Displays of Wealth
How is wealth and/or social statues shown/displayed in your setting?
Jewelry? Is this something one the affluent have access to, or are there cheaper pieces that even the not-well-off can afford?
>What are some ways the characters in the setting can tell cheap jewelry from expensive jewelry?
>>Bear in mind that brass looks like gold to an untrained eye, and that steel and nickle look similar to silver and platinum.
>>Are certain colors only used in one quality of jewelry, or can the colors of gemstones and such be mimicked with clay, cheaper gemstones, or glass?
>>Do the upper classes prefer more minimalist or ostentatious looks than the lower classes?
>>What type of materials are used? Metals? Shells? Pearls? Gems? Clay? Wood? Leather?
>>>If this material is rare for your setting, it will be far more valuable, especially if there is no way to successfully mimic its appearance.
>What about jewelry that is inserted into piercings?
>>Does this form of adornment exist in your setting?
>>How common is it?
>>>Which piercings are the most common?
>>>>When deciding this, you should take into consideration things like healing time, if the piercing would be visible under the clothing that is worn in the setting, and the infection risks of the piercings in question. Piercings that are low risk are actually more likely to be co-opted by the lower class due to the unlikeliness of necessary medical intervention.
>>>>>Some links that may be helpful for you if you chose to have body piercings be common:
>>Also, keep the pain factor in mind, in case you need a coming-of-age ceremony (these will generally be the more painful ones).
Are tattoos a method used to display status or wealth?
>Are there certain marks given to people of certain classes or is it simply that those who can afford them have them?
>>If there are specific marks given, how does the society, as a whole, prevent people from getting these markings without being part of that class?
>>>What method is used to create the tattoos?
>>>>Here is a link of historical methods used, for your convenience.
>>If it is a matter of paying a price, which color is most expensive?
>>>When deciding this, you should consider not only what colors are most available, but also which colors show up best on the skin of the popular majority.
>>>The better the color shows on the skin, and the more abundant the material that creates that color is, the cheaper the tattoo will be. Conversely, if a color is rare and requires multiple applications, it will be very expensive, and can be a good indicator of wealth in your setting.
>>>>Some links on tattoo colors in regards to skin colors:
>>What locations are popular?
>>>How often does this change?
>Tattooing is less likely to be used on criminal or slave classes due to the cost (something like branding or scarring would be much cheaper) and the fact that tattoos fade. Though it might be an interesting idea to have one be freed from slavery once their tattoos fade, there are many ways to fade them much faster than is natural, and it is likely these ways will be found and exploited by the slaves in question.
Is branding or scarification used as a display or status or wealth? Or lack there-of?
>Is this a voluntary thing, or are certain classes forced to do this, whether to show they are worthy of baring the mark (as with the upper classes) or to insure their statues is known (particularly with criminal or slave classes).
>>In both cases, these would likely be in highly visible areas.
Are body shape modifications used to signify wealth or status?
>Things like stretching of body parts through the use of increasing jewellery size in piercings modify the shape of the original organ and, as such, are included in this category.
>>If it is done improperly, does this have an effect on a person’s social status?
>>>While these links mainly focus on stretching ears, the characters in your setting can use the same or similar methods on whichever body part they choose to stretch:
>>>>For neck stretching.
>The use of continual compression, such as the use of corsets, in order to change one’s overall body shape may be used to signify status, but may also give a hint to where someone is from, as certain areas may find a particular silhouette more attractive or fashionable than another.
>>A few posts from people who often wear corsets:
>>>what-everyone-ought-to-know-about-wearing-a-victorian-corset, this one is arguably the most useful on this subject.
Is the binding of a specific limb or limbs used to signify status?
>The most commonly heard use of this method is the once-popular foot binding in china.
>If any of these methods are used to signify wealth or status in your setting, please consider the following:
>>How did this practice come about?
>>How are foreigners who do not have this modification treated?
>>How expensive is this modification?
>>How does the society insure that the modification remains a valid signifier of wealth? (How do they keep lower class people from copying it?)
>>What happens when the modification fails? Such as if a limb being stretched is torn apart.
>>How often, if ever, does the aesthetic change? This will be most relevant to things like corsetry, which is not necessarily a permanent change, though popular locations for modifications like stretching may change with different generations.
>>How are the people with these modifications treated by outsiders?
>>Is this detrimental to the person’s survival?
