This article looks at demi-human fashion, which really means elven fashion, for the other demi-human races have fashions unique unto themselves or otherwise not falling within human norms. Elven fashion might well fall into this category as well were it not for elven innovations with respect to their own unique garments and their willingness to adapt otherwise purely human fashions to their own needs.
Fashion in the Flanaess - The Demi-Humans, Most Especially the Elves
By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung, with more than able assistance from S. Katherine Dammerung, aka SKDammerung
Posted with permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from author.
Demi-human fashion in a broad sense does not exist. Dwarven attire is dictated almost entirely by tradition and does not vary appreciably over time. Halfling attire is entirely functional or mimics local human cultures without innovation. Gnomish attire follows something of both dwarven tradition and halfling practicality with only a single notable exception of the gnomes of the Flinty and Kron Hills, whose barrel hose (gaskins), however colorful, are best left to the gnomes. Only among the elves is there a definable fashion with meaning in a human context.
Before examining specifically elven garments, it is appropriate to note that elves love human fashions. It seems to be a characteristic of humanity that elves can appreciate. That human fashions are much more varied, for the most part, than typical elven models seems to only add to the appeal the elves find. In an elven court, elven fashions will predominate but only by barely half. The remaining fashions will be human or some elven take on human fashion. Because of their long lives, the human fashions on display will represent an array of times and places. The added factor of uniquely elven materials and the addition of elven stylings to the human fashions makes such displays more than just a historic retrospective. Human fashion in elven hands becomes something of both.
A listing of uniquely elven attire follows.
Edlefranse: The Eldefranse appears as both a lightweight and a medium weight garment. The lightweight Eldefranse looks like a robe with the addition of side panels that can close at the front of the robe. The medium weight Eldefranse looks like a surcoat robe with the addition of side panels that can close at the front of the robe. In both cases, the garment has a "double breasted" look that can be quite impressive. It is usually worn with the side panels open.
The Eldefranse is belted, internally (with belt slits) or external to the side panels. When belted internally, the panals flare toward the front, being open to movement. The shoulders are usually padded as well, particularly by younger male elves. When so worn, the Eldefranse gives the wearer a broadshouldered, V-waisted look, with or without the "flying" side panels. The "skirt" of the robe or surcoat (when belted) can either be allowed to fall straight to the ankle or can be flared with stiffeners, usually for court occasions. In either case, the look is very masculine and appealing.
Riding and quick movement is not impeded as the "skirt" of the Eldefranse (when belted) can be slit at the sides, front and rear in a statement of personal preference. When made from elven silk, such slit Eldefranse have a "self-sealing" quality. The slits open under pressure from movement but closes when there is no pressure.
The Eldefranse is the only uniquely elven garment for men. When elven males are otherwise garbed, it is with human fashions or variants. This statement excludes from consideration, however, simple, unremarkable shifts, tunics and breaches that are common to any advanced human or demi-human civilization.
The Sheath Dress: A Sheath Dress is a form fitting, ankle length dress, with perhaps a small train, if any at all. Composed of elven or ordinary silks or brocades, it moves with the body while lending to the wearer a floating motion if a mannered walk if affected. The chief innovation of the Sheath Dress is in how it is varied from the simple, elegant standard. A Sheath Dress may feature prominently any of the following modifications and sometimes combinations.
Backless: A backless Sheath Dress reveals the back of the wearer. The back may be a scalloped fold or folds at the shoulder blades or it may plunge to the mid-back or even waist. Gathers of cloth usually fringe the back, while the remainder of the dress conforms to the usual sheathing effect.
Single-Shoulder: A single-shoulder Sheath Dress reveals one shoulder, while the other shoulder bears a single strap or drape. Sometimes considered an "Amazone" dress, the single-shoulder is often of a color that will attractively set off the wearer’s skin tone.
Strapless: The strapless Sheath Dress leaves both shoulders bear. The dress is held up by drawing tight across the upper bodice, with or without interior supports. A decorative banding of ribbon, fur or simply folded material often distinguishes the upper bustline.
