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In my novel, one of the characters has a mutation that allows him to shapeshift into a larger and more powerful form (like the hulk but less intense). How could his clothes be modified so that he doesn’t tear them every time he changes? It’s a low magic setting resembling the medieval times. When he shifts, he grows about half a foot taller and becomes a little more muscular.

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    $\begingroup$ How much more muscular is "a little more"? If he just gains definition rather than size, it shouldn't be too much of a stretch (no pun intended) for his clothes not to grow horizontally. On the other hand if he gains six inches on his waist it's going to need to be accounted for. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Sep 30 '19 at 11:06
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    $\begingroup$ The same magic which prevents his skin from tearing will also work for the clothes. Remember that the outer layer of skin is made up of dead (and squashed) cells, so it cannot grow anymore than the clothes can. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 30 '19 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ You need to be more specific about the kind of clothes you have in mind for your character. The difference in size mentioned in question is not so big, unless we talk about boots or suit of armor. Close-fitted clothing was a rarity in medieval times (although many TV shows may make you think otherwise). $\endgroup$ – Alexander Sep 30 '19 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ Can the character use a belt that he loosens before becoming larger, and tightens after returning to normal size? $\endgroup$ – Patricia Shanahan Sep 30 '19 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ Becoming half a foot taller doesn't necessitate a drastic change in clothes. Their pants become a bit high-watered or their shorts turn into shorter shorts. As for the shirt just add 6 inches and tuck it in. Muscular versions of me could probably fit into my current shirts or if they cannot then I can certainly wear one size larger in anticipation of mildly "hulking out". $\endgroup$ – MonkeyZeus Sep 30 '19 at 19:16

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My laptop bag has an extra zip, which when unzipped extends the bag's dimensions and gives me about 1.5 inches of extra space to put my things in the main pocket, Magical isn't it !! (I hope you understand what kind of zip I am talking about)

You don't need magic to get your clothes done here, a smart tailor can get this done for you. If you can invent zippers at your time, that's great, otherwise, an arrangement of shoe-lace like structure will help you.

Get some fitting clothes prepared for your miniature hulk, then put some zips (or laces) on extra cloth, all over the arms, belly, chest, legs, etc. In such a way that it remains hidden on the inside and folds up the extra cloth.

Whenever you have the transformation, the zips (or laces) gets automatically undone and gives you extra cloth, when you turn back to normal form, pull a bunch of cords to get them done and fit again.

Note: you may choose to tuck-in the long shirt, and fold your pants on the bottom.

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    $\begingroup$ Laces. Simple and elegant, and it may become useful to the plot if you wish so. Way better than most suggestions. $\endgroup$ – laancelot Sep 30 '19 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ I doubt that anyone of you has ever worn a corsett. Laces are not so quick at loosening, one has to hook a finger into every "cross" and pull the string through the holes. Tideous work. If you use runny strings, like polyester, the knot is not holding tight and the string temps to pull tighter in certain areas and become loose in others. Definetely go for zippers with this "hidden cloth idea"! $\endgroup$ – Backup Plan Sep 30 '19 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ @BackupPlan laces could still work if the laces are intended to break instead of loosening as long as taking time to thread new laces back in after reverting the transformation isn't too opposed, its certainly a lot more medieval than zippers $\endgroup$ – BKlassen Sep 30 '19 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ @BackupPlan One important distinction is that corsets are specifically designed to not work loose. There are probably other ways to lace up a corset-like garment in such a way that the laces loosen far more easily, if that is the desired behaviour. $\endgroup$ – anaximander Oct 1 '19 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ Beat me to the concept, but instead of laces I would use toggles, you know, a loop on one side and a bar shaped piece of wood on a strap at the other. works like a button, but not quite as tight and easier to manipulate. $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Oct 1 '19 at 16:33
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How about you turn the perspective; his powerful form is the state in which his clothes fit like a glove. And all the other times it looks like he wears his dads pyjamas (aka 1990s gangster style). He could roll up his sleeves and pants, wears a too long belt and too big shoes. Include his flabby undergarments, socks and a hat in your descriptions.

