The Tailors Guild of TarValon.net has done extensive research on what we believe to be the correct design the novice's and Accepted's dress should take, should one decide to make this costume. Special thanks go to Madelaine Vitalia Sedai, Muirenn Lina Alianin Sedai, Elarielle Mandellon Sedai, and Ebona din Casei Sedai for their wealth of knowledge in this area.
The base fabric for the costume was probably a very fine quality of pure white wool. There has been some speculation that this could have been a natural wool color, but the consensus is that the Tower would have wanted to use the best available fabrics for their initiates and white wool would have been much more expensive, due to the processes that would be required to attain this color.
The dress was exactly the same for the Novice and the Accepted dress with the exception that the Accepted dress had the colors of all the Ajahs added to the hem of the garment. This is the link to the McCall's Pattern Company site. We believe the pattern with the slim sleeves is the one that would be appropriate. We also believe that the neckline would have been the modest jewel neckline. The bottom of the sleeves can be modified to a slightly looser fit in order to allow the sleeves to be pushed up out of the way for heavy chores.
Fabric and Bands of Color
The fabric the Tailor's Guild recommends is a pure white cotton. Linen or wool may be used for authenticity if preferred, but cotton will do just as nicely. Just be sure it is a good quality.
For the bands of color on the Accepted Dress, we suggest using bias bands of each color in the same type of fabric as the dress. The bands of color will need to be in this order:
In other words, brown will be at the bottom of the hem and blue will be at the top of the bands of color.
Here are the instructions:
Cut a 1/2 yd length of fabric. Mark one end.
Cut along the diagonal line, removing the triangle on the end. Pin this triangle to the opposite end of the fabric. Sew with a quarter-inch seam.
Using the left side diagonal as a guide, make diagonal lines all down the length of the fabric. They should be spaced as wide as you want the strip plus seam allowance. I've spaced the ones for Kitan's dress at 3 inches wide so I have plenty of space for seam allowances.
Bring the bottom edge up to the top edge and match the cutting lines. Offset these by the width of each strip.
Sew with a quarter-inch seam. Don't be concerned if the fabric bunches up when you try to match the lines... it will work out in the end.
Start at one end, cut along the cutting lines in one continuous line. This will form one long strip.
Now you have your strips! Repeat for each of the Ajah colors. Sew the strips together in the proper order, and there's your band.
Sincere thanks to Maddie Sedai for her instructions regarding the banding for the Accepted's dress.
An alternative to this technique would be to use a light weight ribbon in each of the Ajah colors and sew them to the hem of the garment. We suggest the bias strips if possible because it can sometimes be difficult to find the correct colors in ribbon and ribbon tends to be more expensive overall. Also, the bias banding will more easily curve to fit the hemline of the dress. However, if you have a good supplier for ribbon and you want to avoid the process for creating the bias strips, this is a viable option.
As for why the dresses were white? There are a number of things that add up to a combination of practical and symbolic reasons. I am going to make this part simple. Maddie Sedai explains it much better than I could. So I am just going to add her explanations here:
One of the things the Aes Sedai were trying to do with Novices and Accepted was to build their bodies as well as their minds. An Aes Sedai of the greatest channeling ability is useless if her body isn't strong enough to support channeling large amounts of saidar for long periods of time. Channeling is work - it tires the body as much as if the channeler had been doing physical labor.
By requiring they wear white, the Tower ensured that these ladies would have to regularly engage in the very physical task of keeping their clothes white. They would also need to learn to be careful and neat if they wanted to reduce how much time they spent doing laundry chores.
On the flip side, even though white is physically hard to maintain it avoids problems associated with dyed cloth. Most natural dyes can not stand up to the rigors of washing and exposure to sunlight. They quickly fade and the article must be redyed to restore the color. In medieval times, this is partly why everyone wore a white undergarment under everything. The undergarment protected the outer clothing from body soils - which meant the outer garments generally only needed to be "spot cleaned" if the person was careful since they weren't directly touching the wearer's skin.
Wearing white is also practical in that a Novice or Accepted is instantly recognizable in almost any setting. It would be hard for a white-clad Novice to hide herself in a crowd or to sneak away at night without covering up her clothes with a dark cloak.
Wearing white also has symbolic meaning. The most common is purity - Novices and Accepted are expected to be pure of heart, mind and body. To Randlanders, it may have indicated that Novices and Accepted are followers of the Creator's Light.
White would also have brought everyone down to the same level and indicated that they belonged to the White Tower. Whatever connections they had before entering the Tower are gone, regardless of whether they are the lowest commoner or the highest noble. Clothing often used color to show a person's connections or regional identity - having everyone wear white repeatedly impresses on the young women that their connection to the White Tower overrides any other connections they may have had.
The addition of the bands to the Accepted dress is more a matter of showing rank than anything else. A Novice is supposed to spend her time learning and building herself for the good of the entire White Tower. She isn't supposed to be focusing her loyalty on a specific Ajah because she doesn't know enough about herself or them to even start making that choice.
Once she has been Raised to the Ring, it is expected that she now understands herself more than she ever did before. She knows what she is capable of and is ready to start considering what Ajah she wishes to join.
The white dress indicates that she is still of the White Tower, while the bands show that she is ready to consider a second connection - to one of the Ajahs. The combination of mostly white with some color shows that the Ajahs are part of the whole - that a future Aes Sedai's loyalty to the Tower is supposed to overrule her loyalty to her Ajah.
I want to express again, my many thanks to the members of the Tailor's Guild for their guidance and knowledge in this project. I hope that this will allow the Novices and Accepted of TarValon to have a more unified appearance at live events.