Artists Resources: Flash Guide to Medieval Fantasy Costume Elements – Part 1

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The medieval era is a classic in modern story telling of all forms, Japanese popular media; manga, anime, games, light novels and the likes, is no exception. From Arslan Senki to Berserk, the anime and manga universe is not short on medieval tales. Most recent ones include Granblue Fantasy, a game franchise with a recent anime adaptation that heavily features the fantasy-medieval costumes, with a solid touch of steampunk elements.

Social standing is something to keep in mind when drawing and designing costumes for characters. Lavish outfits and jewelries are reserved only for the people from the higher social statuses. Clothing starts to become of importance in distinguishing and enforcing social hierarchy during the period; the government even enforced a law on what the middle to lower classes can and cannot wear, down to what color of stones are reserved only for nobility.

Clothing styles from other parts of the continent vary greatly, and the clothing items featured here are mostly of European and English. We’ve featured the medieval elements through clothing items, and it’s up to your creative direction whether to go full on medieval fantasy or just a hint of it. Let’s start with these three for starters.

  1. Kirtle

Kirtles are worn by both women and men during the era. The clothing item is found to be worn by peasants as the outermost layer of their clothing. The upper classes and nobility commonly wear cloaks or surcoats on top, covering the kirtles.

Giacomo Pacchiarotto (Italian, 1474-1539)
Kirtle-inspired garment / gown, illustration by Akihiko Yoshida
Kirtle-inspired outfit worn by men – Yuri Lowell from Granblue Fantasy
  1. Tunic

Tunics are a primary garment worn by Europeans in the middle ages. Towards the end of the middle ages, the longer the tunic (coming to or near the ankles), the higher the person’s social status. Typically, the wealthier show off their status by wearing longer, more colorful tunics, often made of silk and other fine materials. There were also tunics of the religious kind, such as Dalmatic and Sakkos, which are long, and wide-sleeved tunics, often with an elaborate pattern.

Tunics worn by soldiers, illustrations by Akihiko Yoshida.

 

One kind of Dalmatica

Dalmatica-inspired look – Illustration: Gran from Granblue Fantasy
  1. Cloaks

In fashion and its use in the popular culture, this outermost garment gives off a distinct impression. It can be played off to express the image of mystery, grandiose, and elegance. This is supported by the evidence that apparently, servants or attendants do not wear cloaks.

Cloak, 1580-1600 Victoria & Albert Museum
Djeeta and Gran illustration

Please note that this post is composed with “fantasy” and pop culture in mind, and never aimed to be strict in historical accuracy. With that said, there is no one right way in coordinating a characters’ outfits; it’s fashion—with fantasy to boot. Feel free to get your thigh-highs and miniskirts in action despite the medieval setting. We’ll dive into more clothing items in the next installment.

 

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