In tarot reading, paying attention to symbolism matters. Whether it's the symbols themselves in a card or the placement of a character's body, a minuet thing can change the meaning entirely.
Today, I'm interested in a more specific symbolism of the cards - the clothing.
Throughout history, the clothes a person wears can tell the story of their life. From the Spanish and their myriads of bows and Captain Hook wigs to the French and their need to wear birds in their hair. Tarot, specifically Rider-Waite, tells a story itself with the clothes each figure is wearing.
Also, as we well know, even the smallest thing can make a big difference in tarot reading. When we relate the characters to our lives, paying attention to how they dress becomes essential. And ridiculously fun.
Here's three factors of a tarot card's clothing to help you read the cards more intuitively:
Style of Dress
The style of the clothing itself can tell you a lot about the characters. In a general sense, the Rider-Waite Tarot is post-medieval with a Renaissance flair thrown in. Some characters, like the Emperor, have their feet planted in the time of knights and dragons while others, such as the Nine of Pentacles, have a more English-Black-Plague feel.
The type of dress, whether male or female, gives you the mood and attitude of the characters involved. For instance, the Empress isn't wearing a corset as she's pregnant. The time period of the clothing would suggest she hasn't left the house for months and she's actually in a state of "undress" - a fancy term for a nightgown. So she's even more feminine and tempestuous than you'd first believe due to the bagginess of her clothes. Her mood is free-flowing and calm as she urges you to shed off unnecessary layers.
To give an opposite, the mood of the two characters in the Five of Pentacles would be more than just depression. They're freezing, as their clothes are tattered and torn. Obviously lower class, they're unclean and carrying very little. If they were in more covering clothes, even while injured, there'd surely be another person in the picture offering help. It speaks to a class issue by noticing this detail.
Texture Setting Tone
The color of the garment you wear, and your accessories, can portray a lot about you. The same goes for tarot cards.
If we look at Temperance, we see a beautiful angel with red and black wings. That contrast in color and texture, as you can visually see each feather vs. the smoothness of the cloak said angel is wearing, gives a certain tone. There are care and benevolence but with an edge underneath.
To take it further, the Star generally has fewer clothes than Temperance due to the nature of the healing. Temperance follows Death, which is slow moving and you can see coming. The Tower is more sudden, literally burning everything you knew about your life to the ground. You have no time to take your things, like Temperance has, so you jump from the Tower, land in the water, and wash yourself off. Hence the Star having hardly anything on.
Color as a Mood Setter
We've heard of color studies and how our mood is affected by them. Red causes hunger and shows power while pink is more calming and is used on prison doors.
In tarot, we associate different colors with the suits. Money is green and used for pentacles, water is blue and for cups, etc. The same attitude applies to the color of each card.
Even though the Five of Wands is typically red, look at the color of each person's clothes. It's different moods and tones battling against each other.
What about the Hierophant and the color of his robe vs. the rest of the card?
If you notice these details, you see the mood of each character - what the card itself represents - in a different light.
Join me for a Costume Your Cards Workshop!
We'll go over how different cards would change their meaning depending on the color, texture, and period of dress they have. PLUS you'll receive a workbook and replay of the live stream delivered right to your inbox!