Sunday, March 24, 2002

Costume in the Wheel of Time Part 2

By Linda

This is the second part of an article which 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. The article was split due to its size. Part 1 contains the introduction and the costume of nations from the Age of Legends to Malkier and Part 2 contains the costume of nations from Mayene to Whitecloaks and Miscellaneous. (Underwear is described in the Private Lives article).


Berelain’s riding dresses are high-necked, sometimes with a thick ruff of lace (a late 16th to early 17th century style, see 1590's painting, left), but her other dresses are of very thin silk and have very low or off the shoulder (The Dragon Reborn, People of the Dragon) necklines (late 17th century to 18th century styles, see 1687 painting, right). She mostly wears her long hair loose, although in the real-world hair was worn up when ruffs were fashionable, otherwise the ruff wouldn't sit as elegantly.

Berelain's serving women wear blue-and-gold-striped skirts (Winter’s Heart, Flags).


The men perform bare-chested and wearing bright coloured breeches. Luca has a red silk cloak adorned with golden stars and comets (Winter’s Heart, In Need of a Bellfounder).

The female performers usually wear high-necked dresses covered in sequins or spangles (The Fires of Heaven, Performances in Samara), decoration we have not seen elsewhere, yet Nynaeve and Elayne appeared familiar with them. However, Muelin the contortionist wears gauzy breeches and matching tight vest, Birgitte and Nynaeve wore bright tight dresses with very low square necklines and Elayne a sequined white coat and breeches and sheer white silk blouse with ruffles at neck (The Fires of Heaven, The Price of a Ship).


Men: wear high crowned hats (The Fires of Heaven, The Nine Horse Hitch), and long bright knee-length coats (Lord of Chaos, A Different Dance), often very elaborately embroidered, and with an Andoran-style high collar (Robert Jordan, Murandy notes). They often wear considerable amounts of lace (The Path of Daggers, Out on the Ice). Lugard is a lace-making centre, consistent with the Irish flavour of Murandy. Long coats and abundant lace is typical of the 1680s, see 1684 painting above right. High crowned hats were popular in Europe in the 1650s‒60s and again in the 1790s, see 1656 painting above left. Murandian men occasionally wear a single earring, which may contain a jewel, or a piece of colored glass if they can't afford jewels (Robert Jordan, Murandy notes).

The men wax their moustaches to points and curl them upwards (The Shadow Rising, Rumours), see photo right, although Murandian men wear their hair longer. Some have a beard on the point of their chin (Lord of Chaos, Weaves of the Power).

Women: in the south of Murandy, women wear dresses ending above the ankles or at mid-calf length in the Illianer style (The Fires of Heaven, The Nine Horse Hitch), a European fashion of 1830‒5, see 1830 painting left. In the north, their dress strongly resembles that of Andor. They may carry a handkerchief of Lugard lace. Commoners may wear narrow colourful aprons (villagers) or striped aprons (Lugarders) and perhaps a bright scarf around the head.

The women’s hair may hang loose, or be tied up in a headscarf (The Fires of Heaven, The Nine Horse Hitch).


Men: wear a wool coat fitted to the waist, then flaring out to knee, baggy trousers and high boots with turned down tops ( Lord of Chaos, From the Stedding, and Crossroads of Twilight, A Strengthening Storm). For wet weather, they wear a raincoat of oiled cloth (Knife of Dreams, Vows).

Ogier men don’t usually grow (or try to grow) moustaches or a beard while still in their nineties—unless their wife thinks it’s a good idea (Knife of Dreams, Vows). They are normally cleanshaven at this age. Old Ogier men have long white moustaches that fall past their chin and long narrow beards hanging to their chest.

Women: wear vine and flower embroidered dresses and cloaks, the older the Ogier, the more embroidery (The Great Hunt, Stedding Tsofu). They wear a raincoat of oiled cloth in wet weather.


Women: wear a very high-necked dress with long or wide sleeves and narrow skirts. Skirts reach just above the floor (Robert Jordan, Saldaea notes). Highborn women usually wear fine embroidery on their dress:

this can range from very simple to very intricate, from trim on the neckline, collar and perhaps hem of the skirt, to broad bands that cover the shoulders, bodice and sleeves and rise a quarter to a third of the way up the skirt.

- Robert Jordan, Saldaea notes

They also carry feathered or lace fans since there is a language of fans in Saldaea (The Shadow Rising, Customs of Mayene). Soft boots are worn with riding dress (The Dragon Reborn, Within the Weave). For lounging, women wear a belted robe and sandals (The Gathering Storm, Embers and Ash). Womens' day or 'morning' clothes of 1810 to 1825 in Europe had narrow skirts and high necks (see 1815 illustration right).

In keeping with her very active lifestyle, most of the dresses Faile wears have divided skirts for riding (see 1830 painting left):

Even her finest dress had skirts divided for riding; she wouldn't carry anything else on the road. Her mother had taught her that nothing destroyed a woman's credibility with soldiers more quickly than riding sidesaddle. And, should the unthinkable happen and Perrin fall, Faile might need to take command of their forces.

- Towers of Midnight, Judgment

The women have no marked hair style. Faile’s is simply shoulder length.

Men: wear a short coat, and baggy trousers tucked into knee-high, turned-down boots (the trousers and boots are a Cossack style (Frances Kennet, Ethnic Dress, and see photo above left), consistent with the great horsemanship of the Saldaeans. Workmen often wear long leather vests, with different crafts having vests of a particular cut (Robert Jordan, Saldaea notes).

The photo above right shows the sort of Cossack feat which Davram Bashere and his soldiers emulated in Lord of Chaos, Connecting Lines. The coats of noblemen may be embroidered in metallic thread on the cuffs and lapels. For wet weather they may wear an oiled-cloth cape (The Path of Daggers, Answering the Summons).

Some Saldaean men wear close-trimmed beards, some thick moustaches curving around their mouth (a horseshoe moustache, see photo right), and some are clean shaven (Lord of Chaos, A Bitter Thought). Noblemen frequently grow long, thick beards that reach down their chest (Robert Jordan, Saldaea notes).


The Sea Peoples is the term used for a group of seafaring clans that raided the eastern Mediterranean during the second millennium BC. The Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah referred to them as 'peoples of the sea'. They were also described by the ancient Egyptians as coming "from the midst of the sea" or "from the islands".

Sea Folk are sticklers for rank, and mark it in clothing so it is immediately and unambiguously obvious. Rank is earned; everyone starts at the bottom. The type, amount and weight of jewellery; materials of clothing; sash knots; and weapons all indicate rank first and wealth second. The rank so indicated is current rank, not highest rank ever held.

The Sea Folk wear Indian style jewellery—nose rings (in India, originally worn by married women and thus marking a certain status), chain from nose ring to ear ring, multiple earrings (see jewellery on Indian woman in the illustration right). Moreover, the jewellery Rajasthani women wear on special occasions indicates their status, prosperity and class (Frances Kennet, Ethnic Dress) just as with the Sea Folk. Sea Folk women wear considerably more jewellery than men. No rings or bracelets, however, because these might catch in the rigging (Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes).

Tattoos are important indicators for Sea Folk, especially on the hands: a six-pointed star is tattooed on the web between thumb and forefinger of the right hand. It is a:
symbol of the covenant with the Coramoor; some believe it makes you less likely to drown.

- Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes

We have seen a six-pointed star before; it is a marker in the oval ring ter’angreal.

Some of the other taboos on the right hand are, in effect, your official record, showing what ships you have served on, what posts and positions you have held.

- Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes

Windfinders have a three-pointed star on the back of their right hand (Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes). The left hand’s tattoos show the marks of the clan and line (The Great Hunt, Prologue). Henna tattooed hands are popular among women in the Arab world and in India (especially for weddings) (see photo above left) and the Polynesians, great sea farers, have elaborate tattoos that record their social standing and achievements (see photo above right).

Bearing in mind all the fashions of the Sea Folk, their closest real-world equivalents are probably the Rabaris from north-eastern Gujurat in India:

These are the local gypsies, goatherders and shepherds on their never-ending search for water and pasture. Loaded with silver jewellery—even little infants have seven earrings down the lobes of each ear—they are easily recognizable…The women, tattooed prettily on their hands, cheeks and chins…

- Madhur Jaffrey, Flavours of India

and Polynesians. However, the costume of the Sea Folk men also has a strong influence from 16th‒17th century corsairs and pirates.


The men are clean shaven and have straight black hair (The Shadow Rising, Wavedancer).

Deckhands: are bare-chested unless it is very cold, when they may wear a quilted coat. (Cloaks hinder movement and so are not worn (Winter’s Heart, To Lose the Sun).) Folded bright narrow sashes hold up baggy breeches of dark oiled cloth—a dress style rather like that of European corsairs. They go barefoot because this gives them better grip on wet decks or in the ship’s rigging.

Men earn jewellery with merit—close-fitting gold and silver necklaces and gold earrings with or without polished stones (A Crown of Swords, The Bowl of Winds). Men do not wear the nose ring or honour chain and medallions.

A single earing indicates someone out of training, someone who knows his or her way around the ship and basic duties.

- Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes

Cargomasters: wear loose silk breeches of one colour and a narrow matching sash that is elaborately tied. Daggers are ofen carried thrust into the sash, but they will not carry a sword unless action is imminent (Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes). Cargomasters usually have three gold earrings in each ear according to Robert Jordan’s Sea Folk notes or four in The Shadow Rising, Wavedancer. and a few heavy gold necklaces, one with an intricately worked gold perfume box. Spectacles may be worn if required, but only out of sight of the shorebound (The Shadow Rising, Wavedancer).

Swordmasters: wear brocaded silk breeches with an intricately tied sash, an ivory hilted sword and one matching ivory hilted dagger. From about 325 to 180 BC garments of people in the Indian royal court were restrained by a sash, the kayabandh, tied in different styles and knots. The Sea Folk sash knots are also a reference to sailor's knots.

A Swordmaster has 8 thick earrings (Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes) and many necklaces including one with a gold perfume box. Attendants hold a gold-fringed red parasol of one tier over him for some formal occasions (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).

Master of the Blades: wears silk breeches of more than one colour held up by a long, intricately knotted bright red sash, 10 earrings (Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes) and many thick gold necklaces including one with a gold perfume box. He also wears an ivory hilted sword and two matching ivory hilted curved daggers (A Crown of Swords, The Bowl of Winds). Attendants hold a two-tiered blue parasol with gold fringing over him for some formal occasions (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). In Robert Jordan’s Sea Folk notes the parasol has three tiers.

Women: remove their blouses when no land is in sight (The Shadow Rising, Winds Rising), a reference to Polynesian sea-farers. Prior to contact with European missionaries, Polynesian women were bare-breasted, and wore a wrap-around skirt.

Sea Folk women wear a long white stole for mourning (Crossroads of Twilight, A Bargain).

Deckhands: wear baggy breeches of dark oiled cloth, open at the ankle and held up by a folded colourful sash (The Shadow Rising, Wavedancer). Someone out of training, who knows their basic duties and their way around the ship has a single earring (Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes).

Apprentice Windfinders: wear a bright wool or linen blouse and dark oiled cloth breeches. A thin gold ring in their left ear indicates they are being trained as Windfinders and they must earn four more earrings, a nose ring and a connecting chain (honour chain) before they are full Windfinders (A Crown of Swords, Promises to Keep).

Sailmistresses of Darters wear linen blouses and coloured trousers and a few earrings. They have an honour chain connecting their earrings to their nose ring, but only a few medallions on it (Knife of Dreams, To Make an Anchor Weep). Few women below the rank of Sailmistress of a ship and her Windfinder have the chain and medallions (Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes).

These medallions can identify rank, among other things, such as being Wavemistress of a particular clan, or of a particular ship, as well as clan and familial relationships. The chain always loops across the left cheek.

- Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes

Windfinders: wear coloured blouse, linen trousers or plain (not brocaded) silks and a sash with a simple knot (The Path of Daggers, Unweaving). Their jewellery consists of 6 thin gold earrings, a nose ring and honour chain (only a clan medallion to start), and close-fitting gold necklaces (Knife of Dreams, Wet Things).

The number of earrings and medallions can vary downward over time as well as upward. Someone who is Windfinder to a Clan Wavemistress or to the Mistress of the Ships is required to start over again at the bottom with the death of the woman she serves. Also, if a Sailmistress dies, the new Sailmistresss of that vessel may keep on the old Windfinder, but she may already have one or may wish another, in which case the old Windfinder must start over again at the bottom and work her way back up. Her earrings are reduced in number accordingly, and she must pack away most of the medallions. They aren't taken from her; she just can't wear them any longer. This is in part because of the Sea folk awareness that Windfinders who can channel live a very long time, and helps preclude the possibility that a Windfinder will remain at a very high level while surviving a number of Wavemistresses or Mistresses of the Ships. It also makes room for those at lower makes to move up.

- Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes

When a Wavemistress or the Mistress of the Ships dies, her Windfinder must start at the bottom of the hierarchy again as if she were a new Windfinder, and her clothes and jewellery are altered to reflect this reduced rank (Winter’s Heart Ideas of Importance):

The other was Renaile din Calon, once Windfinder to the Mistress of the Ships, in blue linen trousers and a red blouse sashed with blue, tied in a much less intricate knot…Renaile must have felt Nesta's death most keenly…Wings of white in her black hair hid the six gold earrings in her ears, much thinner rings than the eight she had worn before learning of Nesta's fate, and the gold honor chain crossing her dark left cheek looked stark supporting only the medallion that named her clan.

- Knife of Dreams, Wet Things

Renaile has changed her silk brocades for linen blouse and trousers and a simple knot in her sash. Her jewellery is that of a newly qualified Windfinder.

Sailmistresses: Usually wear silk in an outfit all one colour, plain silk for the smaller vessels, brocaded for larger, with a matching narrow sash that is elaboratedly tied (Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes). Their jewellery consists of 8 thin gold earrings, a nose ring and honour chain, and close-fitting gold necklaces including one holding a gold perfume box (The Shadow Rising, Wavedancer). Her medallions will indicate whether she is in charge of a raker, skimmer, soarer or darter.

Sailmistresses of rakers wear brocaded silk trousers and blouse. The photo right shows a detail of a silk brocade.

Windfinders to Wavemistresses: wear brocaded silk trousers and blouses and a sash tied in an elaborate knot. They have 6 to 8 gold earrings, a nose ring and honour chain, and many gold necklaces including one holding a gold perfume box (A Crown of Swords, The Bowl of Winds). For some formal occasions, attendants may hold an unfringed red parasol of one tier over her (Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes).

Clan Wavemistresses: wear brocaded silk trousers and blouses and a long intricately tied sash reaching the knees. They have 10 thick gold earrings, a nose ring and honour chain, and many gold necklaces including one holding a gold perfume box (A Crown of Swords, The Bowl of Winds). Attendants hold a two-tiered gold fringed red parasol over her for some formal occasions (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). In Knife of Dreams, The Golden Crane, Rand thinks that a two-tiered blue parasol is that of a Clan Wavemistress, but according to The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, such a parasol belongs to the Master of the Blades.

