped mantle emphasizes the figure.
Novan shoes are simple affairs in construction, without high heels, pointed toes, or other structural embellishment. They are typically made of of felted wool or leather, and may be richly decorated with buckles, embroidery, stamped designs, or even precious gems. True shoes provide little in the way of support or protection for the foot; for harder work, Novans turn to heavy-soled leather boots. Men and women both wear shoes and boots of the same design, though they may differ in the patterns favored for decoration.
Hair and Hats
Novans are very fond of broad-brimmed hats, which serve to shade the wearer from the fierce equatorial sun and can help keep the wearer dry when a mantle’s hood is insufficient to hold off the rain. Indoors, those rich enough to afford them may wear smaller caps, though an uncovered head is not considered shameful. Men’s indoor caps fit the head closely, often with a small upturned brim, while women’s are pointed and without a brim, though often tied beneath the chin with colorful ribbon.
Men wear their hair short but not closely cropped. Single men are usually clean shaven, but married men often grow beards trimmed to a short point (or, as a man grows older, a longer point).
Single women typically wear their hair long and unbound, or restrained only by a circlet of cloth or flowers (for serious work, a girl whose hair is long enough to be an impediment may wear it in a ponytail). Married women restrain their hair by more or less elaborate hairstyles, beginning with a simple braid for work.
Both men and women are fond of bright colors and embroidery. However, the prevailing Novan aesthetic frowns upon too much embellishment as sinfully self-centered. A cloak that is covered in gold embroidery would be gauche; a cloak with an embroidered gold border would be much more fashionable.
House colors are always in fashion in their respective territories. However, only members of a House wear the House color without further decoration. Otherwise, at least some decoration is expected (except for hose or stockings, which may be worn in single colors without being thought pretentious). Both men and women wear rings and circlets as jewelry, while women may also wear torques or necklaces and bracelets. However, in jewelry as in clothing, Novans prefer expensive elegance to a baroque profusion of metal and gems. The height of jewelry fashion is always dictated by the House metal appropriate for the region, which necessarily means that House colors are worn more in jewelry in some territories than other. A House Felicin lady with simple silver rings and a plain silver circlet would be thought well to do but not rich, while a House Darry lady with identical items made of adamantium would be considered quite wealthy. Men and women of lesser Houses also frequently wear jewelry of steel, which is both a “House metal” and a symbol that the military might of even the great Houses depends upon the support of their vassals.
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