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In my setting, I have reasonably traditional Dwarves and Elves. The Dwarves magic allows them to control metals, earth, and other non living constructs. The Elves can control non sentient living things like plants and animals. They have more control over currently living things, then substances that were part of a living being and necessary for its surival (like leather), then nonessitial substances (fur and wool), finally orgainic substances that where just made by non sentient living things (silk).

The dwarves principally wear metal armor. However, metal armor is heavy and uncomfortable for day to day use, and downright chilly in the neather regions if worn naked. Since the elves can magically control plant and animal matter, the dwarves are wary of wearing cotton and wool and having dwarven soldiers strangled by their own clothing. Dwarven Leadership is looking to you for new options that keep soldiers both comfortable and alive.

Are there any options for clothing that could be comfortably worn under metal armor that never were part of a living creature? Is there any comfortable way to create metal armor so that it can be worn without anything underneath? With no better options, the dwarves will consider substances made by living creatures with a metalic base, hopeing to have an equal magic footing there. They are also open to additional potential solutions.

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    $\begingroup$ So what kind of control would the elves have over a pair of cotton underpants? $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Feb 27 '15 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ @bowlturner No dwarf has yet been found that will volunteer to assualt an elf while wearing such a garment. However, given that elves can strongly influence plant matter, we expect, if not outright death, debilitating pain and loss of blood flow to the lower body. $\endgroup$ – Vulcronos Feb 27 '15 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ If they have that kind of control over long dead plant matter why wouldn't they just use a dwarfs bacteria against himself? $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Feb 27 '15 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ @bowlturner Couple reasons. First, bacteria are too small for them to effectively latch onto magically. Secondly, they can't magically affect sentient beings or anything inside one without long term physical contact and a great deal of effort. $\endgroup$ – Vulcronos Feb 27 '15 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ According to Pratchett the answer is micromail, which is guaranteed to not chafe. $\endgroup$ – John Oct 3 '18 at 13:30
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...wait, did you say elves can't latch onto bacteria?

enter image description here

Korboc is a kind of smoked cheese made from sheep milk, formed into long, flexible, rubbery and pretty durable strands. Seriously, a normal person could swing on a braid of this cheese like in the picture.

I can imagine cloth weaved from it that would go under the armor. You could add some plasticine (from chalk and mineral oil) to protect the cheese from being cut/damaged by the armor.

And knowing dwarves, they would consider a month-old, battle-worn undershirt a delicacy.

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    $\begingroup$ I laughed so hard. $\endgroup$ – Sean Boddy Apr 17 '15 at 12:07
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What stops the Elves from using the Dwarves' hair against them?

If there is something about hair from sentient beings that blocks the elven magic, then I believe your answer is Dwarven hair.

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I dont see a problem with Dwarves wearing metal based cloth. Dwarves are Masters at metalworking, so should be able to come up with some alloy which allows a fine enough wire to be extruded, and a tight enough thread count in the weave would make it quite smooth. Just a touch of Forge magic to retain the Heat of the Earth within the cloth to keep it warm and pliable,and the Dwarven version of Under Armour is ready to go.

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  • $\begingroup$ Except it will pull your hair. Ouch. Not a bad idea though. $\endgroup$ – 458 Feb 27 '15 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ The dwarves of Discworld call this "micromail" - it doesn't chafe! In Unseen Academicals, I believe. $\endgroup$ – user243 Jan 2 '16 at 4:24
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Polyester tracksuits, how you doing?

The dwarves can use synthetic fibers to pad their armor. This will require some chemical processing. It's good that they're miners already. They probably have some skills with chemically separating certain ores from rock. They may be able to extend this chemical knowledge into the creation of Nylon or another thermoplastic. From there they can create their sweet tracksuits, or just plain fiberglass for insulation/padding (and maybe even carbon fiber).

Steel wool

If they need to stick to metal alone they can use steel wool. Of course, the armor would chafe something awful (cold nether regions might be preferred). There are a lot of intermediates from steel wool to smooth metal, an open-celled metal foam might be a nice compromise.

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    $\begingroup$ You just made me imagine what wearing steel wool underpants would feel like. I hate you. $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Feb 27 '15 at 21:49
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    $\begingroup$ @KSmarts Exfoliating underwear are going to be very popular. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 27 '15 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Abigail That's our primary source of hydrocarbons on Earth, but there are many hydrocarbons that were never part of a living thing. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Jun 10 at 20:13
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Asbestos has been used for making clothes. While the safety and comfort are debatable, dwarven magic should make both manageable. Especially since the biggest risks would be to people working with asbestos and use of magic would allow much safer working procedures. And dwarves would probably be resistant to breathing stone dust anyway, even if it is fibrous.

Also if the cloth was treated to have bright colors and softer textures, the treatments should make asbestos less of a hazard as they'd bind the fibres to the material. And washing the clothes would prevent diust from accumulating.

And fiberglass can replace asbestos and should be possible for dwarves to create.

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    $\begingroup$ The safety of asbestos is debatable? $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Feb 27 '15 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ AFAIK, it is not actually known why asbestos is dangerous. That makes it pretty hard to make claims about the danger level for an entirely different situation. It is unlikely to be safe, but it is also unlikely to be as dangerous as the situations where asbestos caused health issues have been common historically. I could elaborate further, but I think debatable sums it up well enough. Especially when magic is involved. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Feb 28 '15 at 9:17
  • $\begingroup$ From my sister (a trained geologist) apparently different types of asbestos vary wildly in how safe they are, from "you can basically lick it" to "as bad as coal dust, or worse". Certainly dwarves would be able to determine which ones are safer. Not only that, but it would shield them from the heat of their forges! $\endgroup$ – David Rice Apr 17 '15 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRice Indeed. I remember reading that in Russia they still use asbestos, because the type they traditionally use happens to be one of the safer types. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Apr 25 '15 at 12:44
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    $\begingroup$ Asbestos can cause problems (in humans, anyway) when inhaled. Wearing it is not a problem. $\endgroup$ – user243 Jan 2 '16 at 4:15
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Surprised no one has mentioned it but: Gold clothing

You could also easily invent some alloy that lends itself to weaving but is less precious.

Mineral oil or non-organic lubes can have similar benefits for protection against chafing as clothing, without the elf risk.

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