By Kathryn Paterwic
In the first episode of the new Amazon Prime series adaptation The Wheel of Time, we meet our main seven characters, five from a small village called Emond’s Field and two from the outside world. Establishing that those two, Lan and Moiraine, are different right off the bat is key, and to do that they need to establish a base aesthetic style in Emond’s Field to play against.
Emond’s Field is a small village in the Two Rivers region, which is in the kingdom of Andor. Emond’s Field however is so small and isolated that they don’t even know they are part of a larger kingdom. This starts informing the style of the Emond’s Fielders. We can assume that: One, they are making everything from scratch and; two, there are very few new garments. Clothes will be hand-me-downs, and new garments are extremely valuable — maybe sentimental. Additionally, the majority of their clothing materials will be wool, fleece, or natural fibers that can be found in the surrounding area.
The first thing you notice about clothing in Emond’s Field is that there are very few bright or pure colors, and most of the garments have closures around the neck and chest. What does this mean on a deeper level?
The lack of pure or bright colors means that these clothes get worn and washed and re-dyed over and over. Bright and pure colors can only really be achieved when the original fabric is white, giving the pigment a clean base to apply the color. If you dye already dyed fabric, it will start to take on a more muddy coloration. This gives the villagers clothes a much more muted look.
The fact that almost every garment has a button or toggle closure is another clue to its hand-me-down nature. In a world with very little stretch material, closures like buttons and toggles make a garment more accessible to more sizes. Move the buttons a bit and that alone can alter the fit. Buttons around the neck and chest area make it easier for people with larger heads or chests to get into the garment. You would much rather have a garment too big in the shoulders and chest then too small because an alteration to make a small garment bigger is not easy. As for length, if a garment is too long, they would roll it up or cuff it just like we do today. Buttons will also make them more seasonably adjustable, and allow them to be worn in a wider variety of climates. All of these techniques make garments easier to hand around and therefore stay in use longer.
In the Two Rivers region there are very few new clothes, and there are going to be very few garments made from non-local materials. The primary clothing material is locally sourced fibers such as wools, linen, I would even say things like nettle hemp since you might be able to find them naturally or grow them. Emond’s Field is a farming community after all but they are known for their wool and sheep. Wool is sustainable but there are very few leather goods, because you would need to kill the sheep or ox for the leather. Effectively it’s a question of wool for years, or leather for now. Milk, cheese and help for years or leather now. People that have garments out of sheepskin or leather need it to keep them from the elements, which will make Moiraine stand out.
We spent a lot of time on her in the first article so just a quick overview. Rosamund Pike (Moiraine) is already a tall, slender woman, and the designer has chosen to accentuate this with her garment choices. Pants, shirt, her full length coat, even her Caireanan puffed sleeves (which puff up more than out) make her seem taller. The lack of visual closures or even a belt buckle tells me she is not big on ornamentations or decoration. All her garments are sensible and chosen for a reason. This could be an Aes Sedai trait, but when we encounter other Aes Sedai, we see this is her choice. Even the purity of all of the shades of blue shows me that these garments have never been dyed anything but blue. These garments were meant for her and only her — this is not a hand-me-anywhere. Going back to the leather, she is seen with these amazing leather shoulder pieces, which is not a very useful place to put leather but aids in that tall silhouette.
While we are on silhouettes let’s talk about Lan, whose overall look is not as different from the Two Rivers residents as Moiraines, but is still giving clues that he doesn’t belong. Lan has a very obscured silhouette, the garments give his look a North Asian feel, which is not an aesthetic seen in Two Rivers, and gives viewers very little to go on as to his physique. While he is still definitely an outsider in Emond’s Field, his costume doesn’t stand out as much as Moiraine’s does. I would say mainly due to the color, his garments blend in with the general surroundings. He is dressed in not only one color, but in one shade, a natural brownish gray with a touch of green, whose texture blends with trees, rocks, dead leaves, all things in the forest he travels through. It will be interesting to see if his overall color changes with the seasons and landscape, like camouflage.
When taking color, style, fit and even materials into consideration, our outsiders will probably blend into a town or city at a quick glance, but upon closer inspection they are definitely “not from around here.” In a larger village, no one looks twice at a traveler. In the Two Rivers region, their color palette, fabric choices and silhouettes make Lan and Moiraine stand out as strangers.
I will be looking at costuming choices and how they work within the story and world of The Wheel of Time for individual episodes going forward, so I hope you look forward to those.