Children of Earth: Style and Costuming

General Children of Earth styles

Rich colors and textures are preferred over plain elegance among the Children of Earth; the vastness of space is stark and silent enough as it is. All genders wear accessories and adornments, and every adult wears a sash or scarf tied to indicate their gender.

Weight matters on the constrained space of a ship. Possessions eat up space that could have been cargo. Nobody owns more clothes than they wear on a regular basis. As a rule, a person will wear the entirety of their wardrobe during the course of any given week. Temperature from one area of the ship to another depends heavily on which equipment is there, though, so for anyone who moves around the ship, layers are key. A light, breathing bottom layer forms the base, and protects the middle garments, so that as little laundry as possible needs done on a regular basis. Layers of varying weight and shape are added and subtracted on top. Layers should not be flowing. That’s impractical around heavy machinery and in tight spaces.

Long travel-times between trade destination means plenty of time to develop and practice handicrafts. Everyone develops an artistic skill, whether that be entertaining your shipmates with storytelling or music, or in creating something beautiful and unique out of available materials. As such, there’s a strong tendency towards embroidery, beadwork, and other embellishment of clothing. Garments quickly become heirlooms.

As such, if your mother’s father put hundreds of hours into embellishing a garment, you’re not throwing it away. Refitting, repurposing, cutting the beadwork off of one garment to sew it onto another are all typical and traditional. It would not be unusual for a Child of Earth, when complimented on a garment, to regale you with the tales of the three different relatives whose work adorns the cuffs, the hem, and the collar.

Heavy jewelry, on the other hand is unusual, and largely frowned upon as vainglorious and impractical. Plenty of stories circulating about that neutrois the one time who lost their finger because their ring got crushed, or great uncle so-and-so whose necklace got caught in the equipment and almost did him in.

Common motifs

  • Geometric shapes
  • Representations of ancestral trade routes
  • Chemical compositions or representations of goods the family takes pride in or specializes in
  • Planetary systems of significance, either sentimental or commercial.

Different color schemes, trends, patterns, and themes are observable within individual ships, in part due to the passing down of garments. A trend can span generations, as the fruits of a particularly fruitful indigo shipment or an ancestor’s love of metallic embroidery threads saturates pieces that are handed down and assimilated over decades or centuries.

Formal wear

Formal clothing exists, but is a great extravagance. Since it’s not going to be worn often or regularly, here the prohibition against weight and bulk shows the clearest. Silk and extremely lightweight synthetics that wouldn’t be durable enough for daily life come out only for festivals, trademeets, and planetside visits. These are all things that can pack down very small.

Hair, scent, and cosmetics

Elaborately braided and out-of-the-face hairstyles are popular, comfortable, and practical. A style can be left in sometimes for weeks with minimal ongoing care. Shaved styles, by the same token, are out of the way and require very little upkeep. 

This isn’t to say that hygiene isn’t critical; it’s an enclosed space full of humanity and recycled air, personal odors are not tolerated. Communal bathing is common on many ships – if you’re going to heat up all that water anyway, you might as well scrub everyone and make efficient use of the water.

On a related note, perfume is verboten. The air is circulated, and all it takes is one person with an allergy or a sensitive nose for it to be incredibly rude for anyone to be wearing strong perfume or cologne anywhere on the ship. You’ll rarely see a Child of Earth using anything heavier than a mildly scented soap.

The use of cosmetics is variable by ship. Since heavy jewelry can be an impediment, cosmetics are a good alternative for adornment, but are in limited supply. High-tech nanocosmetics from the Etamui are popular as they can be reused almost indefinitely, whereas low-tech mineral and plant based cosmetics are only used for special occasions.

The Children of Earth are intent on preserving the traditions of Earth and remaining human, however, so you won’t see significant cosmetic biomodifications or cybermodifications among the Children – no cat ears or blue skin as might be seen among the transhumanist Etamui. Decorative, meaningful tattoos on any part of the body are commonplace, though, and don’t need much replenishing, unlike many cosmetics.

