This new piece I just finished gives me a good opportunity to talk a little bit about some of the cultural fashion in the book and where I drew my inspiration. Hang in there, because none of it makes sense.
While I love drawing Mae being the skilled badass she is, fancy dresses and finery are certainly more fun to draw, and it’s not entirely out of character. A big part of the Wood-folk’s culture revolves around dancing; all their holidays incorporate it somehow, and it would be an integral part of the smaller communities throughout the mountain range. Any social gathering would likely give way to dancing at some point, whether it’s out in the town square or in the cramped space of someone’s parlor. While Mae is probably more at home with a tunic and scout pack, she would have cherished this part of her native culture and would long for it during her exile.
Nailing down exactly what real-world culture the Wood-folk mirror is impossible, because I took a bunch of seriously cool influences and mashed them together. The most significant aspect, wardrobe-wise, are Mae’s soft-soled leather boots. These would be worn by everyone all the time, with different fringes and decorations for different occasions. Here she’s wearing boots embellished with bells, which would be a popular choice for dances. Her titular rank as a Woodwalker would in part be conveyed by a pair of boots with two bands of fringe. And at a solemn occasion like a funeral, folk would wear boots with no embellishments at all.
These were inspired by several different Native American cultures, but that wasn’t the only influence. With dancing being a large part of the culture, much of the Wood-folk’s wardrobe would be designed around what looked cool while spinning or moving. Enter the influence of belly dance. I took a belly dance class in grad school (yes, grad school, bring it on), and I came away loving not just the spirit and fluidity of the style but the gorgeous ensembles that went with it (I never wore any myself; mostly I was in yoga pants and blown-out socks). I really wanted to capture that incorporation of the ensemble as part of the dance. So a dance in the Silverwood would likely be filled with flowing fabric, miles of pleats, and embellishments designed to move with the dancer.
Neither the Native American influence nor belly dance influence makes any sense with the actual music, of course. The instruments and melodies driving the festivities would be derived from traditional Celtic music. Fiddles, whistles, and dulcimers would be accompanied by bodhráns, or flat drums struck with tippers. Ultimately, the style of dancing would most closely resemble contra, a folk dance similar to square dancing, only done in a line and by hipsters (it’s okay, I’m one of them). They’d also have partner dances that would incorporate contra moves, such as Mae’s partner allemande above.
So basically we’re looking at an Appalachian folk dance set to driving Celtic music, danced in elaborate gowns and super comfy footwear. This concludes my thesis on the absolute greatest mashup of dancing traditions possible (I told you this happened in grad school).
Tune in for the next installment of Continental Fashion Culture: Lumeni Diving Costumes. This one will include shirtless men.
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator