This article describes the outerwear and hairstyles of the peoples of the various Wheel of Time nations, but does not include weaponry or soldier’s armour and uniforms. (Underwear is described in the Private Lives article).
Why examine the costume?
As sociologists and anthropologists have long made clear, the apparently mundane subject of dress is itself a complex interplay of ideas about modesty and display, personal and group identity, gender roles and social ranks.The Wheel of Time nations are no exception. Each has distinctive costumes, which are almost national dress as understood in our world. In general, the style of clothing is typical of the 16th-19th centuries in our world or to national costume pre World War I.
- Duncan Clarke, The Art of African Textiles
In most Wheel of Time cultures, there is a strong differentiation in dress between the sexes. In some countries clothes indicate the occupation as well. Moreover, clothing markedly indicates status as well as sex more than in our current Western world. High status clothes are usually impractical in some way (as well as made of non-durable and expensive materials) to emphasise that the wearer does no physical labour. Sumptuary laws effectively apply, since traders and merchants, however rich, do not dress as showily as nobles, nor in many countries dare they have their own livery for their servants.
Men wear a shirt, coat and breeches (usually knee-length) and women a long dress or long skirt plus blouse. Since long skirts restrict movement, a few societies have partially or fully dispensed with them - Sea Folk, Aiel and Kandor – and in all nations women wear divided skirts for riding. Riding dresses are usually a dark colour to hide the inevitable dust (New Spring, Changes) and are similar to culottes, but have much fuller legs and seat and the leg seams reach only about mid thigh, leving the crotch open. If the crotch were closed, the dress would be described as trousers, not skirts. The dress relies on the fullness of the skirts to cover the hips; by experimentation at quarter scale, I discovered that a length of medium-weight fabric five times the waist circumference gives sufficient coverage without being too full at the waist. In no countries are bare legs acceptable for adults in public, and in most, bare arms are not either.
White is the colour of mourning in the Westlands of the Wheel of Time world (the Aiel and Seanchan (Knife of Dreams, Epilogue) do not appear to wear a particular colour for mourning), which is appropriate since it is also the mourning colour in central and eastern Asia of our world and people in these areas believe in reincarnation, as do Westlanders.
Due to the weight and bulk of coins, the main type of money, purses are carried by everyone – even Lan and Rahvin (The Dragon Reborn, Message Out of the Shadow ) - with at least modest amounts of cash, more than one if carrying plenty of money. They are usually leather, although some noblewomen have gold embroidered cloth purses (Winter’s Heart, A Plan Succeeds). Both sexes carry purses in pockets in clothing or else in belt pouches. Scrips are larger leather bags slung from the shoulder and are carried by common people (The Fires of Heaven, Figs and Mice) (see illustration right, although note that the clothing is of medieval style and not renaissance to early modern as is more typical of Wheel of Time fashions) . Other common accessories are leather riding gloves, wool mittens, cloaks (fur or silk lined for the wealthy) and, for women, fans.
Hand fans were a common accessory (re-)introduced into Europe from the Middle East in the 13th and 14th Centuries and the Orient in the 15th Century. Folding fans were made of fabric, lace or painted parchment.
There are stories, possibly mythical, that meanings were attached to gestures made with the fan. However few men of the time seemed to know them – just as Perrin only knew a few:
Did she [Berelain] know the language of fans? Could she tell a man to come or go or stay, and a hundred things more, all with the twist of a wrist and the placement of a lace fan?To add some sparkle to their product, the fan makers Duvelleroy published one list of such gestures and their meanings in the nineteenth century. Here are a few to compare with the gestures Faile made:
The Dragon Reborn, Customs of Mayene
He [Perrin] meant it for a joke, but she [Faile] closed her fan and tapped it on her wrist. He knew that one: I am giving your suggestion serious thought…Her fan touched her ear, admonishing caution in speech.
A Crown of Swords, Old Fear and New Fear
- Holding the fan on the right cheek: "Yes."
Holding the fan on the left cheek: "No."
Touching a closed fan to the right eye: "When can I see you?"
Drawing a partly open fan across the eyes: "I am sorry."
Covering the left ear with an open fan: "Do not betray our secret."
Touching the tip of a closed fan with a finger: "I wish to speak with you."
Opening and closing the fan a few times: "You are cruel."
Clothing fabrics include wool (cheapest), linen and silk (most expensive). The plant fibre algode is used in the Aiel Waste, but is unknown elsewhere. It is probably cotton, since algodon and algodao are Spanish and Portuguese respectively for cotton. Most real world cotton varieties require much water to grow, although there is a sub-commercial desert cotton (Gossypium thurberi, algodoncillo in Spanish, native to the US and still requiring some irrigation).
Silk in the Westlands is imported from Shara. The Seanchan are also familiar with silk, but it is unknown if they trade westwards with Shara, or grow it themselves.
There is no mass production of off-the-rack clothing in the Wheel of Time world and no sewing machines. Those who can afford it have their clothes made for them by a tailor or seamstress. The price of their clothing depends on the quality or type of materials used (coarse wool and linen versus fine wool and linen or silk), amount and type of decoration and the skill of the maker.
At the first visit, the customer is measured, the price negotiated, the style and materials chosen and the first garment cut and pinned to check fit (New Spring, Business in the City). Even an Aes Sedai defers to a skilled seamstress and negotiates colour, style and amount of embroidery. The best clothing doesn’t come cheap:
In a city like Tar Valon, one gold crown for a woollen dress and ten for a silk were reasonable from a seamstress of Tamore’s quality.More would be charged for embroidery that includes gems or thread of gold or silver (wires of the actual metals, or strips of the metals beaten very fine and wound around a core of silk to make a thread).
- New Spring, Business in the City
While simple wool clothing made by a village tailor/seamstress would be markedly cheaper, the poorest people would not be able to afford to have garments made and would either buy second hand, receive cast off clothing as gifts from their employer, relatives or friends, or steal clothes.
The costume of each of the Wheel of Time nations or major groups will be discussed in alphabetic order.
AGE OF LEGENDS
Lace was a popular decoration for shirts in the Age of Legends (The Shadow Rising, The Dedicated).
Fancloth: This Power-wrought fabric was originally a fashion fabric (The Shadow Rising, The Dedicated) but its camouflage properties were quickly put to service during the War of Power as capes for troops.
Streith: (Strewth?!) The colour and opacity of this fabric reflects the mood of the wearer. It was very fashionable prior to the War of Power but by the beginning of the Breaking it was regarded as old-fashioned (seen as frivolous?) (The Shadow Rising, The Dedicated).
Hair: The latest fashion before the War of Power was shoulder length hair tied back in imitation of the Da’shain Aiel. Narrow beards were fashionable for men (The Shadow Rising, The Dedicated).
Aes Sedai: As First among the Servants, Lews Therin wore regal clothes of finely woven imported cloth in gray, scarlet and gold. His cloak had the ancient symbol of Aes Sedai on it (The Eye of the World, Dragonmount). Perhaps all the Aes Sedai had some clothing marked with this symbol.
Da’shain: The Da’shain, the servants of the Aes Sedai sworn to peace, compassion and non-violence, wore distinctive dress and hairstyles to separate them from other citizens:
They usually dressed in plain coat, breeches, and soft, laced boots, usually in shades of brown or gray.The ‘working clothes’ Coumin wore implies that other clothes, perhaps more formal or ceremonial clothes, were also worn by the Da’shain. These may be similar to the white robes of the gai’shain (see Aiel section below).
