Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: PANTS

Pahari women from Kashmir.

Councilman Gowadar looked at himself in the full length mirror once more. His long, black hair had been carefully plaited by his own hands, his moustache and beard carefully groomed into a style befitting his age. Coconut oil shone on his skin to combat the drying effects of the sun. His tunic was new, hand dyed by his wife and embroidered with clean, white embroidery, seed pearls dotting the intricate looping pattern. And then…


He took a deep breath as he looked over the strange garment he was wearing. They were white, loose around the thigh but ended under the knee, two long strips of fabric meant to be laced around the calf and tied into a bow. When he had first seen the fashion the new magical casters had taken to wearing, he had laughed. Only those who did the most menial jobs wore pants, taking after the fashion of wearing the traditional skirt pulled through the legs and tucked into the belt. But the new casters said the long flowing skirts and long sleeves got in the way of their method of casting spells, interfered with the intricate gestures. The older councilmen had protested the loudest, claiming the powers of the Church was all that was needed for Gajerland. High Councilman Kershnan proclaimed the new casters ‘tricksters, liars of the worst kind and usurpers of our sweet and good traditions.’

And then Aswari had come home wearing them. Aswari, his pride and joy, his song and dance, his daughter. She had dust in her hair and bruises on her arms and blood on her face. Gowadar shouted for hot water and a physician but Aswari had shook her head, looking tired but bright-eyed. Once her mother Bavni was home Aswari explained everything. The protest she had attended, the secret schools they had to teach those disposed to the arts, the place those without abilities were still able to serve. The good this newfound technology and knowledge could provide. At first Gowadar and Bavni had protested, threatening to hire a tutor and keep her in the home. But then Aswari had held up her hand in a strange gesture. It had made the lamps in the room flicker, dim and then the flames on the wicks rose into the air, spinning around in a fanciful pattern. When she lowered her hand the flames extinguished and the family was left in darkness.

When Councilman Atuil had put forth the bill to protect the ‘Wielders of the Ether’ as he called them, Gowadar had stood with him, hoping to decriminalize the study and to fund an expedition to investigate ruins that could aid them in their research. Today was the big push in the Council and Gowadar was wearing his trousers in support. All the Councilmen that supported the bill were going to. Aswari had made them for him and they seemed to strange. He looked them over in the mirror. They were so bright.

“Thank you,” Aswari said. Gowadar turned around and saw his daughter standing there, wearing her woman’s tunic and the same style pants, though hers were bright yellow. Her dark, shining hair fell loose over her shoulders and she held his shawl with the tassles in her hands. It was the shawl that held their family history embroidered in the sheer fabric. His daughter walked up to him and draped it over his head, smiling at him.
“It’s the least I can do,” he said. His nervousness melted in his stomach as he realized what was at stake. His child’s future. The future of other people’s children, the knowledge of his people’s history. It could affecting his standing with the Church but the way they spoke out against the faction angered him, sickened him.

He would walk to the Council Hall and show his support for the New Casters. For Gajerland.

For Aswari.


Pants. Trousers. Breeches. Churidars. Bombachas. Chiripas. Ku. Hakama. Braccae. Baji. Shan Baun-mi.

Some people don’t like pants. Judging from my Twitter feed, a lot of you see them as some kind of bane of humanity. Pants mean work for many of us. Put on your pants, shove breakfast in your face, slam your way to work (I work from home, I’m guessing this is what you all do. All the slamming).

So much anger with the pants.

Pants, while textile-related shackles for some can be liberating for others. Having the choice to wear pants can be amazing to some people, just as having the choice to wear skirts might seem like a dream come true to some of you (don’t front).

As we all know, many cultures have clothing associated with various genders, professions and classes. Some cultures don’t have much variation between clothes for males and females; the only differences might be in the color choices or slight differences in the cut.

Some types of clothing might be expressly forbidden to certain people while other articles might be required of some but not necessarily off the table for others. Absence of forbiddance in the law could be seen as permission, depending on how strict the reader is.

The ancient Romans and Greeks laughed at people who wore pants, considering those who did so barbaric. Later in their military career the Romans added pants to the military uniform to deal with having soldiers in colder climates. Cultures strong in horseback riding tended to wear pants and some cultures didn’t see pants as being expressly for men or women. The tightness of garments depended greatly on the type of fabric used and the climate with airy clothing better suited for hot, humid areas.

Pants have also been used in politics. The sans-culottes made up the bulk of the army in the French Revolution. Sans-culottes means literally ‘without culottes’, the fancy knee breeches the aristocracy generally wore. The sans-culottes being lower class wore trousers and wore them proudly as they protested and fought, idealized in art and political ideas. Peter the Great of Russia in an effort to modernize Russia made laws requiring men to wear pants, conforming to norms in Western Europe.

Clothes for men or women have been prescribed in religious texts with some beliefs to this day forbidding crossdressing. As a teenager I was told I couldn’t greet at the door of the church I was attending because I happened to wear khakis that day. There are consequences way harsher than being relieved of duty for the day for wearing clothes not generally assigned to your gender, and not all punishments are metted out by religious institutions. The secular world can be quite harsh or even deadly to those who don’t conform to its standards of what men and women wear.

Pants once were a sign of coming of age. If you go to any museum that has art from mid 16th century on till early 20th century, you will notice the boys and girls both wear gowns. This is because before kids were potty trained, gowns were easier (and some gowns were designed with long straps so the parent can lead them around much like those leashes they sell? Hello). Pants were a pain in the ass to get up and down and rather than deal with belts, buttons and snaps they kept boys and girls in these gowns till they were able to handle more complicated, adult clothing.

