World Costume for Theatrical Productions

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World Costume for Theatrical Productions is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.


Unable to find a reliable sourcebook for world costumes, I resolved to compile one of my own. The Spring Tide Pageant of the Allace Players has become a traditional yearly event in Ubl, widely praised for its colorful recreations of foreign peoples and lands. With each year I learn something new about the customs of the races we portray, and each finding is added to my bulging notebook. My sources are many, ranging from historical paintings to travelers' accounts to actual garments brought in by traders.

This work is not intended as a full historical sweep of world costume, but rather as a window into the most typical or traditional garb worn by each race. When characters are presented on stage, they must be easily recognized by the audience. For this reason, I have focused more on single key elements of dress rather than trying to cover the entire range of garments found in any given race. Where appropriate, I have also listed the most characteristic or unusual colors and materials for that culture.

- Aleyvan Radhome, costumer for the Allace Players


The Dwarves, the men and women of the mountains, are frequently indistinguishable from the ground they mine. This is as much due to their preferences in colors and materials as it is to the dust and grime that so often coats them. Dwarven costume is not a matter of tradition as much as it is one of practicality. Dismissive of frivolity, they place high value on sturdy, reliable materials and comfortable cuts. Tunics and breeches are worn by both sexes, and closely-fitted skullcaps perch atop full heads of wiry hair. The women may also wear very plain, straight skirts. For work garments, tough, thick leather is extremely popular, and laborers often wrap the lower half of their legs in long strips of it. Cotton canvas and a rough cloth called cordetum are also used quite often, the dense weave and stiff hand adding a welcome layer of protection.

Details and decoration are almost exclusively steel, a material with unlimited potential in the hands of these hearty folk. Wide leather belts with large steel plaques are worn by both sexes, and serve both to support weapons and gather the unfitted garments close to the waist. The shoes are made from flat pieces of leather gathered by laces over the top of the foot and tied off near the ankle. Jewelry is uncommon, but examples of extremely fine metalsmithy are worn proudly and passed down from one generation to the next along with stories of the craftsman from which they came.

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The tribes of Giantmen show some tribal variations in their traditional clothing, much of it due to the materials available in their home ranges. The Wsalamir, for example, make much use of the beasts of the frozen tundra, while the Araime adorn themselves with the plants and animals of the plains. Roughly-tanned hides of game animals are strongly favored by all the tribes, and trophy items such as claws, teeth, feathers, shells, and quills are used as decorative elements. Motifs vary by clan and convey much meaning to those versed in their imagery.

For the men, leather hems are cut into fringes, and polished bits of bone are dyed and used in geometric beadwork. Furs, when used, are frequently whole, untrimmed hides with the head and limbs still attached. Loose tunics and jackets are common, and closely cut leggings tuck into tall, soft boots. The overall effect is subdued in color, consisting largely of earth tones. It is also soft in feel and full of movement.

Warriors of the T'Kirem clan's Highman tribe can be recognized by their deeply pleated woolen kilts. The patterns and colors indicate tribal lineage, and are sources of great pride. Like others of their kind they also wear tall leather boots.

A traditional women's garment among the Maeramil is the fringed apron skirt. Made from rows of linked fringe interwoven with beads, the skirt flows beautifully with the graceful steps of the festival dances. Married women add a leather overskirt hung with rows of feathers, grasses, and large shells. A spike cap completes the costume.

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Among the Half-Krolvin, dress can vary depending on the circumstances under which the individual was raised. Those following Krolvin traditions and living along the coasts of the far north tend to wear parkas of insulating caribou hide and thick boots of water-resistant sealskin. Their beautiful raincoats of salmon skin stitched together with tundra grass inspire much admiration. Shimmering rainbow-colored river trout skins are used as decoration on other garments, as well. When fully dressed to hunt in the frozen wastes or at sea, the typical Krolvin wears an inner and outer parka, hide pants with the fur to the inside, thick mittens, and several layers of footwear. Adjacent pieces of clothing overlap to keep out the cold air. Often, the parkas are made with extra-broad shoulders to allow the arms to be drawn inside for additional warmth.

