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Northern Clothing - Culture
Written By: Elizabeth Barrette (Writer), Ellen Million (Editor), Lorna (Comtessa) (Developer), Non-Member Author(s)
The clothing and footwear of the snow-unicorn riders.

Northern clothing uses leather, fur, felt, and fabric as main materials. Leather may be with or without fur. Fur can be a liner or trim. Felt is made from several types of fur and is used for insulation or padding. Fabric may be woven or knitted. Yarn and thread are spun from various fibers. A drop spindle is commonly used, and such tools are often brightly painted.

Fibers commonly used in clothes include silk-wool (from silk-hares, snowy-wool (from snow-unicorns, shagback fur, and snow-cat felt. Fiber from firebell leaves makes cloth similar to burlap or canvas depending on how it is treated; this is too coarse for most garments but might sometimes be used for outer layers, satchels, etc. Leathers and furs come from many animals including shagbacks, silk-hares, snowshoe boars, bears, salt-minks, seals, gliders, tundra hares, and snow-cats. Snow-unicorns are never killed for their hides, but the hides of those that die (including stillborn foals) are salvaged.

Much of Northern clothing is communally rather than privately owned. Houses typically have a public stash of clothes, and there are certain places (such as outside the sauna) where clean clothes are always available. A child-house would have child-sized clothing, a ranger house would have practical outdoor wear, etc. Individuals may also choose to make some of their own clothes or could receive garments as gifts. Scarves, hats, gloves, and mittens are very popular gift items. Belts, sashes, cords, cinchers, drawstrings, laces and other wraps are used to help make garments fit different people. Though the Northerners don't have a stretchy material like elastic, knit undergarments tend to have good stretching properties and knit cuffs and necklines are common.

The heavy winter coat or parka is a very important item. Almost everyone has their very own coat, and it tends to reflect their personality. This is a long-sleeved, hooded coat that usually reaches down to the thighs or knees, sometimes even longer. It can wrap and tie with a belt or cincher, or fasten with buttons or toggles. The hood often has a drawstring, and there may be other drawstrings to help prevent heat loss. The coat may be fur (with the fur on the inside, leather out), or leather trimmed with fur. It may have felt, down, or other padding for extra insulation. (For the most extreme weather, there are parkas made with two layers of fur, both facing inward; this is very warm but very bulky, so not for everyday use.) Embroidery, beads, intricate dye work, and other decorations are common. This is a favorite place to use rare furs such as those of wild sheep, mountain goats, snow-cats, etc. Beads from former lovers or other favorite outdated beads are often sewn on winter coats as well.

Jackets for spring or fall wear are lighter, usually made of unlined leather or heavy cloth, and more waterproof. They may be private or collective, and aren't as fancy as the winter coats. They don't last as long because they aren't made of extra-sturdy materials, though they aren't worn for much of the year.

Clothing is layered more often than not. Underwear is usually the equivalent of longjohns: a long-sleeved top and long-legged bottoms, closely fitting and made of a stretchy knit. People may wear pants or leggings in various styles, especially for riding snow-unicorns or other practical work where skirts might get in the way. Blouses and tunics usually have long sleeves, although 3/4 sleeves are not rare and shorter ones occasionally appear. Sleeveless tops or dresses are rare; they may be used for layering, or worn alone in warm weather or crowded indoor events. Necklines are usually simple self-collars; they can be scoop necks, turtlenecks, softly folded over, v-necks, etc. Northerners don't go for very fancy necklines, because the necklace is better displayed with a simple neckline. Tunics are hip to thigh length. A vest or bodice sometimes goes over the top. Knitted sweaters are another top layer and have the advantage of stretching so they can fit different people easily. Skirts may be long or short. Dresses are typically knee to calf length, occasionally ankle length. Longer floor-length dresses are uncommon; they're easier to trip over and eat up extra fabric. Fancy dresses for dancing are something that are occasionally privately owned and lavishly decorated; so are dancing scarves. People who are taller wear wrappings at wrists and ankles, while people who are shorter customarily roll up their cuffs. Individuals who are quite far from the usual sizes often have some private garments.

Clothing is almost never divided by sex. Both men and women may wear pants or dresses. However, dresses are more popular among domestics than rangers for everyday wear. Women are more likely than men to have a fancy scarf or shawl for dancing. Men are more likely to have a sash with fringed ends where they have tied the beads of former lovers, knotted so that the fringe hangs over a sexually suggestive area.

One notable item is the raiser dress. This is always individually owned, and is presented to a new raiser at their declaration ceremony on Raiser Day. They will decorate this dress with baby teeth beads given to them by children they raise or otherwise mentor. The beads may be arranged any way the raiser desires -- in straight lines, zig-zags, scallops, concentric circles, etc. If the dress is outgrown or wears out, the baby teeth are meticulously transferred to a new raiser dress in the same order and pattern. Raisers memorize the names of the children who have given them teeth, and can recite the list in order going along the dress. The raiser with the most teeth on their dress is chosen to lead the Raiser Day festivities during the summer gather. Only an official raiser may wear a dress with baby tooth beads, although children may give their teeth to any adult they admire -- people may hang the teeth on their necklace, sew them to a winter coat, etc. When a raiser dies, other raisers cut off the baby teeth from the dress and use those to make ceremonial rattles (similar to rainsticks).

Another notable item is the furshirt. This is a vest with the underlayer made of coarsely woven cloth. Knotted into the cloth are many small tufts of fur, mostly from snow-unicorns but also from all the other animals in the North. This garment requires a great deal of time and effort to make. It cannot be made for oneself, traded, nor sold. It is made by the crafters of a village for someone they have decided is worthy of the rank of storyteller -- and in fact, a storyteller is commonly called a "furshirt" as a result.

Drum-dancing outfits may be very brief, such as a loincloth, short skirt, and maybe a halter top. Shoes for drum dancing are specially made with felt or fur, and weighted, as the dancers use their feet as drumsticks. The dancers typically carry a two-headed baton tipped with felt.

Outdoor footwear is usually a pair of boots. Knee height and ankle boots are both common. Leather is the most common material. They may be plain, or have fur inside, or felt lining, or fur trim, etc. Sometimes boots are embroidered. Some people like to cover plain boots with fur wraps for decoration or extra warmth. Indoors, people wear knitted or felt house-slippers, or knit stockings soled with flexible leather.

Northerners do not have materials to waste. They tend to use simple, adaptable patterns rather than ones that leave a lot of scraps. Some people are especially fond of patchwork in leather or cloth, or knitting with tag-ends of yarn. Domestics are more likely than rangers to have a patchworked leather coat, as the many seams make it less waterproof and windproof.

Colors can be pretty much anything. Northerners have access to good dyestuffs, mostly from plants, especially in recent decades after discovery of the Lichenwold. A few dyes also come from sea life, insects, or other odd sources. Rangers are more likely to dress in natural tones of browns, grays, and dull greens. Winter brings out pale grays, pale blues, and whites. Northerners are especially fond of teal in various shades, along with blues and greens. Reds and oranges are popular for dancing or courting clothes.

Related Art:

Stories and poetry related to this article:

  • Before the Last Summer Dance (1520.05.03)
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