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Dungeons and Dragons has defined many fantastic and interesting metals (mythril, adamantine...) and leathers (dragon scales, Leather golem armour...). The lore also likes to call out food and drink as local specialty trade goods (Knucklehead Trout in Icewind Dale, or Crumblecake in Red Larch). It seems, however, that there are very few signature fabrics, like fancy silks or wools. I am not specifically looking for magical items or special effects, or any real game effect at all really.

What high end, fantastical materials for clothing exist in the lore of the Forgotten Realms?

I am currently running a game for a player who plays a weaver, and is looking for an interesting material to weave into a scarf for purely RP reasons. I can easily handwave Giant Spider Silk or Unicorn Hair, but I would be very interested to know about actual in-lore materials. The party is currently near Yartar, which has a bustling fashion and textile industry, so I can handwave that VERY exotic materials are imported at high cost, or sold on the black market.

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Spidersilk is definitely a thing, unsurprisingly associated with the drow. They use primarily aranea or drider silk for it, which is ironically probably easier than trying to get actual spiders to behave well enough to collect sufficient silk from.1 Most famous is the piwafwi, the drow version of the cloak of elvenkind, which is made from spidersilk, but spidersilk armor and the like have also been described. It typically provides armor similar to studded leather, but at vastly lower weight and with vastly increased mobility.2

The “v.3.5 revised edition” sourcebook Tome of Magic includes “shadowsilk,” but no mention of whether or how it fits into Forgotten Realms is offered in that book, nor is it discussed (to the best of my knowledge) in other books. Likewise, Races of the Wild from the same edition had “thistledown,” a lightweight but somewhat bulky, “downy” material used for padded armor or for the padded lining of heavier armors. It’s good for arcane spellcasters (though the ways in which it is good for them are irrelevant in 5e), but in any event that book doesn’t describe thistledown’s place in the Forgotten Realms, and it was never mentioned again.

In 4th Edition, there were upgraded forms of every type of armor, getting increasingly exotic, and one of the armor types was cloth. “Feyweave armor is woven with techniques perfected by the eladrin. Starweave armor is fashioned after patterns created in the divine domains of the Astral Sea.” Neither Forgotten Realms book in that edition—yeah, there were only two—mentions either specifically, but as part of the default game, it would be expected that Forgotten Realms adventurers would have access to them one way or another.

As far as I know, 5th Edition has yet to describe any exotic fabrics or textiles specifically.

And I don’t know of anything that discusses using any part of a unicorn’s body aside from its horn.

  1. There have been modern attempts to domesticate spiders in the real world, or at the very least engineer habitats where spider silk could be collected from “wild” spiders. It hasn’t gone very well: spiders insist on too much space for themselves (and will tend to kill and eat those who encroach on it), which tends to lead to awful economies of scale. It’s bad enough that there were even attempts to genetically engineer goats that produce spider silk instead of milk—which worked, up to a point, because they could produce goo with the appropriate proteins in it, but the unique “spinneret” organs on a spider are necessary to actually weave those proteins into silk.

  2. For example, in 3rd Edition, where every armor had a maximum Dexterity bonus like 5e medium armors, spidersilk armor offered a colossal +8 maximum. Only three armors in the game had a higher limit (thistledown, nightscale, and twist cloth), and they all offered lower innate benefits to AC, though a sufficiently-Dexterous character might still prefer them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ An exception that proves the rule: 1 Million Spiders Make Golden Silk for Rare Cloth | WIRED \$\endgroup\$ – Kenny Evitt Oct 19 '20 at 16:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KennyEvitt I saw that! But, heh, key sentence in there: “70 people spent four years collecting golden orb spiders from telephone poles in Madagascar, while another dozen workers carefully extracted about 80 feet of silk filament from each of the arachnids.” Those are the awful economies of scale I mentioned :P \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Oct 19 '20 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, exactly! But, hey, they didn't have magic either! \$\endgroup\$ – Kenny Evitt Oct 19 '20 at 19:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ One could certainly imagine a druid with a fondness for arachnids! Thanks for the great answer, it's unfortunate how few pure-fashion examples there are, but this is a great basis to start a homebrew \$\endgroup\$ – Alex F Oct 19 '20 at 22:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexF Random upvote caused me to look here, and so I figured I’d mentioned that while we didn’t get a Circle of Swarms druid, we did get a Swarmkeeper ranger. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 19 at 2:54

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