Hides are dyed with lichens and barks, some of the more common being moss lichen, which provides a yellowish tone, rock lichen, which shades the skins to green or blue, and alder bark, which imparts a reddish-brown color. Moose teeth and polar bear claws are used as decoration and fringe, and further embellishment can come from glass beads acquired in trade. Narrow bars of whalebone applied to leather make for a simple yet effective form of armor.

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Known for their prized beadwork, Halflings in traditional garb present a bright and colorful picture. Reds and purples dominate, with natural leather used as a contrast. Wool, both knitted and felted, is a favored material. The finest wool produced is called cameline, and fetches a good price on the northern trade routes. Multicolored woolen tassels dangle from the points of hats, sleeve welts, collars, and vests.

Halflings frequently go unshod, even in inclement weather. Those that do employ footwear favor a calf-high leather boot lined with soft fur. The seams are turned to the outside and form decorative lines around the foot and up the shin. The tip of the toe turns up slightly, a design that hearkens back to the use of stirrups.

The hats worn by traditionally-garbed Halflings are quite distinctive. Females wear fur-trimmed hats with turned-up brims and conical crowns, sometimes adorned with colorful ribbon streamers. Males wear a hat with three peaks in the brim and a round, fur-covered crown.

For both sexes, the sleeves end in long tapered cuffs, said to represent the hooves of horses. In cold weather they can be turned down to warm the hands, or be used as protection when touching particularly hot or cold objects. Females traditionally wear short, fitted vests with several bands of trim around the edges and center front. The sleeve heads are full, and gathered into an appliqued band around the upper arm. The moderately full skirt also ends in several wide bands of decorative work. Males wear a sashed tunic which opens at the right shoulder. Offset bars of color decorate the chest, and the sleeves have a small amount of fullness at the top.

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The most striking feature of Elven clothing is its lushness. The fabrics are rich and tactile, selected for their ability to interact with light. The pure silk velvets absorb light in the depths of their folds and shimmer at the peaks. The watered and matte silk satins shift subtly in color as the fabric moves, and the cross-woven silk taffetas change color completely when viewed from different directions. Ta'Loenthra produces a much sought-after silk resembling veined marble which is called marbrinus.

Jewel tones are the most popular, but any colors that harmonize with the wearer and his or her environment are acceptable. Garments are cut to enhance these qualities and are worn in complex layers. Elaborate embroidery decorates the edges, usually depicting interlocking organic patterns. Ceremonial or official garments will often have a crest worked into the embroidered motif. Gold and silver jewelry inset with precious and semi-precious stones is worn by both sexes. Filigree work is especially prized.

Although fashions vary by town and court, the most common garments for women are long, tightly-laced cotehardies, worn alone or under ornate sideless gowns. A heavily jeweled belt sits at the hips over the cotehardie. The sleeves end at the elbow and are finished with long tippets, with the closely-buttoned underdress sleeves covering the arm past the wrist. Long mantles and fur-lined pelissons provide warmth. Narrow fillets secure elaborate coiffures.

Men wear a cotehardie as well, though theirs reaches only to the thigh and is fitted throughout, with a padded chest. The legs are fitted with hosen trussed up to the short paltock worn under the cotehardie. Men also share with women the wearing of an ornate hip-belt and tippets above the elbow. Whereas the feminine neckline is low and broad, the masculine one features a high collar.

Both sexes wear shoes with extremely long, pointed toes. Garment edges are often dagged or foliated, and rows of closely-set buttons serve as fastenings and as decoration. For ceremonial occasions, house and family crests are frequently blazoned upon the garments, which can also be parti-colored to display heraldic colors.

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The Sylvans bring a distinctly elven touch to the natural look. Both the colors and fabrics used are light, consisting primarily of pale, luminescent tones and sheer, featherweight textiles such as gauze, organza, and chainsil (a particularly fine linen). The most unusual aspect is the densely crimped and pleated fabric used in bliauts for both males and females. The secret to producing this effect is a closely-guarded one, and when a sample gets in the hands of traders, the value is high indeed. Jewelry is minimal, and is more likely to incorporate natural elements than precious materials.

