Geeky Baju: Dawn and Dusk (Dragon Age: Inquisition)

Hello! Here's an update on the Geeky Baju series, which began in 2015. They're Southeast Asian garment designs based on books, films, and video games: essentially fan art with a research and cultural twist. I spent last November working on five new entries and have wanted to share them for so long - patrons will get to see these first over the next few weeks!

Thanks to the Talent Dev & Art Reproduction programme at Giclée Art, all ten will be shown at a group exhibition in Kuala Lumpur next month. I'll be sure to post an update once the date is confirmed.

So here's 'Dawn and Dusk', based on Dragon Age: Inquisition. DA:I is one of my favourite BioWare games because of the compelling characters and writing as well as the extensive worldbuilding and lore. The stellar visual development by the DA:I team makes it easy to translate each character's personality or themes into baju designs. Here's a rundown of the four.


Rally the troops in an imposing cheongsam and hoodie.
The cheongsam (qipao) has its origins in the Manchurian Qing dynasty and was modernised to accentuate the figure during the 1920-1940s in Shanghai.

Cullen is a fan favourite, not least because of his meme-worthy transformation from the first to the third game in the Dragon Age series (which also shows how long the series has been around for...):

(meme from unknown source, online; tarot art and screenshot from the game) 

So first, a hoodie as an analogue for his distinctive overcoat. The blue zip and tassle are a reference to Templar usage of lyrium in the game, an act of supposed necessity that can quickly turn into addiction. I hadn't done a cheongsam yet, so this was a great opportunity to explore how the silver and gold lion/ flame designs would look on red silk.

Cullen's silhouette is top-heavy, and that's reflected in the tapering of the dress as it falls to the ankles.


Take on centuries of systemic injustice while sporting a dashing aristocrat's jacket and batik kain panjang. 
Different motifs and patterns were reserved for wear by the nobility in Java.

Dorian is the scion of House Pavus from the Tevinter nobility, a background he both despises and uses to his advantage, so naturally I looked at Javanese aristocratic garb for inspiration. 

(screenshot, tarot art and poster from the game) 

The motifs on their kain batik denote rank and nobility; only certain nobles or the king could wear specific motifs. Also known as lidah api, the dagger-like parang is one of the strongest motifs, symbolising power, nobility, and control over desire and evil. The Tevinter gold, black, and white also closely parallel the typical Javanese black, brown, and cream/white colour schemes. 

(A pangeran/prince from Solo, photo published ~1900. Source: Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies)

In the development notes, Dorian is described as a "rockstar mage". Being fond of putting his own spin on fashion, he would probably leave the shirt unbuttoned and wear the jacket asymmetrically.


Sweep the grandest game of all in an embroidered silk terno.
The terno has distinctive rising butterfly sleeves and a low neckline, evolving from older Filipino dresses.

Vivienne (or Madame de Fer) is a natural at the political games and whims of the Orlesian court; she's an imposing, self-assured Knight Enchanter with an affinity for ice and sharp dressing.

(screenshot, tarot art and poster from the game) 

Both the Filipino terno and her in-game armours share the same butterfly sleeve silhouette. I imagine the frost and snowflake patterns on the dark silk could be achieved by careful beading and embroidery. 

A little about the terno: the name comes from the Spanish 'terno', 'to match', referring to the seamless appearance of the bodice and skirt which are made from the same material. Its look is an evolution from the bar'ot saya, Maria Clara, and traje de mestiza. Popularised by Imelda Marcos, the kleptocrat who lived lavishly, the terno became the formal attire of choice among the elite class. It requires good posture and poise to carry off - not an issue for a powerful mage.

(Marcos and Indira Gandhi in 1971; Marcos arriving at the Palais de l'Élysée, 1976. Photo source: AFP.)


Wander the ages past in a sherwani and churidar.
The formal sherwani was used as court dress for nobles and is often intricately embroidered. 

Finally, everyone's favourite/ hated apostate mage, Solas (no spoilers here). He is depicted as a hermit-like character, fond of wandering the Fade in dreams, and his in-game tarot card displays an affinity for nature. 

(tarot art and poster from the game)

The sherwani and churidar here match that autumnal colour scheme and evoke a gentle spirit, days of nobility past.


Now to wait for Dragon Age 4, which is still years away!

Which one of these designs is your favourite? I'm partial to the terno, but I do like the sharp silhouette of the sherwani...

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