Welcome to the third installment of Fashion Fantasy! Every month, I’m going to be taking a look at the style and fashion of a given game, discussing some of the outfits and garments worn by characters, and analysing what they might tell us about characterisation and narrative! You can check out some of our previous installments below:
- February- Final Fantasy X-2
- January – Final Fantasy XII
This month we’re going to be looking at FromSoftware’s 2015 game, Bloodborne. This game is part of the “Souls” series that includes FromSoftware’s other games, Demons Souls and Dark Souls, and this one in particular features a plethora of dark romantic and gothic styles to take a look at!
This post will include some spoilers for the events of Bloodborne, so only continue if you’re alright with that! Let’s begin!
Bloodborne is set principally in the city of Yharnam, which is currently in the throes of a plague of monsters due to the populace’s fondness for “blood ministration”, transfusions that are so commonplace that they have an impact on everything from organised religion to medicine to the swathes of vigilantes prowling the streets to find them some beasts to slay — unaware that there is an undercurrent of cosmic horror that is lurking just out of sight. As a result, there’s a broad range of different garments and accessories in the game, and almost all of them partaking of a very Victorian gothic/dark romantic sensibility.
As a result, we won’t be looking at all of the outfits in the game — only the ones that particularly stand out for various reasons!
It’s very difficult to find images online that show the full sets of attire clearly, let alone ones that show the details of the garments — nonetheless, I’ve done what I can to find some decent ones. All of the images below come courtesy of the Bloodborne Wikia, and from Bloodborne-Wiki.com.
It’s worth pointing out before we begin that Bloodborne, like other Souls games, has an interesting relationship to the fashion and style in the game. There often comes a time in many games where the player has to choose between armour sets and balancing them in terms of form and function: the first set has amazing stat bonuses, but looks hideous, whereas the second is sumptuous and opulent-looking, but doesn’t afford many actual statistical bonuses. This is encountered most in roleplaying games, and it’s been so prevalent in Souls games that the phrase “Fashion Souls” has been coined to refer to it. This is the principle of dressing your avatar in attire that looks good, heedless of any stat bonuses or penalties, and it’s an idea that’s gotten a fair amount of traction amongst players — in fact, there’s a Fashion Souls subreddit devoted to showing off your character in various different combinations of armour.
Naturally, a game with such sartorial good taste that has so inspired players as to have them willingly disregard in-game bonuses for the boon of looking gorgeous bodes very well for Fashion Fantasy, so let’s take a look at some of the outfits in Bloodborne!
Yharnam Hunter Set
Get the Yharnam look™ with the Yharnam Hunter Set. This attire epitomises Bloodborne‘s aesthetic, although it (and other sets that are specifically for Hunters) may be overshadowed by the more dramatic attire you get elsewhere in the game, it’s a pretty good look on its own. The Yharnam Hunter Set in particular is likely inspired by 18th century European fashion by way of Brotherhood of the Wolf / Le pacte des loups (particularly here) — the tricorn hat, dark, drapey all-weather overcoat are common to both.
The Hunter sets also tell you something pretty pivotal about the game itself: the speed of play tends to be much faster than other Souls games. Bloodborne has very little in the way of platemail and other bulky armour for its protagonists, and instead, the gear that we’re told was a mainstay of Hunters tends towards being light and flexible, like something you’d see a Rogue or Thief wearing in other roleplaying games. Echoing something hbomberguy said about the removal of shields necessitating a different, quicker way of playing, I think designing the archetypal Hunter sets to look like they allow a little more freedom of movement effectively communicates some of Bloodborne‘s core game mechanisms purely through costume design. NICE.
Eileen the Crow / Crowfeather Set
I love Eileen the Hunter. In a game where people are already running around looking eerie, here’s Eileen, Hunter of Hunters, looking like she just got here from a recent fever-dream you had. The long crow feathers on the shoulder piece are draggy as fuck — did Eileen kill something that had feathers that long, like some hunter-turned-carrion-crow-beast? Who even knows! The mask riffs off of the idea of plague doctor garments used in the 17th century, which is very apropos for a game about hunters seeking out victims of a plague of monstrosity.
Also worth noting: it’s difficult to make out clearly, but Eileen is wearing a small bell on a chain around her neck. This is pretty intriguing considering the use of bells in Bloodborne as connecting other worlds — and doubly so when you consider that Eileen is also aware of the Hunter’s Dream and Doll, as discussed in Redgrave’s analysis of the game’s lore, The Paleblood Hunt.
This is utterly unrelated, but I’m compelled, as a longtime fan of Hollyoaks, to point out that Eileen is voiced by Jacqueline Boatswain, who plays Simone Loveday in the aforementioned incredible British soap opera. Oh my god by the way, have youse seen the new series of Dynastyas well? It’s incredible — no, okay, we’re doing this right now, we’ll talk soaps later, okay.
Alfred, Hunter of Vilebloods / Executioner Set
The Executioner’s garb is, according to in-game lore, the prototype upon which Yharnam’s Healing Church vestments are based, although it’s not very obvious on first glance. The outfit does have a kind of Paladin-y element to it, though, with its drapey pale fabric. There’s a wee nod to the lore of the game on the chest of the Executioner garb as well — the Hunter Caryll Rune is emblazoned on it.
This look is very unassuming until it’s paired with the Gold Ardeo, which you suddenly see Alfred rocking when he storms into Cainhurst to confront Annalise. I can completely appreciate that commitment to extravagance and drama. And, while I’m here for gold, weird headgear and something that looks like a more opulent Pyramid Head, it is unfortunately the case that a pointy hood on a person obsessed with blood purity is cutting a little too close to the bone for me.
Speaking of drama, all I want to say about the Church Servants is that I am so, so here for the absolute grandeur of a wide-brimmed hat and a massive bell necklace. There’s nothing else to say. It’s incredible.
Yurie, the Last Scholar / Choir Set
THIS SET IS EVERYTHING. It’s an outfit for the haute intelligentsia of the Healing Church, so accordingly, Choir members are treated to sumptuous coat, elbow-length (at least!) gloves, a gold sash, and a massive collar with a patterned edge, held together but a blue ribbon and a locket. This outfit stands out because it’s so clean — appropriately so, not only because the Healing Church don’t sully themselves with the orgiastic bloody slaughter that the Hunters do, but also because they like to whitewash everything about themselves.
There’s a little gold object hanging from the sash of the Choir set, and I’m not sure what it is. It looks like it might be a pocketwatch, but I really want to say it’s a fancy phylactery for blood. A few other sets of attire have blood vials on them, or places to store them, and it’d be very nice (and very fitting) for this to be the Choir’s equivalent. Just imagine: Yurei, reclining on the chaise-longue at Bergenwerth, smoking Beast-repelling herbs through a long pipe while imbibing occasionally from her elaborately carved flask. Divine.
The headpiece is so, so amazing. Business in the front, party in the back. It tells you “you only need to look at what I’m saying, and that’s all”. Tangentially, I once read a thing somewhere, I can’t remember where, that suggested the reason police hats have such a low ridge is to cover the eyebrows, which makes the face appear less expressive and thus more intimidating to anyone they’re talking to. No idea if it’s true, but if a member of the Choir said they wanted to talk to me, I’d be bricking it immediately.
Keeper of the Old Lords / Bone Ash Set
Hooooh my god. I am a sucker for witchy looks — I gushed a little about the Black Mage dressphere from Final Fantasy X-2 in last month’s Fashion Fantasy — and this is just sublime. I love the charred, ashy look to all of the garment, I love the crooked witchy hat, I love the tail of the lower half of the coat flaring out to give a bottom-heavy silhouette that’s quite dress-like. This is like the draugr from Skyrim, but the witches-of-instagram version. Witches of Insdraugram.
Fun fact: the Keeper of the Old Lords is a woman, which accounts for the somewhat-more-feminine-than-similar-enemies pose she gets in her official art (I’d previously thought it was delightful of Keeper society to teach their men to sissy that walk, but I’m happy with “witchy warrior woman”). The Keepers’ design also makes them very suggestive of the Dark Souls games — while Bloodborne does have fire and burning things as a part of its central theme, it’s a conceit at the very heart of the Dark Souls series.