For women, the bliaut is full-length, with funnel sleeves gathered close around the upper arm. A quilted leather or fabric corsage is worn on the torso and laced up the back, and a jeweled girdle wraps around the waist and ties in front at the hips. An overrobe of transparent silk gauze known as a "sylvan surcote" is also worn, often edged with gold trim. Their hair is worn very long and divided into two pairs of two tresses each, wrapped elaborately together with ribbons.

For men, the bliaut consists of a fitted tunic with wide sleeves, laced up the back and ending in a curve at the waist. The skirt is in two parts, each one shaped like a pointed arch. With the arch pointing down, the central section is gathered together and attached to the waist, front and back, and allowed to fall in graceful folds. The shoes are soft, with long, tapered points at the toes.

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Dark Elves

The Dark Elves' long isolation from the rest of their breed has resulted in a clear divergence of costume. They wear long, loose layers of thin fabrics such as linen, organdy, and cotton gauze. A striped silk known as bourde is used in formal and ceremonial garments. Exotic reptile skins lend color to accessories and are even used applique-style to decorate hems. Both men and women wear leather sandals.

Females catch their gowns at the waist and hips with a linked chain belt that resembles the Sylvan girdle. Sheer scarves are wrapped around the head and draped over shoulders and arms. Golden disks adorn the hair, neck, wrists and ankles, providing musical accompaniment to every movement.

Males are draped in an ankle-length underrobe with sleeves cut to twice the length of the arm and ruched to fit. A sleeveless, sideless tunic covers the underrobe and is tied at the waist with a sash. A folded cap with a curved peak wraps over a draped piece that covers the neck and shoulders, which in turn becomes a cape that hangs gracefully down the back, reaching just to the ground.

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Burghal Gnomes

Burghal Gnomes don't appear to have a traditional costume in the usual sense. There is no particular cut of garment, weave of fabric, or shade of color that sets them apart. It is only their inventiveness that gives them distinction. Cast-off or otherwise appropriated garments find new life and new purpose in the hands of a Burghal Gnome. Whether cut down to size in unusual ways or refitted as an entirely different item, their clothing is rarely what it first appears to be. The sheer number of assorted containers dangling off their small bodies tend to obscure most details about the clothing underneath. The look is usually mismatched and threadbare, but intriguing nonetheless.

The exception to this is the Winedotter gnomes, who are generally seen attired in livery of an appropriate color for the house they serve. For men, this entails a cutaway coat amply ornamented with buttons and braid. The female servants wear a high-waisted dress with a full, pleated skirt. Added to this are removable cuffs and a collar, as well as a full or half apron.

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Forest Gnomes

Very little information is available about traditional Forest Gnome clothing, but some general habits have been discerned from our limited observations and a few tall tales. The furs of small creatures such as rabbits, squirrels, voles, and raccoons are patched together into loose garments which are secured here and there with wrapped cords. Men wear a short tunic with a square neck along with knee or calf length breeches. Women wear a shawl-like top over one or both shoulders, a full skirt that ends somewhere below the knee, and a sash to hold both garments in at the waist.

These gnomes also make ingenious use of reeds and bark, not only for accessories such as sandals and pouches, but also as decorative elements. River reeds and grasses are dyed and woven in a form of crewelwork over leather and canvas. Brilliantly colorful feathered capelets are worn on ceremonial occasions, and sprays of bright feathers are frequently used to adorn hats and caps. Bushy animal tails are used alone or in bundles both as decoration and as proof of one's hunting prowess.

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One look at the traditional garb of the Erithians and the importance of aesthetic presentation in that culture is patently clear. An Erithian's outward appearance is carefully considered, from head to toe. Harmony is paramount, and subtlety is valued far more than ostentation. Nevertheless, the materials used are of the very highest quality. Silk is highly favored for the brilliance with which it takes dye and paint, and for the variety of effects that can be achieved with it through different weaves and finishes. Men and women alike wear long robes. The silhouette is simple and spare, but full of intriguing details. Pleats and folds are used to create hidden spaces, to accentuate movement, and to form dynamic lines. Fabrics are frequently used without cutting, but such is the art of the folds and ties that this is rarely apparent to outward inspection.

