When a Hindu Bengali woman is married, she gains four symbols: shakha, pola, loha (three types of bracelets) and sindoor (a red dye rubbed into the part of her hair). This is a gendered practice; people treated as male do not carry any symbols of marital status. It is also viewed as a traditional practice- i.e. some of the younger generation and/or less devoutly religious chafe at it. Traditionally, a married woman wears these all the time. The shakha and pola bracelets are made from coral, and the less traditional will save these, and the sindoor, for special events. The loha, however- the bracelet made from iron- is more popular, and often made with iron coated with gold. They seem to be seen as more fashionable than the other symbols. (source)
For some of you, the concept of using something besides a wedding ring to symbolize marriage will be obvious, but for others, rings are all you know. Click on the source link, and read what the author has to say about the rich meanings associated with each of those symbols. And consider the fact that the men in this group are cut off from it- free from its burdens and forbidden to participate in its history. Is your character married? Widowed? To someone of the same culture, or a different one? What do they carry, to show this arrangment? What do the other characters think about this? What would your character’s family think, if they knew?
Except for the very last, none of these pieces are loha. On the other hand, unless you’re reenacting the lives of Bengali women, or are a Bengali woman, you might want to go with “inspired by” anyway.
240mm Baby Blue Electroplated Stainless Steel Bangle via BaubleBinBeads. Ships worldwide. $1 USD
Tiger Iron & Sterling Silver 7 inch Bangle via Sfresa. Ships worldwide. $32 USD
Iron Nail Cuff with Silver Rivets via HandforgeMetal. Ships worldwide. $150
Shown Above: One of many Loha by K.C. Sen Jewelers. Prices not given. Also, it appears that you have to actually purchase in store.
Me, Andrew Linstrom and Jack Graham will be reprising our worldbuilding workshop at Pax East 2013! It’s Saturday at 10:30 am in the Tabletop Workshop. Come say hi!
PS Who of you are coming to East?
Imagine a moment two centuries before the common era, inside a temple on a hill is what would one day be France. There are rumors of incursions by Romans in the South, and something must be done. You are a priest, and before you is a great arch. In it rest a series of skulls; whether these are your ancestors or your fallen enemies, only you know. The centuries will keep your secret.
Skulls are an old symbol for humans. Their use as such goes back at least as far as 7000 BCE, when the people of Jericho used plaster to reconstruct the faces of the dead. The various Celtic peoples used them for ritualistic purposes, according to the Romans, and various modern discoveries, like the skulls at Roquepertuse, support this. Decapitation was a major theme around much of Anatolia and Greece. And if those links didn’t sate your morbid appetite, you can also read here and here to learn more.
This near-universality means that a) you can feasibly use skulls or skull motifs in outfits going back thousands of years, and b) “What does my culture think about skulls?” would be a great bit of worldbuilding to consider.
Skull Beads by hempCraft. 12 pieces. Ships worldwide. $2 USD
Handmade Supercast Skull Latex Mould by SuperCastMoulds. Ships worldwide. $35 USD
Imagine, for just a moment, that you are a landed noble from a long and storied family that has served king and country for centuries. Now imagine you are out in your carriage, only to see it made to look rather shabby next to the absolutely sumptuous affair nearby- a silver, cream and carnation confection of a conveyance. And whom does it convey?
Miss Gertrude, a commoner in the printing business.
Sumptuary law is the English name for the category of law that restricts luxuries to certain classes of people. These laws exist for many reasons- in some cases, for example, they are meant to alter the flow of trade. However, they are more commonly associated with laws designed to make it visually obvious who has the higher rank, especially when the money of those with said rank is not up to the task. And then there is that other version- sumptuary laws based on religion.
If there are going to be out of game requirements for clothing, it would be worth considering having in-game sumptuary laws related to said requirements. This could be as simple as “The Lord of the Land has stated that all vegetation-based beings wear green,” or as complicated as any puff-up medieval dandy could wish.
On the other hand, I would be careful before altering your games established garb rules or creating in-game penalties for what might, honestly, be an out-of-game problem regarding cash. Costumes can be a rather expensive outlay relative to your players budgets, so make sure they are willing to dash out and buy or make more if they need to.
A third option is one that may appeal to players who primarily enjoy the game through dressing up; considering how inequitably sumptuary laws were enforced, it would be possible to generate a plot around the creation of these laws that only effects the players interested in it. After all, most non-martial nobles have very little interest in the dress of the man pointing a sword at their guts- but a great deal of interest in the doings of other non-combatants.
Image Credit: Burmese Upper Class Couple by Philip Adolphe Klier [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
There are plenty times when the gaming goals of the PCs conflict with the world that the GM/NPCs/host has created- a min-maxer at a puzzle based game with no stats will probably be unhappy. These are the kinds of conflicts that can often be resolved by simply making sure your game advertises itself accurately, or that everyone who is working on creating the game is on board with the goals.
That’s probably not what bothers fans of a costuming blog, though.
Good faith costuming conflicts come out of the tension between setting and character. If, for example, the game is set in a universe where black is the only color allowed by decree of the Mad King, then the setting requires a significant use of black in the costumes.
But wait! You’re playing a color-blind character whose inability to distinguish darker shades means you accidentally wear dark colors occasionally! Or, you are a plucky rebel who is willing to defy the king at any cost! Or, you are a wealthy noble who has managed to purchase the right of color!
And suddenly no one at the game is wearing black, and the oppressive mood that the color was supposed to represent has gone out the window, and the GM is going to have to create it other ways, through stuffing the world with black-costumed NPCs and maybe making sure most of the game accessories are black, instead of just having a bunch of characters integrate with the bloody setting for once.
People define themselves relative to their world. “I’m not a big sports fan,” is something that needs to be said in a world full of sports fans. Characters, similarly, define themselves relative to their setting. If the setting insists that the wearing of color is rare, but PCs are wearing it, then there is tension. There is in-game tension, of course, but I mean the tension between the way the world is described and the way the characters experience it.
If I tell you everyone wears black, but no one around you does, your experience of the world contradicts my reports of it. Even if you accept the idea that many other people might wear black, it is significantly more abstract than the direct experience of it.
And larping is all about direct experience.
I don’t have a side in this. I believe the players and GMs should know this tension exists, and consider it when making characters and settings. If your PC to NPC ratio is favorable, then sure, give the PCs leeway. If, on the other hand, everyone is a PC? Then the players should, perhaps, take some responsibility for the setting. But if every single PC is violating the “law”, then maybe it should be changed. Perhaps the Mad King changes his mind every week, making his demands clearly impossible for the majority of the population. Or maybe black is the rule, and the PC defiance is the source of an entire plot’s worth of material. Maybe your character starts out defiant, but quickly falls in line. Maybe the best they could do was black small clothes and so they are running around in their underwear(a reasonable choice as it warms up!). Maybe your character is utterly obedient and is very nervous about all this defiance.
I suppose I do have a slight preference for resolving these tensions in game- though, in general, I prefer games without strict conformity of dress for characters. Because… well… creative costuming is fun!