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
Some of the Da’shain women, perhaps all, wore their hair loose and shoulder length (The Shadow Rising, The Dedicated). The male Da’shain wore their hair cut short except for a tail at the back. This style is the “rat tail”, a variant of the mullet, and like the mullet was popular from the mid-1980s to early 1990s. It may also allude to the single lock hair-styles worn by devout members of religious orders in China, Japan and India, eg orthodox Hindus.
The Way of the Leaf of the Da’shain was a code of non-violence, vegetarianism, sharing, compassion, modesty, service, acceptance, fearlessness, and unswerving faithfulness even until death. This code has a real world parallel in Jainism (see The Age of Legends essay). The Jains wear modest, practical clothing and eschew ornamentation and so do the Da’shain (and some of the Aiel, see Aiel section).
Clothing marks rank among Aes Sedai, just as in all other societies.
Novices:The clothes a new novice wore to the White Tower are burned as a symbolic severance from her former life (The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone), the rest stored away and she is clothed completely in white – outer and under garments, belt, pouch and shoes (New Spring, A Wish Fulfilled). Real world convent novices dress in white as brides of Christ. White is the customary colour of mourning in the Wheel of Time world, not of marriage, so a novice does not ‘marry’ into the Tower. The novice’s former life is over (even if only temporarily) and she is now a blank page upon which the Tower will imprint its training. A novice is not allowed to wear jewellery (Winter’s Heart, Sea Folk and Kin).
Accepted: An Accepted still dresses in white, but with bands of the seven Ajah colours around the hem and cuffs of her dress - a partially written page of Tower training, barely above novice but considering her future Ajah. She is allowed to wear a little jewellery, and also must wear a great serpent ring on the third finger of her left hand. This is an allusion to the profession ceremony, the second stage in the consecration of a nun in the 15th to 16th century convents, where the nun received her ring as a bride of Christ (Mary Laven, Virgins of Venice).
Aes Sedai: Aes Sedai dress according to their taste and often wear the fashions and hairstyles of their former country in silk or fine wool. In one style popular among Aes Sedai (and some Andoran and Shienaran noblewomen too), the skirts are slashed with fabric of contrasting colour, often their Ajah colour:
Q106: What does it mean when dresses are slashed with a color?
Jordan: There are two possibilities meanings to this. The most usual one is that there is an underskirt of the color that says it is slashed with. The outer skirt has a slit in it, a slash, which is sewn in such a way that it is always open thus revealing its underneath color. The other way of doing this is there is this sort of pocket sown on the inside of that slash of the second color, so you are looking through the outer skirt into a depth, so it looks like it is a little pocket that other color in the skirt. This is not my invention, they did this during the Renaissance, and I believe earlier as well.
- Jordan at Dragoncon05
Slashing was popular in 16th Century Europe. The portrait left above of a woman with slashed bodice and sleeves has the fabric pulled through, while the slashed doublet on the portrait above right has the underlayer showing through the slash. The underneath fabric of the slashed skirts is probably more like the latter, and not pulled through the slash as it often is in slashed sleeves. (Jordan's description of a 'pocket' of colour is a misinterpretation of the depictions of slashing.)
Some Aes Sedai wear slashing on their silk riding skirts. This is terribly impractical, due to the potential for the slashes to catch on the riding gear, and also for the fabric to wear on the back skirts. The portraits above of men wearing paned trunk hose, gives an idea of what slashed skirts would be like. (It too was impractical for hard wear.)
Sisters may wear their great serpent ring on any finger or not at all as they choose. For formal dress they wear their shawls and Ajah colours. Shawls are required for a meeting of the Hall, an audience with the Amyrlin and ceremonies.
Q: Are all the Aes Sedai shawls identical, or are they unique to the individual?There is no mention of an Aes Sedai shawl without vines, although some have flowers or branches of other plants as well as vines.
Jordan: They are unique to each woman. The only mandatory parts are the white flame of Tar Valon, and the Ajah colored fringe.
Aes Sedai never dress completely in white for full mourning, but wear long white ribbons in their hair and tied around their arms as partial mourning. Sisters of the White Ajah do not consider their white attire to be full mourning, and wear glossy black ribbons (the sole use of black as a mourning colour in the Wheel of Time world we know of) for partial mourning (New Spring, Changes).
Stoles mark the two most highly ranked Aes Sedai: the Keeper (the colour denoting her former Ajah) and the Amyrlin (stripes of the colours of all the Ajahs because she is of all Ajahs – and none). The Amyrlin’s stole is a parallel of the pallium of the Pope (see Aes Sedai Laws and Customs: Administration article), particularly that of the earlier centuries which was a narrow stole. (Bishops and deacons also wear stoles).
Warders: often wear green coat and breeches for camouflage (Lord of Chaos, Threads Woven of Shadow). Warders tend to wear the hair style of their country. They also wear cloaks made of fancloth, camouflaging fabric which is made with a ter’angreal. It is not known what raw materials if any the ter’angreal uses, nor how it is operated.
Tower servants: have livery with the white flame of Tar Valon embroidered on the chest.
The code of dress among the Aiel has changed very little since the Age of Legends and the Da’shain Aiel. The cadin’sor, worn by all men and by all Maidens of the Spear, is an adaptation of the ancient Da’shain working clothes.The Aiel have no fashion; their attire has not varied over the centuries since they abandoned the Jain-like Way of the Leaf and split from the Da’shain (see Age of Legends section above). Their costume is strongly tribal, with the cut of the men’s and Maidens’ cadin’sor indicating clan and sept, and in the case of the warriors, society as well (Lord of Chaos, Matters of Toh). It is not known if the women’s or children’s clothes indicate clan in this way.
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
Interestingly, the Aiel and the Ebou Dari react positively to scars, the only societies we know who do so.
Men and Maidens of the Spear: wear the cadin’sor: coat, shirt and breeches in browns, and greys (and greens in the Westlands). The breeches are tucked into soft, laced knee-high boots. These are durable, practical clothes which allow easy movement and camouflage. They are similar to labourers’ clothes in the current Western world and to Central Asian nomad’s clothes (Frances Kennet, Ethnic Dress) and fit the Jain (and Da’shain) ideal of modesty, practicality and austerity (see Age of Legends section and essay). The illustration right is of a nomadic Kazakh man ironically on a horse, but then the costume was designed for life on horseback. Most dwellers in hot, dry climates wear layers of loose clothing, not fitted garments.
The shoufa is also worn by Aiel warriors: a brown cloth that sits around the neck and shoulders like a scarf and can be quickly wrapped around the head with a black veil attached with which they cover all the face except the eyes when intending to kill. It is similar to the headwrap of Arab men, but without a securing circlet. The painting, left, shows the keffiyeh.
The photo right is of a Tuareg man of the Sahara wearing a tagelmust, a head-garment that is both turban and veil. Like the Da’shain dust veil, it presents the inhalation of wind-borne dust and sand, all too abundant in the Sahara. The shoufa was adapted from the Da’shain’s dust veil when the Da’shain told the Aiel to hide their killers’ faces and is thus a travesty of the white cloth the Jain monks cover their mouth with so that they don’t inhale and kill microbes and insects (see The Age of Legends essay).
Men wear no jewellery. Maidens of the Spear own jewellery but only wear a piece occasionally at a special event (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).
Men and Maidens have short hair with a narrow, shoulder-length tail left at the back (The Great Hunt, Stedding Tsofu), a remnant of their Da'shain heritage. This style was known in earlier times as a queue, and more recently as a rattail, see illustration left. Aiel men are all clean shaven (Lord of Chaos, Beyond the Gate).
