The Final Fashion Fantasy

There’s something about a big, shiny sword and a metal suit of armor that nerd culture can’t seem to get enough of. Maybe we glorify minimalism and technology, or maybe capes made of wolf hair and gauntlets of dragon scale just feel perfectly manly. Surrounded by screens, grande lattes, designer jeans and SUVs, a world full of horses, dirt, metal, meat and stone castles appeals to us because of the escape, the romance.

fantasy fashion

Corseted gowns of thick, lustrous fabrics, flashy jewelry and elaborate hair updos are only fly on occasions such as Halloween or (if you’re lucky) a costume-themed wedding. The days of women sitting around, waiting for a horseback messenger to come with the mail, sewing a cushion or playing the harpsichord are over. Practicality has lead to the minimalism of today’s fashion.

The fantasy genre, in contrast, thrives on magical manifestations — runes, mage-hardened metals, and crafting woods. I think most of us like the idea of forces beyond what we normally experience, but in games that take place in the modern day or the future these forces are easy to get away with by just saying that technology has advanced that far. In the medieval, fantasy realm, we call it magic. Instead of having a bullet-proof body suit and laser guns, we have a breast plate with +300 fire resistance or a mage staff with +135 electricity damage.

I tend to prefer the clothing of the elven spellcasters because they always seem to set the trends in medieval fantasy worlds. They keep it light and simple with lush fabrics and tasteful jewelry. The human, wench look is boring and dwarves….well, let’s just say they aren’t known for their sense of style. However, in MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Rift, I absolutely love the mohawks, hair colors, piercings and makeup options.

With games like World of Warcraft, Rift, Dragon Age, Oblivion, The Witcher and Fable, should game designers look beyond this world and start making new, innovative standards? After all, fantasy world fashion is directly modeled after our own medieval history. Games like Assassin’s Creed aim for historical accuracy, but most throw in a dragon or 30 and all of a sudden there are mages, magic stones, talking trees, trolls and an evil sorceror trying to conquer the land in mystical flowing tunics with encumbering, pointed hoods. Where’s the continuity?

Asymetrical cuts, ruffles, hats of any sort besides hoods, and even heels are strikingly absent, it seems, in fantasy chic. What if there were a world of dragons, blacksmiths, witchcraft and castles, but with a more modern or edgy fashion? Or even better, a world far removed from our own with clothing completely different from both the stereotypical fantasy world and realistic representations (not "steampunk," "Victorian," "cowboy/western," the "1930s" style, etc.)?



If any game designers out there aren’t afraid to push the envelope and be experimental, I urge them to try new ideas in the fantasy realm. Try combining things we know but from different time periods like broken robot dolls with dragons and castles. Give dwarves dark powers, and morph elven culture into a pseudo-capitalist power struggle. If nothing else, just do something we haven’t seen before. Originality speaks louder than volume.


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Author: Nikki Lee View all posts by

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