Also some thoughts about clothes and medieval times, or "the broad past":

  • Depending on when and where your story takes place, it was common for men to wear halvlong tunics. Looks pretty comfortable to me, has potential to hide some sizes, and should suffice for a shapeshifter.
  • Only the super rich bought clothes, everyone else sew their own clothes by hand. Tailors were not a thing for the masses. And everyone had one set of everyday-clothes and one set for the sunday-church-fancy, maybe a spare. To have more than three sets was shocking. Who had the time to sew so much clothes and maintain them. So your character really much does not want to destroy the clothes with every shapeshift.
  • There were no such thing as "sizes"; all clothes were unique and custom fit. There were many people without shoes and ill-fitting dresses.
  • Needles were not cheap, one would take good care of the few in the household.
  • Even men knew how to knit and sew a button back on. Whittling was also a standard occupation, one would whittle their own buttons or trade some for a rabbit. Your character should be able to make his clothes himself and not need a special tailor, except if you want him to have a loose coin.
  • There were classes and it showed in their clothes. Trimmings and other decorative elements were for the rich. Silk and linen were known but expensive. The regular person had access to wool (relativly easy for the noob or poor) and fur or leather (needs some skill).
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    $\begingroup$ One correction: Your 2nd point is wrong in terms of tailors. Labour was very cheap compared to materials throughout the medieval and renaissance periods. Anyone who can afford the cost of the material can also afford the small fee for a tailor to make the clothes. Underwear (Linen shirts, etc) did tend to be made at home, but outerwear is always made to measure by a tailor. $\endgroup$ – Rowan Ingram Oct 1 '19 at 10:34
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Knitted or crocheted wool clothing is able to stretch quite a bit. Wool yarn itself is quite elastic - it can stretch and snap back - and you can knit or crochet patterns that allow further flexibility. (American Scientist has an article about this.) A knitted sweater can effortlessly be elongated by up to two times its length. This is certainly enough to accomodate growing about half a foot taller and becoming a little more muscular.

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Even if "medieval" is limited to Europe, that is a vast area over a span of about 1,000 years from about AD 500 to about AD 1500. Fashions are not necessarily the same over such a vast area, as the folk costumes of different regions attest, and fashions do change over a millennium.

Wouldn't you expect some people in the Caliphate of Cordoba in Spain to dress like Arabs and Berbers, and some people in the Eastern Roman or "Byzantine" Empire to dress like late antique Romans, especially in the earlier centuries?

Here is a link to some medieval images of people. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/202591683207441199/?lp=true[1]

They come from the medieval German book of songs and poems, the Codex Manesse from about 1304 to 1340.

Here is a link to an online fascimile of the manuscript:

https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/cpg8482

You will note that except for the men wearing armor, the men dress a lot more like the women than you would expect, wearing long robes as their outer garments.

The "typical medieval men's clothing" that most people imagine, with men wearing rather tight short jackets that expose most of the tights on their legs, became the fashion after the Codex Manesse was illustrated, and so was the fashion for only less than about 20 percent of the medieval era.

If you set your story in a society like the earlier High Middle Ages, where upper class men wore loose robes, you can have your character expand in height and a little in girth without his loose robe becoming tight enough to constrict his movements and make it hard for him to fight. The bottom of his robe might be a few inches higher above the ground after he expands, and some of the folds may smooth out if his body bulks out, but if he is careful to wear large enough robes when small size they will not not be too tight or restrict his fighting moves when he enlarges.

People might sometimes comment on how exceptionally loose he likes to wear his clothes.

Of course if his legs and torso swell a lot he will have to make sure that his long stockings and his medieval version of underpants are flexible enough to expand when he does and then contract enough when he contracts again that they don't fall down and trip him.

And if your character sometimes expects trouble, he would have a problem designing an even more expensive than usual suit of plate armor that would be expandable. But he could have a jacket of chain mail that is the right size for his larger size. If he expects trouble and a need to expand, he can wear that mail jacket when at his small size - even though it will be large and heavy for him - in order to be prepared to expand if a fight breaks out.

If the story happens in a culture with late medieval clothing that was often tailored and tight fitting, your character will have a problem. He will have to have special clothing made with horizontal and/or vertical pleats and folds so it can expand when he does.

And when he contracts again the clothing will probably not refold itself. He will probably have change into clothes that are still in the folded state and refold the clothes that expanded to wear again another time, like refolding a parachute after use. And after he contracts and before he can do so his clothes will be larger than is fashionable.

Or maybe he might be a member of a profession that often wore robes in late medieval times, like a doctor, lawyer, judge, monk, or friar, or perhaps disguise himself as one (at the risk of punishment if his fraud is discovered).

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Don't give him clothing, per se, give him a robe, with roomy sleeves, open in the front and tied or buttoned closed. Basically a dress like an academic's PhD gown. In medieval times this was not terribly unusual, even men might wear what today we'd call a wrap-around skirt, kilt, or dress, and many articles of clothing were not fitted at all, but meant to serve any body type, rotund, tall, short. Excess material was just tied up, or wrapped to fit, or left baggy.

