Friday, March 9, 2012

Fashion in Fantasy: Males

Last post we covered the wide and glorious expanse of dresses, corsets, ballgowns, and petticoats—it’s really cool stuff, believe me, so if you missed it, check it out! Today, we’re covering another key aspect to writing your fantasy novel: what your male characters wear.

1. Capes

            Of course I had to start with capes! What’s cooler than a cape, after all? Now, of course, most fantasy capes are found in the realms of superheroes and evil villains (I always picture Jafar sweeping around in one myself), but that’s not to say that you shouldn’t turn the stereotype around on its head! Just giving a flat 2D character a cape will add a touch of pizzaz, even some vanity, perhaps, and make him a much more fascinating character. This works just as well for women, by-the-bye.
2. Robes

            Bathrobes are there for a reason: they’re comfy, cushiony, and oh-so-soft. True, it’s a bit of a different sort of robes we mean here—I’m picturing something like Gandalf’s getup from Lord of the Rings. Also, of course, there’s the famous Harry Potter movie robes (which, in my personal opinion, are more like regular clothes with a cloak-plus-sleeves thrown on top). Anyway, robes can be a great option because they’re traditional and speak to a whole realm of magically-inclined fantastic folk. So try it out and see if it works in your story!
3. Leather jerkins and leggings

            My gut reaction to this one, gotta confess, is “ew!” However, I’d better acknowledge it, since this is probably one of the more accurate historical ensembles å la the Middle ages. First a little explanation: the “jerkin” is a long leather shirt that usually reaches to mid-thigh, and it’s worn over a cotton long-sleeve shirt called a doublet (traditionally). Then underneath the guy wears leggings, sometimes of leather and sometimes of cloth. Topping it off is leather boots. You may see this feature prominently among Rangers and other wild adventuresome folk, since it’s fairly rugged and easy to manufacture on its own.

4. Trousers

            In the style of Mr. Darcy of Pride & Prejudice fame, these long pants are basically just your modern suit-pants, though usually worn with a long coat and coattails. This works well for a more laid-back fantasy, or a fantasy with more modern tones. None of that Medieval nonsense for you!

5. Accessories

            Whether or not you’re up for the full dashing pirate gear, you should definitely consider adding the tri-cornered hat as a staple to any self-respecting fantasy guy’s wardrobe. If you’re a patriot fighting for your nation’s freedom or a pirate sailing twenty-three seas, you’ll want that distinguished hat to throw in the air to celebrate your victory—the hat that somehow just happens to keep appearing on your head even after many long journeys and battles. For other accessories, eye-patches and false legs or peaked wizard caps aren’t too bad, if a touch cliché. But think of your own distinguishing items for each character--a gold monocle, a particular pocket watch, a bowler hat--and use them when referring to the character in order to establish that person more firmly in your reader’s mind.

Doubtless, there are many more areas of dress and garb that we could explore. What are some clothes or accessories that you’ve used in your fantasy stories? Any helpful tips on writing about clothing?

God bless!


  1. Aw, you don't like jerkins? As a historical fiction writer, there's a lot of tunics (doublet is actually Renaissance onward) and jerkins being worn by my characters!

    I like them, for some reason. Probably because they're typical Robin Hood wear and I, well, write Robin Hood retellings.

    1. Oh, yes, Nairam, I know you're quite the expert on clothing of the Robin Hood time! Thanks for sharing your wisdom--much appreciated, definitely :) .

      And thanks for the comment!

  2. I few years ago, I played a male in the play tale of two cities. I know that's not quite mid-evil, but it's sort of the time I write about. At that time, the working class wore knickerbockers (another word I really like). These were like pants, but the stopped just below the knee with drawstrings. The guys would where knee high socks too, so you didn't really see any skin. I don't know if anyone is interested in that information, but you have it anyway.
    Sienna, I would love it if you would do a post on shoes. When reading this post, I realized I didn't have a single mention of foot ware in my story, which is simply not acceptable.
    Thanks for such a helpful post!
    ~Sarah F,

    1. Are those things really REALLY called knickerbockers? I thought those were the short-shorts that guys in prissy British prep schools wore! (haha, no offense to such clothing/guys) How interesting; thanks for the cultural reference!

      Ooh, what a great suggestion! I was just discussing with some fantasy friends how shoes are an area so often neglected when writing fantasy. Will do!

      Thanks a bunch for the comment!


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