Windfinder to Mistress of Ships: wears brocaded silk trousers and blouses, frequently of various colours, and a long yellow sash tied in an elaborate knot (The Path of Daggers, To Keep the Bargain). She has 10 thick gold earrings (5 in each ear connected by a gold chain), a nose ring, an honour chain with many medallions and many necklaces including one holding a gold perfume box (A Crown of Swords, The Bowl of Winds). On formal occasions she is entitled to a three-tiered blue parasol with no fringe.

Mistress of the Ships: wears brocaded silk trousers and blouses, frequently of various colours, and a long intricately tied red sash reaching the knees. In her sash is a knife with the pommel studded with firedrops and emeralds. She has 12 thick gold earrings (6 in each ear connected by a gold chain), a nose ring, an honour chain completely loaded with medallions and many necklaces including one holding a gold perfume box (A Crown of Swords, The Bowl of Winds). Attendants hold a blue parasol with gold fringing over her of either three (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time) or four (Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes) tiers for some formal occasions.

Such tiered parasols are like those of South-East Asia: China, India and Thailand for instance, where they are indicators of high status. The illustration left is of a Chinese parasol and the photo on the right is of Thai parasols. Since ancient times the parasol has been a symbol of royalty in India, just as it is reserved for the equivalent of royalty among the Sea Folk.


Personal public nudity lowers the eyes of a Seanchan, since those who are scantily clad are at the bottom of social pecking order. However, in private, there is nothing embarrassing about servants or da’covale seeing their employer/owner naked, and the Blood and the wealthy are quite confirtable being unclothed in front of their servants and/or da'covale of whatever gender (Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes).

Clothes and hairstyle have less gender differentiation to a degree, since rank is more important than sex in Seanchan society.


For her first formal audience in the books, Empress Fortuona wore cloth-of-gold:

She wore a magnificent gown of golden cloth, cut after the highest Imperial fashion. The skirt split at the front to just above the knees, and was so long that it took five da'covale to carry the sides and train.
She wore an ornate headdress, of gold and crimson silk with beautiful silken wings shaped like those of an owl taking flight, and her arms glittered with thirteen bracelets, each of a different gemstone combination. She wore crystal at her throat in a long strand.

- Towers of Midnight A Teaching Chamber

The fabric was marked with writings expressing Imperial power: “The Empress IS Seanchan. The Empress WILL live forever. The Empress MUST be obeyed.”

Cloth of gold is a fabric where the weft thread is of silk (or occasionally fine wool or linen) wrapped with a thin strip of gold, or in its more extravagant forms, a weft of very fine gold wire, and warp is usually silk. Being so expensive, it was worn by royalty (such as Henry VIII of England, see 1520 painting right) and high-ranking ecclesiastics. Important producers were the Mughal and Byzantine Empires, the latter being one of the parallels of the Seanchan Empire. Fortuona wore a similar glittering dress with a longer train and without a headdress to meet the Aes Sedai in A Memory of Light, Considerations.

The style of Fortuona's gown is similar to the formal dress of women in the Chinese imperial family (see photo above left) and Japanese imperial family (see photo above right).

Chinese empresses wore a phoenix crown with wings (bobin) at the sides/back and adorned with dragons, phoenixes and gemstones (see illustration right). In Chinese thought, the dragon, the most yang animal, was the symbol of the Emperor while the phoenix, the most yin animal, was the symbol of the Empress. Fortuona’s headdress has owl rather than phoenix symbolism. In Western thought, the phoenix lives 500 to 1000 years (sources vary) and at the end of its life builds a nest wherein it is consumed in fire and a new phoenix or phoenix egg is born from the ashes. It is a symbol of rebirth and renewal. Fortuona aims to revive Hawkwing’s empire like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the nations she conquers, but she links herself to the owl instead, here, which is a symbol of misfortune, death, evil and witchcraft as well as knowledge. It is a foreboding headdress as well as a spectacular one, and hints at Tuon's problems regarding sul'dam, including herself, stepping over the threshold and channelling.

Fortuona can break free of her long, seemingly restrictive, costume with a flick of a wrist. Underneath, she is dressed in black silken trousers and tight black silk shirt—“ninja gear”. Her preference for tight tops and pants—activewear rather than underwear—under her clothes makes it unlikely that she wears a shift as the innermost layer. And indeed when we see her being dressed in her first scene, there is no mention of shifts. She may go without underwear, or she may wear Chinese influenced underwear at times such as the dudou, a halter-top like garment which has been firm enough in some eras to also bind the breasts.

In A Memory of Light, Fortuona wore a variety of outfits. Her martial arts exercises were conducted in an a’solma, a pale gown split up the sides showing “blue leggings” underneath (A Memory of Light, Your Neck in a Cord). “Leggings” is a modern term and garment; hose is more period correct, but would have covered her feet as well as her legs. “Gown” means probably a long garment. The ao dai from Vietnam consists of a long tunic with side splits over pantaloons, and is perhaps the closest match (see photo right). The Central and Southern Asian salwar kameez tunic is shorter and usually patterned.

In A Memory of Light, Friendly Fire, Fortuona wore wide silvery trousers, possibly divided skirts, with a top of tight scarlet silk and over it an open-fronted blue robe with a very long train. Min thinks it is a kind of warrior’s uniform. The trousers/divided skirts are perhaps like the hakama (see photo above left) and the open robe with very long train, a shitagasane. These formed part of the formal court wear of military and civil officials in Japan (see photo above right) and Imperial Japan is one of the parallels of Seanchan. It was also worn by the Japanese emperor. The length of the shitagasane’s train is an indication of the rank of the wearer. The garment also has large sleeves and a standing collar. The sides are open and the sleeves are only partially attached because the garment might be worn in combat and must not restrict movement. The Empress prided herself on being able to free herself from even the most restrictive garments in a twinkling.

Empress’ Consort

In A Memory of Light, The Choice of a Patch, Mat was made an Imperial high general’s ceremonial uniform in dark green and black: “black for his new station” as Prince of the Ravens, ravens being black colouring, and “green for his heritage” as a back-country boy. It consisted of a fine silk robe, overlaid with a stiffer dark green silk robe covered with scrollwork embroidery. Bands were placed on his forearms inside the huge wide sleeves and an ornate girdle was buckled over the robe. Lastly a stiff pale piece of cloth, the paltron cloths, was fitted onto his shoulders, so it draped down front and back like a tabard. It was open at the sides and flared out very wide, like shoulder plates of thick cloth. Paltron referes to pauldron, the part of plate armour covering the shoulder area and armpit, and sometimes extending a short way over the chest and back. It usually consisted of a dome-shaped piece to cover the shoulder and horizontal plates attached to it to project the upper arm, but could also be made out of leather.

The uniform is designed to give authority and grace as the cloth ripples with his careful movements according to Fortuona (A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens). The style is similar to Chinese military clothing in the Western Zhou, or in the much later Qing dynasty, (see illustrations above left and right respectively), and also to costume worn by Samurai warriors and courtiers of the Edo period in Japan (see paintings below). For instance, the fine robe could be an equivalent of the Japanese shitagi and the larger stiff robe a kimono. The Zhou Dynasty robe has a girdle, and the Qing and Samurai robes have pronounced shoulder padding to imitate armour, especially the sleeveless kataginu robe of the samurai.