Fanback: The fanbacked Sheath Dress uses excess fabric to create a fan effect on the back. The fan is usually pleated but may use stiffeners to create a smooth appearance. Scallops, waves even spikes may be worked into the upper border of the fan, in addition to or instead of simple pleats. The size of the fan is determined by individual taste.
Trumpeted: A trumpeted Sheath Dress flairs broadly at the mid-thigh, knee, calf or even ankle. It is in all other ways a Sheath Dress.
The Wedge: A wedged Sheath Dress uses shoulder extensions or pads to create a noticeable line at the shoulders. The dress then narrows to a tight, usually belted for affect, waist. The look is a reverse A-line or inverted triangle. When properly worn, the effect is stunningly stylish with a waspish look, particularly if the wearer’s hair is also properly done up.
The Bustle: A bustle may be worn with a Sheath Dress but it is not typical. A bustled look is a stiffened extension from the waist and hips. When worn with a Sheath Dress, the bustle is usually modest, even subdued. From the bustle, the dress drops or drapes to the ground. Very stylized, this look is best thought of as a regional variant, common only in certain, usually more rustic, places.
The Toga: An adaptation from the Suel toga, this look presents a Sheath Dress with the addition of a toga on top. The toga is usually very light weight, even gossamer, and it is cut back or scaled down, more properly a demi-toga. The material of the demi-toga and the Sheath Dress are usually contrasted. A truly diaphanous demi-toga is considered gauche and in very bad taste.
Juliesse: A Juliesse Sheath Dress is adorned with puffed shoulders and/or sleeves. The puffs may be slashed, as well. This is a very difficult look to pull off with aplomb. To do so, it is often necessary to use more ordinary materials than the elven norm. This, in turn, presents its own problems when a comparison with other Sheath Dresses is inevitable. A go-for-broke fashion decision, Juliesse Sheath Dresses are more likely to be seen in human or mixed, than purely elven, company.
Diamante: A Diamante Sheath Dress uses crushed gemstones, usually, diamonds or sapphires, to cover the material of the dress. The affect is sparkling. If powdered gemstones are used, the look can be very understated and elegant. True crushed gemstones are the more flashy but are still not necessarily extravagant. Actual gem chips are extravagant, ostentatious and, unless masterfully done, gaudy enough not to be fashionable.
Mermaid: A Mermaid Sheath Dress utilizes sequins, either gems, metals, light reflective ceramics or even seas shells or leaves to cover the basic dress. The principle is similar to the Diamante but the affect is entirely different. Another go-for-broke fashion decision, the Mermaid Sheath Dress is not easy to pull off successfully. It works best in areas near water or for special balls where it will not seem too over the top. An example of the last would be a snowflake design, using crystals or actual ice (given necessary magics to preserve it, hold it together and keep the wearer warm) for a Yule Ball or a colored leaf design for a Brewfest fete.
Like the Eldefranse, a Sheath Dress may be slit to assist in movement.
Heels: Heels are won with a Sheath Dress. True "high heels" are unknown in the Flanaess but elven women come the closest with substantial lifts in the heel of shoes or slippers, much more graceful appearing than the human equivalents. See Fashion in the Flanaess - The Aerdi East and The Aerdi West.
The Astral Collar: An Astral Collar is an accessory that can be used with a Sheath Dress. It consists of three stiffened loops of material or even bare, usually metal, filigree. The central hoop is taller than the side hoops, which are the same size. The whole is attached to the collar and appears behind the wearers head. Astral Collars may be plain or variously adorned. They are generally only worn on the most formal of occasions and are, even then, not always considered fashionable by younger elven women.
When not wearing a Sheath Dress, traditional elven women’s attire consistes of robes usually distinguished only by their Elven Collars, large sculpted collars that cover part, or sometimes, all of the shoulders. Of course, these robes are made of elven materials after the elven fashion and are quite distinctive for that.
Less so than men, elven women also adopt the fashions of humanity. Why elven men are more accepting of non-elven fashions is something of a puzzle but not too great of one. The versatility and visual impact of the Sheath Dress with its variety of permutations makes resort to other fashions less appealing.