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You are chasing a non-issue.

Unless you are wearing a leather belt medieval clothes do not have anything tight enough to matter for a small change like you want. They didn't wear anything we would call pants and clothing tended to be fairly loose. Here is a great video of medieval peasant getting dressed. The only thing that will give him any trouble is the belt, which were usually leather, however, cloth belts did exist we would call them sashes. Have him wear one of those and he is fine.

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Depending on exactly when and where you’re picturing your medieval-style world, tunics were pretty popular. You could make sure your character just has a woollen tunic or robe that’s a little longer and looser than necessary, so when he transforms, it becomes slightly closer to skintight. With hose (basically leggings) worn underneath the tunic, you could have a system of crossed laces down the length of the leg. When he’s going about his ordinary day, the laces are pulled so there’s no gap in the fabric, and you get a series of decorative loops down the leg; when he transforms, the laces pull tight, and the previously-closed fabric opens. (Imagine the difference between tightly done up shoelaces and really loose loopy ones).

You could also go for some robes worn by a member of a religious order. They’d be fairly long, loose, baggy things, held in place by a simple rope tied at the waist. Rather than knotting this immovably, knot it slightly differently so when he grows, the knot will slide and let the rope pull through and loosen to accommodate his new body.

Towards the end of the medieval period/beginning of the early modern, slashed sleeves became all the rage (just see some pictures of Henry VIII). The slashed sleeves tended to appear on outer clothes, in order to display the white undershirt beneath - a sign of exceptional wealth and extravagance, as keeping your clothes brilliant white tended to mean buying new shirts very frequently. If you want your character to be higher on the social scale, this might work for him - if you employ a clever series of cuts and slashes in the outer fabric, and wear a standard loose baggy shirt underneath to poke through the holes, nothing much will change about your character’s appearance when he transforms, apart from maybe the puffiness of the sleeves on his new bigger body. And, as a bonus, he’ll still be able to pass as a member of the elite, rather than some guy wearing shreds of previously beautiful fabric.

(P.S. If you want more reading on medieval clothing, I recommend Susan Crane’s The Performance of Self: Ritual, Clothing, and Identity in the Hundred Years War, and three books by Laura Hodges, Chaucer and Clothing, Chaucer and Costume, and Chaucer and Array.)

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There are clothes which are one size fits all. Usually they are made of elastic fibers, which accommodate easily for the body shape and size of the wearer.

Those kind of fibers where not available in medieval times, but since you are in low magic settings you can explain their existence as a fruit of that low magic.

Alternatively, you can opt for slightly larger clothes, which would sit loose on the normal character and would fit well or a little tight after they switch to the more powerful form. Sort of a hockey jersey.

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Pleating!

Are you aware of the winner of the 2017 James Dyson Award, "Petit Pli"?

They are clothes that are designed and carefully pleated to 'grow' up to 7 sizes - this means that clothes worn by a newborn baby will still fit at 2 years old - that's a change from 20" tall to 35" long, or a 75% increase in size!

This is almost 5 times as much stretch as a 6' person growing to 7' would require!

While the "grow in 2 directions" part is comparably new, the Scottish people have been using pleats to wear full-size blankets as kilts since the 16th Century - but pleated kilts (known as "Shendyt") even existed in the "New Kingdom of Egypt" (1550BC - 1070BC)

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Probably, he just wears oversized clothes? And its not so suspicious, because

  1. fashion can be funny
  2. sometimes beggars and lowlives wear clothes they can get, not ones, they bought. So its not so unusual to see beggar in oversized coat/shirt/etc...

man in oversized clothes

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Have you seen Fantastic Four? They made clothes for each of them that are adaptable to their powers.
Mr. Fantastic has stretching powers, so his costume was made of fibers that stretched with him.
According to wikipedia

Like all the Fantastic Four's costumes and the rest of Reed's wardrobe, his suit is made of "unstable molecules". This means that the suit is attuned to his powers, which is why Johnny's costume doesn't burn when he "flames on", Sue's costume turns invisible when she does, and Reed's costume stretches with him.

Being in medieval times, you can't makes clothes equipped with computers, but you could invent such a thread, or fabric, or even a magical plant that has powers, so the thread made form it has the same properties, i.e. it is elastic-like, or it adapts with one's body size.

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Natural Rubber

Natural rubber exists in a few varieties, the most common being from the Amazon or India, with other rubber sources being plentiful in Africa.

