An ACOTAR Project Pt1: World Building

As a fantasy fan, I love a fantasy romance novel (I still love Twilight despite all it’s flaws, don’t @ me). So when I heard about the ACOTAR book series by Sarah J. Maas, I was curious, and had to give them a go. Full credit goes to the members of the @StarfallCourt cosplay group for piquing my interest (bonus link). The series currently consists of three novels, and one novella, following the adventures of human huntress Feyre Archeron, as she is introduced into the mysterious and dangerous fae world. It’s sort of a retelling of first Beauty and the Beast, and then the myth of Hades and Persephone. With a subtle feminist twist. Which from me is basically a big yes all round.

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The ACOTAR book series by Sarah J. Maas

As usual when I read a book, I end up designing the costumes in my head, and once I started looking into the ACOTAR fandom online, I realised that through fan art and cosplay, an aesthetic and common costume language had already been established. I also noted that it was quite different to my own ideas. Maas does describe, to a limited extent, the clothing of the main characters, but it does allow plenty of room for interpretation. To be honest I have deviated from her descriptions a little, most notably with the Night Court fashions. I just aligned them with my own tastes and sensibilities. Which is to say, I have come up with my own concept for the “costume look” for the series, and designed some of the costume for the main characters. I thought it would be fun to challenge myself with the varied, and very much not tied to a historical period, fantasy world of the series.

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The ACOTAR characters by Maas approved illustrator Charlie Bowater

I started with research and mood boards, as I always do. I needed to decide on the styles for each faerie court before I could place the characters in them. The mood board below is a shorthand version of what I came up with. Each court’s fashions are loosely based on an era or cultural style of dress, with a modern touch of course. From left to right, top to bottom we’ve got:

The Spring Court: Eastern European national dress; the Summer Court: West African traditional dress; the Autumn Court: European medieval fashion; the Winter Court: late 19th century; the Dawn Court: 18th century fashion; the Day Court: 17th century fashion; the Night Court: 1930s and 1940s fashions; Hybern: renaissance and tudor fashions.

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The Courts of Prythian

I then went into more detail for the Spring and Night courts, and the human world. I thought about the Spring Court first, because that’s where Feyre spends most of her time in A Court of Thorns and Roses (the first book). So as I said above, in my version the costumes are based on various types of european folk dress, but with a modern twist. Their clothes should blend in seamlessly with the beautiful gardens of Tamlin’s estate. I like the idea of large floral prints and embroidery covering everything. Their military uniforms would be a more formal version of their day dress, with lots of braiding much like 18th and 19th century european uniforms. Masks are a large and very important part of the costumes in the first book, and need to blend in with the rest of the costume, as well as represent each of the individual characters wearing them. (P.S. Can you spot Feyre’s wedding dress here?)

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The Spring Court

Next I thought about the mortal lands where Feyre grew up. As the Archerons are the main characters we encounter in this world I concentrated on them and their journey. In my version the fashions of the human world are very loosely based on the 1830s. Full skirts, gathered at the waist, with tight bodices, and large poofy sleeves. Quite similar in basic shape to the fashions of the Spring Court, which makes sense as that’s the nearest fae kingdom, a little nod to the days before The Wall was erected. The Archerons live both as peasants and wealthy merchant’s daughters, and their dress would naturally reflect this change in circumstances. The most dramatic shift though, is when they move to the Night Court, where the fashions a vastly different to the outdated modes of the south. But they will hold onto some of the styles they grew up with, blending them with fae fashions. This mood board shows the progression, as well as some hints of the Nesta and Elain’s different tastes.

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The Archeron Sisters

And then we have the Night Court (the best court, what? who said that?), which, at least Rhys’ part, is a little more forward thinking than the rest of Prythian. So it makes sense that their fashions are more advanced too. More unisex clothing is available, hence trousers and wide shouldered shirts and jackets. And 1930s hollywood glamour works perfectly for the evening wear so often worn by the women of the inner circle. So 1930s/40s seemed to fit perfectly. I also loved the idea of deconstructing WWII uniforms for Illyrian leathers. Honestly I was thinking about Mor the most making this. She perfectly suits both the silky revealing bias cut dresses, and the more butch trouser outfits (Hello Marlene Dietrich). I also thought that the knitwear of that era was a perfect way to get Feyre all her jumpers without going completely modern. And Rhys does wear suits all the time, so they might as well be a beautifully tailored vintage suits.

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The Night Court

Anybody who follows my costume design projects should know that I’m obsessed with uniforms. So I couldn’t resist when it came to the Illyrian leathers, I ended up creating a mood board dedicated especially to them. I’d like everyone to have a set unique to themselves. All based on military uniforms from the 20th century, specifically the Second World War. And all black, with leather accents of course. And long black laced boots. I want to play around with deconstructing the jacket, with different collars, cuts, lengths, sleeves and pockets. I’m going to keep the trousers pretty simple, but with holsters and straps for weapons. There’ll have to be other straps and sheaths of weapons too. Rhys wears a single blade down the centre of his back, so I’ll have to work that into his design.

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Illyrian leathers

And that’s that for world building. I hope it’s clear the aesthetics I’m going for for each group. My next move is character mood boards and designs, so look out for that. What do you guys think of my visuals so far? Have you read the ACOTAR series? How do my ideas line up with yours?

All photo credits can be found through my ACOTAR Pinterest board here.

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