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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Pixie in the Playground

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    Jul 2012

    Default Designing culture-wide clothing styles

    Well, the title sums it up; the question is: how to design solid, good looking, coherent clothing styles for your specific cultures in a world that is being built?

    The way i see it:

    I. The number one step is creating or finding some images of silhouettes and/or naked figurines in quite a few different poses (to have some bodies to put the clothing on later on in the creative process - any clothing, that's yet to be created).

    II. Then, the reference phase: to gather inspiration and to determine the basic looks/shapes of the clothing styles.
    There is even an element of storytelling and/or certain logic to this phase, as the specific clothing types are influenced by the climatic environment, by the culture, by the social class of the wearer, etc.

    III. And lastly, the implementation phase - i.e. photoshop, a graphics tablet, lots of patience and some time to spare.

    - - -

    So, how would YOU do it? Do use some visual references in this thread, as words alone are not enough here.

    And please, no slacking (as an example, copying renaissance clothing styles and such is neither innovative nor thoughtful clothing design).

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground
    Inglenook's Avatar

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    Nov 2011
    the crisper drawer

    Default Re: Designing culture-wide clothing styles

    I'm very much a casual dresser, and I have no real interest in fashion.

    However … I have a great weakness for RPG cultural clothing styles; I have a giganto folder full of photos for inspiration, and I combine them as needed. I can't be arsed to painstakingly draw them out, though. A description for my players, sure, or a quick doodle at the most.

    I think it would probably be wise to look at an article of clothing that was once utilitarian, and imagine how it would look centuries later if used for decorative purposes alone. Like how a tie used to be a glorified napkin, and now it serves no purpose except to cause lots of swearing and discomfort.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
    Recherché's Avatar

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    May 2010
    Its Complicated

    Default Re: Designing culture-wide clothing styles

    I mostly decide clothing styles based on local environment and tech.

    Climate- Local climate influences what kind of clothing is needed to deal with the elements but also what is available. People living in hot areas either wear little clothing or very loose clothing. They also don't usually wear lots of layers, wool or furs. Tight fitting waistbands are a major no-no. Cotton and linen are fairly practical materials for dealing with the heat but so is fabric made from pineapple fiber or tree bark. Bark cloth may be the only viable source of fiber on tropical islands, but it is very labor intensive to make and fragile.

    Dealing with cold requires multiple layers, all fitted closely to the body. Remember heating your entire house is a relatively recent innovation, for most of history people needed to be protected from the cold even inside. Wool, furs, velvets, and quilting will all keep heat in so expect to see lots of them. However sheep don't thrive in very cold climates so up near the artic animal skins may be the only appropriate material to make clothes from. Shoes will also become much more important in cold climates.

    Rainy climates require fabrics that remain warm even when wet such as wool. Cotton and linen become deathly cold when wet and as such will be avoided.

    Technology: Technology here refers to both sources of fiber and the technology used to weave them. For example, the Japanese kimono is made entirely of pieces of cloth less than 17 inches wide. Guess how wide Japanese looms were. Wool wasn't used for kimono until very late even though it was a useful fabric because sheep were not introduced to Japan until very late. Similarly, most North American tribes dressed in hides, furs, leather and barkcloth because looms to weave cloth on were not widespread

    Another factor to consider is that cloth was very valuable up until the industrial revolution. As such using more cloth than you needed was a serious sign of wealth and social standing. This involved layers and trims obviously, but complicated cuts could also be a way to show off. For example, one of the most luxurios garments known to the Romans, the paludamentum, was especially showy because it had a curved hem. Producing that curved hem involved weaving a length of cloth and then cutting away and discarding a third of it.

    I usually draw a lot from history to inspire the clothing I have people wear, but people rarely catch me at it because very few people know what actual everyday historical clothing looked like. That stuff you see in portraits was usually the equivalent of a ball gown, not everyday clothes. Plus most movies can't resist the urge to add more decorations to clothing than would actually have been worn.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Mar 2009
    Stockholm, Sweden

    Default Re: Designing culture-wide clothing styles

    One of my favourite RPGS did an interesting approach to this. Not only did it present images of typical clothing of the various cultures, but also of the various social classes within each culture. It gave some insights into not only how the culture dressed, but also what was considered beautiful traits in that culture.

