This post contains spoilers for New Spring
During my read of “New Spring” I was able to take particular note of the women’s fashions of Cairhien. We were provided so much detail on the clothing of Moiraine Damodred, who was born and raised there. We were provided a general glimpse of the citizens of Cairhien as being of pale complexion and shorter stature. There was reference to “dark-clad Cairhien, easy to pick out because they were shorter and paler than nearly everyone else” (p. 64). Additionally, they were viewed as calculating, especially due to their connection to Daes Dae’mar or “Game of Houses.” “In Cairhien, even servants and farmers knew how to maneuver for advantage and deflect others from their own plans and secrets” (p. 45).
Even as an Accepted, Moiraine wore dark accessories when permitted. Her good riding gloves were “dark blue leather with just a touch of embroidery on the back” (p. 57).
When Moiraine underwent her Testing, we were provided a clear image of Cairhien fashion. At one point she was in a dress “in a dark, shimmering green, well cut and meticulously sewn. Bars of red, green, and white, each two inches wide, made a narrow line of color down the front of the dress from the high neck to below knee-leve;l” and “looking over her shoulder to do up the tiny mother-of-pearl buttons by her reflection in the stand mirror” (p. 141). She observed that “only having her hair arranged in elaborate coils on the sides of her head could have made it more” appropriate (p. 141). Additionally, we got a view of her father in a “long coat of a style at least a year out of fashion, with the House Damodred colors marching from his high down to his knees” (p. 150).
The use of House Colors was very important in Cairhienin fashion. Once becoming Aes Sedai, Moiraine visited a Seamstress in Tar Valon and ordered “riding dresses, in the strictest Cairhienin style, which was to say dark, though she did not put it that way, each with six slashes across the breast in red, green, and white, far fewer than she had a right to” (p. 193). Later, when Siuan Sanche posed as Suki, maid to Lady Moiraine, she wore a “dark grey dress of fine wool, entirely plain except for collar and cuffs banded in Damodred colors” (p. 326).
Dark colors, high necks, and embroidery were common elements to the dresses Moiraine typically wore. On leaving Tar Valon she wore a dress “suitably dark blue, with a few leafy silver vines climbing the sleeves to encircle the high neck” (p. 208.) Her cloak was lined with black fox. Later in her travels she wore a dark blue riding dress “embroidered on the neck and sleeves in a golden pattern like Maldine lace” (p. 260). She had pockets sewn inside her cloak.
One unique aspect of Cairhienin fashion was the kesiera. Though she could not wear it while a Novice or Accepted, Moiraine resumed the practice upon her Raising. “Her hands remembered how to weave the thin gold chain into her hair so the small sapphire hung in the middle of her forehead” and “now she looked the Lady Moiraine Damodred” (p. 171). It was likely the kesiera came in different colors, but the sapphire was associated with Moiraine.
Overall, the fashion of Cairhien appeared to be dark. Men seemed to wear long coats with high necks and extended at least to their knees. Women wore high necked dresses, often with embroidery on the sleeves and necks. House Colors represented by bands were important to denote their class and association. Though personal taste certainly had some influence, it appeared that these rules were generally followed.