Women: Aiel women who are not warriors wear long bulky wool skirts and a wool shawl in grey or brown and a loose white algode blouse with a laced closure. Their hair is shoulder length or longer, and restrained with a folded grey or brown headscarf. For feast days a wealthy woman might wear her silk scarf (A Crown of Swords, The Bowl of Winds). They wear soft laced boots as footwear over white stockings (The Fires of Heaven, Changes), probably woollen stockings.
Aiel women wear many necklaces and bracelets, usually of gold or ivory but also of silver or gemstones, traded or looted from the Westlands. High-ranking or wealthy women such as Wise Ones and traders wear a great deal of jewellery; apprentices very little. Finger rings are not worn.
Aiel women’s dress has some similarities with that of Navajo women (skirt and blouse, see photo right) and of Mexican Indian women (shawl, blouse, wrap-around skirt, necklaces (Frances Kennet, Ethnic Dress)). The plain practical clothes follow the Jain (and Da’shain) ideal of modesty and austerity, but the jewellery does not, again showing deviation from the Da’shain. However, nomadic women in our world often wear their wealth on their bodies as jewellery.
Children: Young boys wear grey-brown robes and go barefoot. Young girls also go barefoot and wear a short dark skirt ending above the knees and a loose white algode blouse. Their hair is worn in two braids, one over each ear with bright ribbons twined in the braids to make tassels on the ends (The Shadow Rising, Need). The bright colours are a contrast to Aiel clothing and show the girls are too young for combat or to be a threat. Again the robes indicate a non-combatant; the gai’shain also wear robes, but there are white, a sign of purity – utter non-combatant. As in early modern times in Europe, the boys would be “breeched”; given breeches to wear as a sign they have left early childhood and are earning a living. In Europe this was between the ages of five to seven. However the age may be later for the Aiel; around ten, perhaps, which was when they chose their future occupation.
Gai’shain: are dressed in white monk-like robes with a deep cowl and are forbidden jewellery and weapons. Jain monks wear white (see photo right) and the gai’shain are the only Aiel that follow the non-violence of the Da’shain, which is a parallel of the Jain’s philosophy (see The Age of Legends essay). Perhaps there were ascetics among the Da’shain who dressed similarly and had more restrictive vows, or perhaps the white clothes were ceremonial clothes or meditative clothes for all Da’shain. (Furthermore, a gai’shain is naked until white clothes can be provided, since gai’shain must not wear anything regular Aiel wear; the Jains have a sect of naked monks).
Da’tsang: Those who are declared Despised Ones wear uncomfortable cowled robes of rough thick black wool, perhaps a parallel with penitent monks.
On the whole, Aiel dress is derived from that of the Jain, Central and Western Asian and North African nomads and Amerindians. Lately, there have been some changes to this mode of dress:
Maidens and Aielmen who carried the spear never wore anything on their heads except the shoufa, and never any color that would not fade into rocks and shadows, but now he saw men with a narrow scarlet headband. Perhaps one in four or five had a strip of cloth knotted around his temples, with a disc embroidered or painted above the brows, two joined teardrops, black and white.This marks them as siswai’aman – the Spears of the Dragon. There is a martial arts headband in the real world marked with the yin-yang symbol. Some tribes of American Indians (eg the Crow) wear a beaded headband with a beaded disc on the brow (Frances Kennet, Ethnic Dress).
- The Fires of Heaven, Other Battles, Other Weapons
Sevanna: From Winter’s Heart, until her capture, Sevanna wore only silk – dark grey silk skirts divided for riding, white or cream silk blouse laced very loosely and red silk headscarf with or without a circlet of gems upon it – plus a crimson cloak, red boots and large quantities of looted necklaces, bracelets and finger rings. Since her clothes are impractical and expensive and violate the Aiel values of work and hardiness, Sevanna was the first Aiel noble. When she was captured she was stripped of her clothing like a gai’shain, but her jewellery was left on as humiliation as for a da’tsang.
Sevanna’s Gai’shain: wore white silk robes and elaborately jewelled gold belts and collars/torcs (Winter’s Heart, Offers) as a mockery of the gai’shain and the Da’shain ideal.
Imitation Aiel: Admiration of the Aiel has led some young Cairhienin and Tairens to imitate aspects of Aiel dress. The women wear dark coat and breeches or riding dress, the men often keep their national dress and only adopt the Aiel hair style, and their gai’shain wear white coat-and-breeches or dresses (Lord of Chaos, The Wheel of A Life).
Those Cairhienin and Tairens imitating Aiel ways wear their hair cut short except for a tail at the back that is tied with a ribbon (Crossroads of Twilight, The Forging of a Hammer), or else merely gather their hair back and tie it with a ribbon (A Crown of Swords, To Be Alone). The Tairen men among them often keep their beards, even though Aiel men don’t wear them.
Falme and Toman Head: The men wear shirts, vests and cloaks embroidered with scrollwork and the women dresses embroidered with flowers, the richer the wearer, the more embroidery (The Great Hunt, Seanchan).
Countryside: The men wear long heavy sheepskin coats with the fleece turned in and spirals embroidered across the front, shirts with full sleeves, baggy trousers and fleece lined cloaks. Women wear heavy fleece coats over their dresses (The Great Hunt, Flame and Five Will Ride Forth).
Fleece coats, cloaks and vests decorated with spirals are Romanian. In the illustration right the Romanian youth wears an embroidered sheepskin coat. Romanian women also traditionally wore embroidered sheepskin coats in winter.
An embroidered sheepskin vest is shown in closeup below.
The horseman below left is wearing elaborately embroidered garments suitable for a rich or noble person.
The flowing white shirt of the Romanian man in the photo below right is embroidered with Almoth Plain-like scrolls as well as other motifs.
Goatee beards are commonly worn by men from Almoth Plain (Lord of Chaos, A Bitter Thought).
As in most cultures, the wealthy wear embroidered or brocaded silk often set with jewels, and gold, while the poor and middle-class wear wool or linen, brass and glass.
Interestingly, the Ebou Dari take pride in duelling scars; they and the Aiel are the only societies we know who react positively to scarification.
Women: The women wear dresses with a tight bodice and full skirt over brightly contrasting petticoats (often layers of petticoats if they can be afforded). To show off the petticoats, the skirts of noblewomen are raised in the front (a European fashion in the 17th and again in the late 18th centuries, see 1678 painting right and 1784 painting below) and may have a long train behind, and those of the commoners are sewn up above one knee. The higher the skirts are raised the more sexually inviting the wearer (Winter’s Heart, Three Women).
Necklines are revealing: those of the commoners are deep and narrow and outlined with embroidery (a Syrian style, Wolfgang Bruhn and Max Tilke, A Pictorial History of Costume) or a little lace, and those of the nobles are high with an oval or round cut-out (similar to a keyhole neckline) edged with lace or gold embroidery (A Crown of Swords, The Bowl of Winds). For a modern example of the keyhole neckline see here. Noblewomen also have their cuffs edged with lace, often covering their hands. A belt or sash is worn around the waist of the dress and holds a curved dagger.
Outside, a coloured straw hat tied with ribbons may be worn (A Crown of Swords, A Note from the Palace), a late 18th century to early 19th century European style (R. Turner Wilcox, The Mode in Hats and Headdress ), and nobles also may carry brightly coloured parasols (A Crown of Swords, White Plumes). The woman in the straw hat in the painting right dated 1795 also wears a lace mob cap under hers, which the Altarans did not do. Multiple finger rings and large hoop earrings are worn by most women. Ebou Dari women wear their hair in a variety of hairstyles, long or short as they please (A Crown of Swords, White Plumes).
