Worldbuilding for Preptober… Fashion Questions

First, some more Links:
I keep thinking of all these fun, serious sorts of topics, and then realizing I really want to write about fashion.

Well, then why not? It’s on my worldbuilding bingo, clearly I’m not the only one that thinks about it.

And in some situations it can make or break your story.

(I read a lot of stuff written in the 50’s and 40’s growing up. What I remember most in terms of confusing terminology was fashion terms. Nothing else really said this is a period piece the way the clothing terms did).

I’m going to diverge into actual historical stuff for a moment: If you are writing a period piece, know your terminology, know your fashion era. Do the research! Don’t put your heroine in a bustle when she should be wearing a farthingale, or a corset when it would be “stays.”

Okay, back to worldbuilding and fashion. If you have an urban fantasy world set in nearly-Earth, your fashion choices are likely to be more about character building and less about worldbuilding. But if you have a fantasy, sci-fi, post-apoc world, then you can say a lot about your world by the fashion you put your people in.

If fantasy, are you riffing off a particular historical period or a particular part of the world? Do some research into that period and region: if you want to change things up, do it knowingly. If you want corsets over 13th-century kirtles, well, have a reason for that. If sci-fi, are you extrapolating out from a particular fashion and era?

Basic questions that cover all eras of fashion:
* What is the technology available for weaving cloth and manufacturing clothing?
* What is the climate/are the climates of your setting? Equatorial people are going to end up wearing different things than arctic ones, for one.
* What functional purposes, other than protection from climate, do clothing serve in your culture(s)? Blacksmith’s aprons fall here, as do clean-room suits.
* What are the social mores surrounding clothing, decoration, head- and limb- covering, facial and head hair, body hair, and so on, in your culture(s)?
* What is the economy of your nation(s) currently? (see the Hemline index for one way that might determine what’s currently in fashion).
* What is the current body type fashion for men? For women?
* Is there a strong gendered dichotomy in fashion / in life? A weak one? An aggressive lack of dichotomy?
* Are their actual laws regarding who can wear what? (Sumptuary Laws). Are these laws morality-based, class-based, designed to set off a certain portion of the public?
* Does your culture / do your cultures have strong class divisions? How do these divisions show up in clothing?
* are there non-humanoid aspects to consider? Tails? Horns?

For instance: In Inner Circle/Jumping Rings, every citizen is issued cheap tunics. The climate is warm, Mediterranean general trends; they have no nudity taboo, and they tend towards portable decoration and clothing that can move around the Changes brought on by magic. Technology is barely early-industrial-era, but supplemented by magic. There is very little gendered dichotomy in base clothing, but some people will choose to emphasize traits of one or another gender.

The cities are divided into Rings representing walls separating the citizens from the dangers of the Circled Plain. The lower number of Ring you are, the further inside the city, and thus the safer you are – and generally far more affluent. The outer rings are often very poor people, and these people generally will just wear the government-issue tunic. In the innermost rings, the tunics are either donated directly out-circle, or worn for dirty jobs or slumming around, and in the middle rings, nobody would be caught dead in a government-issue tunic.

And, let’s see, in Arlend, which is my Nano-project-place’s name (Finally! A name!):
* Weaving is mechanized, but still requires human labor. Complex patterns in the weave are possible, but subsequently much more expensive. Luxury tends to be shown in a combination of more fabric and more complexly-woven fabrics.
* The climate is cold in the winter (thick snow) and warm but not oppressively so in the summer. Clothing tends towards layers that can be easily added or shed.
…Still working on the rest!

What about you?

Do you have anything specific in mind for the clothing in your world?
Is it based of a specific Earth era? Are you making it up whole-cloth(ha)?
What does how your protagonist dresses say about them?

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