Rubies were draped over the outfit, according to Mat, probably to match his choice of rubies on his black eyepatch. It symbolises that the ruby dagger still haunts him and that he has unfinished business with Fain/Mordeth. The Seanchan noticed Mat’s preference for rubies, the stone of Mars, god of war.

Mat wore black and gold clothing of stiff black breeches and a robe or long coat, still with pronounced shoulder pieces, trimmed with white lace to a meeting with Egwene (A Memory of Light, Considerations). The gold cloth may have been cloth of gold. (Only the Empress would have a full garment made of such an expensive fabric.) With its lace trim it seems a clumsy westlands/Seanchan hybrid style, but it also reveals an awareness of Mat’s fondness for wearing a bit of lace.

Later Mat’s tailor adapted his clothing to match his hat:

He wore his hat and coat over some very nice silken clothing that looked as if it had been tailored to match the hat's color, and to include tooled leather at the cuffs and collar so as to not be so out of place. It smelled of some kind of compromise.

- A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

The hat had a band of pink ribbon. Likely Tuon was responsible for this, to show she knew about Tylin’s games. Mat is a fool and joker figure and his clothes in the later books tend to be more extreme or foolish. Or he feels foolish in them.

In another example of compromise, Mat did not get his head shaved at all, but his fingernails were painted.

Blood: The clothes of the high and low Blood are of similar style. The main difference is in the hairstyles and fingernails.

Women’s dresses are in a solid colour (white, ivory and blue are popular) and have hundreds of pleats. This may be a reference to the Chinese “hundred-pleated skirt”. It ties in, too, with the Seanchan parallels to the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, when tunics and dresses were intricately pleated (see illustration, right). Ancient Greek and Roman gowns were also highly pleated, as were accordion-pleated skirts on late 19th to 20th century dresses. Did these real-world garments literally have hundreds of pleats? No. It is a figurative term.

Men wear very wide trousers (probably similar to Japanese hakama, see photo above left), often finely pleated like the women’s dresses, held up by a sash. The latest fashion in coats is a short fitted coat with a high collar and rows of gold buttons (Knife of Dreams, Epilogue), a Chinese style coat with a mandarin collar (see photo above right). Otherwise the coat is long.

King Beslan wears a fashion of the Blood:

Loose trousers of yellow and a high-collared coat that came down only to the middle of his chest, a yellow shirt underneath.

- The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Beslan's jacket has a Chinese mandarin collar, but its length is more Western in style. How apt that Beslan chose yellow, since yellow was the colour of the Chinese Emperor, and the imperial yellow jacket was a symbol of high honour during China's Qing Dynasty, given only to high-ranking officials and to the Emperor's body guards. In this scene Beslan swears fealty to Tuon and he becomes the highest-ranking person in Tuon's court after her.

Both sexes wear a long robe that may have a train and is heavily embroidered with birds or flowers (The Great Hunt, Seanchan and Damane), a Chinese or Japanese style. The motifs may be in coloured ovals. Embroidered motifs were often in coloured circles on Ming dynasty Chinese clothing. The photo above left is of a detail of embroidery on a Chinese robe, and shows flowers and butterflies plus a scene with flowers in a roundel. The photo right is of a Japanese furisode with embroidered plants.

Indoor footwear is velvet slippers, and a cloak with sigil or embroidery is worn if cold.

For riding, both sexes wear a brocaded silk coat, wide trousers and ankle high boots (Crossroads of Twilight, Time To Be Gone and Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs), again similar to Chinese clothing. Women may wear a pleated riding dress with very wide sleeves ( Winter’s Heart, An Unexpected Encounter), such sleeves being Chinese or Japanese in style, as the photos of Chinese and Japanese robes in this section show, and skirts that expose their ankles. In cold weather the Blood wear a cloak with their sigil on and riding gloves. Ceremonial armour for the Blood is not as ornate as that of an Imperial family member, or with quite as wide shoulders.

In the dressing-room the Blood wear a silk dressing gown embroidered with birds or flowers and tied by a long sash (Knife of Dreams, Prologue). Or is it a kimono?

Lace or sheer veils are worn when hiding eyes or face, particularly from the lowborn (see 11th century illustration right of Byzantine noblewoman in a sedan chair). Normally Tuon wore a cap of sheer gold lace with a raven and roses motif (Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides).

Tuon, when heir to the Empress, wore a lot of jewellery: a gold or jewelled belt, a long gemstone necklace and a gold and ruby braid or pearl and firedrop circlet to secure a veil.


The Imperial Family shave their heads completely (Crossroads of Twilight, Time to be Gone). Tuon usually wore a gold lace cap worked with the raven and roses motif (Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides). In Seanchan society, less hair is equated with higher rank. Like much about Seanchan society, this is a reversal of our world, where from the Dark Ages to early modern Europe, more hair was a signifier of higher rank, especially in men. High ranking men wore long hair, large elaborate wigs, or even large elaborate hair styles in the 18th century and slaves had their heads shaved. (While in Ancient Egypt, which has parallels with the Seanchan, the nobility shaved their heads; they then wore wigs.)

The nobility shave their heads in varying degrees, symmetrically. (Asymmetrical shaving is the sign of a servant, a so'jhin.)

- Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes

The High Blood shave the sides of their head, leaving the rest of their hair to fall down the back (a Mohican hairstyle). This crest is narrower for men than for women and the length of the hair varies according to fashion (The Gathering Storm, Glossary). It is plaited at night so it doesn’t tangle (Knife of Dreams, Prologue) (see photo of mohawk hairstyle left).

Lesser nobles wear a type of bowl cut with the side and back of the head shaved and the remaining back hair grown long, to the shoulders on men, and often to the waist on women (Winter’s Heart, An Offer). This is similar to a Manchu pigtail or queue (see illustration right), and is in keeping with the strong Chinese influence on the Seanchan. When the Manchus invaded China, they forced the Han Chinese to adopt the Manchu queue, just as the queue style is mandatory for all Lower Blood—but presumably more willingly adopted than the Manchu pigtail was. Interestingly, when Tylee was raised to the Lower Blood she shaved her head only a small amount as though she was reluctant to be ennobled. Not surprisingly, she also spoke out against Seanchan policy (The Gathering Storm, Gambits). Bald lesser nobles wear an appropriately styled wig attached with gum onto their heads (Knife of Dreams, Prologue).


Long lacquered fingernails are another visible sign of rank. The more lacquered fingernails, the higher the rank of the noble. All nobles, beginning with the lowest, wear their nails an inch long, lacquering at least their little fingers. High Lords or Ladies paint the nails on their ring fingers as well. Members of the royal family have three painted long nails, on the little finger, ring finger and middle finger, leaving only the index finger and thumb free. The ruler will have all five nails painted. Each lord’s or lady’s nails are lacquered in colours indicative of their House.

- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

This is described differently in The Gathering Storm, Glossary and Robert Jordan’s Seanchan notes:

Those of the highest level of the High Blood are called High Lady or High Lord and lacquer the first two fingernails on each hand. Those of the next level of the High Blood are called simply Lord or Lady and lacquer only the nails of the forefingers. Those of the low Blood also are called simply Lady or Lord, but those of the higher rank lacquer the nails of the last two fingers on each hand, while those on the lowest level lacquer only the nails of the little fingers. The Empress and immediate members of the Imperial family...lacquer all of their fingernails.

Red, being the colour of the Imperial Family house, is the highest ranking fingernail colour (Knife of Dreams, Prologue).

The nails of the last two or three fingers of each hand were grown long by the nobility in the Chinese Qing dynasty so that they could perform no manual labour, but relied on servants (see 1890 photo of Dowager Cixi, parallel of Semirhage, above right). Late in the Qing dynasty some wore jewelled gold or silver fingernail protectors over their long nails (see Dowager Cixi's fingernail protector left). One up on the Seanchan!