If your story doesn't take place in those areas, then you can look into Euphorbia, which exists naturally all over the world. Furthermore, even the common Dandelion secretes latex when cut or broken. Granted, both of these sources are difficult to work with and occur in low quantities (which is why rubber manufacturing really came from the natural trees in the Amazon).

That said, not everyone in your world needs rubber, and it doesn't need to be grown or manufactured in large quantities. Only enough for one person. It's not at all unreasonable that a medieval society could have figured out how to make clothing from natural rubber. It would have been tedious without the second industrial revolution, but definitely possible.

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Use a natural, stretchy fiber to produce the clothing: spider silk!

Silks are also extremely ductile, with some able to stretch up to five times their relaxed length without breaking.

Spider Silk - Wikipedia

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    $\begingroup$ silk clothing however is not stretchy, it is famous for the opposite in fact. $\endgroup$ – John Sep 30 '19 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ @John The silk we use in the real world is from silk worms. It is not spider silk and does not have the same properties. But as this is a fantasy world with people who can hulk out, why not have spider farmers that harvest the silk for stretchy clothing? $\endgroup$ – Harabeck Sep 30 '19 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ Spider silk cloth has the same problem it is elastic under high load but compared to human flesh it might as well be steel wire. $\endgroup$ – John Sep 30 '19 at 23:06
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His clothes do get very tight.

In his muscular form, his shorts are extremely brief and revealing and his too-short Tshirt shows most of his chiseled midriff.

One of your other characters suggests that he get himself some clothes that fit. Another more appreciative character suggests that he not.

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Use a diamond-knit woolen inner layer, to which an outer shell of interlocked cloth (or waxed cloth, or leather, depending on the need - or more wool, which is way easier) sections are sewn. The woolen layer should easily accommodate the growth, and the nonelastic sections will slide one over the other.

When the guy decreases in size, just shuffling a bit should be enough to make the cloth slide back in the overlapping configuration, pulled by wool's natural elasticity.

Or the cloth could be folded in zigzag fashion, so that it needn't overlap, but it requires more sewing:

   /\  /\
  /  \/  \             (folds exaggerated, S are the points where the two layers
#S###SS###SS###        are sewn together, ### is the wool).
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Tights

They've been around since the medieval time periods, and they're stretchy. You're good to go. And some Jesters had whole suits made of the stuff, he wouldn't even have to have it specially made. Just buy a Jester's suit and ditch the hat.

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Example of Historically Accurate Article of Clothing

Assuming setting is based upon the West in its 'Dark Age'

Think Baggy Tunics with no 'pants' but sufficient length

Probably want the character is wear clothing like tunics that are very long and baggy on the character normally while tending to tight (but not too short of course) for any natural seeming clothing that is constant without being somewhat out of place (like zippers or other more modern innovations).

If the mutation is hidden, anything that is likely to be ripped thus avoided. Even if not hidden, but controlled, any change such as a zipper + expandable pocket type solution requires deployment before expansion meaning a slower time until growth can occur without need to tout about with trunks of replacements clothing.

But pants?!

unless spandex is low magic (not true see body shapers hehe) than pants are not your friends unless larger form is not overly substantial (more than a few inches in waist = pants being contrived in situation) because pants as we now know them need either buttons that would pop off in transformation or belts that would snap.

Possible Use as Robes When in Small Form

Maybe when the tunic is worn by the smaller form, they function like robes that have a rope belt that when the form changes becomes like a tunic long enough to remain decent (if that's the goal).

If mutation is being hidden, maybe it is done by acting or pretending to be a religious monk or cleric traditionally robe clad (or whatever just intended to help get you thinking about how to use it)

Other options exist and it depends on what things qualify as acceptable vs. non-acceptable in that world

Considering most high fantasy is typically the modern world re-stylized in some way but not actually a return to the autocratic feudalism that was contemporaneous with swords of shiny silver-colored metal without muskets, what you include as tech is really up to you entirely and too much realism is probably distracting to your standard reader (what fragment of Dune's readers possess enough knowledge of feudalism or religions to appreciate some of Herbert's better details? Fewer than you'd probably like to admit). Plus we may have discovered different things at different times, don't like Civilization-type games with their 'tech trees' pattern your thinking about the far more complex and ultimately partially random in ways, we can not fully appreciate, nature of technological innovation.

Maybe the character's world has developed denim fabric and riveted buttons but not firearms. If its inhabitants are not lead by some specific feudal lord/franchised group and work mostly as peasants that are allowed some small share of their output, then its wildly inaccurate to any historical reality we know of. Being strict about this would be a tad absurd if the setting is not Earth with the intention of historical accuracy based on what we know of history now.

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