Women soon to marry wear a wide close-fitting metal necklace from which their marriage knife will hang hilt-down once they marry. When they give birth to a child, a stone is set into the hilt of the knife, white for a son, red for a daughter. The stones are pearls or firedrops for the rich, glass for the poor. If their child dies under sixteen years of age, the setting of the stone is enamelled black; if the child is over sixteen and dies in a duel, the setting is enamelled red for a son and white for a daughter. The setting may be enamelled a different colour again for children over sixteen who die of illness or accident. Many Ebou Dari women remove the stones of their children over sixteen who refuse a duel, thus disowning them (Lord of Chaos, Leaning on the Knife). The sheath of a widow intending to remarry is blue, if she is not, it is white. The necklace in this painting, right may have been the inspiration for the marriage knife. There is another possible source of inspiration. In Elizabethan times, a pair of wedding knives in a sheath might be given to a bride as part of her trousseau. They would hang from her girdle or belt. Some historians, eg Peter Hewitt, have suggested that knives were also given to women during courting in England and that a woman might wear an empty sheath as a sign that she was soon to marry.
Men: wear tight breeches, plus:
the trademark of an Ebou Dari man is his long, elaborate vest. These vests are often as brightly coloured as a tinker’s clothes, and are worn alone or over pale shirts with wide sleeves. Sometimes the wealthy add a decorative silk coat slung about the shoulders, since it is deliberately too small to be worn conventionally. This “cape” is held with a chain of silver or gold strung between the narrow embroidered lapels. When the cape is worn a long narrow sword (rapier) is usually carried, in addition to the standard dagger.Most men wear finger rings and some wear hoop earrings. Noblemen wear their hair shoulder length and also wear high-crowned velvet hats (A Crown of Swords, White Plumes). Velvet hats were popular in Europe in the 16th century (R. Turner Wilcox, The Mode in Hats and Headdress ). All three men in the painting above are wearing velvet hats; that of the young man on the left has a high crown. The man on the right has a dagger attached to his belt. The vest-like garment over the doublet (tight jacket) on the man at the back is a jerkin.
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
Embroidered vests are typical of Hungary and the Balkan countries. Capes with hanging sleeves (see painting right) were worn in Western Europe in the second half of the 16th century and are also part of the folk costume of some southern European countries.
Pretties: of either sex have more extreme or revealing clothing. Mat wore tight breeches, very short coat, large quantities of lace and embroidery (and nearly gemstones as well) and very bright colours (Winter’s Heart, In Need of a Bellfounder). The sigil of house Mitsobar was embroidered on the left shoulder of his cloak.
Palace Servants wear the commoners’ fashion in a livery of green and white with the sigil of house Mitsobar embroidered on the breast.
Guilds: In Ebou Dar workers must be accredited to a guild, and this is indicated by clothing:
- beggars - brass ring on the little finger (A Crown of Swords, Festival of Birds), the smallest amount possible of the cheapest metal
- bookers – red vest with open book embroidered on the breast (A Crown of Swords, White Plumes)
- dockmen - green leather vest (A Crown of Swords, Six Stories)
- fishermen – long blue-and-green vest, double earring with two white stones on the lower hoop if the man owns other boats besides the one he captains (A Crown of Swords, The Triumph of Logic)
- goldsmiths - blue-and-white silk vest with guild sigil (A Crown of Swords, Mashiara), the silk indicating they are well paid
- labourers - plain woollen vest (Winter’s Heart, Another Plan)
- printers – vest with horizontal stripes
- salt workers – white vest
- sedan chair bearers - green-and-red striped vest (A Crown of Swords, Small Sacrifices)
- weavers - vests with vertical stripes
At some festivals, people wear masks – reminiscent of Venice.
The mode of dress varies from village to village in a way typical of Europe but is generally of a Mediterranean style.
Men: wear short coats embroidered with bright colours, the amount and style depending not just on wealth but also on town (angular scroll work in one town, flowers and birds in Jurador, small amount of embroidery in Maderin), dark baggy trousers tucked into knee high boots and belt knives (Crossroads of Twilight, Something Flickers and Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs and A Hell in Maderin).
Women: Their dress varies from area to area: bright narrow skirts embroidered with flowers in one town (Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs), dark high-necked dress embroidered across the bosom, and lace cap in Maderin, dark dress with long white apron and lace cap in Maderin (Knife of Dreams, A Hell in Maderin) and high necked embroidered dress in Jurador, with rich women also wearing an embroidered cloak, sheer veil and gold-work or ivory combs (Crossroads of Twilight, Something Flickers).
Women living in the countryside wear their long hair up either in coiled braids with gold work or ivory combs (Crossroads of Twilight, Something Flickers) or in a coiled bun on top of their head (Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs).
Women: wear large deep curving bonnets and embroidered dresses (with large bows on both in Amador) (The Fires of Heaven, A Hound of Darkness). Their hair is dressed in long ringlets. Noblewomen wear wide brimmed hats with coloured feathers (Lord of Chaos, Plans) and bright dresses.
Men: In the city men wear brightly coloured knee length coats; the cuffs of nobleman’s coats are edged with lace (Lord of Chaos, Prologue). In the countryside the knee length coats are plain black and buttoned to the neck (A Crown of Swords, White Plumes), see 1660 painting below left.
Apprentices wear vests or aprons (Knife of Dreams, A Manufactory). The king’s hawk handlers wear:
long, elaborately worked leather vests over billowing white shirts.In Amador, black is reserved for the livery of merchants’ servants (The Fires of Heaven, A Hound of Darkness). The king’s servants wear red and gold livery and court musicians blue and white (Lord of Chaos, Prologue and Plans).
- Lord of Chaos, Plans
Amadician costume and hair style is typical of mid to late 17th century Europe, especially England where there was religious (and political) division between the king’s supporters (bright, highly decorated clothes) and the Puritans (plain, subdued or dark clothes) in the country. Ribbon bows (gallants) were attached to various parts of garments in the mid 17th century (see 1660s painting of woman above right, and note her ringlets as well as the gallants) and again in the mid to late 18th century.
Deep brimmed (coal scuttle or Quaker) bonnets date from the 1790s to 1830 (R. Turner Wilcox, The Mode in Hats and Headdress ) and are nowadays associated with Quakers, Amish and Mennonites. The 1822 painting of the hat shop above shows ribbons festooning the coal-scuttle bonnets, but none on the dresses of the ladies.
Wide-brimmed hats trimmed with feathers (“Gainsborough” hats) were popular from the late 18th to early 19th centuries. The 1785 painting right is by the artist Gainsborough himself. The woman has bows on her hat and dress and probably embroidery on her dress too, but it is hard to be certain at this resolution. Her (powdered?) hair is in ringlets, typical of Amadician fashion and also a look back to the late 17th century (along with the bows).
Florid long coats for men occur from the second half of the 17th century to the late18th century. Most coats were decorated with braid or embroidery rather than lace – it was far more usual for the lace to be attached to the shirt cuffs than the coat cuffs - but I did find one example in a 1738 painting, left. In Amadicia, the puritanical influence may stem at least in part from the Whitecloaks. It is interesting that Morgase from Elizabethan/English Andor went to Amadicia for help.