The robes worn by men feature a broad-shouldered overlay of interwoven folds held at the waist by a long, twisted sash. The sleeves reach to mid-forearm, with extra fullness towards the back. Hats have swept-back crowns and folded-up brims secured with metal loops.

Women's robes also overlap in layers in the center front, but instead of being an overlay, their pleats fall to the inside, with a reversed set of pleats below the waist to add fullness to the skirt. A crisply folded sash defines the waist. The sleeves hang open from the shoulder and end in a straight line at the fingertips. The starched caps form a series of wave-like peaks flowing back from the forehead.

Both men and women wear simple rush sandals. Loosely flowing painted designs based on natural forms are the primary decoration, though often nothing at all adorns the austere garments. Favored colors include ivory, sand, jade, butter, charcoal, and black.

Consult the Erithian Clothing: A Guide, by Master Tailor Vithalan of the Tichan Dai for an indepth study on the clothing of the Erithi

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There is much curiosity but little data about the strange creatures newly arrived in the East. Travelers give accounts of seeing the winged beings dressed in long swaths of brightly-colored fabrics wrapped this way and that to accommodate their unusual frames. Vivid patterns and warm, intense colors appear to predominate, though the impression given is that any material at hand may be put to use. It is said that the Elves have provided much charity, and their cast-off garments have been reconfigured to fit the new owners.

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Fashion changes from region to region in the Empire, often following the whims or tastes of the current nobility. For the sake of simplicity, it is possible to speak generally of fashions in Tamzyrr and the other southwestern cities as opposed to styles of dress seen in the north and east. In actuality, many styles may coexist in the same county or barony.

The noble women of Tamzyrr dress in long gowns with full skirts and a tightly boned bodice. The neck of the bodice is cut low and straight across the chest, with pieces of what is usually a sheer fabric cut to cover the shoulders while leaving the center of the neck and chest bare. A high collar likewise encircles all but the front of the neck, topped with a goffered ruff. The sleeves, cut in curved triangles long enough to brush the ground, are bordered at the top with puffs of fabric and finished at the hem with scallops or trim. Hats are not usually worn, with much attention instead being paid to the coiffure. For those who desire some form of head covering, a sheer veil tucked into the shoulders suffices. Pearls are used as jewelry and as embellishment by both sexes.

The men show a similar amount of restriction in the torso, in the form of a fitted doublet with a padded belly and short skirts. Though most commonly made of leather, the garment can also be cut from wool or heavy silk. Long, bound slashes in the chest show off either the white shirt underneath, or a contrasting color of applied silk. The sleeves of the doublet may also be slashed, though in a much smaller pattern. As with the women, puffs of fabric delineate the shoulders. The breeches are cut full at the hips and taper towards the knee, where they are buttoned and bound in a narrow band. Goffered ruffs finish off the neck and wrists, adding further formality to the silhouette. Short capes are worn at a diagonal across the chest. The gathered fabric hats have high crowns and small brims.

By way of contrast, the men of the north present a much softer picture. Their doublets stop short of the waist, revealing a section of the shirt just above the closely-cut breeches. The paned sleeves are extremely full above the elbow, then fitted to the wrist. Slashing is also common, but rather than being found on the chest and sleeves, it is featured predominantly on the breeches and at the tops of the stockings, which tie under the knee with large bows. Long, sleeveless overrobes with wide collars are worn in place of capes, and heavy chains of office are sometimes worn across the shoulders. The shoes have broad, squared-off toes and are split down the vamp.

The northern women are less restricted as well. They wear an unboned corset underneath their high-waisted gowns. Cartridge pleats in the center front add fullness, which must be held out of the way when walking. The neckline of the bodice is cut squarely to fall under the bust, revealing a gathered chemise. Pendant sleeves hang open from the elbow and can feature fur on the inside or out. The undersleeve fits closely to the wrist. Padded rolls curve in a crescent over the back of the head, and hair is usually braided or twisted close to the ears. Precious metal jewelry is the most common.

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