I have been playing Assassin’s Creed III, and if there is one thing I have obsessed about more than Ben Franklin, it’s spatterdashes. Spatterdashes are the taller ancestors of spats, used to protect the lower extremities, stockings, and shoes from mud, wet, and cold. They appear frequently in game, as they were a uniform item of the armies of the period. (image source)
As the article above mentioned, spatterdashes go back to at least the 1600s in Western Europe (and, by extension, the colonies of Western Europe). They stayed in popular use, particularly in the military, in to the modern era; see the vintage offerings in the link section for examples. This means that, if you are going for a particular setting, they belong in the recent past (and present, in certain parade uniforms); however, their construction is rather simple, so if your fantasy culture has the ability to weave cloth, make buttons, and fashion leather, then they can make spatterdashes, and you can keep your stockings clean!
Image Credit: Illustration from Chambers’s Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language.
Spatter-dashes, n.pl. coverings for the legs, to keep them clean from water and mud, a kind of gaiters.
By Rev. Thomas Davidson 1856-1923 (ed.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Straw hats are one of those clothing items that have existed for so long that it is nearly impossible to pin-point their earliest uses (well, with the archaeological technology we have now, anyway). They can be made using grass or reeds, which is plentiful in nearly every human-occupied biome, and are a fantastic adaptation for dealing with the sun since they provide shade and allow for breezes to cool your scalp.
Even more interestingly, the shape of the hat in the past is pretty much the same as the floppy wide-brimmed hats you see at beaches or hovering over mint juleps in Louisville during derby season; like it’s pan-Asian cousin, the European straw hat has kept an iconic shape throughout the centuries. They were used amongst all classes; the peasants wore them, certainly, but so did nobles when out of doors.
It can be difficult to immerse yourself when you see clothing you associate with modern times, but firstly, old doesn’t always mean different, and secondly, straw hats will keep you cool when it’s hot and sunny out, and that is very important.
Ladies Wide Large Brim Summer Beach Sun hat Straw Beige via Shop Hot Punk. Straw. Ships to most countries. $9 USD
If you examine the middle parts of the lady on the right of this image- not those middle parts, get your mind out of Shakespeare’s gutter- you will find a muff. Not that kind of muff! Look, what kind of pervert are you?
A muff is a perfectly innocent word for a round tube of fur that was popular as a cold-weather garment for a span of three hundred years, from the 1600s through the early 1900s (source and source). It was unisex for the first 200 years of its popularity, though it became a ladies-only garment by the Victorian Era. It’s hardly a combat appropriate, but it is rather small and compact; something to keep with you on those long trails. It would be even more effective as an accessory for one of those incredibly long-lived night-walking bloodsuckers everyone’s so fond of; the kind of touch that reveals a person a bit behind the times.
Photo is of Marvel Rea (left), Fred Sterling (center), and Alice Maison (right), circa 1919, via Wikimedia Commons. The work is in the Public Domain.
But if you want a muff of your very own…
Oh, sugar plums. I did not know you were a real thing until a few years ago! What? I was a ballet kid. I seriously thought it was just a kind of fairy for a while. Shut up. Anyway, Sugar plums are a lovely example of a seasonal sweet- and also, how strange names can be:
“Sugarplums were an early form of boiled sweet. Not acutally made from plums…they were nevertheless roughly the size and shape of plums, and often had little wire stalks’ for suspending them from. They came in an assortment of colours and flavours, and frequently, like comfits, had an aniseed, caraway seed, etc. at their centre. The term was in vogue from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, but is now remebered largely thanks to the Sugarplum Fairy, a character in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet (1892.)” - From an A-Z of Food & Drink
The original sweets only looked like plums- though, many confectioners now make them exclusively from plums. The name became the thing, over time. Many larps have food- the best have food named for events or concepts in game. Maybe your tavern-keep invented The Fallen Fortress, a drink guaranteed to knock you on your ass, after the players successfully stormed a fortress against all odds. Maybe, when the adventurers move to a new town, they discover the drink recipe has been heard of here, too- except the locals make it with actual bits of their local fallen fortress (a largely wooden structure), thanks to way things change when orally transmitted. Which might, you know, cause problems for one of your characters with an allergy to that kind of wood, or a religious injunction preventing them from consuming it…
Or perhaps, given the plethora of holidays approaching, your characters are sent out to defeat a mad confectioner who doesn’t understand that candied elves’ ears was supposed to refer to a particular leaf glazed with sugar and not, you know, the real thing. Extra points if you have props that resemble actual candied elves’ ears. Extra extra points if they are edible, and yummy!
Bottom Right: Photo by Slim Paley
One of the most delicious feelings in the world is wrapping up in warm, woolen clothing and sipping a mug of spiced wine while playing Skyrim. Or while snuggling with your loved ones. Or both!
One of the shittiest feelings in the world is feeling your agility slip away as the cold seeps into your fingers after hours on the trail- seeing another group of monsters appear, exhaustedly wrapping your hands around a weapon, thinking of the hearth at the tavern and knowing the only thing to keeping you warm now is adrenaline and the blood of your enemies.
Keeping warm this time of year was a subject I found deeply interesting as a larper in the American Midwest; I *like* having fingers and toes. The best thing I discovered was that knitted clothing dates back to the 1200s century CE in Europe. This includes all kinds of things- hats, shirts, stockings, even gloves. Knits have more stretch than woven items, which made them particularly popular for things like socks and stockings because you could get a more fitted experience.
If your character is from a fictional culture, the only technological requirements for knitting are the ability to make smooth knitting needles, the ability to make yarn, and some sort of herd animal to get the yarn from. This is damn near anything with fur- camelhair sweaters show just how varied the source animal can be. Alternatively, the culture in question might import them from another culture with all of those things; in that case, it would make visual sense for the knitted items to look substantially different from the rest of that character’s kit.
Normally, I would have photos of specific items but let’s face it- it’s cyber Monday. The prices will be off in 24 hours and stuff has been going out of stock all day. I’d still recommend the usual suspects- etsy is the center of my universe for finding cute knit things, and if you can make them yourself, Violet Von has some awesome steampunk patterns.
Painting is by Stanley Cursiter The Fair Isle Jumper (1923), courtesy of the Edinburgh City Art Centre. It’s a bit late for most Steampunk, but still adorable as all get out!
MidnightMeadow has some chemises on Etsy! $29 a piece is great for a wardrobe basic you can wear with nearly anything.
The fabric varies by color:
Practically speaking, loosely woven cotton and a poly/cotton blend are warm weather clothes. Northerly folks might consider getting a darker color to wear over ye olde underarmor in the coming months.
PS: Pure cotton shrinks in the wash, whereas a 60/40 poly/cotton blend doesn’t.