    It's certainly something I'd suggest when designing clothing.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Jul 2007

    Default Re: Designing culture-wide clothing styles

    I only made much of an effort in one of my settings on clothing issues, but in it I made a diffrent clothing style for each place.

    I decided there would be no available organic material, so it created an issue with clothes. I made clothes purely according to the resources available in the city - in the city which is partly inside a massive chunk of rock, the clothes are basically armors; In a city with massive food reserves, clothes are made from food; In a city without naturel resources, the clothes are made from the skin of the dead (people), etc.

    I didn`t draw any of the clothes worn, just described them.

    In a diffrent setting I thought of a race that wears skin of a creature it killed, and the stronger the creature the higher the social class of the wearer.

    While things like clothing and architecture are not the big things of a setting, they can certainly help describe and set a mood for an area.
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  6. - Top - End - #6
    Pixie in the Playground

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    Jul 2012

    Default Re: Designing culture-wide clothing styles

    Some solid responses so far ...

    @historiasdeosos: So you've got a fat folder full of reference, eh? Well, don't just brag about it, upload it for the rest of us (to or such)! Please, pretty please!

    @Recherché: Right you are about the demographics - through the middle ages all the way up to the closing times of the early modern peroid, some 90% to 95% of people lived in villages, in rather simple conditions. The term "the long middle ages", coined by french historian Jacques le Goff, discusses this - as the life of the rural people hardly ever changed in the period from the 3rd till the 18th century.

    About the cloth scarcity ... I remember reading a microhistory study about some petty thieves from the 16th century: the broke into a church, stole the tablecloth and made a shirt out of it.

    So, what are you? A professional historical stylist of sorts? You do know an awful lot about the subject.

    @Aux-Ash: Yes indeed, dear sir. Because if a culture had only one social class, it would be incredibly flat and boring (its only a modern trend and a "feel-good", believing in that we're all equal (heh, still certainly not true)).
    A lot of interesting outcomes comes from different classes interacting: the higher classes usually feel irritaded/annoyed/insulted by the lower classes and so they strive to isolate themselves from the "scum". And the lower classes, they immitate the higher classes, trying to climb upwards the "social ladder".

    As a matter of fact, I remember reading another history book (something about the local early modern cities, I think), which mentioned clothing complaints of the townswomen against the village women. Apparently, being a villager restricted a woman from wearing expensive clothes. And if we looked at the townswomen, they weren't allowed to wear expensive jewelry (as that privilege belonged to the noblewomen only).
    ... and there was an actual law to uphold that.

    @akma: Well, I don't know ... the cities you're describing are a little bit extreme (why founding the city in an inadequate location in the first place?)
    Wearing human skin? Jeez ... getting all darwinian on you, a standard evolutionary safety pattern for all the existing species is that the members of the species don't brutalize the others of their kind. Wearing human skin, well, you could pull that off, I suppose (a nice sociopath), but you'd be evoking appaling feelings in all the peoples you'd be meeting (and no, this isn't a cultural thing).
    Baldur's Gate 2 had this sorts of cloting, obtainable in some tailor quest (evil characters only).

    Clothing and architectures are not just voluntary, they are some major highlights to your setting. If you want to search through the tens and hundreds of mediocre settings out there looking for THE ONE setting based on text only differentiation, you'd probably get really overwhelmed real soon.
    On the other hand, having a few cool visual references makes the viewer wonder. If there's a match in style, the viewer goes all "wow, what a nice style, I want to know more about it" ... which doesn't happen much in text-only presentations, as all the letters look the same (duh!)
    Check this out: Morrowind concept art (quite a unique game). If only I had such drawing in my setting - it would make wonders, don't ya think?
    Last edited by Johnny.JJ; 2012-09-22 at 05:02 PM.

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