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Dumbledore's Army

Wizarding Robes

by Jenn

Revision date: October 2, 2002

Elsewhere in the fandom I’ve discussed the appearance of wizarding robes. This is a topic that I’ve held strong views on since, being an American, seeing the American covers and disliking the portrayal of wizarding attire on the cover. Further Harry Potter merchandise continued to, in my opinion, disregard canon evidence about what the characters wore.

In the film, there was a uniform that I, and others, consider to be different from the book canon. Now I understand the change in the uniform for adaptation from a novel to a film, but there is a large difference in the costumes in the film and the descriptions in the book.

Issues regarding the uniforms:

Establishing the Possibility of Different Types of Robes

In discussions it has been mentioned that there are many types of robes. Most canon evidence about robes we have comes from the Hogwarts uniform, but this does not mean that the use of mentioning quotes regarding other robes is invalidated in the discussion of the uniform. We know that Harry’s ‘dress robes were more or less the same as his school ones’ (GoF; Chapter 10; Page 139). The most differences that I’ve seen in the books between types of robes come from descriptions of color, the presence of additions such as frill or lace, material, and cut. (Taken from descriptions of Lockhart’s everyday robes and various people’s dress robes.) I assume that there could be differences of cut; however, it is my understanding that the robes have a common design and are able to be compared as single unit whenever there is a mention of wizarding robes.

The Use of Muggle Clothing in Wizarding Society

In the film students tended to wear Muggle clothing when not in class or at times when they had class yet did not change out of the clothing for the day. Notably, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione descended through the trap door they were wearing Muggle clothing. I find that, apart from having canon evidence that robes were worn in that particular scene (‘A disgusting smell filled their nostrils, making both of them pull their robes up over their noses.’ PS; Chapter 16; Page 206) there is a lack of description of Muggle clothing beyond the summer holidays. The mention of the Weasley jumper/sweater indicates that there are some common garments. There are however few references to Muggle garments, and I am unable to find any references to full Muggle attire being worn by students while at Hogwarts. Even during the Christmas holidays the students are described wearing robes.

We know that ‘[the Weasley] children might don Muggle clothing during the hoidays …’ (GoF; Chapter 4; Page 39), but it appears that most wizards don’t usually wear Muggle clothing as seen by poor ability of wizards to dress in Muggle fashion at the Quidditch World Cup. It might be assumed from McGonagall’s quote in the first chapter of the series (‘…not even dressed in Muggle clothes…’ PS; Chapter 1; Page 13) that it is common for wizards to dress in Muggle clothing when wandering into the Muggle world. The quote also distinguishes wizarding attire as being separate from Muggle clothing.

The Front of the Robes

In the film version of the robes, the robes are open. This is the main difference between the robes in the book and film. There are numerous quotes from the books that indicate that robes are closed and have a front.

- ‘Madam Malkin stood Harry on a stool next to him, slipped a long robe over his head and began to pin it to the right length.’ (PS; Chapter 5; Page 59)
- ‘… Harry saw Hermione slide back into the dungeon, the front of her robes bulging.’ (CoS; Chapter 11; Page 140)
- ‘... the other [hand] seemed to be tucking something down the front of her robes.’ (PoA; Chapter 7; Page 98)
- ‘Harry had the Cloak hidden down the front of his robes.’ (PoA; Chpater 16; Page 240)
- ‘He was wearing long Quidditch robes. ... An enormous picture of a wasp was splashed across his chest. … the robes were stretched tightly across a large belly…’ (GoF; Chapter 7; Page 80)
- ‘... Wormtail, sobbing and moaning, still cradling his mutilated arm, scrambled to pick up the black robes from the ground, got to his feet, reached up, and pulled them one-handed over his master's head.’ (GoF; Chapter 32; Page 558)

Clothing Underneath the Robes

In the film there is what appears to be a clothing underneath the robes; however if the robes were closed than there would not really be a need for further clothing underneath the robes. One of most memorable of the quotes to demonstrate this is from Archie at the Quidditch World Cup, ‘I like a healthy breeze round my privates, thanks” (GoF; Chapter 7; Page 77). With this quote it appears that people can be covered up without needing to wear anything underneath the robes that would limit the healthy breeze as Archie puts it. There does not appear to be anything beneath the robes of the Hogwarts uniform either. “ ‘I sneaked these spare robes out of the laundry. … You’ll need bigger sizes once you’re Crabbe and Goyle’” (CoS; Chapter 12; Page 161).Using logic, if the three of them needed larger robes and shoes and they wore other garments underneath than there would be a need for larger sizes of these other pieces of clothing.

There are a few quotes that describe the layering of clothing, and don’t include other articles of clothing worn beneath the robes. ‘Professor Moody’ comments on Harry’s socks ‘his magical eye staring through Harry’s robes’ (GoF; Chapter 23; Page 365). This quote might be ignoring other garments that could block the view of the socks; though, I personally think that is unlikely with other quotes. Later there is reference to the lack of material between the robes and the arms, ‘Harry showed them both the place where his robes were torn and the cut beneath them’ (GoF; Chapter 36: Page 604).

There is a single instance in the books that describe anything being underneath the robes. ‘Harry took off his black school robes, removed his wand from his pocket, and stuck it inside the T-shirt he was going to wear under his Quidditch robes’ (PoA; Chapter 16; Page 191). Searching through the books I could not find any other quotes that described anything underneath the robes. This particular incident would most likely occur if the Quidditch robes do not have pockets like the school robes do.

Decorative Aspects of the Hogwarts Uniform

The first description of the uniform that we get is in the list of supplies that Harry needs, ‘Three sets of plain work robes (black)’ (PS; Chapter 5; Page 52). I always took this to mean that the robes were plain, with nothing on them. (Silly me I took the plain to be literal!)

In the movie the uniforms are adorned with house colors and crests. In discussions elsewhere people have pointed out that film costumes need color, which I can understand. This is one of the reasons that I assume the costume designers changed the uniform. Another reason as pointed out by someone else was that in the books J. K. Rowling is able to comment on the house of people, but the film lacks that capability without the addition of the house colors.

All of my quotes are taken from British paperback versions of the books. I apologize for not being able to locate page numbers for other versions of the books.


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