Andoran women usually wear dresses with square cut necks showing little if any cleavage, and fitted sleeves. These dresses are occasionally embroidered with flowers and leaves, and are worn belted at the waist. Highborn ladies’ dresses are usually made of silk, with the embroidery and belt in metallic threads. Commoners wear the same basic style of dress, but in wool, usually with higher necklines and with an apron.High necked dresses are also common in Andor (see painting below right). Noblewomen’s dresses may be trimmed with lace, silver or gold braid, fur, gems or seed pearls as well as embroidery, and are closed with rows of tiny buttons at the back so that the wearer is unable to do up or undo her own clothing unaided. Sleeves may dangle over the hands (The Shadow Rising, Sharp Lessons). Skirts may be slashed with inserts of a contrasting colour. This could be a fashion copied from the Aes Sedai. Queen Morgase wore a red and white dress of pleats and a red stole with white lions for a formal audience (The Eye of the World, The Web Tightens). In the dressing-room noblewomen wear flower- or bird- embroidered gowns with wide sleeves (Crossroads of Twilight, A Bargain).
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
In a village on the Caemlyn Road the women wear white aprons with stripes and also deep bonnets similar to those of Amadicia (The Eye of the World, The Dark Waits). Footwear for commoners is thick leather shoes (Winter’s Heart, Expectation) and for noblewomen embroidered slippers (Winter’s Heart, A Cup of Tea).
Dresses with a square neck or a high neck and with fitted sleeves were popular in England in the 1530s to 1560s during Tudor times. This period includes the reign of Mary 1 and the early part of the long reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Andor, with its cult of the Queen, is quite ‘Elizabethan’. The woman in the 1535 painting above right wears a belt as well as a gown with square neckline and slashed sleeves, while that in the 1545 painting above left has a heavily embroidered square-necked gown and slashed sleeves and her hair is constrained in a net. (The Andoran Darkfriend Lady Shiaine wore this hairstyle in A Crown of Swords and Crossroads of Twilight). The high-necked gown in the c. 1559 painting below right is ornamented with seed pearls or gemstones.
Two Andoran monarchs have parallels that are actually of this historical period and all had auburn/red hair.
Queen Morgase has parallels to Queen Mary I of England ('Bloody Mary', see portrait above left), and to a lesser degree, Mary I's cousin Mary Queen of Scots (the portrait above right). Mary I is notorious for the Marian Persecutions, the burning of religious dissenters, which occurred in her reign. After her father Henry VIII declared his marriage to her mother Catherine of Aragon void, Mary was deemed illegitimate and her place in the line of succession was transferred to her half-sister, the future Elizabeth I. Mary was demoted to 'the Lady Mary' and expelled from Court, her servants were dismissed, and Mary herself was sent to serve as a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth. Morgase's reign ended in tyranny and social upheaval due to Rahvin's evil influence and Morgase fled the court with a tiny retinue. She eventually abdicated in favour of Elayne and served as maid to Faile and Sevanna for a time.
Mary Queen of Scots came to the throne even younger than Morgase and her marriages were just as unlucky, with one of her husbands becoming tyrannical and then dying in suspicious circumstances. Her nobles turned against her and she was forced to abdicate the throne. She fled after unsuccessfully attempting to take back her throne by military force. Morgase earned the animosity of her nobility under Rahvin's tyrannical influence. After fleeing Caemlyn, she tried to raise an army first with Bryne and then the Whitecloaks. Convinced she was a failure, Morgase abdicated in favour of Elayne. (More on the Tudor period and Andor in a future post).
Mary I's half-sister Queen Elizabeth I has parallels to Morgase's daughter Queen Elayne. The painting right is of the young Elizabeth. Elayne isn't a Virgin Queen, but she is likely to be an unmarried mother. (It is a solution to the problem of producing an heir without risking political interference or ambition from a husband, as happened to her mother Morgase.) Like Elayne, Elizabeth I had an unexpectedly difficult accession to the throne. She was cut out of the succession and, at one stage, imprisoned in a castle. Her long rule was looked upon as a Golden Age - as might Elayne's be, after the Last Battle. Provided she can keep her recklessness in check, she should live a very long time.
In the books there is a sense of the changeability of Andoran fashions. In The Fires of Heaven, Lini wears a dress ten years out of date while Gareth Bryne is kept in fashion by Caralin. In Rahvin’s court the women’s dresses are described as wide (The Dragon Reborn, A Message Out of the Shadow). These could be like the farthingales of Elizabethan times or perhaps the 18th century French court dresses and thus the Cairhien fashion.
Women wear a variety of hair styles. They may confine their hair in a hair net of silver or lace, as Lady Shiaine does, or wear it in a bun as the First Maid does (Winter’s Heart, Prologue).
In the Two Rivers girls wear their hair loose and long, holding it back from their face with a ribbon. When mature enough to be considered a woman (usually 16 or older), the Women’s Circle allow her to wear it in a single long braid (The Eye of the World, The Peddler).
Andoran men wear trousers and shirts with a coat over all. The coat is made with turned back cuffs and an upstanding collar. Among the nobility the material is often silk or brocade, and the coat is often embroidered in metallic threads. Common men wear strong serviceable wool.Coats also may have long collars rather than high collars: Mat and Rand own long collared coats with embroidery on the lapels (Lord of Chaos, Lion on the Hill). Rich merchants wear long velvet coats and cloth slippers ( The Eye of the World, Whitebridge). Boots are worn by most men. Shirts are usually of linen and in some villages may be striped (The Eye of the World, The Dark Waits).
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
Turned back cuffs were popular in Europe in the late 17th to late 18th centuries, as were long velvet coats (Diary of Samuel Pepys). The two 18th century high-collared embroidered coats with metallic embroidery above right would have been owned by a rich man and worn on formal occasions. Note that waistcoats were usually worn with these coats in the real world, although they are not in The Wheel of Time world. Long collars were worn in the mid 18th century (see 1762 painting left of man wearing long-collared coat and boots).
Bryne wears a curl-brimmed, high-crowned velvet hat in the latest fashion in The Fires of Heaven, Fanning the Sparks. This is probably a toque, a velvet hat popular in Europe in the second half of the 16th century, perhaps the ‘Spanish toque’, see 1600 painting right. In Market Sheran, Paitr wore a cloth cap with a feather in it (The Eye of the World, The Dark Waits).
Palace servants wear a livery of red with white collars and cuffs and the White Lion of Andor upon their [left breasts].The stable servants wear the White Lion on the shoulder but do not have the white collar and cuffs, white cuffs being likely to soil rapidly in stables. The First Maid and First Clerk also wear a formal scarlet tabard with the White Lion on it over this livery (Crossroads of Twilight, What Wise Ones Know).
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
Men: Domani men wear tight breeches, flowing or ruffled white shirt (Lord of Chaos, Threads Woven of Shadow and The Gathering Storm, Before the Stone of Tear), short coat (if they wear one) (A Crown of Swords, White Plumes), traditional costume in Spain, see photo right), plus earrings, and often bracelets or necklaces as well. Miners wear long leather vests (Lord of Chaos, Prologue).
Noblemen wear beauty patches, popular with both sexes in Elizabethan and Stuart times and in France in the 18th century fashion (see Private Lives article, and illustration of 18th century woman left).
Domani men usually have long hair. Long, thin moustaches are popular (Lord of Chaos,The Sending).
Women: Domani dresses are considered scandalous by other nations:
Their dresses cover their bodies from neck to toes, but are barely opaque and cling to every curve, revealing nothing while hinting at everything.Female Domani clothing covers the whole body in keeping with the Arabian influence in Arad Doman (see Origin of Place Names article) but the clinging translucent dresses (similar to the one on the woman on the couch in the painting right, although not with her bare arms) are not suited to public wear according to the social mores of other nations and, along with the seductive talents of Domani women, are perhaps a reference to the harem, especially the Western idea of a harem as in the illustration, but with the difference that Domani women are not sequestered or kept from public view – quite the reverse. Furthermore, in the real world:
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
They are made of very thin wool, linen or silk (actually, linen doesn’t drape or cling well).
