Analysis of Modern “Medieval Fantasy” Fashion

Hey everyone, I know it’s been a LONG time since I last posted anything! At least two months, I know. This is mostly because college has hit me really hard, and it’s not fun. ;-( I have pretty much no time to sew or write or do things I actually like anymore, so yeah.

The good news is, the Anakin cosplay is pretty close to being done, and I have the coutil for the Edwardian corset, so those things are humming along pretty nicely except that I don’t have much time to work on them! You should expect to get a post about the Anakin costume pretty soon, once it’s done, but in the meantime, I thought I’d discuss one of my favorite things related to sewing and fashion. The culture’s modern take on medieval-inspired fashion.

The reason why I’ve always been so into medieval things is because I’ve been working on a two-book fantasy series for a very long time, and it’s medieval inspired, so I figured I would do some research on the medieval era. One thing to keep in mind is that I really didn’t know how to research back then! I would just type in “medieval clothes” and trust that the Google results would be based on history. Ha. Ha. Ha. This very lame sort of research at least dispelled my preconceived notions that medieval clothes looked like this vague mix of the Renaissance, Baroque and Georgian styles, but what I found was not the true medieval style. It was the modern style of medieval fantasy costumes, and I fell in love with it.

For a while, I believed that actual medieval clothing was beautiful like this, with rich colors and lots of embellishments, and that they were delicate and flowy and flattering. I also used to think that medieval fashion involved corsets, bare or mostly-bare arms, lots of sheer fabrics, etc. None of this is really the case most of the time… Maybe there were bold colors and embroidery and stuff, but for the most part medieval clothes were loose and shapeless, with the intent of concealing instead of flattering the human body. Once I started to do real research, like looking at historical paintings from the period, I realized that actual medieval clothes were not as beautiful or romantic as people have made it out to be.

But, that doesn’t stop us from enjoying the modern interpretations of the medieval style! In this post we’re going to explore some of my favorite types of medieval fantasy costumes: the Elven style, the adventurer style, and the fairy style. But first, I’m going to deal with a more controversial subject: female armor.

I have a pretty unpopular opinion of female armor, because I really dislike it in most cases. I’m not into the whole “female knight” business because I think it’s unrealistic, and I don’t think women need to fight men in order to be equal to men. In particular, there are three pet peeves I have with female armor: it is usually too skimpy, or too heavy looking, or unfeminine. At least other people are starting to recognize that a chainmail bikini is not useful or practical. But then they go to the other extreme and make the armor bulky and unfeminine.

(Note: I’m not trying to insult this art in anyway, it’s really great artwork; I’m just critiquing the overall mindset of bulky female armor.)

While I agree that this is better than the metal bikini, I still think it’s impractical because it looks so heavy. It would require massive strength to not only wear this, but also fight in it. I would only be okay with something like this if the character in question is a member of a naturally strong species, or has magical abilities, etc. But a normal 120 pound human girl going to war in something like this….? Sure, it’s probably *possible.* But like I said before, I don’t think women need to fight men or act like men in order to be equal to men.

The only case where I like female armor is something like this.

Protective, practical, obviously feminine…. perfect!

With that rant aside, let’s move on to Elven fashion! Typically, Elves from Lord of the Rings or something similar wear something like this.

They’re usually pretty simple, but very flattering and elegant. Fitted around the waist with a long, flowy skirt and long, flowy sleeves. I’m usually all about all things fancy and embellished, but this is the one exception. There’s something just magical about this simple design with its flowing vertical lines. I love it so much, in fact, that I designed a dress for my book character (Aurora) in this style.

Next, the adventurer style! People have come up with some really awesome outfits for an archeress or whatever.

Forest-y and adventuresome but cute at the same time, I would love to wear something like this if I were to go on an epic quest!

There’s so much you can do with a fairy costume! I would love to make one sometime. I’ve seen tutorials on how to make wings out of wire and cellophane.

If I were to make a fairy costume, I would make the wings the main focus. I think a fairy should have wings of butterfly proportions in order to fly realistically, so I would make the wings quite huge… Maybe they only have a little bit of wire at the back, and are otherwise an extremely long and full train of fabric, so that they look like they’re folded up! Maybe someday, if I ever have the time or money in my life for such a thing. ^.^

I hope you enjoyed looking at these pretty pictures with me! Hope to share a post about the Anakin costume soon. 🙂

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