We always see them: the funky printed cottons in the stores. Sometimes we can’t resist, and then we wonder why the heck we bought it in the first place. Clearly, you can’t make garb out of silly prints!
Or can you?
This summer, I had a weird awakening. It’s no secret to my readers and friends that I’ve pretty much busted my rump this last year on research in Byzantine dress. From investing the money in Sartor fabrics to finding some of the best linens and trims I could to make a splash dropping my 12th Century side-eye skills, and spending 4 months on a master’s thesis where I dug into an 11th century will, I sort of put on a display this year like some swaggering Byzantine peacock (Byzancock? Argh, no, bad term, there.) It worked, and I’m exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of new exciting things out there waiting for me to sew, like my upcoming foray into Sassanian Persian for my husband and I, only because I hate money and I dropped it like it was on fire at Sartor while at Pennsic.
I am no longer in school, and working freelance back in the graphic novel industry, so yeah, I have the time to play with sewing again. Sassanian will be fun, it’s something I’ve wanted to examine for a while as a predecessor to my period’s Silk Road fashion. Plus, I think there are cool hats involved.
I digress, we came here to talk about fun garb, not Anna and Gieffrei’s soon-to-exist “you spent HOW MUCH on that silk?” Sassanian Persian with dorfy hats. Fun garb. How’s this?
Yes. I did.
Go ahead, clutch your pearls, get a shot of bourbon, whatever it takes. I made this garb. And I wore it too. At Pennsic for a party. Yep.
A lot of my friends think that I have this over-the-top obsession with flamingos. In fact, I really don’t. I just love tacky lawn flamingos. Now, Mistress Vibeke Steensdottir back in the East Kingdom? Now SHE’S the awesome flamingo maven, complete with flamingo wing heraldry. She was the first person I know to document flamingos in period, so really if anybody deserves the credit for flamingo adoration, it’s her, not me.
I own pink lawn flamingos because I bought them for holiday decorations. I got mad at my former apartment complex for having stingy rules about decor and “religious” exemptions, and went a little nuts. They also look hilarious in snowbanks.
But anyways, yes. The short story is that the flamingo fabric magically appeared in my shopping cart at Joann’s during a sale event on red tag materials and then it came home with me. My initial intent was not garb, even though I joked about it online. It was going to be curtains or a sundress, or something festive to add to my Flamingomas decor. I mean, it’s a printed cotton twill. It would make crappy garb, and probably get me some sneers if I did it anyway.
Fast forward, I graduate, I move across the country, I’m unpacking my fabric onto my shelves, and I see those flamingos staring right back up at me. And that’s when I remembered something.
Let’s take a closer look:
Two out of three women in this section are wearing gowns with some form of obvious waterfowl, probably geese or ducks, maybe even in a way for the artists to mock Theodora and her former profession, but it’s pretty clear. So yeah, waterfowl on Byzantine garb, check.
But seriously, flamingos?
Now, I’ve seen this thing in person at the Cloisters. Those birds are screaming pink. Yes, they have green ones facing them, but that pink is deliberate. Sure it says swans or herons, but you know, we all know. Who makes deliberate acid-pink birds on a chasuble and wants us to think “swan”? Okay, that’s a stretch. I know.
Want even more of a stretch? You’re probably wondering how I justified having a cotton tunic? A printed one at that. Well, recent research has let me to uncover a booming cotton industry in Anatolia, but also, that printed cotton fabrics were coming out of Persia during the Middle Ages. Like this example from the 11th Century.
So basically, what I just did was stunt document a 6th Century flamingo dalmatica by using objects from the 6th, 11th, and 15th Centuries from 3 different cultures. It’s not something that will pass an A&S competition, so please don’t try this and tell your judges I said it was okay, but it was a way for me to appease my accuracy-brain for the sake of fun. We do this for fun, and it’s still okay to have fun.
Now, don’t go making yourself a closet of these things and brag that my blog told you it was okay. Make one. Wear it to a party or to a silly garb event. See if you can document some shapes and techniques and turn it into a conversation piece, which is basically what I did with mine.
“Hey, did you know that printed cotton is period? This tunic is silly, but let me tell you about this fragment I found while doing research…” Seriously, it sparked some great interest in printed textiles, which is already a growing trend in the SCA. So, why not see what direction a goofy idea can take you for your next big project?
