Saturday, February 14, 2015

Melody of the West - A Fond Farewell

My grey ship has arrived and it's time I sail into the west, away from LOTRO's shore and towards Valinor.

Four years ago, I started dabbling in cosmetics. Three and a half years ago, I began to share outfits with some close friends, embarrassed to admit I played "virtual dress-up," as I had once put it. Three years ago, I began sharing them with all of you...and it's been a glorious three years.

It's with a heavy heart I make my final cosmetic entry here at Material Middle-earth. I thought it appropriate to end on an outfit using the same location and similar colors as my very first--sea blue and the elven homesteads in Falathlorn--which can be viewed here.  Even though this blog opened with a cosmetic contest I held for Forgottten Darkness in April 2012, it wasn't until June that I mustered the courage to post my own creation.

There have been 150+ posts here, ninety percent of which have been outfits. The other ten has been about beta previews and updates regarding cosmetic additions to the skirmish camps. I honestly never expected to reach that number. From June to December of 2012, I was an outfitting machine. I had a new outfit every two to four days (some of which I think are absolutely ugly...and it's not because I was new to this) and I quickly burned myself out after making fifty-something outfits. I returned in April 2013, just in time for a server fashion contest and the release of the Wildermore zone...and then a computer hardware failure left this blog suspended until September. I returned again and managed to ahdere to a weekly posting regiment on Saturdays, which has worked very well. I've never felt any pressure to make an outfit or haphazardly throw one together under that system.

This blog has certainly come a long way. I remember how small and timid my early pictures had been. Not to mention, I started this blog with nothing more than Microsoft Paint and the in-game screenshot key as my only tools. I could never keep consistent dimensions with any of my pictures due to the nature of Paint. If I adjusted the sizes of images in the slightest bit, they would pixelate horrendously. I knew nothing about lighting or advanced graphics settings at the time. If it weren't for Devonna posting her guide to screenshotting in early 2012, and me noticing it some six months later, I wouldn't have learned how I could make the best of my screenshots. Combine that with picking up Paint Shop Pro 7 and FRAPS in 2013, and this blog started to look consistent. As the year went by, the pictures became bigger, brighter.

Material Middle-earth even had a format overhaul. After staring at the old green and black Rohan theme, I decided it was time to change the banner and layout of the blog. Originally, I leaned towards a Gondorian theme, but decided to use a universal one. A screenshot guide was added and a condensed tags page was created to make navigation easier. I'm just glad it was a successful and well-liked change.

You might remember from the old banner image or the "About Me and MME" page that I once had a passion for housing. Unfortunately, finding an active player house on my home server hasn't been easy. Well decorated abodes have become an even rarer commodity. At least there have been a couple featured here. I was waiting for the anticipated update for well over a year, but Rowan announced that it wouldn't be possible. It was then I decided to drop housing entirely. I had plans to revive that part of this blog if player housing became viable again. It's a shame, because this aspect of the game had so much potential!

Outside of LOTRO, this blog continues to be a creative outlet for me. I've had the opportunity to gain some skills in web design, graphic design, and image editing software. You see, I'm someone with creative inclinations, ranging from doodling in notebook margins to full-page sketches in sketchbooks to writing short stories. Now that I've had the chance to expand this hobby to the internet, I have no idea what I'll be doing next. After all, if I'm not making something, I start going stir crazy. If I do begin a new project, I'll certainly post something here in the future should anyone be interested. Whatever it is, it won't be related to LOTRO, but it might be cosmetic related. I do play multiple games after all! For the time being, I plan on making Twitter my long-term home. Feel free to follow me that way you can keep tabs on my future gaming endeavors!

And now for the most important part of this entry.

There are so many people to thank for this successful blog.

First, I'd like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to two of my fellow Gladdenites, Ely of Pony Lovers Anonymous and Emiele, and the two Gladden kinships Forgotten Darkness and Turning of the Tide, which no longer have webpages. Thank you for your kindness, encouragement, and advice in all things cosmetic. If it weren't for all of you, I wouldn't have found my love for outfitting.

Second, I'd like to thank Hymne of Cosmetic LOTRO, Starry of The Starry Mantle,  Freyjuska of Lotro Fashion, and Devonna of The Lotro Stylist. The four of you inspired me to start what I've felt to be a successful blog and keep it running as long as possible. You were and still are the pioneers of LOTRO's cosmetic blogging community. I remember listening to that Cosmetics Roundtable on CSTM back in 2011, which featured three of you.

Third, I'd like to thank those of you who have pulled me aside to tell me how much my outfitting has inspired you, whether you've posted in the LOTRO forums, made cosmetics a personal project, or created your own blog. Ellishul of The Elven Tailor (also The Elven Adventurer on Tumblr) and Makaia of Style of Middle-earth, you two are foremost on my mind.

Fourth, since I can't assign this individual any particular category, a hearty thank you to Gloredh of Wandering Around Arda. You also share my passion for elves, outfits, and all other things elvish, which has been a source of both joy and continual inspiration for my own.

Fifth, I'd like to thank Second Breakfast of Crickhollow and Rangers of the West of Gladden for inviting me to help judge their server fashion shows. It's been a privilege witnessing the creativity and courage of the participants and the community spirit of such kinships. And while I'm on the topic of server events, I also want to extend a thank you to The Lonely Mountain Band. Your Landroval Ales & Tales events, along with the many others I've attended the past three years, and the attendees they've gathered have inspired several outfits here.

Sixth, I'd like to thank my partner in crime and best friend of 15+ years, Laenai. You have been with me since the very beginning. If it weren't for you, I would have never started playing LOTRO. Thank you for pointing me to both the infamous outfit system and wardrobe panel back in 2010! I bet you never expected that would start my cosmetic blogging career!

Seventh, a special thanks to Turbine, Inc. This blog would have never been possible without the release of LOTRO in 2007. I hope that Warner Bros. gives you the funding you've deserved since they purchased your company to make this game the shining jewel it once was!

Last, but not least, I'd like to thank every person that's come along on this journey and shown their support through commenting via Facebook and Twitter, e-mailing, game mail, the official LOTRO forums, and humoring me as I spent the past few years making what you've discovered here. (I'd name you all individually, but that's another blog post in and of itself!) I'm honored to have been presented the opportunity to offer advice and help create your character's ideal outfits on multiple occasions.

I cannot stand but humbled in the presence of this community. Na lû e-govaned vîn.

All of my love and best wishes for your LOTRO endeavors,

Nathrien Estelenlaer <3

Shoulders: High Officer's Shoulder Guards (Navy, T6 Metalsmith recipe)
Back: Cloak of the Ibis (Sea Blue, LOTRO Store)
Chest: Lore-keeper's Robe (Sea Blue, classic skirm camp vendor, level 85 Barad Guldur light armor)
Feet: Potent Resolute Boots of Fate (Sea Blue, random instance reward during the Helm's Deep expansion)


  1. During these years Material Middle Earth has been a big source of inspiration for many type of outfits, dresses, travel, armour, and personally, my all time favourite elven ones :D All the posts and outfits hold memories of the time spent in Middle Earth, which will sail to the West, on a White ship ad be ever there when looking at them again, May you find joy in new lands to explore, and a big BIG thank you for running Material Middle Earth these three years!

    I aear can ven na mar, sinen i 'whew Edhellen, The sea calls us home. but this are the principles of the Eldar.

    Hannon Le, Nathrien, Namarie! :)

    1. Thank you, Gloredh. I can't thank you enough for the inspiration that you've given me over the past year and a half. Keep rolling out those wonderful outfits of yours!

      This blog will always have a special place in my heart and I'm sure it won't be easily forgotten. I'll be keeping tabs on it, trying to prevent bots and ad spammers from taking over the comments. Even though my time with LOTRO is coming to an end, I do want Material Middle-earth to last at least as long as the game itself and continue to provide the community with outfit ideas.

      I will miss clothing my characters in Middle-earth garb, my elves most of all.

  2. Nath, sunshine :)

    I cannot wait to see where you creativity takes you next, as one blog closes another... ;)

    It seems so long ago that we dedicated hours together...trying to get raid armour purely for cosmetic reasons and grinding for festival tokens because -I want it all-. Such fun.


    1. Oh my god...the memories! :)

      So many nights grinding through Orthanc and DN for those pretty cosmetics. So many afternoons collecting festival tokens for all the new goodies every year. I truly miss those days. I still recall the day we were running around Galtrev in practically the same outfit! Only our cloaks were different. LOTRO certainly hasn't been the same without the old crew.

  3. Nathrien, following your blog has been a pleasure and an inspiration. Congratulations on all you've achieved here, and thank you. I'm glad we got the chance to "meet" in-game at Second Breakfast's Yule festival.

    Best wishes to you in your next projects!

    - Starry

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Starry. I've looked to both your outfits and mastered knowledge of Tolkien's lore for my own inspiration. Having the chance to meet you, along with Gloredh, and judging a fashion event together will always be one of my fondest memories.

      Believe it or not, your blog was the first one I followed :)

  4. It's been a wonderful journey of outfits over the past years Nathrien, and like for many of us who have shared your journey, perhaps it is time to move on. We are at risk op repeating ourselves over and over again as not a lot of new stuff is coming out anymore. The true glory days of the outfitting community are over and it's best to step out with grace so you can make a fresh and inspired start with something new. Your outfits will remain to stand and inspire many that continue to play Lotro. I wish you all that is good and thank you for sharing so much of your creative endeavors!

    1. Thanks, Hymne. That's something I've noticed over the past several months with my outfits. Without taking colors into account, I feel like I've seen or done almost all of the possible cosmetic combinations. Between the lack of inspiration and the ever increasing risk of accidentally copying someone else's outfit, I found it incredibly difficult to continue. Making the first announcement in November and then posting my final entry were both bittersweet moments. I'll certainly miss outfitting for LOTRO. I think there's still plenty of potential and it's my hope that newcomers will be able to discover it.

      Regardless, it has been a magical journey! :)

  5. I am sad to see you go. Thank you for the inspiration that you have shared over the years, and I wish you all the best in not going crazy as you put away this old canvas and find new ones.

    1. Thank you :) I'm glad I was able to share with everybody what I did. I could have done more, but this felt like the appropriate time.

      I can guarantee I won't be going crazy, at least for the short term. I'm going to cool my jets for a bit, take a break from the blogosphere, and probably do some brainstorming in the interim.

  6. It's bittersweet that we must come to the end of our journey. Before I depart on my own ship, I wish you the absolute BEST of luck to wherever the wind takes you, Nathrien. I'm so happy to have known you and to have shared my love of Middle-Earth and cosmetics with you. Whatever game you choose to blog about next, I will be among the first to follow it! Once again, good luck, and may the light of the Valar guide you across the sea :D

    1. Even though we've had our ups and downs, we've stuck it out as long as we have and made the most of it. It'll be sad to see you go too, but your cosmetic blog had a wonderful run, filled with both unique and inspiring outfits. I wish you the best as well, in whatever you choose to do or wherever you find yourself going.

      I'm sure I'll see you hanging around GW2 sometime. After all, it's hard to resist a game with great friends and 402 dye colors!

  7. It is sad to see two cosmetic blogger giants such as yourself and Elven Tailor sail away from LOTRO. My newsreader will be less bright without both your contributions.

    Tomeoric (Landroval)

    1. Thank you, Tomeoric. I'm sure other cosmetic fansites for LOTRO will continue to emerge. I'm sure they can be just as bright and wonderful if you and everyone else can provide them with the same fantastic support that's been shown to us. Even though I may not be updating here, I'll still be keeping an eye on my RSS feed while I continue to play LOTRO! Keep up that great work you've been doing...I wish a site like yours had existed when I started playing four years ago!


Contact Form for Material Middle-earth


Email *

Message *