The new Sovran of Almancar had swept in like another sunset, arrayed magnificently in trailing raiment of deep rose satin brocaded in emerald-blue. A light mantle fell in a rustling torrent of gold-silk mosaic, its collar framing his head, its folds rippling about his shoulders to the ground...
The fabled city of Almancar is one of my favorite places in The Ryel Saga, because it is synonymous with the most refined luxury. It was a deep pleasure to create, and in doing so I drew from many times and places. Medieval Japan was a great influence. When I visited Tokyo and Kyoto in 2008, I was surprised at how much of the ancient glory not only survived, but thrived. In particular, the elegant garments that inspired the golden robes of my novel's nobility are still being made. The uchikake, at one time daily wear for Japanese aristocratic ladies, is now strictly wedding finery, to be worn by the bride during the ceremony and never afterward. Such magnificent garments take a year to create, and no two are alike; they are made of the finest silk, splendidly woven, dyed, and embroidered, and as is only fitting, they cost a fortune. A uchikake is worn beltless, as a coat atop the kimono; its padded hem trails several feet, and its hanging sleeves just clear the floor. With its elegance, opulence and otherworldliness, it is truly the garb of fantasy.
For the sultry climate of Almancar I made the uchikake much more light and airy, but changed nothing of its grandeur. Both men and women wear them in my novel, but exorbitant cost and stringent sumptuary laws limit their use to the wealthy and the nobility. The sole exceptions are the courtesans of the Diamond Heaven, Almancar's famed and magnificent pleasure quarter, and that district's clientele, who come from all over the world to taste the ruinous delights of the place.
Here are some glorious examples. Click the images for larger views, and imagine the rustle, the gleam, the grace.