On another note.
Speaking of authenticity brain…
The funny thing is that why I was planning the Fowl Dalmatica (yes, that’s what I call it), a bunch of friends were checking out Duchess Aikaterine’s tutorial on Youtube on how to make a Roman stola out of a sari.
I’ve had this love/hate relationship with saris being used for Roman garb for the longest time. I love it because it looks amazing. It’s beautiful, it’s exotic, it looks decadent and exactly what a Roman woman would have loved. I hated them only because they weren’t period and refused to make one for myself. Which is kind of a stupid reason, considering I made Jeff and I’s Babylonian garb out of vintage saris, so I’m really a big fat hypocrite who got stuck in the authenticity brain pool, swimming in circles, versus letting myself have fun.
…So I did it. I regret nothing and I want to make more. Plus, her draping technique for the stola is way better than my pinched in neckline, and the front/back seams versus side seams may just make more sense.
I will say that it definitely doesn’t work as well with linen unless it’s a thin, hankie weight linen. I made one of a 5oz linen and it just didn’t…manifest at the shoulders like the cotton and the 3.5oz linen did. So keep that in mind should you try this pattern. I’m going to try again with that fine pink linen I just got in from Sartor (see above) since it’s rather sheer. It would make a lovely stola, and I do need to start dressing like I’m married more often.
The only real downside to wearing the thin sari cotton is that it’s clingy, so I’m not sure how well it would do as a chiton underneath. I picked up some more vintage saris from eBay to try, as well as a couple of real silk ones at Pennsic (by the way, if you bought the 4 for $100 silk sari deal at Pennsic, better burn test a swatch, I got 2 real silk ones, a totally poly one, which I knew and bought really only for craft purposes, and a nice art silk one that melted to the plate when I burned it, so yeah. Check your purchases.) DO NOT MAKE THIS OUT OF ART SILK. Art silk is not “real” silk, it’s short for artificial silk, and is usually a poly rayon blend. You will boil alive. Granted, in real silk you’ll boil too, so, pick your poison. I’m not sure if the Romans had access to cotton, even though it was being cultivated in Egypt and Persia pretty early, but it’s a far better option than dead dinosaur.
I’m going to be making some more lightweight Roman and Byzantine (which I’m calling the Byzanlite) for regular wear here in Caid. My garb arsenal was just not originally designed for events at 110F, but hey, for when we get a cold front in February, I guess I’m set.
So, the moral of this story is don’t be afraid to shake off the stuffiness once in a while, and remember we do this for fun.
…Not that I don’t think hours on International Medieval Bibliography and making interlibrary loan requests isn’t still fun, mind you.
Okay, so…now that the move is behind me. Comic-Con International is behind me (YAY BLUE RIBBON HALL COSTUME!) and Pennsic is, thankfully, behind me, I can start posting content again. It’s been a crazy few months, and I’m looking forward to settling back into my research, hopefully professionally, and keep chugging out pretty dresses and things. The next thing on my list is taking it a bit back to Sassanian Persia to learn more about Silk Road dress and the part it played in middle Byzantine dress. That, and looking fabulous in Sartor silks. So stay tuned for that.
I normally don’t like charging for my research, but this is a different animal entirely. Especially since there’s no money in academia and I have an exorbitant amount of student loans that need repaying. Eight bucks gets you the full, unabridged hot mess of a research project and COLOR PICTURES with my full biblio for your own research needs! *throws confetti*
I am also working on slimmer versions for Compleat Anachronist (it’s already been submitted for review) and hopefully, HOPEFULLY a presentation at Kalamazoo next May. So fingers crossed for that.
In summary, my research involved parsing the inventory of Kale Pakouriane from her last will and testament, found at the Iviron Monastery atop the Holy Mountain of Athos in what is present day Greece. Those who attended my class at Pennsic got a pretty exuberant breakdown of the project, and I will be repeating it at Great Western War in October, but here’s some of the basics as best as I can cram into a blog post. Including my fancy pie charts. Everybody loves pie charts!