Domani are female professional singer-actors belonging to the lower classes in the Punjab. They use exaggeration, absurdity, malapropism, comic gags and lewd references.This Indian influence may also contribute to the seductiveness and open attitudes to sexuality of the female Domani and makes an interesting combination with the Arabian influence.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica
Nynaeve wore her own, modest version of Domani dress, including a blue one with “trim like clouds” (The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness). This could be a reference to the cloud collar which originated in the Sui Dynasty in China and was worn by noblewomen, and later became popular in Persia in the Middle Ages. She also wore the latest Domani fashion of a sash over her belt (The Gathering Storm, Tears From Steel).
Embroidered cloaks are worn when cold (Winter’s Heart, An Unexpected Encounter). Like Domani noblemen, noblewomen wear jewellery with their house sigils (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). Three Domani women wore tall chain-necklaces of gold that covered their entire necks in New Spring, The Evening Star. These may no longer be in fashion. While these necklaces may be similar to the brass neck coils the Padaung women of Myanmar wear, or the stack of brass and copper neck rings the Ndebele women of South Africa wear, they are most likely wide chain chokers.
Noblewomen usually wear their hair long and loose (The Great Hunt, Prologue), again a possible reference to the harem.
Nobles of both sexes wear robes of silk in the bedroom, Rand’s was dark red with black dragons embroidered on the arms (The Gathering Storm, A Conversation With the Dragon) and Min’s was yellow and perhaps without embroidery. Apart from showing Rand rather sinisterly wearing Moridin’s colours, the robes are perhaps like the Han Chinese Daopao (see photo above left) but with some of the embroidery of the dragon robes of the Imperial Chinese court (see photo right).
The distinguishing feature of Arafellin fashion is a fondness for bells, which may be worn by both men and women (Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue) in their hair, on clothing or on boot tops. The bells may be silver or brass. Bells feature in the outfits of Morris dancers, and at times Indian and belly dancers, and in the traditional dress of the Baltic nations. They are an important ornament of the costume of the Bagobo, an indigenous Philippino people.
Men’s boots have turned down tops and may reach the thigh ( The Fires of Heaven, Encounters in Samara). Such boots were popular in Europe in the 17th to early 19th centuries (see 1799 painting left).
Arafellin men usually wear their hair in two braids, one over each ear (an American Indian style, see photo of Sioux chief, right), with bells on them. Those whose hair is thinning may wear their hair cut short (The Path of Daggers, Prologue).
Women may wear bells in their hair (Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue).
Asha’man wear a high collared black coat in the Andoran style (see above, which is based on early 19th century men's fashion (see 1810s painting right of a high collared black coat and breeches, albeit very ornate, tied with a sash and worn with shoes and not boots).
A Dedicated wears a silver sword pin on one side of their collar and a full Asha’man a red and gold dragon pin on the other side as well. According to Team Jordan and reports from RJ's booksignings, the sword is on the left collar tab of the coat cupped to catch rainwater, which represents luck, and the dragon is on the right collar tab. Both sword and dragon are attacking the neck.
Taim had blue and gold dragons winding around the sleeves of his coat from cuff to elbow “in imitation of the Dragons on Rand’s arms” (Winter’s Heart, Prologue). He wanted to replace Rand as the Dragon or at least do evil in Rand’s name.
The Asha’man’s black coats, like their titles of Storm Leader and Attack Leader (and M’Hael and Hitler's title Der Fuhrer both mean The Leader), are an allusion to the Nazi Waffen SS, the military wing of the Nazi secret police who also had a black dress uniform (see photo right and The Shadow's Influence on the Black Tower essay). In World War II the Waffen SS committed atrocities in occupied territories and when capturing territory. The Italian fascists also had Black Shirt battalions who served in independent groups or as assault battalions attached to the regular army divisions in World War II.
Most of the Shadow’s characters have a strong Nazi influence and their clothing was an early hint that at least some of the Asha’man had been subverted. Even those on the side of the Light kill in a horrific way in battle.
Cairhienin love order and dislike flamboyance.
Women: wear dark-coloured, high-necked dresses unless they live in the Foregate (see below). For the wealthier, the dresses may be edged with lighter coloured lace at the neck and at the cuffs, where the lace falls over the hands. Noblewomen have narrow stripes of their house colours across the front of the dress starting at the collar, the more stripes, the higher ranking the noble (see 1764 painting above left, of dress with stripes on bodice and lace falls at cuff edges, although it is lower cut and in brighter colours than Cairhienin would choose). These stripes are also described as slashes of colour (The Great Hunt, Saidin).
Some women thread a fine golden chain through their hair from which hangs a small clear stone centred on their forehead, the keseira. Similar real world examples might be the filets women wore to restrain their hair in the early 16th century (see 1500s painting, above right) or the jewelled or velvet frontlets they wore on their foreheads under their headdresses in the late 14th to 15th centuries. Another possibility is this 1832 painting of a woman in blue (Moiraine?) with head jewellery that dangles on her forehead.
For formal wear, the noblewomen’s dresses are very wide, so that they have to turn sideways to pass through a doorway of ordinary width (The Great Hunt, Dangerous Words), and would require paniers to hold the skirts out (see Private Lives essay). This was a style popular in 18th century Europe, especially France. The 1778 painting above left is of Marie Antoinette in a ruched panier dress. The 1758-62 painting of a lady wearing an embroidered panier dress with lace edged sleeves above right is interesting because she also wears beauty patches which are popular in Arad Doman (see above) and a necklace that might have been inspiration for the Altaran marriage knife (see above).
Cairhienin noblewomen wear their hair in an elaborate tower of curls on important occasions, every woman having a different arrangement (The Great Hunt, Dangerous Words); the higher the woman’s rank, the more elaborate and high the tower (The Fires of Heaven, News Comes to Cairhien), often reaching a foot high. This is a 1770s to 1780s European court fashion (see 1777 painting right and also painting of Marie Antoinette above). The hairstyles took a long time to arrange and were consequently washed infrequently and were notorious for harbouring parasites (see Private Lives article). Cairhienin women depend a great deal on their hairdressers to achieve something unique and remarkable, yet (hopefully) flattering, which is why Moiraine assured Siuan that the best hairdressers were true tyrants (New Spring, Business in the City). Power dressing!; by increasing the amount of space they take up, these small women will appear more important. Plus, they show they can afford all that silk and the time spent with a skilled hairdresser.
The similarity of Cairhienin dresses and hair styles to the court dress in 18th century Europe, especially France (Wolfgang Bruhn and Max Tilke, A Pictorial History of Costume) is meant to refer to the scheming French court and the Sun King Louis XIV (1638-1715) in particular, since Cairhien has the Sun Throne. This was a time when the power of the French monarchy was at its most absolute and social conditions at their most unequal, and before the century was out the regime was over-turned. The fact that the real world parallels to Cairhien fashions date from the period just before the French Revolution (post-dating Louis XIV's reign) reveals the decadence of the Cairhien court and anticipates the chaos and destruction that Rand (and Thom and Couladin) would bring to the nation.
Her attendants, even if nobly born, do not either, but wear the Queen’s house colours in vertical stripes on their skirts (A Crown of Swords, A Broken Crown). Such striped skirts also occurred in the 1750s to 60s, see the 1765 painting right.
