The Development of Ebdurian Clothing: IV

The Late (Imperial) Third Concord (c. 1670-1808)

The dominant fashion of this period was for patchwork. Originally a sign of poverty, deployed by those who could not afford new clothes, they became popular among the rich, affected a new simplicity by contrast with the formality of the gentry. Patchwork was also, however, a way to display wealth – both because of the excessive labour required to construct clothes entirely from small, and later irregular, patches, and because those patches could each be valuable. Patches would be of cloth-of-gold, or rijnui, or silk, or sandflax, or be covered with delicate embroidery, or dyed violent hues.

In consequence of this mania for patchwork, the “hoops” of the lajodàn were thinned, and made less numerous, to create more space for the patches that were now the centre of attention and wealth.

The lajodàn also underwent several other dramatic changes, perhaps due to the amount of sewing that was now required in their creation. They were no longer convenient wraps of cloth, and this was realised: the shape of the cloth itself was now altered, with deep cuts being made to display the breasts, and flaps added to cover the shoulders, tied at the back, and tall collars to cover the back of the neck, constructed on light wooden frames. The strips of cloth used for the skirt part of the garment were now made longer than the upper parts, so that pleats could be sown in to them.

Finally, the sheet of cloth that had formally descended from the hat to cover the back of the neck expanded around the brim until it covered the entire head from all directions – this simultaneously expressed the purity of the woman and her ability to afford delicate laces and thin gauzes through which she could see without being seen.

However, not all women wore these clothes, and not only for class reasons. Around this time, a new gender was being created, the kanihā, whose nature is difficult to understand without reference to the marriage system. Ebdurian upper-class marriages are group marriages, where the core is a number of sisters, often partnered to a number of brothers. To balance numbers between families, and to build closer alliances, it became common for families with many daughters to send some of them away to be adopted into other families – marriage cells could thus include two tiers of women, the original daughters (the society being matrilineal) and their adopted sisters. Kanihā were originally simply those women who were adopted into other families – but in this period, this fact became associated with certain traits, and in the following century they were finally recognised as a distinct gender: the gender of the sort of female who would normally be adopted out, regardless of whether in fact they were. In this period, they were not a gender, but they were recognised as distinct.

Kanihā occupied a subordinate role in their families, and thus were clad rather more simply. In effect, the old clothing of the middle classes became the clothing of the kanihā: a short lajomàm and a yanauta. The yanauta, however, developed away from a simple band of cloth: the two front edge were now cut to line up, the corners were extended to reach over the shoulder without pulling the fabric, and the bottom hemline dropped down to the waist, ending the plebeian exposure of the stomach.

Kimyō were in this period prohibited from wearing the itàko and the lajotō, which were reserved now for true mahikò only. To circumvent regulations regarding the lajotō, they adopted the female lajomàm, which was in any case of a similar length – the only difference being that the lajotō had been of two colours, had been pieced together from several strips, and had several hoop-like hems. In order to retain continuity with this garment, they chose to decorate their new lajomàms with bands of design in imitation of the multiple hems of the lajotō. Prohibited from wearing the itàko, they simply wore no upper garment other than their banātiyosa – indeed, they considered that they had never worn any upper garment, as the itàko still was not incorporated into norms of “garments” – it was not a lajo, and they continued to wear no upper lajo.

The mahikò, meanwhile, refused to adopt the new patchwork mania of the lajodàn, seen as material and commercial, and retained the “purity” of their lajotō, even reducing their number of hems. They did, however, adopt the veil of the tàniko. Their banātiyosa expanded to cover the whole of the upper body, but most of it was hidden, as the itàko expanded down to the knees, and the sleeves became increasingly long and deep, to impractical degrees – this was by this time the costume of a religious elite.

For men, the great change in this time was the deprecation of the military – paradoxical, at a time of great military expansion. However, due to the land-pensions given to veterans, and the increasingly unified and clan-independent structure of the armed forces, the military was seen as a vehicle for the nouveau riche – and even military officers began to stress their respect for old norms and customs. Out went the fabric vambraces. Out went the giant banātiyosa – the new form would never extend higher than the naval. The ban on the male itàko was no problem at all – the same garment was made out of non-felt fabrics, and tucked under the banātiyosa, rather than hanging over it. Other changes were made at the same time – the sewn sleeves were unsewn, leaving drapes of cloth to hang over the upper arms, and the collars became looser, cut down to the sternum to expose the chest. The new garment was called an arnyahà, or “banner”, as it was marked with heraldic devices. Over this would often be worn a simple cloak, fastened at the neck.

Men, however, were not quite so uniform as they had once been. A new gender was at this time being recognised – a new kind of male, disdainful of women and social mores, often dedicated to the armed forces, and generally more egocentric, due perhaps to the new freedom from their matrilineal families and duties to children and relatives. This ‘”type” of male had been recognised for some time, but it was only now that they became considered an independent gender, the ortu. The ortu dressed simply and without pretence – they discarded the lajomàm for the cheaper and more practical kinyajo, and did not bother, at least in their free time, with the arnyahà (which was, however, required formal dress in the armed forces), wearing only a cloak. They retained the wide banātiyosa out of military pride, but made it a simple cloth sash.

Finally, the range of hat designs expanded exponentially in this period, as the basic straw structure was deformed in novel and ever-changing ways. Women’s hats began to be adorned with displays of exotic feathers – the most expensive sporting full plumages of feathers falling from the hat’s peak in an elaborate tail.

Design patterns, too, proliferated – but no garment was complete without a number of iratti, the symbol of the Empire and its faith – a number (usually seven or nine) of thick radiating branches, each sporting many thin and fractal fronds of ferns.

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