Suggestions For Mundane Breakthroughs

In my current Ars Magica game, we've played for about 60 years past the default start date of 1220. My maga just hit 82 years old and has a decent amount of power and infrastructure under her. She specializes in beauty and body modification magic (including completing a hermetic breakthrough to allow permanent Muto Corpus rituals). Given her longevity lab total, I expect her to live for another century or more.

Which comes to her current problem. 13th century European fashion is kinda stagnant or, to use a more technical term, 'lamesville'. I mean, who wants to wear wool kirtles and houppelandes with head coverings and smocks for two hundred years. That sounds like the opposite of a good time.

However, I'm not just gonna insert anachronistic clothes into the game for no reason (at least not intentionally). It's more fun to push things along with ridiculous wizard bullshit. So! Ideas? What do you suppose the scope in manpower and finances a covenant-sponsored think-tank of Parisian seamstresses and cobblers would need to start speedrunning the history of fashion? And how should we model the progress of such a brave and beautiful endeavor? It's literally only, like, 500 years until kings start wearing chunky heels and 700 years to stiletto sandals.

Are their fan guidelines somewhere to using mundane abilities for mundane breakthroughs? Examples from other folks' games doing something similar? Comments, thoughts, suggestions, questions? :blush:

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Wiki? Not the perfect source, but worth a quick look perhaps.

One consideration is Sumptuary laws, where specific colors and types of clothing were illegal for people of certain classes. Depending on location these were seriously enforced by the Church and Nobility.

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Patronizing some artists (read: dressmakers) and encouraging them to 'experiment' with their art seems like the ticket to making local fashions more interesting.

the fact is that fashion did change at the time, there were plenty of the upper crust who would write about changing fashions of the day- its just that by comparison to current fashions we don't see the difference. a different style of hem on what is essentially the same long dresses might mark the difference between one years fashion and the next, something we wouldn't look for any more than someone not alive in the 80s would realize a difference in fashion depending on whether there is a polo player or an alligator over the left breast, or realize that a thin tie versus a wide tie was a serious change in fashion standards.


generally we tend to have this view of the medieval period as all the same technologically and culturally, but for the people living in that period things did not look that way. Innovation was constantly happening and this brought with it changes in all sorts of areas, fashion and lifestyle included.

Start from Auguste Racinet: Le Costume Historique, 500 Planches, downloadable from here, here and several other places.
Then work your way through the many, many more or less coffee-table books on the development of fashion.

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I'm reminded of Pendragon, where you can collect Glory by spending money on expensive clothes, but if you want the most glory you can get, you want to do it again the next year, since clothes go out of fashion the following year.

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What follows is strictly opinion and I'm happy to learn otherwise if anyone actually has a clue about this, but .....Fashion is driven not be seamstresses or high end cobblers, but by the wealthy.
Fashion really kicks in when violence reduces. The need to show status and rank over another through peaceful means grows when violence is not possible. So you tell your tailor to do some new and then you wear it and wow the court. You become the innovator that other nobles follow. But it needs a court to show off in. If everyone is still dwelling in their ancestral castles and ruling the land directly, fast paced fashion and impractical fashion doesn't play as big a role. Instead, you want comfy clothes that show your rank and are practical to what you will be doing on a daily basis.
But when you get dozens of nobles all crowded together, without the option of just murdering each other, like in Louis' court in Versailles, fashion becomes serious business. To be seen in last years (or last seasons) fashion marks you as a backwater hick, an unfashionable dullard.
I guess you might see the same behaviour amongst the burghers in cities, where violence is strictly confined but socialisation amongst your peer group is unavoidable.


probably longer time periods for burghers with less disposable wealth. So last years fashion is fine, just unremarkable, but having something 2 or three years old shows that you have issues. Maybe enough to affect creditors and investors...

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