The marriage of the French Sun King’s ostentatious court and the restrained late Edo period Japan, Land of the Rising Sun, to form Cairhienin culture is somewhat forced. The panier dress was developed as a way of holding out the skirts like an artist’s canvas to display the elaborate embroidery or lace and ruching decoration. The Cairhienin austere and modest dress – deliberately the opposite of the very low cut, colourful and florid European court dress – has no reason for wide paniers. There is no decoration to display and thus little point to the style. Jordan would later blend real world cultures more successfully for his other nations and eliminate clashing elements.
Men: wear dark clothes unless they live in the Foregate (see below). Those of commoners are plain. Noblemen have narrow stripes of their house colours across the front of the coat starting at the collar, the more stripes, the higher ranking the noble. They also often wear lace at their wrists that hangs over their hands. Bell-shaped or flat velvet caps are worn by many noblemen (The Great Hunt, Dangerous Words) (fashionable in Europe in the 16th century, R. Turner Wilcox, The Mode in Hats and Headdress , see 1528 painting, right). Cairhienin men wear little jewellery – a gemstone signet ring and collar pin set would be unusually showy (Winter’s Heart, Prologue).
Cairhienin men are clean shaven and generally wear their hair long. In the 970s, Moiraine’s father wore his hair in a club at the nape of his neck (New Spring, It Finishes). Some nobles have adopted the officer’s fashion of shaving and powdering the front of their heads and leaving the rest long. The hairstyle is similar to that of the Samurai and it is also the Celtic tonsure (see grey-bearded man in the right of the painting above left). Common soldiers have a bowl cut (The Great Hunt, The Nine Rings) (see painting above right).
Foregaters: Their clothes are brightly coloured (the different pieces may clash with each other) and embroidered and often second-hand or adapted from other countries (The Great Hunt, Cairhien). Women wear shawls or scarves with their dresses.
Servants: wear house colours in stripes on the cuffs or collar of their dark clothes and sometimes the house badge embroidered on the breast. The monarch’s servants have sleeves striped in the house colours and the Rising Sun on the left breast. Servants of higher rank wear more colour on their livery than those lower (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).
A lord’s fool might wear an over-sized striped coat decorated with bells (The Shadow Rising, Hard Heads), as court jesters did.
Of all the societies, Far Madding (along with the Aes Sedai, though that may change) has the least sexual equality.
Men: are dressed according to the style and quality that their wives permit. They mostly dress in dull colours with brighter embroidery on the chest and shoulders (Winter’s Heart, Out of Thin Air).
Far Madding men wear their hair long, sometimes waist-length, tied out of the way at the neck with a simple cord, or silver or jewelled clip, depending on what their wife can afford (Winter’s Heart, Out of Thin Air). Very long hair hanging down the back is an indication of youth, and here possibly immaturity as well. These males are seen as boys, not men. Jordan reverses the gender roles in Far Madding to make a social comment.
In our world, men wore such queues in the 18th century - either their own hair or a wig, but usually powdered. More recently, men have worn their hair long and tied back at times since the 1960s, a time of reevaluation of gender roles.
Women: wear high-necked dresses heavily embroidered with flowers and birds on the bodice and shoulders (Winter’s Heart, Out of Thin Air). The Counsels wear:
flowing blue silk robes worn over their dresses like sleeveless coats, richly embroidered in gold and trailing behind them on the floor…Each woman wore a large pendant in the shape of that gold-rimmed red oval suspended from a necklace of heavy golden links, and the same shape was repeated at the front of each narrow golden diadem. On one woman, [the First Counsel], the red ovals were made of rubies, not enamel, and sapphires and moonstones almost hid the golden circlet on her brows, and she wore a heavy golden signet ring on her right forefinger.Long sleeveless robes over dresses were a fashion of European royalty in the late 15th century (Wolfgang Bruhn and Max Tilke, A Pictorial History of Costume), see the two women in the foreground of the 1490 painting, above right.
- Winter’s Heart, Among the Counsels
Women wear their hair in a bun at the top or back of their heads, or a roll along the top, sometimes with ivory combs inserted (Winter’s Heart, A Portion of Wisdom). Cadsuane’s hairstyle is that of her native Far Madding and conveniently allows her to wear her ter'angreal without being too obvious.
The style is similar to those of Victorian and Edwardian ladies, see 1898 painting left, and perhaps is meant to evoke images of formidable and strict elderly female relatives. Note that this is a time when women's suffrage became an issue. The men in Far Madding might reach this point, considering that thousands of Borderlander soldiers were camped within the city's boundaries.
Women also wore their hair raised in rolls or buns pulled back from the face in the Renaissance but they usually stretched it over wire frames to achieve the effect and covered their hairdo with a hat.
Servants: Palace serving men wear blue coats or vests, those of higher rank having the golden Sword and Hand embroidered on the left breast (Winter’s Heart, Among the Counsels).
Women: have dresses embellished with lace and embroidery. Commoners wear long aprons over their dress and wear fringed scarves and ribbons on special occasions (The Dragon Reborn, Within the Weave). Long hair may be restrained by a cap of coloured net (The Path of Daggers, Changes). After the travails of Malden, Queen Alliandre wore golden chains lacing her hair (The Gathering Storm, Embers and Ash). Jewelled nets and cauls were popular in the 1560s-1570s (see 1564 painting above), but perhaps Victorian fashion is closer in style to Ghealdanin costume: the woman in the 1861 painting right wears a hair net called a snood and her dress has lace and embroidery.
Men: wear embroidered coats.
Gleemen are marked by their coat of many colours:
His cloak seemed a mass of patches, in odd shapes and sizes, fluttering with every breath of air, patches in a hundred colors. It was really quite thick, Rand saw, despite what Master al'Vere had said, with the patches merely sewn on like decorations.Thom’s baggy sleeves and big pockets are not a fashion or national costume, but are for hiding things in when performing sleight of hand. Unlike many gleemen, Thom is comparatively well-off and his cloak offers him plenty of warmth. Less skilled gleeman would not be so fortunate and the patches on their thread-bare cloaks would cover repairs.
"The gleeman!" Egwene whispered excitedly.
The white-haired man whirled, cloak flaring. His long coat had odd, baggy sleeves and big pockets.
- The Eye of the World, The Gleeman
The gleemen’s cloak is a type of crazy patchwork in motley colours and thus has many interesting associations. In medieval and Renaissance times the court fool was dressed in motley (see photo right by bdk). Since the fool did not wear any lord’s colours or following the dress laws he was outside the social hierarchy and was able to speak more freely. In more modern times motley is regarded as appearing strange or of low quality.
Patchwork possibly originated in medieval European banners, livery and surcoats, but by 1700 was being made for display in houses, where the patches were regularly shaped and in motley colours at first, and often some were embroidered with motifs (see photo left of Annette Glare’s sampler in the style of early domestic patchwork).
In Victorian times crazy patchwork became popular. The patches were irregularly shaped and in a large variety of colours and fabrics, often recycled from clothing.
The edges of the patches and many of the patches themselves were heavily embroidered (see photo right of a detail of my crazy patchwork sampler). Due to its association with recycling, poverty and motley, crazy patchwork is often derided by embroiderers and patchwork quilters, yet it requires skill to arrange the patches into a cohesive whole, just as it requires skill to be a gleeman. Gleemen are loved by the poor, but despised by the rich. In Cairhien, Barthanes’ noble guests laughed at Thom, who ironically is a former renowned court bard (The Great Hunt, The Wheel Weaves).
Jordan’s innovation was for the patches to be only partially attached. Not being ‘properly sewn’ together they emphasise the gleeman’s vagrant lifestyle. The patches flutter like pennants recalling patchwork’s origin in medieval heraldic banners. The gleeman’s motley cloak is a perfect symbol of their poverty and wandering life, and their freedom from allegiance and class distinction. Its eye-catching appearance is meant for display and to advertise that they are a performer. And perhaps there is the biblical reference of the coat of many colours which marked out Joseph.
