homemade wool cloak

For my Reimagined Culture Project—the culture of the ten-acre Realm of Habdur—I need a fashion appropriate to the climate, to the available materials, and to the values and sensibilities of the Habdur people (i.e. me).

To develop it, my foundational principles are:

  • The clothing should be appropriate for Northern Michigan seasons.
  • The clothing should function well through the manual labor and odd chores of homesteading.
  • The fashion should fit a culture not dependent on wage slaves (unlike Western culture generally since the 1830s).
  • Eventually, fibers and other materials would ideally be raised in Habdur itself. For the time being I'm seeking materials that predominantly could be raised in Habdur's climate: wool, leather, fur, and perhaps hemp. (Though industrial hemp is currently illegal to grow in Michigan, it may become legal in the next decade or two.) I've already been making buttons from Habdur wood, pictured below.
  • Like all aspects of the Reimagined Culture Project, the style of dress should suggest a fantastical other-worldliness. People who visit my land (and see me dressed in the Habdur style) should feel as if they've been transported into a fantasy world.

I've developed a few more design guidelines derived from the above:

  • Dress in layers. This is especially beneficial in a wood-heated home in Northern Michigan: no matter the season, my needs for warm clothing will change throughout the day, every day. Also, a survey of fantasy characters demonstrates that their outfits usually involve quite a few layers. (As far as I can tell, layers are key to capturing the style.)
  • Dress more "flowy": robes, cloaks, tunics. The crisp, fitted styles that men usually wear in western culture require quite a lot of cutting and sewing (sweatshop labor, or excessive labor for a DIY homesteader). "Flowy" clothing is less labor-intensive to make. And, because it tends to use whole or nearly whole widths of cloth, it wastes less fabric and is thus more suitable for homestead-scale production. It also makes me look like a wizard or monk.
  • Dress as the Noble Peasantry. In most fantasy stories (as in medieval history), society is stratified into the land-owning nobility and the land-working peasants. In Habdur there exists no such wealth gap—I, the landowner, am also the land's keeper. Thus I can't merely copy medieval styles: they tend to be either practical and ragged or luxuriant and fashionable. I want clothes to fit Habdur's utopic vision: everyday work clothes for the thrifty, ecologically-conscious nobility. Which includes...
  • A light touch of thrifty flamboyance. Part of what makes a fantasy world fantastical is that everything is a bit larger-than-life. To capture that in the fashion of Habdur, I want a gentle dose of flamboyance: a splash of color here, a huge turkey feather there. A simple measure of whimsy accessorizing earth-toned (dirt-stainable) work clothes is a perfect fit for the Noble Peasantry—who do not outsource gruntwork to any lower class.
    • One way to achieve this is by using colorful patches and thread to repair torn clothing. Flamboyant thrift.

My first step in creating something actually wearable was to stick a turkey feather in my straw hat. (I hope to learn to make my own straw hats. In the meantime this one was made in China, probably by underpaid workers.)

turkey feather in my straw hat

Next, knowing wool would be one of the primary materials of Habdur fashion (as I plan to raise Nigora goats for wool and milk), I bought a used wool blanket from a military surplus store to make into the cloak pictured above using wooden buttons homemade from a Habdur maple stick. Check out the cloak in more detail in this YouTube video!

homemade wooden button

Next steps: This winter, I hope to develop a base layer of clothing, likely some kind of tunic with all sorts of practical pockets for gardening and handiwork. Also, if I kill a deer this fall I'll have some leather to make into belts, straps, pouches, and moccasins.