Essun’s Dress (Broken Earth Trilogy)



Eva Berewinkel


(click images to to enlarge)

Outline the story …

My design is based on the character of Essun in the "Broken Earth" trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. The story is set 40,000 years postapocalyptic with major seismic events threatening the survival of humanity around every 400 years. In these circumstances society developed a culture of constant desaster-preparedness. People live in tight communities and are divided into 'use-casts' based on their value for society.

There are hints in the books that clothing reflects the community and use-cast one belongs to. In Essun's, case the purples in her shawl and coat signify her belonging to the "resistance use cast", which is responsible for the care of the sick and wounded, while the repeating zig-zag-patterns show her belonging to the community of Terimo. Overall clothing is highly functional while supporting the beauty standards which are highly functional themselves. Women are supposed to look curvy, broad shoudered and tall.

Essun is born with the rare talent of being able to manipulate energy, especially the movements of the earth. This makes her a non-person not allowed to live out of strict gouvernement control. But she does exactly that. So her life in Terimo is a secret one. That makes her very guarded about her thoughts and feelings, determined not to stand out. To protect her children (born with the same talent) she is guarded even towards them, while loving them deeply. She hides a bit of embroidery her daughter made on the inside of her stays, close to her heart and invisible to the world.

Outline the construction…

I used cotton and wool as these are the materials mentioned. The outer layer is wool because in seismic events rain is probably acidic. Fabrics are sturdy and without prints because that is what would have been available and practical. Most garments resemble professionally made garments. Over a simple sleeveless shift I chose short stays with a wooden busk. I looked at Regency stays, but I wanted to sit the bust lower and more seperated, so I designed my own pattern.

Next is an underdress with a wide ruff, that is actually removable if one is in sudden need of bandages. Front-darts are added by hand to resemble later adjustments. The shirt is a plain ungendered one, chosen for practicality: wide, buttoned half way and with wide cuffs, so that one can push the sleeves up easily. The skirt is a wrap-skirt for easy size adjustment, shorter in front and with a wide strip of protective fabric at the hem.

Socks and shawl are handspun and handknit and would be of Essun's own making. The coat can be closed completely and its possible to button in a face mask against the fine ash filling the air after a seismic event. The wings make the shoulders look bigger and help an emergency-backpack to sit well. The coat purpusefully isn´t highly tailored because tailoring techniques like basting with horse-hair-canvas wouldn't have been used. The garments feature pleats in the back to give a favourable sillhouette and help support a backpack.




  1. Avatar Yanicka on March 11, 2021 at 6:49 pm

    Love the books and love you interpretation of it.

  2. Kitty Mortensen Kitty Mortensen on March 12, 2021 at 9:28 am

    This is beautiful- I love your interpretation of the story, looks SO cool

  3. Avatar Amy Sakovich on March 12, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    So in love with seeing Broken Earth here, and you’ve put a ton of thought into your interpretation of the garments. I feel like you’ve made the stories even more alive.

  4. Avatar Laura Wemyss on March 12, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    So. Much. Fun. Though I’m not familiar with the books, I love how you have interpreted elements of the story into the garments (such as the removable ruffs). The outfit speaks to me of power and resilience. Nicely done!

  5. Avatar Mandy Pursley on March 14, 2021 at 2:38 am

    I love the thoughtfulness that you put into the materials. Those details really brought the costume to life! I love it!

  6. Avatar JAYE SUDAR on March 14, 2021 at 5:04 am

    Interesting interpretation. 🙂 I read that trilogy about a year ago, and was intrigued to see the picture your mind painted. Lovely work.

  7. Avatar Ali Moore on March 15, 2021 at 6:10 pm

    I love this so much – I adore the books and this is such a thoughtful interpretation of a character with so much depth

  8. Avatar Carly Van Groeningen on March 19, 2021 at 10:57 am

    What a fantastic interpretation of Essun, I love all the little details and the thoughtful design.

  9. Avatar Maeri Certo on March 19, 2021 at 10:24 pm

    Great job! Your design definitely embodies a lot of characterization and has loads of details. I admire your commitment to making even your knitwear yourself, too!

  10. Avatar Stephanie Murison on March 24, 2021 at 2:33 am

    I love all the thought that went into this design, and am particularly fond of the embroidery on the stays, close to her heart, as you say, it’s a wonderful hidden detail! The overall effect and silhouette is really lovely too! (I don’t know if this was intentional, but I feel like an outfit for a post-apocalyptic setting which can be worn with a face mask is pertinent for the current pandemic we’re in now!) A great characterisation, well done!

  11. Avatar Lisa M. on March 27, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    Best Experienced entry with matching mask, thank you.

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