The motley patches probably have unhemmed edges since after the Trolloc attack on Winternight,
Thom Merrilin sat cross-legged on the old foundation stones, carefully snipping singed edges from the patches on his cloak with a pair of small scissors.I made a sampler of a gleeman’s cloak (see photo left) in an obviously homemade style, as if a gleeman had made it himself after obtaining fabric offcuts from a seamstress, perhaps in exchange for telling her a story. The base fabric of a gleeman's cloak would be a dark coloured wool - durable, cheap and constrasting with the colours of the patches while not showing the dirt of travel. I chose black felt.
- The Eye of the World, Out of the Woods
Unfortunately Jordan did not say how the patches were attached; whether they were attached in the centre with a few stitches like a button would be, see the orange-red patch at the centre top of the piece, or along one edge with running or back stitch, as all the other patches in the sampler are. The latter fluttered far better in the breeze. I deliberately chose a few fabric pieces with worn edges - the green patch in the top left corner has a hole in it - as a reminder that as patches became damaged or worn, the gleeman would replace them by snipping off the old one and stitching in the new.
The photo right is of an Australian bushman’s cape made by Robin Kaltenbach from recycled suiting fabrics. The patches in this piece have raw and sometimes loose edges. During the early 20th century people living in remoter parts of Australia made bush quilts called waggas (pronounced "woggas") out of recycled or tailor's sample fabrics and lined them with hessian or coarse cotton from sacks.
Men: wear a long dark coat with raised collar (Lord of Chaos, Tellings of the Wheel), the coats of the rich having embroidery on lapels and sleeves. Such coats were worn by European men in the late 18th to early 19th centuries (see 1792 painting right, of an unadorned coat).
Lords also wear lace at neck and wrists and often wear gold or silver fringing on their boots (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). Fringed boots are a US style but are usually of hide. In the 18th to early 19th centuries, men wore gold tassels on their black hessian boots (see drawing below left). Illianer boots are probably similar in style to hessians, but with a fringe instead of a tassel.
The Council of Nine wear a green silk sash with nine golden bees upon it slanted across their chest (A Crown of Swords, A Crown of Swords).
Men usually wear shoulder length hair and a beard with their upper lip bare, a chin curtain beard (The Eye of the World, Dust on the Wind). This style of beard was fashionable in Victorian times - Abraham Lincoln wore one - but worn with hair much shorter than shoulder length.
Women: Dresses have low cut necklines, and hems that end just above ankle height to show their slippers and coloured stockings (A Crown of Swords, A Crown of Swords). The slippers of the rich are heavily embroidered in gold or silver thread. This is a fashion of France and Germany in the early 1830s, see 1832-4 painting, right, although the absence of sleeves and the plain silk satin slippers with satin ribbons criss-crossing the legs are not Illianer fashion. Note that the lady in blue is wearing a headpiece that could have inspired the Cairhienin keseira.
Outside, women of all classes may wear wide brimmed hats with attached scarves that are wound around the neck (The Dragon Reborn, Easing the Badger). Some Illianer women wear their hair up (cooler in the heat); rolled at the back of the head, for instance (The Great Hunt, Leavetakings).
Livery: Royal Palace livery is green and yellow.
Women: Noblewomen wear brightly coloured high-waisted dresses belted under the breasts (a European style of the early 19th century, though usually with a sash, not a belt) and embroidered down the sleeves and around the hem (New Spring, An Answer). The red dress in the 1808 painting right has a belt and embroidery around the sleeve band and would have matching embroidery around the hem. Kandori dresses would have long sleeves.
In 978-9 NE, women wore sheer lace veils, flouting the Borderland law that none may wear their face covered in a town (New Spring, Into Canluum).
Country women wear heavily embroidered pale blouses and wide trousers (culottes) (New Spring, Breakfast in Manala). Coloured ribbons are worn in the hair on special occasions (New Spring, Into Canluum). The traditional dress of some parts of Albania and Serbia is similar but has less embroidery (Wolfgang Bruhn and Max Tilke, A Pictorial History of Costume). The photo left is of an Albanian woman.
Women’s hair may be braided (one woman has four long braids, New Spring, Making Use of Invisibility) or worn in a thick roll on the nape of the neck (New Spring, Keeping Custom).
Merchants wear one to three silver chains across the chest and gemstone or pearl stud earrings; the more chains the higher ranking the merchant in the guild/s (Winter’s Heart, An Unexpected Encounter). Chains across the bodice are part of traditional Austrian costume (Frances Kennet, Ethnic Dress and see photos above).
Men: Noblemen wear dull colours and often wear chains over coats and also earrings (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). Male merchants wear chains and earrings like the female ones.
Forked beards are a feature of Kandori national style (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). They were popular in Anglo-Saxon times and in the 16th century, see engraving above right.
Countrymen wear baggy breeches with bright embroidery down the legs (New Spring, Into Canluum) and bright coats with elaborate embroidery (New Spring, Breakfast in Manala). This is similar to the costume of the Ottoman Turks, see 1700-30 painting, above left, but with more embroidery and minus the turban.
Servants: Palace servants including the shatayan wear red-and-green livery often with the Red Horse embroidered on the shoulders (New Spring, Keeping Custom).
Men: wear a dark knee length coat, white shirt and tight black breeches. They may have a small amount of embroidery on the sleeves (New Spring, Keeping Custom).
Malkier has much social custom surrounding hair. A man grows his hair throughout childhood until he loses his virginity. His lover then cuts his long hair to shoulder length and he weaves a daori with the off-cuts which she keeps until he marries and then hands to his bride (New Spring, Keeping Custom). Goodness knows what she does with it! When considered a man, he is given a braided leather cord, the hadori, by other men as a symbol of his adulthood and a reminder that he takes responsibility for his decisions and actions. The hadori is worn around the forehead to hold the hair back (The Eye of the World, Watchers and Hunters). (American Indians wear headbands). Lan's hair was first cut when he was 15 and he received the hadori at age 16.
The first haircut has special significance in many cultures or religions and is often an important ritual. In some countries (eg. China, Egypt, Thailand, Albania, Ukraine, India, Israel) the child's head is shaved except for one lock, or sometimes a few locks, of hair. These locks are usually cut off upon adulthood. In China a baby's head was shaved at one month to remove the foetal hair, except for a lock at the crown of the head. The cut hair was tied with red string and kept as a memento.
Perhaps the longest delayed first haircut for males (except for Sikhs who don't cut their hair at all) was in pre 18th century Poland where it took place between the age of 7 and 10 years old. Performed by the father it symbolised the boy's transition from childhood and his mother's side to the world of men, and his father's guidance. This is perhaps the closest parallel of the Malkieri practice.
Women: paint a small dot, the ki’sain, on their foreheads:
in pledge that they would swear their sons to oppose the Shadow while they breathed.The ki’sain is blue for an unmarried woman (New Spring, An Answer), red for a married (Winter’s Heart, Sea Folk and Kin) and white for a widow (New Spring, Keeping Custom). In the real world, this is an Indian custom: married Hindu women wear a red dot on their foreheads (see photo, right).
- New Spring, Into Canluum
Malkieri women grow their hair very long (New Spring, Keeping Custom). Noblewomen wear it loose, but this might be impractical for outdoor workers. Women in deepest mourning cut their hair short in a ragged manner (New Spring, Epilogue).
Written by Linda, August 2006, revised 2010 and updated March 2014