“The Cainhurst way is a mix of nostalgia and bombast,” reads the description for the Knight’s set, and that is absolutely true. Neck ruffs, lace cuffs, Cainhurst’s got the stuffs. The overcoat from this ensemble looks very similar to the historical justacorps, but equally it might just be a regular ol’ overcoat. Regardless, it’s sumptuous and decadent — it tells you that the Vilebloods are very definitely the haughty aristocratic vampire people. Something that is so wonderful about the Knight’s Set is that the headgear is a small ponytail, which also comes with a fascinator if you have a female character!!! Did you just say wig? I know. Wig. I feel that already.
It might not be intentional, but Lady Maria has a similar neckpiece, which would be a nice wee nod to her being a distant relative of the Vilebloods.
Micolash, Host of the Nightmare
Micolash’s outfit, the Student set, is perfectly servicable — but that’s not why I’ve brought him to the stage today. No, I am primarily interested in that thing he has on his head.
The Mensis cage is an absolute innovation in fashion. It’s amazing. I love tall headgear already, and headgear that’s unusual and kind of grim-looking is an immediate win in my book. This headgear apparently acts as a spiritual Faraday cage, constructed to isolate oneself from the profane world so that one can commune with the Great Ones. If I was an eldritch being from the stars, I would absolutely be making pals with anyone wearing such outré Alexander McQueen fashion choices as wearing a Mensis Cage.
The Mensis cage might take inspiration from the Scold’s Bridle, in form if not in function — the Bridle was a device used to humiliate and torture women in the 16th and 17th centuries. Far from the consciousness-altering ancient-entity-antenna of Bloodborne.
The Doll / Doll Set
The Doll’s outfit is quaint, demure and unassuming, and in a game where blood is spattering about the place so often, it’s nice having something that’s a little less extravagant. I like the worn, muted appearance of the fabrics here, like the Doll has been wearing this a looong time (because let’s face it, she probably has). I initially thought the shawl was a rug, considering that it has tassels all over it, but then I saw the wee shoulder-pieces which make it appear similarly constructed to other garments in the game (there’s a lot of separate shoulder-pieces for outfits in the game — the Choir set is a good example).
I appreciate that the game allows male characters to wear the Doll set. I’m looking forward to a future where games remove gender restrictions on clothing — hopefully they’ll also keep the diversity of armour styles so that you can choose to have characters wearing ultra modest or ultra skimpy versions of the same armour, eh?
The Doll set is also interesting because of how much it contrasts with what Lady Maria herself actually wears — a bonnet, shawl and a skirt is a far cry from her appearance in the Astral Clocktower, although she does seem to wear the same boots. Both the Doll and Lady Maria wear a jabot around the neck: the Doll’s is a pinkish-red, which is perhaps a visual allusion to the fact that Lady Maria slit her own throat, staining the once-white jabot with her blood. It’s echoed earlier in the game, with the Red Messenger Ribbon / White Messenger Ribbon involving Gascoigne’s daughter and her (possibly impostor?) sister.
Lady Maria / Maria Hunter Set
Lady Maria’s outfit is profoundly different than the Doll’s; she’s decked out in full hunter regalia, replete with a tricorne hat accessorised with a feather. I’m intrigued by Maria’s outfit, more specifically, its legacy: we’re to understand from the lore descriptions for Gehrman’s Hunter Attire that Gehrman, as the first Hunter, influenced the way hunters after him dressed. However, it seems that Lady Maria — as Gehrman’s apprentice par excellence — was also a major inspiration for hunter fashion. It’s easy to trace elements of other hunter sets to her outfit — such as the tricorne she wears that’s reflected in the Yharnam Hunter set and Henryk’s hunter attire. This is made doubly interesting by the fact that Gehrman preserves no trace of this in the Doll that he made in Maria’s likeness — virtually no element of her style remains in the Doll (aside from the jabot around her neck), effectively erasing her influence on hunter fashion as a whole.
You could write this off as Maria and other hunters drawing from a common source, but the fact that Gehrman’s Hunter attire tells us that he was an influence on how hunters dressed themselves makes me think otherwise.
Brador / Brador’s Set
Now. Brador’s outfit is notable for numerous reasons — first, that it’s a mix of somewhat formal clothing with, quite literally, the pelt of a beast over it. I love faux fur, and I think I’d make an exception for wearing the fur of an eldritch beast that had been trying to devour me. Mixing fur with a waistcoat is amazing.