Painting nails was popular in Ancient China and Egypt. Nail colour indicated one's social status: in China the lower ranks were only allowed to wear pale colours, while royalty wore black and red varnish. The Ancient Egyptians also coloured their nails, using red to show the highest social class.

Apparently chewing off—or cutting off?—one of your fingernails and dropping it in front of a commoner ennobles them. This is a reversal of the bad luck associated with breaking a nail, probably because it is done deliberately. It is not known what happens if you remove part of your nail in front of someone of higher rank than you…

The Blood smear ashes on their cheeks when in mourning (Knife of Dreams, Epilogue).


Once she was “promoted,” Min was made very luxurious dresses, consisting of a lot of expensive fabric and trims, a sign she ranked at least as high as Mat, possibly second to Fortuona, due to her sacred status and her actions in saving the Empress. One was of dark green shiny silk with black embroidery and very wide, open sleeves. Her hair was put up with silver sticks inset with hundreds of firedrops (A Memory of Light, Too Many Men). This outfit is in the same colours as Mat’s, and shows their common heritage. The dress and her hairdo is of a Chinese or Japanese style (see photographs above). Hundreds of firedrops seems an exaggeration. They would have to be very small chips to fit on a few hair pins.

A second elaborate dress had a lot of lace, again paralleling Mat’s lace-trimmed outfit. The large amount of fabric in Min’s dresses is used as a sign of status.


So'jhin (in keeping with the strong Japanese influence on Seanchan society, their name is derived from Shogun) usually wear long robes of one colour, such as yellow or green, and slippers. However, Seleucia wears a dress of red and yellow panels, colours of high rank in Imperial China, perhaps to mark her as so’jhin to the Empress’ heir. When Tuon and Seleucia had clothes made from the fabric purchased in Jurador, Seleucia was made a white blouse and divided brown skirts for riding (Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs). She covered her close-cropped head with a silk scarf.

So’jhin shave one side of their head and braid the hair on the other side. A Voice of the Blood will wear the left side of the head shaved and the right side braided, and a Voice of the Throne will shave the right side and wear the left side braided (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). When a so'jhin of the Blood is promoted to sho'jhin of the Empress, they wear caps on the left until their hair grows on that side (The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon).

So'jhin wear a white arm band when in mourning for the Empress, as do all those not of the Blood (The Gathering Storm, Gambits).


Commoners do not shave any part of the head. Men who go bald wear a wig or, at the least, cover their head with a hat (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). (Some may not be able to afford a wig).

Women wear high-necked dresses embroidered around the neck and down the sleeves and perhaps a headscarf (Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs).

Men wear baggy breeches and a round cap (Crossroads of Twilight, Time to be Gone). A coat is optional (The Great Hunt, Damane). The costume of both sexes may be similar to Ottoman costume, see photos above. The Ottoman Empire is a parallel of the Seanchan Empire (see Real Life Influences article).

Lower servants wear plain woollen robes (The Great Hunt, The Wheel Weaves) and cooks dress in white wool with an apron (The Great Hunt, Blademaster).

Public Servants/Officials:

The Seanchan have a uniform for everything, as Perrin observed (Knife of Dreams, A Manufactory). In a similar way, Ming and Qing officials in China had ‘mandarin squares’ indicating their rank on the chest of their robes. The panels of the Seanchan imperial functionaries are more like the Qing badges (see illustration, right) which were smaller than those of the Ming dynasty.

A Hand of the Empress or Honourable wears a dress or coat (coloured according to the area of authority) with a panel on the chest embroidered with one to five hands depending on rank (Knife of Dreams, A Manufactory). A Hand also wears the so'jhin hairstyle (Knife of Dreams, A Manufactory).

Clerks wear dark brown coats and breeches or dresses. Higher clerks wear a quill pen brooch in silver or brass, two if higher still (Knife of Dreams, A Manufactory).

A flier’s uniform includes a waxed linen hood with drawstring, crystal goggles, gauntlets, and a scarf against the wind (Path of Daggers, Threads).

Sul’dam wear a midi-length dark blue dress, often divided for riding, with red panels on the chest, and the side of the skirts, bearing forked, silver lightning bolts, and soft boots (The Great Hunt, Seanchan). They wear long thick fur-lined cloaks if cold (The Fires of Heaven, A Short Spear). The cowls of their cloaks also havea red panel worked with silver lightning bolts. Der’sul’dam have a flame embroidered on their shoulder (Winter’s Heart, An Offer).

Damane wear plain dark grey dresses. And the a’dam collar. They do not wear cloaks and are sometimes barefoot (The Fires of Heaven, A Short Spear). Favoured damane wear ribbons in their hair (Winter’s Heart, What a Veil Hides).


Beautiful slaves wear loose-fitting transparent white robes with nothing on underneath, and white slippers indoors (Knife of Dreams, Prologue and Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes). Shea dancers are perhaps the most extreme example, wearing transparent face veils and little else (The Shadow Rising, Hidden Faces). Less physically attractive da’covale wear more ordinary livery (Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes). Da’covale put on thick white woollen robes over the top to go outdoors (Winter’s Heart, News in a Cloth Sack). The sheer robes are similar to those worn by slaves in Ancient Egypt (see illustration right) but without fine pleats, since pleats are high status due to the amount of fabric they require.

Seekers, if not in disguise, may wear a gray cloak with a raven in front of a tower worked on the breast (The Fires of Heaven, A Short Spear Seeker).


The Sharan costume is designed around style and quantity of tattoos, in addition to the more usual fabric quality and quantity, as indicators of social position. Tattoos are more intricate the lower the wearer is in society. Since they cannot be removed (except perhaps by a skilled healer like Nynaeve), only added to, the wearer cannot rise up again (A Memory of Light, At the Edge of Time). Contrast this with the Seanchan, where less hair indicates higher status and tattoos are used in only a few cases to mark low social status (da’covale). Even then it is possible for da’covale to have high social status. Seanchan social structure is much more flexible and merit-based.

Slaves: are all branded on their back. The men wear no shirt to show the extent of their tattoos. Their torn breeches show their poverty. Presumably the women also have their tattoos on display in a similar fashion, since female nobles are bare from the waist to show that their backs have no tattoos.

Demandred was branded on the back of his hand with

the shape of a circle, with three sinuous hooked knives stabbing out from the center toward the perimeter, their tips turning until they blended with the line outside.

- River of Souls

This is the triple yin-yang symbol, the sam-taeguk symbolizing heaven, earth and humanity (see illustration right), or the triskele, see illustrations below. We do not know if he has other tattoos under his clothing.

Male channellers: were slaves or worse than slaves. The men have kept their former attire as a sign that they were dehumanised:

Bao had given the men shirts, and they had ripped them into strips and tied them around elbows and knees. They moved like animals as they reached the chasm and looked down, not speaking, bare backs to the sky, feet unshod. The tattoos on their backs and shoulders wrapped around their necks, then formed into claws or barbed branches below the chins. Their heads seemed to be held from below by the tattoos.

- River of Souls

The tattoos are a different design to that of regular slaves, being as much a warning as a mark of subjection. One male channeller’s tattoos are blood-red.

Female channellers: are tattooed on the neck and face with leafed branches, not the dangerous or aggressive looking tattoos of male channellers. At JordanCon in 2015, Harriet Rigney told me that the branches join a tree which is tattooed on the woman’s back. Presumably the men have a similar, but more aggressive looking tree tattooed on their backs.