  • Costuming hints: Using scented oils or perfumes to try to convey a character is of course not a problem! Incense is in common use for ancestor shrines, and the choice of incense depends greatly on what is non-offensive for everyone on the ship. Your character might be accidentally or purposefully perfumed with the incense smoke from their ancestor shrine. Alternatively, perhaps your character is a mechanic stained by ship oils and the tang of metal; maybe your operations officer smells of the cargo they oversee.

Gender markers

When a Child of Earth comes of age and chooses a gender, they acquire a scarf (which may be more like a sash or a shawl, depending on the person). They might make it themselves in preparation for adulthood, they might be gifted a plain and unadorned scarf that they will embellish over time, or they might trade for an unadorned scarf to add to over the course of their travels. How they wear the scarf indicates their gender: around the waist for women, around the neck for men, worn across the chest from hip to shoulder for androgynes, and around the head (or not worn at all) for neutrois.

Scarves and sashes are deeply personal forms of expression. They do not get passed down or reused, nor do they incorporate anyone else’s work; it is an opportunity to showcase your own skills. In addition to clearly communicating your gender, the scarf expresses personal taste and personal embellishment style. If you want to know someone’s favorite color, personal wardrobe specialties, or most meaningful motifs, look to their scarf. Trading or gifting a scarf is nearly unheard of. It would be like giving a part of yourself away. Not just out of sentimentality, but also because that is a very personal expression. What is someone else going to do with it?

Costuming suggestions: Secondhand stores have plenty of unusual scarves and shawls. If you want to splurge a little on something fancy, dupatta are pre-decorated and have a lot of fabric to work with, and are especially useful for the shoulder-to-hip androgyne-gendered sash. A male-gendered character could get away with using a cravat, and a female-gendered character could also wear an obi sash or a wrap skirt.

Faction-specific styles

The exact style for any Child of Earth depends greatly on the fleet, the ship, and the trade route, as cloth and clothing pieces are often acquired in trade from the various systems on the ship’s trade route. Different factions also have different style tendencies and preferences.

Great Fleets

They were the first of the Children of Earth and (in many ways) the founders – and they won’t let anyone forget it. Order and organization are the cornerstones of the Great Fleets, and the Fleet comes first in identity and loyalty: before the individual, the family, or the ship. This shows in their clothing, as well: clean military and corporate lines, unified themes of style and color within a ship’s population, sometimes even insignia denoting their occupation or ship or fleet.

Elder Caravans

The diplomatic Elder Caravans value patience, diligence, and work that will last. Many of the CoE’s finest crafters will be found among them, exercising the same focus in their needlework and hand-beading as they do in their statecraft. Attention to detail and simpler garments that place an emphasis on hand-embellishment is the earmark of an Elder Caravan garment. In keeping with their oral tradition, EC embellishments contain motifs and threads from caravan tales, creating garments that share their stories with future generations.

Sponsored Fleets

Bucking tradition, the Sponsored laugh at the wide near-prohibition of excess possessions, and indulge their love of novelty. Life is for living, money is for spending, and it’s your damn ship; you can afford to carry around some extra clothes. Their outfits are more varied, with less reliance on rotation and layering, and they’re the most likely to be spotted in heavier jewelry and statement pieces. Even this varies by ship, though, as the Sponsored cling to the traditions of their half-forgotten cultural origins that are unique from the Elder Fleets or Great Caravans.

United Fleets

The strong-willed United Fleets are a crowd of loud voices, each wanting to make itself heard and leave its mark. Expect to see a lot of bright colors, possibly nearly clashing, as forging a wardrobe from the family’s hand-me-downs means finding a way to bring Great-great-great Auncle Estin’s signature crimson into harmony with mother’s personal saffron blend and the chartreuse that everyone knows is your hallmark. The United mean to leave their mark on the world, and that starts with making an impression that nobody will forget.

Writing credit: Dia Campbell and Lia Lilley