And some kind of work is just easier to do in pants. Those in Asia knew this and trousers have been a part of women’s wardrobes for centuries, such as the shalwaar kameez.  Victorian England was scandalized when women working in coal mines wore trousers under their skirts, hiking their dresses up to give them freedom of movement while they performed the hard, manual labour. Clothing allowances during the second World War and increase of women into workplaces generally reserved for men meant many women wore their husband’s gear and took up the coveralls we all know from Rosie the Riveter posters.

PANTS. SKIRTS. Is the grass always greener? Will your heroes take up weapons to defend how they cover their legs? Clothing is a huge part of our culture, the outward trappings making us fit in or stand out among those we interact with on a day to day basis. And when in our heart of hearts we wish we could be wearing something more befitting our desires and identities,  we can just throw on jeans and a t-shirt and fit right in.

For GMs

  • What clothes to women, men and /or other genders typically wear? How do they differ? How are they the same?
  • Do children wear the same types of clothes as adults, only smaller? Or do they have special clothing to accommodate their rearing?
  • What types of clothing do the different social classes wear? Is there a bigger difference in clothing between the sexes or the classes?
  • Are there any political movements/groups that have types of clothing ascribed to them?
  • Are there any religions that have rules about the types of clothes genders should wear? Do these apply for attendance in the temple only or are believers expected to carry out the orders in their secular lives?
  • How are the fashion norms affected by other countries?
  • Are there any professions that have certain articles of clothing associated with them?
  • What are the consequences for wearing improper clothing? Fines? Being ignored by people? Public beatings? Imprisonment for indecency?
  • What types of clothing customs are seen as high-class? What is seen as ‘barbaric’?

Plot Hooks

  • A local store known for making high end garments has been robbed. Intelligence says members of an underground organization have stolen the garments in an attempt to infiltrate an important social gathering in the next few days. The PCs must also attend the gala and try to find the wearers of the stolen garments before they can carry out whatever they are planning. What are the articles of clothing? What will set them apart from the other party goers? What are the authorities afraid of?
  • Same as the above, except the PCs are the ones who must steal the garments and infiltrate the party. What steps are they taking to avoid detection? What are they trying to accomplish? Do they know who is looking for them? Are their manners up to the task?
  • When a well known tailor begins diverging from fashion norms and begins making clothes for men and women vastly different from each other, the PCs who are employed by the tailor to sew, obtain and deliver the creations are asked to wear the garments out in public and get feedback from the public. What is the response? Where do they go in their new clothes? How do their friends and family react? What was the inspiration for the changes? and how would it affect local clothes sellers? Who would be able to afford the new clothes? How do the PCs feel about the new clothes?
  • While fighting in a war, the PCs come across the bodies of dead soldiers: women dressed in men’s armour, slain in battle. Where the PCs are from there are strict rules against women dressing as men or fighting in wars. Knowing that there could be other women out there fighting, how do the PCs react when they encounter enemy soldiers? How do they regard the dead women?
  • An alliance with a new culture means an influx of new fashion for the people of their nation, with traditional garments altered and changed to suit people’s growing interest in other lands. However, an extreme nationalist  group has started hunting down those who wear these new garments, beating them in protest to the new ideas and culture. Who is the group doing this? What threat does the change in the clothing offer? Do they beat these people in broad daylight or at night? What is their biggest concern with the fashions and/or the alliance?
  • A new political group has taken to wearing a certain garment in solidarity and/or protest. The PCs are officers at a protest and must sort through a group of people who all happened to be wearing the article of clothing in question and must sort through those who just happened to be wearing it and the hardliners who actually support the cause. What is the cause? Why do they wear this article of clothing? What threat do they pose to the culture, government or economy? Who ordered the arrests of the citizens? How do the innocent feel about being arrested along with the true believers, just for wearing an article of clothing? How many people are arrested?

For PCs

  • How is clothing broken down where you are from?
  • How do your clothes reflect your gender?
  • How do your clothes reflect your profession?
  • How do your clothes reflect your class?
  • Do you wear anything prescribed by your religion or personal belief system?
  • How does your armour incorporate into your clothing?
  • Is there anything you wear that might seem mundane to the unschooled but would be a dead giveaway to those looking out for it?

What say you? Clothes are kind of a big deal. If you don’t think so, walk outside naked and tell me they aren’t, heh. How does your wardrobe reflect who you are or who you want to appear to be around your peers, friends, family and/or acquaintances?

4 thoughts on “Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: PANTS

Add yours

  1. Pants. I like pants. I like skirts too, but then again, I wear pants under them. Skirts and dresses by themselves are not good for me. They’re not comfy. I wear…well, when I was a kid, it was biker shorts. They don’t make those in my size anymore, not that I can find, so…some sort of stretchy cloth capris, unless it’s winter and then it’s full length stretchy pant things. Something I wouldn’t wear without a VERY long t-shirt in public, but under my skirts/dresses it’s fine.

    But pants…are specific. My husband tries to convince me to leave the house in PJ bottoms and I just can’t do it. PJ bottoms belong in the house. Outside you wear pants. Jeans, slacks, khaki’s, yoga pants if you must…but PJ bottoms just look lazy and sloppy, imo. I get that they’re comfy – I am rarely out of mine when I’m not in school, since I’m a SAHM otherwise who never leaves the house – but if I’m going out in public, I WILL look at put together as possible. (Exceptions to this sorta included the first few months after my son was born, but even THEN I did my damndest to look put together.


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