Elven Ruhan

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Elven Ruhan is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

An excerpt from Elven Clothing Through the Ages, A History

by Haladrien Alleriquen

The Elven Ruhan

The ruhan is a long, draping garment fashioned from a single length of fabric and crafted with an opening for the head and neck at its center. It is meant to be worn as an outer garment, often with a cloak or cape as an additional complementing outer layer. When worn, the garment drapes from shoulder to mid-thigh on average and conceals the majority of the wearer's torso and arms. Ruhan do not have sleeves, though those fashioned for children sometimes bear slit sides to allow greater ease of movement. Ruhan do not traditionally have hoods or cowls, and are generally tailored to be worn by the particular individual for whom they are crafted. Ruhan are never pocketed.

History of the Ruhan

The name ruhan, serving both as singular and plural, derives from the word "ruhaien", meaning to hide or conceal, and reflecting the purpose of the garment when its design was conceived.

The origin of the ruhan traces back to its first documented use by the scouts of the Ardenai elves in and around the thickly wooded areas surrounding Ta'Ardenai many centuries ago. Chosen for its light and largely unrestrictive design, the ruhan allowed the elves' movements to go relatively unhindered. At the same time, it helped to conceal the majority of their forms and provided a layer of protection from the natural elements and the surrounding environment.

The popularity of the garment spread quickly among the scouts, and its utility and overall favor among the scouts saw its quick adoption as an official part of standard scouting garb. It has since become a traditional garment for both scouting and general traveling among the Ardenai and other elves.

In modern times, the ruhan continues to be used by the scouts of the Ardenai elves, who hold to the ruhan traditions established long ago. Popularity of the garment has spread beyond the borders of Ta'Ardenai in the years since its inception, and it is often favored over the cloak or coat as lighter and more casual all-weather wear. Ruhan found outside the lands of the Ardenai are often crafted of other, lighter cloths, such as silk and cotton.

Despite its widespread use, the original designer of the ruhan remains unknown, as no name has ever been attributed to the garment. It is widely believed that an enterprising young scout fashioned a ruhan for him or herself on a whim, and his fellows simply copied the design of the clever garment.

The Ruhan Tradition

The incorporation of the ruhan into the standard field garb of the Ardenai set into motion the emergence of a number of traditions involving the crafting of the garment.

Wool quickly became the fabric of choice, ideal for its superb protection from the elements and natural nuisance of brambles and thorny bushes. The weight of woolen fabric was also desired for its stable drape, keeping the garment from whipping about the body in stiff winds, and also serving to further muffle the already quiet movements of the elves.

So often was wool used for the ruhan that many of the more prominent fabric weavers began to craft what they called "ruhani" wool, which is a soft woolen fabric with a pale grey to moss-green coloring, characterized by barely perceptible patterns of whorls or leaves throughout its tight weave. This fabric remains the traditional material from which ruhan are commonly crafted.

The garment is generally crafted to drape to the knees of the individual for whom it is tailored, though the length could vary to be as short as to come to the waist. Very rarely is one tailored to be longer than usual, as the extra length can too easily tangle in the legs or otherwise hinder movement. The neckline of the garment is usually fitted for whom it was tailored, and very rarely is laced, buttoned, or otherwise fashioned with a design to allow for adjustments of its fit. Traditional ruhan bear neither hood nor cowl, as they are a complement to the cloak or cape, which are fashioned with such coverings for the head.

Decoration of a ruhan is sparse, if present at all, and rarely in bright or flamboyant coloring. A trim of silk, linen, or velvet at the neckline is most common, usually of some repeating pattern bordered within and without by a solid band of color. Naturalistic patterns resembling ivy, leaves, flowers, or the like are common, along with the occasional knotwork or abstract geometric figures. Aside from this occasional decoration, most elves opt to have their ruhan embroidered at the back, just below the neckline, with their personal crest for easy identification of the their own garment.

In general, the traditions of the ruhan serve to reinforce the spirit in which it was conceived and to maintain the high standards of the craft that the elves of Ta'Ardenai have come to expect from their chosen craftsmen.

The Modern Ruhana

In recent times, another garment has surfaced and enjoyed a bit of a vogue among the more vain and fashion-conscious elves. It bears mention as its conception and design relate closely to that of the ruhan. Called the ruhana, the garment is styled and named in the spirit of its utilitarian predecessor. Originally crafted by a lesser-known Loenthran tailor, the ruhana surprisingly sprang to the forefront of the more prominent social circles as the new, posh must-have accessory in the courts of Ta'Nalfein. Since a great amount of customization tends to enter into the crafting of a ruhana, the name is often used to refer to the concept of the garment rather than any particular design, as there exists no singular standard.

The ruhana is a practical, multi-purpose garment that is designed to be at once simple and elegant. It appeals to the sensibilities of the elves greatly, who generally find the overly complex or dramatic stylings of human nobility entirely distasteful. Like the ruhan, it is itself little more than a single drape of fabric, however, in contrast to its more traditional predecessor, it lacks the tailored neck opening for the pull-over style of wear.

Instead, the ruhana is tailored to be worn wrapped about the body in various manners, and typically secured in place with a pin or brooch of some make. The particular shaping of the garment's body, often uniquely tailored to fit an individual, combined with the varied styles of wrapping and positioning lends the ruhana an unprecedented array of options for wear. The most common styles of wear include draped from the arms or shoulders as a shawl, wrapped about the waist as a skirt, or wrapped about one's body in imitation of a ruhan. These choices alongside the simplicity of the garment's design allow for a truly dynamic wardrobe selection in a single garment.

While wool cloth is favored for the ruhan, with its simple and standard design, ruhana are typically tailored with rich fabrics of elegant and intricate design and coloring. Fabrics with bold colors or woven patterns tend to be popular, often decorated with trimming or tasseled edges. The weaves and patterns chosen are often done so with a particular style of wear in mind to complement the drape of the garment in that position, and some more elaborate pieces are fashioned from fabrics with custom designs that form different patterns depending on where and how the garment is worn.

Beyond these adornments, additional decoration of ruhana is generally very sparse. The garments seldom bear heavy or elaborate embroidery, though, if the base fabric is plain enough, lightly embroidered patterns may be added to the edges of the garment in silver or gold threading for a subtle touch. Trims of complementing fabrics or patterned lace are more common than embroidery, and tasseled edges are particularly popular. Decoration of the garment proper with metallic or gemstone accents is practically unheard of, and generally considered to be garish.

A complementary pin or brooch used to secure the ruhana in place is typically included as part of the garment itself, often matching the designs of its fabrics or trim. Silver, gold, copper, and bronze are most common as base materials, and sparing use of eahnor, faenor, vaalorn, and vaalin for fine accenting details is popular. Precious stones or gems are occasionally used as further accent. A popular practice is to include one's signifier as the center of the jewelry piece, typically inlaid with one of the above mentioned metals.

In general, the ruhana is meant to be a light outer garment for any occasion, being considerably easier to manage than a heavier cloak or coat. Its versatility and simple design lends the garment a certain desirability beyond its place as a symbol of status.