The women were formerly thought of as “servants” to the monarchs, the ostensible reason for the tattoos, but actually they wished to keep track of channelling bloodlines. They wear stiff, black silk, presumably long-sleeved, dresses that are tight around the shoulders and flare wide over the body. Long rectangular tassels of a multitude of colours hang from ties at the front, just below neck. Many of them later in A Memory of Light wear white ribbons or tassels. These could indicate rank, with white marking the highest/strongest, which is why the main Sharan channellers we encounter—the ones with speaking parts—wear white ribbons.

The dresses are like Korean women’s traditional dress, which consists of a close-fitting upper garment, the jeogori, tied with coat-strings and a very bulky gathered skirt, the chima, attached above the waist (see photos above). It is said to be influenced by Mongolian costume and to have influenced it in return; Mongolia, especially at the time of the Khans, having parallels to Shara. In fact, the long, wide ribbon tying the jeogori is a Mongolian influence. However the Korean costume is brightly coloured, whereas the Ayyad’s dress is not.

Very few women wear black clothing in The Wheel of Time. Those who do wear ‘almost black’ clothing are often associated with the Shadow, or been corrupted by he Shadow.

The ubiquity of black as a clothing colour for female channellers at this time may have a parallel in Chinese history. The Qin Emperor belived that the Qin dynasty should eclipse the Zhou dynasty like water extinguishes fire, and so, since the Zhou dynasty was associated with fire and red, the most popular clothing colour in the Qin dynasty was black, the colour of yin and water. The Zhou dynasty lasted some 800 years, longer than any other dynasty in Chinese history, although the last two hundred and fifty years was the destructive Warring States Period (and a parallel of the Last Battle, see Demandred article) from which the ruthless “wild-beast” state of Qin emerged victorious and reunifed China anew in the short Qin dynasty. Shara has always been united as one since the Breaking. The Sharans played an adversarial role in the Last Battle, being under the influence of a Forsaken and aiding the Shadow—whose colour is black—in its attempt to extinguish the Light.

Commoners: Forest dwellers of both sexes wear trousers, stout coat and thick boots (River of Souls). A Sharan adventurer wore a coat without collar or lapels (Knife of Dreams, Within the Stone), a 19th century Chinese style.

Male guards: wear a large stiff sleeveless robe almost to their knees over a long-sleeved shirt with a diamond cut-out to show their tattoo. Their armour is etched in a copy of the tattoos on their back.

Officers: wear feathered helmets, fine silken coats, and golden armour made of coins sewn together through holes at their centres, with a small opening in their clothing and armour to show tiny tattoos at the base of their shoulders.

Coin armour was worn in Asia and by the Tlingit of coastal Canada and Alaska, but was not at all common. It was also occasionally worn in Ancient Rome, as can be seen by rare finds of Roman coins with holes. Depending on how the coins are attached, coin armour could be classified as lamellar or scale armour. Lamellar armour was common in Asia, and scale armour was more popular in Europe and the Middle East. Coin armour is extravagant, since the wearer is literally clothed in money, rather than cheaper metal, but also very effective, whereas other extravagant armour, such as gold armour, is not. The officers covered in gold coin armour have the worst of both worlds: armour made of a very expensive, soft and heavy metal. Demandred's coin armour is of highly polished silver—cheaper, harder, lighter and dramatic with its shiny mirror like effect.

Monks: Mintel wears robes but was armed with swords as well as a staff. The staff had “strange holes along its length” which made Pevara think it was a musical instrument. I think it’s another of his weapons. Buddhist monks carry a khakkhara, a staff with rings rather than holes, that is used in prayer, sounds for alms, scares away animals and can be used as a weapon (see photo above, left). Another, rarer, Buddhist weapon, this one derived from Hinduism, is the khatvanga, a long club engraved with skulls (see photo above right). It was adopted into Buddhism as a religious staff, and is perhaps closer to Mintel’s staff. The eye-sockets in the skulls could be deeply carved, which would look like odd-shaped holes if the carving could not be seen clearly.

Nobles: wear beautiful silk skirts, and intricate headdresses with colourful plumes. They are nude from the waist, with their backs exposed to show they have no tattoos, while their fronts are covered with jewellery (A Memory of Light, The Wyld). They wore no armour in the battles, previously an indication that none would strike them, but now, that they are not worth protecting.

Despite the Wyld declaring all men free, no Sharan felt free of their alotted social status until the Last Battle was over. Mintel indicated that fulfilling their adversarial role was what would really free the Sharans (River of Souls).

Hair: Some Sharans at least, have tightly curled hair (Knife of Dreams, Within the Stone) and may be similar to Central or Southern Africans; a region to which the names of Shara refer. The woodsman Torn wore his beard in two thick, knotted braids, one on each side of his face (River of Souls).


The Forsaken men are cleanshaven except for Sammael, who had a square cut beard. The women, excepting Graendal, wear simple hair styles.

Aginor wore a dark green cloak with the hood up at the Eye of the World.

Aran’gar wore jewellery provided by Delana, and provocative clothing, especially in Tel’aran’rhiod (Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens). She coveted Graendal’s streith gown.

Asmodean usually wore conventional dark silk breeches and coat embroidered in gold on collar and cuffs, but when he went to Rhuidean he wore a red coat with long tails made of material shinier than silk satin, red boots and lace at neck and wrists (The Shadow Rising, The Traps of Rhuidean)—clothes more suitable for a concert performance than for everyday wear or travelling.

Balthamel wore a black leather mask of a young man’s laughing face, black leather gloves and a grey cloak at the Eye (The Eye of the World Meetings at the Eye). Upon his release from the Bore, his appearance was so repulsive that he covered it over completely. Balthamel wore his mask in the Age of Legends; he happened to be wearing it the day Lews Therin and the Companions made their strike to seal the Bore (Jordan at Dragoncon). In Nonnius’ Dionysiaca, satyrs wore masks when they fought. The youth’s wildly laughing face is a reference to the young, wild Greek god of wine and pleasure, Dionysus, ruler of satyrs and a parallel of Balthamel (see Balthamel article).

Belal dressed like a Tairen nobleman, even in Tel’arah’rhiod (The Dragon Reborn, Shadows Sleeping).

Cyndane wore Moridin’s red and black livery, which, as Graendal noted, are colours that don’t suit Cyndane’s blond colouring.

Demandred wore the fashion of this age—dark silk with lace at neck and wrists—but not any particular regional style. As understated as Beau Brummel! (See photo of statue right.)

Graendal usually wore a streith dress (handy for influencing or distracting others) and much jewellery. Occasionally she wore other styles: a low cut silk dress to the meeting with the Forsaken in Caemlyn (The Fires of Heaven, Prologue) and with the Shaido in (A Crown of Swords, Patterns Within Patterns) or in later scenes, an extremely sheer, but gold embroidered version of Domani dress (Lord of Chaos, Threads Woven of Shadow)—still with a lot of jewellery. She is a subtle woman who is unsubtle in dress (see painting of her parallel #circe">Circe, left).

Hessalam wore a fine yellow silk dress to the Forsaken meeting in A Memory of Light, Prologue and black to the Black Tower. More unusually she wore trousers in Tel’aran’rhiod in A Memory of Light, The Wyld.

Ishamael wore black or nearly black silk or velvet with white lace at neck and wrists and had done since the Age of Legends. Back then his boots were thigh high and were worked in silver on their turned down tops (The Eye of the World, Dragonmount). He often wore a cloak the colour of blood, sometimes fresh blood, sometimes dried.

