When the weather starts to get colder, the leaves turn and fall, and the snow begins to flutter down, there’s one iconic movie scene that comes to mind: when the beacons of Gondor are being lit, one by one, blazing across the top of the snow-covered mountainside.
Of course, this is from one of the most incredible book series of all time, The Lord of the Rings, created by J. R. R. Tolkien. His land of Middle Earth is rich with many different cultures, such as the elves, dwarves, men, and hobbits.
The Lord of the Rings continues to be a life-changing story and a favorite of many, but the rich medieval-style clothing worn by the heroes and heroines in the books and movies seems practically unattainable in a day and age where most of us wear jeans and hoodies all the time. However, there is a solution to this problem. Certain colors, patterns, and styles in today’s fashion can match and represent the looks of your favorite characters from the legendarium. And here’s a simple guide.
Everything about the nature of the elves of Middle Earth speaks beauty, grace, and wisdom. You get a regal and natural mental image of them through Tolkien’s descriptions as seen in this depiction of the Lord and Lady of Lorien: “they were clad wholly in white; and the hair of the Lady was of deep gold, and the hair of the Lord Celeborn was of silver long and bright” (The Fellowship). Their clothes have a simplistic, and yet rich feel to them.
For elves, anything flowing, like a silk blouse, will give the right regal feel. These characters mostly wear whites, light blues, and a plethora of woodland hues, using very natural tones, as if their clothes were made from natural fibers. Most elf royalty also wear a small tiara or diadem, which can be achieved by a thin silver head band.
Dwarves are the tribes of short folk who are slightly taller than hobbits. Their main identifying feature is their bushy beards, and they are known for mining ores and creating fine works of metal, including mithril chainmail. Their clothing is characteristic of their lifestyle, often strong armor made in dwarven mines. “The dwarves of yore,” said Tolkien in The Hobbit, “made mighty spells, while hammers fell like ringing bells in places deep, where dark things sleep, in hollow halls beneath the fells” (The Hobbit).
For the dwarves, chunky boots or any large shoes give the right affect. For their clothes, they usually had a richer color pallet of browns, reds, and blues. Accessories that go with the dwarven style include beanies and handwarmers, as they often live in colder climates. Another one of their identifying fashion markers is braided hair or one or two strands of complex plaiting.
Of the kingdoms of men, the two most prominent in the novels are Gondor and Rohan. Many of the men residing in Gondor are descended from the Numenoreans of old, who are described as “tall, pale-skinned, with dark hair, shining grey eyes, and proud faces” (Tolkiengateway Gondorians). Their identifying mark is usually the tree of Gondor, a white tree with seven stars depicted in the Peter Jackson movies on almost all Gondorian armor.
The Dunedian rangers, of whom Aragorn is one, tend to have a messier appearance from their jobs as rangers in the Northern lands of Middle Earth, despite the fact that they are the last true heirs to the throne of Gondor.
The people of Rohan are the horse lords; their clothing needed to be easy to ride in. They live on the rolling fields cradled by the two huge mountain belts of Middle Earth. These Rohirrim had light-colored hair and blue eyes, and proud fighting spirit. Their signature mark is a plume of horsehair coming from their helms and the symbol of the white horse on their huge wooden shields.
To capture the style of a Middle Earth man, try a color pallet of purples and greens, some knee-high or riding boots, and vests or jackets with faux fur linings. They usually leave their hair long and down by their shoulders and don’t wear hats.
Now, concerning hobbits, they are a short people, shorter than the dwarven race, leading a bucolic lifestyle in the Shire, living off the land, enjoying their family histories, and eating to their heart’s content. “They dressed in bright colours, being notably fond of yellow and green; but they seldom wore shoes, since their feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads, which was commonly brown,” says Tolkien, describing hobbits, in his prologue to The Fellowship.
In the film adaptation by Peter Jackson, “Ngila Dickson, the trilogy’s Oscar-winning costume designer, dressed the film hobbits in clothing that evoked the 18th century English countryside: Women typically wore puff-sleeve blouses and pinafores with fitted bodices and full skirts, while men wore cotton shirts, waistcoats, and cropped trousers. Hobbits also tend to wear natural fibers in harvest tones” (College fashion). So, for a hobbit-esque look, go for bright autumnal or spring colors, and anything that speaks English countryside fits as well, such as tweeds, blazers, and vests.
By getting a handle on the identifying styles of each race, it is easier to add some Middle Earthian influence to your closet these holidays. Even though the rich medieval style of the book is not really practical or attainable for most in everyday garb, we can still continue to be inspired by fashion from The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Fellowship of the Ring.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit.