Magi: Colors and Costumes

While discussing Vathara’s story Whispers of Fire, bookscrazygirl made a remark about the possible significance of the color of the silks being used and it got me thinking.

About clothing and color choices. What clothes a person wears can say a lot. In many areas and in many time periods, how someone is dressed, what their clothing is made out of, and what colors it is immediately gives other people a lot information about the person’s wealth and social status. There were some places (and might still be) where there were very strict laws about what each class was allowed to wear. In others, the only rule was if you could afford it.

Generally speaking, the common folk wore clothing made out of the most common, readily avaibale material that could easily be shaped into clothing in their region. Rich people could afford to buy materials from far away or were just uncommon or labor intensive. Because even if the material is common and native to region, if it takes a lot of work to make it, it was expensive.

And that is not just the linen, cotton, wool, etc, etc that physically makes the clothes. There is also dyes. Again, the common folk tended to dye their clothing in whatever colors could be cheaply produced. The most difficult the color was to make, the most expensive the dye was.

Purple for example, before the advert of synthetic dyes, was very difficult to produce. That made it very expensive and many places therefore reserved it for highest members of society.

Adding to the layer cake is symbolism. Different cultures have different ways of looking at color. For example, if you asked most Americans what is a mourning color, they would tell you black. But in many Asian cultures like Chinese and Japanese, they would say white.

Ancient Egyptians also associated white with death and black with life because white was the desert, black was the silt deposited by the Nile floods. I can’t remember which one but there was at least one culture that considers yellow the color of mourning.

So speculation time, people, what do you think the colors they are wearing say about our Magi characters? To themselves and to others? What is their clothing made out of? What does that tell us about their respective countries, social status, and such?


2 thoughts on “Magi: Colors and Costumes

    1. It can.

      People also used to wear white clothes underneath their other clothes because you can’t wash with water stuff like silk or velvet – so they keep something they could wash like linen next to the skin to collect all of the sweat and grime.

      But since Alibaba’s clothes don’t make him stand out despite the white color, I have to assume either they have really good and cheap laundry techniques where he is OR far more likely whatever his pants and coat are made out it is a naturally pale, undyed fabric. Same thing with Morgiana’s dress.


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