Lanfear in contrast wore only white, with silver worked white boots and silver belt (The Great Hunt, In the Mirror of Darkness). She wore (a modest amount of) silver jewellery in stars and crescent moon motifs, an allusion to Ancient Greek moon goddesses (see Lanfear essay).

Mesaana wore the style of this Age, often brown coloured dresses with perhaps a thin border of intricate black embroidery (The Path of Daggers, An Unwelcome Return and Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens). This might not be the best colour for setting off her big blue eyes—her best feature. Maybe she’s above that stuff. In The Gathering Storm she wore a plain long white gown and no jewellery and in Tel’aran’rhiod in Towers of Midnight, a black gown with silver trim surrounded by spinning black ribbons.

Moghedien wore either all black or a streith gown in Tel’aran’rhiod (The Fires of Heaven, A Silver Arrow). In the waking world she sometimes wore black, and more recently Moridin’s livery of red and black (The Path of Daggers, New Alliances) until she was collared by the Seanchan. When she was on probation and allowed to wear her own mindtrap, she wore a black and gold gown with web-like lace on sleeves. Moghedien was careful not to be too obvious with her symbolism.

Moridin wore black breeches and boots and flowing white shirt (A Crown of Swords, Mashiara) and a mindtrap or two, or else all black (in The Gathering Storm with red embroidery on the sleeves) and mindtrap. And occasionally, a fancloth cloak (A Crown of Swords, Patterns Within Patterns).

His livery was black and red and was worn by Cyndane and Moghedien.

Osan’gar: When not wearing his Asha’man’s outfit, he was over-dressed in a red coat completely covered in gold embroidery, boot fringed in gold tassels and a wide length of lace at his neck and cuffs (Winter’s Heart, Wonderful News).

Rahvin wore conventional nobles’ attire of silk coat with much golden embroidery (The Fires of Heaven A Silver Arrow).

Sammael wore Illianer fashion with much gold embroidery (A Crown of Swords, Insects) and when meeting with the Shaido, dark coat with lace at neck and wrists (A Crown of Swords, Patterns Within Patterns).

Semirhage usually was in understated black silk (Winter’s Heart, What a Veil Hides). She wore black because Lanfear wore white (Lord of Chaos, Prologue). And it’s sinister.

Draghkar: Their attire is not described in the books, but The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time depicts a draghkar wearing a black high-collared coat with frogged button closure and with its hair tied back in a queue (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time)—very 18th century (see 1750s painting, right, although the Draghkar would wear a black coat, rather than blue, and trousers, not breeches).

Gholam and Grey Men and Women wear plain, unremarkable clothing.

Myrddraal wear intensely black matt clothes including a cloak. Sometimes the wind does not move their clothes (The Great Hunt, The Hunt Begins).

Trollocs occasionally wear a coat (The Great Hunt, The Shadow in the Night), or leather trousers (The Eye of the World, Winternight) and boots. They wear badges marking their band on their armour (The Eye of the World, Out Of the Woods).

Zomaran of both sexes wear “tight white breeches and flowing white shirts” (The Great Hunt, Prologue). Perhaps their outfits are a mockery of those of the Da’shain Aiel (and indirectly gai’shain Aiel).


Women: wear fairly modest belted dresses with medium to high necklines. Those of the wealhy are embroidered in flowers on the bodice or sleeves and perhaps also on the shoulders, but rarely on the skirts (Robert Jordan, Shienar notes). Noblewomen may have metal thread embroidery or pearls in the embroidery (The Great Hunt, Dark Prophecy) (see 16th century paintings above). The skirts may be slashed with a contrasting colour (a fashion popular among Aes Sedai, see above and the lady in the painting above right who has slashed sleeves). Cloaks are embroidered along hem and front edges (The Eye of the World, The Wheel Turns). On the whole, Shienaran women don’t wear much jewellery, even the wealthy (Robert Jordan, Shienar notes). Their hair is usually worn to just below the shoulder.

Men: wear a high collared coat that reaches about mid-thigh, tight breeches, a shirt with wide sleeves and tight cuffs and knee high boots (The Great Hunt, The Welcome), 18th century European style, see 1795 painting of man's coat, breeches and boots left, and 1768 painting of man's shirt right). Noblemen’s coats are of velvet or embroidered silk (the coat above left is silk). The cloak may have a stiff standing collar. ‘Lounging’ robes are worn when relaxing indoors (The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn).

Warriors and noblemen shave their head except for a topknot tied with a short leather cord (The Eye of the World, Fal Dara), similar to the khokhol or oseledets, a Cossack hairstyle (see painting, above), or the scalp lock of Native American warriors. (The Samurai also had styles of topknot, such as the chonmage.) Shienaran merchants and craftsmen usually wear their hair cut short of the shoulder (Robert Jordan, Shienar notes) and the townsmen wear their hair long (The Great Hunt, Leavetakings).

Servants: in Fal Dara keep wear black and gold livery and slippers (The Eye of the World, Fal Dara). Labourers wear coarse wool shirts and breeches and leather jerkins (The Great Hunt, Dark Prophecy and Friends and Enemies) (see 1632 painting of man wearing jerkin above left). Serving men wear a bowl cut (The Great Hunt, The Welcome) (see painting above, right).


In Tarabon it is considered impolite to completely reveal one’s face except when eating or drinking. As a result, both men and women wear a transparent veil across the face. When anonymity is required, they may even don a mask to completely hide their features.

- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

The veils unfasten at the side for eating. These are usually half-veils, covering mouth and nose, and are a Middle Eastern fashion, where they are usually attached to a headband or scarf (see illustration).

Men: wear a shirt with wide sleeves and light coloured coat, both embroidered, and baggy breeches that may be embroidered (The Dragon Reborn, A Hero in the Night), perhaps a Turkish style (see illustration above left). They also wear a felt hat:

a brimless, conical thing, tall and flat-topped

- The Shadow Rising, Over the Border

which is probably a fez, a hat originating in Morocco (see photo above right, of a man wearing fez and light-coloured coat). A cloak with hood is worn if cold.

Taraboner men wear very thick moustaches (Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue).

Women: wear a clinging gown of thin silk or wool embroidered across the breast (The Great Hunt, The Shadow in the Night). The dress is not as revealing as a Domani dress. The women wear their hair in a dozen or more long thin braids (The Great Hunt, Dark Prophecy), usually loose from the scalp (see photo left). Beads may be woven into the braids (see photo right).

Servants: House servants wear wool with the House sigil on the breast (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). Servants of the Panarch wear white wool embroidered on the breast with a green tree atop a trefoil leaf, a sheer linen veil, a green belt and white slippers (The Shadow Rising, Into the Palace).


Tear being a very tiered society, the dress of the commoners is completely different to that of the nobility (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time). However:

anyone regardless of class who wishes to walk through the outer city must go barefoot or wear a special shoe called a ‘clog’, which is actually a small wooden platform that fastens to the soles of the wearer’s existing shoes to lift them clear of the mud. Bamboo staffs are also favoured by many.

- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

I guess mud, like death, is a great leveller!

More correctly, these shoes are pattens (see detail of 1434 painting, right).

Women: Noblewomen wear colourful thin linen or brocaded silk dresses with either a high neck and lace ruff (The Fires of Heaven, To Caemlyn), a 16th century European style (see 1520s painting above left), or an off the shoulder neckline (The Dragon Reborn, The Hammer), a fashion in the 16th century in Germany and Italy (see 1580 painting above right and painting below left).