>>>While many displays of wealth can cause inconveniences, such as long hair or long nails, some seem to be created for the sole purpose of doing so. If this is the case, it is generally to show that the person in question doesn’t need to be able to do certain things (like running, climbing, jumping, or even walking, picking things up, or feeding themselves) because they can afford to have people do these things for them.
Are hats used to signify wealth?
>Are there also utilitarian hats for those who simply need to keep warm or keep the sun out of their eyes?
>>Also, a link with the visual history of hats.
Is clothing used to show wealth or status?
>What about the clothing?
>>Is it the fabric that is used as a signifier?
>>>The type of fabric? The color?
>>Is it an obvious difference in quality?
>>>The quality of what? The fabric? The craftsmanship?
>>>>What makes it obvious? Remember, status markers usually become markers because they are noticeable from a distance. If it’s just something like the seaming on the lining of the jackets, it’s not very noticeable; whereas something like striped fabric being used with the stripes perfectly matching at the seams is quite a bit more noticeable (than the seaming of a jacket lining, at least).
>>Is it the amount of fabric used?
>>>This can go either way: a complete excess of fabric, with voluminous sleeves and skirts and pants, and plenty of tucks and pleats would show wealth quite well, as fabric gets expensive, especially when yards and yards are needed; on the other hand, tight or low-coverage clothing can also show that the person wearing them is in a position where they do not need protection from their environment.
>>>Remember to take the physical setting into account when considering this, as well as the resources available. The less materials available to make fabric, the more fabric can be used to signify wealth. On the other hand, in an area with a large amount of insects, thorny brush, and predators, less fabric (thus less protection) would signify that the character can afford to stay safe, risk injury, and pay for a healer/doctor if needed.
>>Is it the design of the clothing?
>>>People of the working class would require clothing that is capable of being worked in, however, people in a class that does not need to work would have no such restrictions.
What about shoes?
>Is it based on the materials or the style?
>Is it the presence of adornments, such as metals, chains, flowers, precious stones, and similar?
>>An interesting article on the history of high-heeled shoes.
>>An interesting article on the history of pointed shoes.
>Are the shoes used by the upper classes in your setting adorned, but still practical (in terms of mobility), or are they considered displays that inhibit mobility?
>Do the shoes give the foot a specific shape that is considered desirable?
Do members of the different classes speak with different accents or speech patterns?
Is hair used to signify wealth or status? Bare in mind that hair needs quite a bit of nutrients to grow long and healthy.
>Historically speaking, long hair has been a favorable trait, so if your setting is somewhere on Earth with humans, it would be best to keep that in mind.
>In addition, what hair colors are used to signify status? What hair styles?
>>Hair dye is not a modern invention. Here, some more interesting links:
Is skin color used as a sign of wealth or status? (Please bare in mind, there has indeed been a preference for certain skin tones across the globe historically, and it doesn’t mean the setting you are creating is racist if this is a factor they consider.)
>Some links that explain the reasons a specific skin tone may be more popular:
>Has there ever been a significant shift in which tone was most desirable?
>>What caused this shift?
>>>For example, in the United States, paler skin used to be popular, as it meant one did not have to work outside (which was considered lower class work); however, with more and more jobs inside buildings, tanned skin has become popular, whether through sun exposure or artifice, as a sign that one has enough free time and spare money to partake in outdoor hobbies.
Finally, what does the character’s home and family say about their status?
>How do things like house size and property size factor in to status?
>How does the location of the property factor in?
>Is the location more or less important of a factor than size?
>Do members of the upper classes display their wealth in the form of possessions and art in their home?
>>Are a multitude of unneeded possessions seen as wealth, or a sign that the family simply cannot afford to get rid of them on the off chance that the item will one day be needed?
>How does family size indicate status?
>>Bare in mind that this can also be a two-way street depending on how you want the setting to go:
>>>Families with more wealth may have more children because they can afford them, while poorer families have less children because they cannot.
>>>Or, families with more wealth have only one or two children, because they can afford medical care and protection, while poorer families try to produce as many children as possible because they cannot insure the survival of any of them.
>>>There can, of course, be a mix of this in your setting, but remember to consider the physical setting when determining which is the most popular method. Consider how many things there are that can kill the people in your setting, as well as how much food and water is available.
[This post was previously titled with the terrible pun, "How the Wealth Was Worn".]