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Look and feel

"The Highborn look is generally practical and restrained. Its beauty is in both the small touches – the geometric trim on the robes, the exquisite jewellery. Colours are deliberately stark and contrasting, and outfits in black and white are commonplace. Many members of a chapter choose to adopt similar garb, with the symbol of their chapter displayed prominently on the chest, shoulders, or at the breast. This is particularly true for Highborn warriors who show their solidarity and loyalty with their fellows by marching into battle decked in identical garb. Of all the nations of the Empire, the Highborn are the most inclined to uniformity, a visible display of their inner commitment to their shared faith and destiny.

Rather than displaying impractical frivolity in the cut of their garments, Highborn show their taste and wealth in jewellery, and the decoration of cloth. Jewelled and embellished trims at the hems of garments are popular, as is the intricate braiding of hair and heavy, elaborate jewellery."

Highguard is one of the nations with the least historical inspiration. It draws its influence heavily from classic fantasy such as Lord of the Rings, with a real emphasis on the Numenorian and Gondorian styles brought to life in the Peter Jackson trilogy. The look is strong and stark, and what makes it relatively easy to create a strong and distinctive look is the colour scheme - almost any western european medieval look in black, white and a touch of jewel toned colour will look excellent.

Similar nations

Dawn

Highguard probably has most in common with Dawnish costume - the love of rich, lavish fabrics, elegant in cut but with elaborate trim and jewellery is a feature they share. However, Dawnish costume should be a vivid pageant of colour; by contrast, Highguard clothing should be high contrast, mostly in black and white, with a hint of jewel-toned colour. Veils and cowls help to keep the look distinct.

Marches

Monks in the marches will wear similar robes to those in Highguard. Sticking to black or white, and adding geometric trim around your robes, possibly with the addition of a mitre-like hat for high status priest looks very Highborn.

Research

An excellent source of information on making fantasy costumes inspired by Lord of the Rings is Alley Cat Scratch. It covers everything from garment patterns, metalwork and sourcing trim. Re-enactment sources referenced on the Marches, Dawn and Wintermark pages are all good for inspiration - the colour palette, more than the shape of the garment, gives the uniform look to the nation.

Books The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant, Sarah Thursfield – Pretty much the bible for medieval costumes. Covers the layers from underwear to outerwear for the periods 1200-1500, plus headwear and accessories. Goes into detail about how to make the garments, which fabrics to use etc. A really excellent book.

Historical Costume Research Google searches on Medieval re-enactment, Wars of the roses and 13th, 14th or 15th Century re-enactment will all provide helpful inspiration.

Reenactment groups Some links to reenactment groups' costuming guides - a helpful source of inspiration and information.

In detail

High status characters

A rather severe look - black velvet or brocade works beautifully in contrast with silver fasteners or buttons. For both women and men, a close fitting gown looks suitably Highborn, referencing without overtly stating their faithfulness.

Dawncotehardie.jpg
Tywin.jpg
Littlefinger.jpg

On men, a gown is a reasonably close fitting robe, usually buttoning down the front, with long close fitting sleeves to the wrist. It persists to this day as the cassock and in the clothes of choirsters and some very traditional public school uniforms, all of which means both patterns and off-the-peg versions are fairly readily available.

Boromir.jpg
Uther.jpg
Jamie.jpg

It's a very adaptable look - a fantasy treatment could take the basic silhouette and standing collar, and shorten the overall length, either with full length or half length sleeves, as worn by Boromir, Uther Pendragon and Jamie Lannister for a "warrior's coat". It looks good worn open over chainmail. A close-fitting variant of this is the cotehardie which usually has lots of closely spaced buttons down the front and the sleeves - try googling "cotehardie". It can be a tough look to pull off, but well worth it!

Patterns:

For a high-necked gown on a women, you could use Simplicity 4940 making both the body of the gown and the yoke in matching black velvet. You then have the option to highlight the join with embroidery or sewing on links from a chain necklace, or you could just let it become invisible for a very elegant severe look.

This look could be achieved reasonably inexpensively with about 5m of cotton sheeting or cotton muslin (<£10) and a metre of wool or velvet for the over-bodice. Use Simplicity 4940 for a version with full sleeves, or make a narrow sleeved gown and use the over-bodice, but back lace with eyelets it rather than using a zip. For trim, this ebay seller usually has a lovely selection of silver, gold and coloured jacquard trims reasonably inexpensively. For heavy beaded and jewelled trim at very reasonable prices I use this eBay shop. About 2m of silver and black trim would do a great jewelled belt; they also sell shaped pieces designed to go on the necklines of dresses. Here is an exhaustive breakdown of the inspiration dress.

Film: Lord of the Rings

You could also use Simplicity 4940 for this dress, making the body in cotton velvet and the yoke in a metallic brocade. Here is this dress in detail, with lots more images and suggestions on how to get the look.

Priests

Templars

The Unconquered

General items

Cowl

At its simplest, a cowl is a cylinder of fabric that sits around your shoulders and over your head. Choosing a soft, drapey fabric like muslin will help it sit properly. A 1 yard piece of muslin or silk habutai that's 45 inches wide, seamed down its length and hemmed at either raw end will make a very full, drapy cowl.

Veil

Again best made using a very soft, drapy fabric like muslin, a veil is a circular, oval or rectangular piece of fabric to sit on your head. The Freeborn use veils to cover the lower half of their face; the Highborn look is far more concealing and drapes over the entire head, usually held in place by a circlet, crown or ribbon band. Don't skimp on the fabric - muslin is very cheap and a 2 or 3m length will give a sumptuous look to your veil. Consider edging it in lightweight trim for a finished look, or round the corners and turn a narrow hem. If you wear it just by putting it on your head then holding it on with a circlet, over time the veil will shift and ride up, leading to the dread "muffin head" look. For comfort and style, you might want to consider pinning it to a ribbon tied around your head, or utilising the methods in this tutorial, though bear in mind that for the SCA they wear the veil in a more historical fashion to cover the hair, rather than to sit over the face.

To uncover your face while wearing a veil the Highborn way, flip it back over the crown or band holding it in place, like a bride's veil, without taking it off your head. It's then ready to flip forward and cover your face again whenever you want.

Cloak

A cloak is a near-essential part of your costume, and a great opportunity to give your kit a finishing touch and keep you cosy. For light fabrics such as muslin, you can make a gathered-neck cloak with a drawstring for ease of construction- with heavy wools and velvet, a semicircular or circular mantle works best to reduce bulk at the neck and drapes beautifully. For a priest's mantle, a semi-circle or 3/4 circle cloak works best.

Jewellery

The Highborn are a people with a manifest destiny, to unite the human nations and lead them to a virtuous future. Their jewellery reflects their heritage, it is refined, elegant and regal. Gold or silver worn on the brow suggests authority.

Any refined and elegant jewellery works in Highguard, best in matching sets to tone with the costume. Particular emphasis is on crowns and circlets. Lord of the Rings replica jewellery is an expensive but very beautiful way of getting the look, but there are numerous "inspired by" items, often on ebay, and several excellent tutorials on how to make your own out of wire, clay and beads.

Armour

Plate armour:

Leather plate and lorica:

  • Totally Leathered provides custom tooled leatherwork & bespoke armour.
  • Idiom Productions Costume and Props Workshop creates custom hand-tooled leather armour, clothing and LRP weapons

Chain mail supplies and finished items:

Lightweight polyurethane replicas:

Make your own:

Shops