To hold long hair in place, close-fitting caps (coifs of 15th century Europe, see above paintings) intricately embroidered or sewn with gems or seed pearls, or else of lace, are popular (The Fires of Heaven, Other Battles Other Weapons). Some caps may have feathers attached. Tairen noblewomen may wear ivory combs in their hair (Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue) or carry a tiny bottle of smelling salts or a painted silk fan (The Shadow Rising, Questioners and Into the Heart). Occasionally they may wear an embroidered rain cape (The Path of Daggers, Gathering Clouds). For mourning, a widow wears a high necked white gown with ruff and a white cap (The Shadow Rising, Into the Heart).

Commoners wear a high-necked dress, perhaps with Tairen maze embroidery around the neck or hem, two or three progressively smaller pale aprons layered atop each other and coloured straw hats (The Dragon Reborn, Following the Craft). The dress is ankle-length to keep it from trailing in the mud. Serving women wear a dark coloured dress and short white apron (Robert Jordan, Tear notes). Some commoner women wear coiled braids (The Shadow Rising, Decisions), a fashion popular in 16th century Europe, especially with a coif, others have thick curls that hang down the sides of their head (The Dragon Reborn, Following the Craft).

Men: Noblemen wear lace trimmed shirts (The Path of Daggers, Floating like Snow), bright coats of padded silk brocade or satin with puffy striped sleeves and often satin cuffs. Their tight breeches are tucked into silver worked boots. On their head is a peaked velvet hat (The Shadow Rising, Into The Heart, a European fashion of the first half of the 16th century, see 16th century painting above right) or square velvet hat (A Crown of Swords, White Plumes) and they carry a scented silk handkerchief or pomander to sniff at in disdain or boredom (Lord of Chaos, A Sense of Humour). They also have embroidered rain capes (The Path of Daggers, Answering the Summons). The lower nobility wear wool rather than silk, and embroidery in yellow thread rather than gold. Tairen noblemen’s fashion is similar to the “Spanish fashion” of 16th century Europe (see painting above left), as are their hairstyles. The noblemen wear beards which they trim to a point and apply perfumed oils to (The Path of Daggers, Floating like Snow, see painting right). Weiramon oils his hair as well as his beard (The Fires of Heaven, The Craft of Kin Tovere).

Commoners wear baggy breeches tied at the ankle and held up by a sash. Many wear no shirt or coat; dockmen may wear a leather vest instead (The Shadow Rising, Rumours). The coats are long and dark and are close-fitting on the upper body and flare at the waist. Flat conical straw hats are common, but a few wear a cloth cap that hangs down one side of the face (The Dragon Reborn, Following the Craft). Some wear low shoes or boots, but most are barefoot or wear pattens. They may carry a tall bamboo staff.

The commoner’s breeches are Turkish in style and their coat Armenian (Wolfgang Bruhn and Max Tilke, A Pictorial History of Costume). The straw hat is like a coolie hat of East and Southeast Asia (see photo above left). The cloth cap is similar to the Phrygian cap worn all along the Mediterranean coast and adopted during the French revolution as the liberty cap (see illustration right). Until the advent of Rand, Tairen commoners had few rights and little liberty.

Servants: Livery for servants in the Stone is black and gold.

Tairen costume, with its ‘Spanish’ upper class gives a sense of 16th century European colonialism, when Spain and Portugal vied to find the Asian markets and cut out the Arab middleman, and to divide up the newfound lands between them.


All Tuatha’an wear extremely bright colours, sometimes in clashing combinations.

When they split from the Da’shain Aiel, the Tuatha'an abandoned their vow of service (and the sober Da’shain mode of dress!) but retained the Way of the Leaf. Their real-world parallel is the gypsies; both groups are travelling folk that are despised by other peoples.

Men: wear a bright high-collared coat, which may be striped, and baggy trousers tucked into knee high boots (Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs).

Women: wear a dress with multicoloured stripes or bright skirt and blouse and a shawl (Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs). The young women wear strings of beads hanging in their long hair (The Eye of the World, Shelter From the Storm).


The Whitecloak uniform is some 300 years behind the costume of the rest of mainland. It consists of a white undercoat (A Crown of Swords, Prologue) and a white tabard and cloak both embroidered with a gold sunburst on the breast. Under-officers have silver lightning bolts under the sun, officers, golden stars or knots. Inquisitors have a red shepherd’s crook behind the sun. The High Inquisitor only has the crook; no sun at all “as if his position allows him to stand outside the Children” (The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time).

As a crusading military order, Whitecloaks have similarities to the Teutonic Knights, who wear a white surcoat with a black cross (see illustration left), and the Knights Templar, who wore a white habit with a red cross (see 1283 painting above right).

Servants wear coat and breeches of white and gold (The Dragon Reborn, Prologue).


Birgitte: wears a short coat, dark cloak and wide trousers tucked into short boots (The Fires of Heaven Leavetakings). In Tel’aran’rhiod, her trousers were gathered at the ankles (The Shadow Rising, To the Tower of Ghenjei), but would have been conspicuous at this time:

They had put it about that Birgitte was from Kandor, where country women wore something like her clothes.

- Winter’s Heart, Prologue

(For comparison with the Kandori dress see here.) Birgitte's costume dates from about 1000 NE and is one she took a liking to (The Fires of Heaven, Meetings). It is similar to the traditional dress of some parts of Albania and Serbia, shown in the photo right, although with less embroidery.

The uniform for Elayne’s bodyguard was influenced by Birgitte’s mode of dress.

Occasionally Birgitte wears a dress—a revealing one.

Birgitte wears her golden hair in a single thick braid to her waist, more intricately woven than the braids of Two Rivers women.

Min: until she was appropriated in the Seanchan (see above), usually wore tight breeches, blouse, short fitted coat and high heeled boots. As the series progressed, her clothes got progressively tighter and more embroidered and she wore more jewellery (Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue). Her hair was originally short and in a plain style, but she wore it in ringlets to her shoulders (Knife of Dreams, News For the Dragon) until she joined the Seanchan as Doomseer. She got into the habit of wearing mens’ clothing in her childhood in the mining camps near Baerlon (Lord of Chaos, A Threat).

Various Cairhienin and Tairen women, notably Lady Caraline Damodred and High Lady Anaiyella Narencelona, have adopted this fashion and adapted it to their nations’ style (Knife of Dreams, Within The Stone).

Mordeth wore:

tight black breeches and soft red boots with the tops turned down at his ankles. A long, red vest thickly embroidered in gold, and a snowy white shirt with wide sleeves, the points of his cuffs hanging almost to his knees.

- The Eye of the World, Shadow’s Waiting

This is a medieval European style.


In Knife of Dreams, Honey in the Tea, ghosts in the White Tower wore odd clothing:

Women were seen walking out of walls, or into them, often in dresses of old-fashioned cut, sometimes in bizarre garb, dresses that seemed simply lengths of brightly colored cloth folded around the body, embroidered ankle-length tabards worn over wide trousers, stranger things still. Light, when could any woman have wanted to wear a dress that left her bosom completely exposed?

The wrap dresses may be Indian saris, although some African women also wear wrap dresses (see photo above left). The tabard and trousers is probably like the salwar kameez from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan (see photo above right) although with a longer top. Women in the ancient Minoan civilisation wore dresses that left their bosoms exposed (see photo below).


Written by Linda, August 2006 and revised 2010‒11, April 2014 and again August 2019


Anonymous said...

Oh this is great. I was having difficulty imagining a tarabonen conical hat till I saw this, and to think I have seen in real life (I am Indian)

This blog post was great.

Linda said...

Thank you! I am glad it has helped. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all this research! I love comming back to this serie while I'm reading the books