HSF #2 — Innovation – Bright Blue Dye

(posts one, two, and three of the series.)

Bright Blue Dye

I think that this colour could only come from an aniline dye. Blue dye is hard to make.  Early dyes were made from indigo or woad, but I couldn’t find examples of these that produced that vivid a colour for fabric dye. Bright, vibrant fabric dyes were a product of Victorian era advances in chemistry.  The Dreamstress gives a great summary of early chemical dyes and a gorgeous Pinterest page with examples of the new colours.  The colour above looks pretty close to Nicholson’s Blue, developed in the 1860’s. Here’s an example:


Interestingly, Aldern Foxglove in Rise of the Runelords has the same colour in his jacket.

HSF #2 — Innovation – Turtleneck

Finally, back to Father Zantus’s anachronistic turtleneck.

Previously, I talked about knitting and raglan sleeves. Today’s innovation is the turtleneck itself.  Ye Olde Wikipedia says at least as early as the 15th century.  Since their only credited source for this “fact” is http://www.chacha.com/question/who-invented-the-turtleneck, I’m going to remain skeptical.

Shirts with high, tight necks have existed for thousands of years.  Carl Köhler’s A History of Costume , describes and illustrates a high-necked Etruscan (so sometime between 750 and 250 BCE) woman’s robe (p 111 – 112).  He describes a slit in the back of the garment’s neck, which was laced up.  Without the slit, the wearer couldn’t get her head through the neck hole, unless the fabric stretched.  Like a knit.

Also like knits, turtlenecks didn’t gain popularity as outwear until the earth 20th century, but was worn as underwear or sports wear in the late 19th century.

HSF #2 — Innovation – Raglan Sleeve

This post introduced some of the technological innovations that appear in Father Zantus’s turtleneck.  This post will explore Raglan Sleeves.

The most notable characteristic of Raglan sleeves, are that they attack to the neck of the shirt, rather than at the shoulder.  Shirts with Raglan sleeves have no shoulder seam, because the front and back pieces attach to the sleeve. (Oblig Wikipedia link).

The origin story of the raglan sleeve can be found here, among other places.  The super short version:  Lord Raglan lost his arm in the mid 1815s.  His tailor made him a custom coat with this new style of sleeve that would be easier for him to put on and take off.  I was half expecting to find references to earlier raglan sleeves, on the assumptions that, like Mathematical Theorems, sleeves are never named for their originator.  (Stigler’s law). I didn’t find any, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Almost-raglan spencer

Early 19th century spencer, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I did, however find some “so close, yet so far” examples.  These both come from the early 19th century, the same period where Raglan lost his arm.  This spencer (the tiny little jacket) and dress are have so little in the way of shoulders, that the sleeves attach to a couple of inches of fabric around the neckline.  They didn’t make that final step of eliminating the neck band altogether.

Almost raglan sleeve dress

Dress, 1810-1915, also from The Met.


HSF #2 — Innovation – Knit Fabric

Last post introduced some of the technological innovations that appear in Father Zantus’s turtleneck.  Now I’m going to delve into one of them: knit fabric.

Chanel 1924

Chanel 1924

Knitted garments have existed for thousands of years. This article has a thorough history and analysis of the history of knitting.  She concludes that knitting began in Egypt around 1000 CE. (For comparison, fabric woven on looms dates at least to 5000 BCE) The earliest knitting was done with multiple needles to create tubes of stretchy fabric, for socks and gloves.  Knitted undershirts didn’t appear until the 1500s.  Until knitting machines came on the scene in the 1600s, knitting fabric was more time consuming than weaving it, and so was reserved for smaller items that required stretchy fabric and luxury goods.

Knit fabric only became common in the Victorian Era (as underwear) and not until the 1910s as clothing. It was scandalous when Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli popularized it for outerwear.

Father Zantus’s Turtleneck

Father ZantusHSF #2 — Innovation


This is the image that started this project. This is Father Zantus, the Cleric of Desna in Sandpoint, and an NPC in Rise of the Runelords. And he seems to be wearing a modern looking blue turtleneck sweater.  This lead me to the question:  What is the earliest this sweater could have existed on Earth, and assuming a quasi-medieval setting for Varisia.  I tried to make an adventure hook out of this fascinating fashion mystery, but my players refused to take the bait, and opted for goblin hunting instead.

Four technologies stand out in this turtleneck as possibly being anachronistic:

  1. Jersey Fabric
  2. Raglan Sleeve
  3. Turtleneck
  4. Bright Blue dye

I’ll explore each one in a post of its own.