This post is the first of a series on the Costume of The Wheel of Time world.
Names such as Belcelona and Sanche, and the prevalence of coolie hats and brocaded silk coats with puffy striped sleeves indicate that the two major real world influences on Tear are 16th century Moorish Spain and East Asia (and Spain had a colony in East Asia - the Philippines). Some of the Tairen people are dark-skinned, again suggesting a Moorish influence.
One of the many things the Moors brought to Spain was the usage of geometric pattern for decoration. A popular Tairen motif in textiles is the Tairen maze, a geometric design used as a border on rugs and clothing and as panels on sleeves and bodices. These would be comparable to the geometric bands of North African (Moorish) design such as those on the borders of the rug right (picture from www.tunisiaonlinenews.com/?p=23142).
I thought I'd try my hand at some WOT-inspired embroidery and have embroidered three samples of Tairen mazes in materials and colours consistent with what would have been available in that nation in RJ’s world (which the clothes and inventions show is roughly equivalent to the 16th to 18th century of our world.)
The first Tairen maze I embroidered (shown right, click to enlarge) is part of a simple maze border cross-stitched in indigo-coloured thread on raw silk of slightly uneven weave (as would come off a handloom) and a deep red colour similar to the madder dye that would be historically authentic for the period. Likewise indigo was the usual blue dye-stuff of the time. Red and blue Tairen mazes are mentioned a few times in the books:
There were even silk carpets on the floor, dark red on dark blue, woven in the Tairen maze.The second sampler is a sleeve panel of a nobleman’s coat – Mat’s coat to be precise. In Winter’s Heart he was described as wearing a coat:
- The Dragon Reborn, Into the Stone
She was thrown down on layered carpets, the edge of a red-and-blue Tairen maze...
- A Crown of Swords, Spears
blue enough for a Tinker, worked in red and gold Tairen mazes across the chest and down the sleeves for good measure.The maze is embroidered in chain stitch in red silk and gold thread (not real gold, but the thread does have silver in it) on the brightest blue silk satin I could find. It’s supposed to be over-the-top but it could have been worse! Bear in mind that Tylin wanted to scatter gems over the fabric as well. Apparently it pays to advertise that you have a toy boy. Again, click the photo to enlarge.
He did not like recalling what he had been forced to go through to convince Tylin to leave off the pearls and sapphires and the Light alone knew what else she had wanted.
- Winter’s Heart, In Need of a Bellfounder
The last sampler was the most difficult and required considerable familiarity with the maze motif. In Lord of Chaos, Siuan Sanche had a Tairen maze of tiny blue flowers embroidered on her grey riding dress:
Studying her divided gray skirts, not looking at anyone, [Siuan] seemed to be thinking aloud.My version has daisies (in single chain stitch and French knots) intertwined with a flowering vine (in French knots, split back stitch and single chain) in silk thread on fairly hard-wearing grey ribbed moired (the swirly effect) silk. At around 13 cm (5 inches) wide, the maze border is in proportion to edge the hem of a dress. I tried to be consistent with Siuan’s style as well as following the maze design. She is known to prefer an informal, wildflower look:
- A Crown of Swords, The Figurehead
Incongruously, Egwene noticed that [Siuan’s] dress had tiny blue flowers embroidered in a wide Tairen maze around the bottom, a band that made the divided skirts seem one when she was still. Another band curved becomingly across the bodice. Concern for her clothes, that they be pretty instead of just suitable, was certainly a small change, looking at it one way— she never took it to extremes—yet in another, it was as drastic as her face.
- A Crown of Swords, A Pair of Silverpike
Siuan enjoyed flowers, but she preferred a bouquet of colors, like a field of wildflowers in miniature.So while the flowers all had to be blue, I made each flower slightly different and imperfect and the vines irregularly sinuous with the odd flower dropping off. Siuan also owns a yellow linen dress with a blue Tairen maze around the neckline.
- The Fires of Heaven, What Can Be Learned in Dreams
I'll be looking into the embroidery styles of the other nations too. I intend to sew many more items to compile a ‘sampler book’ of different Wheel of Time embroideries.