M. Grace Costello was severely limited by time and could not devote as much detail to many aspects of the project, which is why I want to encourage other scholars and designers to think about their own interpretations of costume in the Legendarium and possibly exploring deeper into certain areas. I was also limited by the materials that were available to me. I was unable to find many silk and wool brocade fabrics in production and thus had to resort to substituting some polyester brocade in my prototypes. I wanted to depart from Eurocentric visions of Elven costume, but I was limited by my own knowledge of the Primary World, which specializes in European fashion history. I was able to avoid specifically Indo-European influences in my design, but I wish I had been able to bring more inspiration from outside Europe altogether. I would love to see a similar project from someone familiar with the fashion histories of Asia, Oceania, Africa, or the Americas. I hope that this study will encourage a shift in the way we imagine Tolkien’s characters, leading to a much more diverse conception of the Legendarium. I also hope that the method of creating a fictional fashion history that I demonstrated in my design process will be useful to costume designers adapting other fantasy projects for visual media. for more info visit: bullion embroidery
Ideas for Further Exploration
Patternmaking: as humans we tend to divide our bodies into Front and Behind (or possibly, seeable and un-seeable.) This is reflected in the way we conceptualize patterns, creating front and back pieces with side seams and reflection across the center line. Could Elves conceptualize and divide the spaces of their bodies differently? Instead of golden rectangles could their sacred geometry be circular, or spiral-based, and how would this effect the construction on their clothes? I explored this somewhat by eliminating or manipulating the side seams in everything but the undershirts of my designs, but it could be taken further. I have mentioned that twining, a method of weaving in the round, would be accessible and probable for the early Quendi of Cuiviénen, which could make for some interesting designs.
Bullion Embroidery design: one of the only aspects of dress that Tolkien mentioned often is embroidery. What might a typical Ñoldor embroidery design look like? Could the family and personal crests drawn by Tolkien be incorporated into these designs? Where on the body would embroidery be placed? What motifs would be popular and how would they reflect Ñoldor values, for example, would we see designs of the Two Trees or constellations, or abstract patterns and fractals inspired by the Ñoldor’s beloved gems and minerals?
Hand Embroidery UK offer many new ideas that clothes would be made by specialized artisans. How many of these clothing artisans are there? Would they come to a client’s home for measurements and fittings or would they have a shop? How involved is the client in the design process? What does cheap clothing look like? There are also questions raised by the long lifespan of Elves and the comparatively short lifespan of textiles. Is there a way to design garments as modular, with pieces that can easily be replaced as the wear out? Could embroidery be done on mesh or organza and basted to clothes, then removed and applied to a different garment when the item it was originally on wears out? Are clothes discarded as soon as they exhibit fraying or small holes, or is it culturally expected to mend your clothes and continue to wear them as long as possible?
Later ages of Middle Earth:
in this paper I designed for a point in time just before the Darkening of Valinor, in a period of peace and plentiful resources. My timeline could be extended into the later events of the Silmarillion and even the Third Age and the War of the Ring. War and geographic displacement have marked effects on resource availability as well as the psyche of a cultural group, which translates into dress. How might the dress of the Ñoldor change as they go to war, lose access to the silk that was so readily available in Valinor, experience several abrupt changes in leadership, and have to face more death than they have seen since Cuiviénen?
No matter how hard I try, how much I practice, or even trying different methods of execution, for some reason, I just can get knotted stitches to work.
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