The second reason his outfit is notable is that, if we remove the beast pelt from it, it’s nigh identical to the protagonist’s starting equipment, the Foreigner’s Attire. According to Aegon of Astora (in one of his videos — I’m not sure which one!), this could hint that Brador — who refers to himself as and the protagonist being strangers in this city — are from the same region. Verrry curious.
One way or another, both the protagonist and Brador are very snappy dressers.
Yharnam, Pthumerian Queen
Yharnam is the elevated gothic horror trope of the woman in white, the ghost that reveals the shadowy history behind the haunted house. Only in Bloodborne, it’s a haunted city, and the ghost is both dead and alive, or something, I’m not sure, it’s all very confusing. In any case — Yharnam is amazing. Her multi-tiered ruffle dress is full Victorian bustle fantasy, if a little marred by the copious blood. She’s not only wearing a ruff around her neck, but she’s also wearing the most ethereal veil known to man. It’s pretty criminal that you don’t get to wear Yharnam’s attire, or at least the veil — that would’ve made for some very fun Fashion Souls experiences.
Forgotten Madman / Madman’s Set
Is your outfit missing that “oomph”? Are you longing for the day that you find an accessory that can go with any garment? Well, pine no longer — our team of researchers in the Tomb of the Gods are proud to bring you this unholy Appendage! Drape it over your shoulders like a stole! Weave it around your arm like a bangle! Not only are Appendages are versatile, they’re also “a kind of protective charm”, so if you’re having a wild night out in Yharnam, you can feel safe and protected at all times!
Buy an Appendage now, and we’ll even throw in a large blood ampoule you can hang from a belt!
Top Hat Hunter Set
I’m including the Top Hat Hunter Set (possibly a.k.a. the Hunter (City) Set?) purely because I love that it ties together numerous different strands, narratively and aesthetically. This outfit is very fitted, very sleek, and also, pivotally, very clean, in comparison to the other Hunter sets. The lore descriptions for this attire tell us that it’s worn by hunters who “admire formality”, and also mentions the Threaded Cane, which in its own lore description states that flogging the beasts with the whip “demonstrate[s] to oneself that the bloodlust of the hunt will never encroach upon the soul.” This attire pokes a hole in the idea that there is a way to elevate oneself above the hunt by distancing oneself from the consequences of the hunt in a very clinical and imperious way. ‘fraid not pal, the blood’s on your hands as much as anyone else’s.
Valtr, Master of the League / Constable’s Set
Valtr’s outfit is so idiosyncratic, and yet so perfectly fitting to the setting, it’s hard not to love it. True to the set’s name, he’s dressed as a Victorian-era police constable in a dark-navy or black outfit with big brass buttons. He also has a lovely chain which includes, if you look closely, a police whistle hanging from the chain! This man is prepared to take on beasts, and if he’s ever in need of help, he’s got his handy whistle: appropriate as well, considering the lore description for the Constable’s set indicates Valtr may be losing his touch.
I find the bucket helm interesting as well: I might be reading into it a little, but the single eyehole, coupled with Valtr’s backstory, evokes that kind of (pretty ableist) European gothic sensibility of the tragic-monstrous-human figure — the Man in the Iron Mask, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Phantom of the Opera, et al.
Fishing Hamlet Priest
Look. I know. I’m just saying, I think having a shroud that covers almost all of your body, which pretty much broadcasts to people the message “I am almost certainly going to mumble hexes in your presence”, is not only a wise fashion choice, it’s one I’m also considering adding to my own wardrobe.
(Although interestingly, Jerks Sans Frontieres draws a comparison between the Fishing Hamlet Priest and the “Bishop Fish” sea monster idea in his appearance on Aegon of Astora’s Bloodborne: Let’s Talk Lore – Fishing Hamlet episode).
That’s all for our third installment of Fashion Fantasy! Bloodborne has an absolute excess of good lewks and styles to pore over, and with the enigmatic “Shadows Die Twice” trailer that may indicate a Bloodborne sequel in the works, I can only hope and pray that we’re going to be getting ever more extravagant gothic garments in the future.
Next month we’ll be looking at the style and fashion of another game — if you have suggestions for games to take a look at in future, or if you’ve got some thoughts on any of the outfits covered (or passed over!), tweet me on Twitter!
Fashion Fantasy was a regular feature on Patreon. This installment was first published here on the 31st of March, 2018.