The biggest issue I had with the will was the vagueness. The two charts below compile different types of data: the types of bequests, and beneficiaries. The reason why Iviron isn’t including in the beneficiaries is because it was different to fully extrapolate the percentage of Kale’s inventory that was left to the monastery, since she wrote it separately. I still think these charts demonstrate the depths of her material wealth, and the diaspora of her goods across social classes.
By this point, I had completely thrown the idea that I was in this to just make pretty clothes aside, and focused on some intense data on her relationships with her family and household. For example, while most of her prized clothing and objects went to her family members and clergy, tangible cash (pounds of gold), and livestock went to her freedmen household staff, while bolts of cloth ranging from blue velvets to lengths of dyed cotton (!!) went to her manumitted slaves. From what I gathered, her slaves were already freed by the time she wrote her will. More than likely following the death of her husband, Symbatios, and when she took holy orders.
Kale herself had an interesting story from what I could extract from legal documents. She was born Kale Basilikaina, and married Symbatios Pakourianos in the 1080s. Symbatios inherited Kale’s father’s title of Kouropalates, basically imperial household manager, and Kale therefore took on the title of Kouropalatissa. It appeared that the couple were relatively close to Alexios I due to impressive gifts given by the emperor to them. (A whole estate in Macedonia? K. Sign me up.)
Symbatios died in 1091 from an illness, after which Kale took on holy orders, and changed her name to Maria. Her mother and one of her sisters did the same upon their own widowhood. They lived together in her home in Constantinople, living in a consorority of sorts, but surrounded by the luxuries of Byzantine aristocratic life, it seems. I will have to do more work on such confraternities/sororities in Constantinople to see if I can gain more insight into this sort of arrangement, but I needed to stay on track. Kale drafted her will on November 4th, 1098. I could find no record on when she died.
Symbatios was buried at the Iviron Monastery, and stipulated in his will that Kale was to be interred with him. Unfortunately, Mount Athos was, and still is, off limits to women. So Kale stated in her own will, that she was to be buried where she died. Most likely in Constantinople. They had no children, which Kale seemed to be devastated about. My heart broke for her and Symbatios.
I found out that being a hopeless romantic is one of the worst things in the world as a practicing historian. My advisor was wonderful, and understood me and the love I gained for the Pakourianoi completely, but said to be careful. So, I had to keep my heart out of the paper, but I can certain throw it on the table here for this blog, as us SCAdians are, as a whole, a romantic breed. Which is why we do what we do.
I cried for this woman and her husband. I’m sure stress certainly played a part (and in the burning of an ulcer in my stomach, graduate school is hell) but there were actual, physical tears when the puzzle pieces came together. I found a couple that did in fact love each other, Kale’s tone in some of her bequests really echoes this. They were married young, clearly an arranged marriage, but had found true love in each other. Her life was devastated by the loss of her husband, and by not bearing him any children. I’m not sure about any miscarriages or infant mortality, as these incidents were not recorded, but considering she was probably about 13 or 14 when they were married, Kale and Symbatios were probably anticipating a long life together, that was abruptly ended by whatever illness swept through at the time. Granted, my romantic viewpoint is entirely conjectural and a product of my own imagination, but that didn’t stop my soapy emotional attachment. I fell in love with a couple, who have nothing left in our modern world, but a few pieces of paper with words on it found in the archives of a monastery.
The project itself culminated in the re-creation of selected garments from Kale’s inventory, and as you could imagine, I was tickled that I could make something orange. I’ve copied and pasted this section directly from my paper into this blog, since this is what people really want, anyway, the shinies, and not my romanticized sappiness. If you’re interested in reading more about the contents of Kale’s inventory, please find it in your hearts, and wallets, to support my academic research by purchasing a PDF copy from the Etsy link above. And remember that I am available freely via email and messages to answer any questions.
Think of this next section as more of a 3D illustration, rather than an SCA A&S Project. Footnotes follow through with my full bibliography, which is accessible via purchasing my full project, or on my class handout under the class section.
And please…PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT REPRODUCE ANY OF THIS WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. I love granting permission, but this is my intellectual property and a part of my academic career. I am sharing it freely because I want to help others. Do not take and use this material for other handouts or on your own blog without my consent. Thank you.
ASSESSING AND RECONSTRUCTING KALE’S GARMENTS
(Direct excerpt from “Material Wealth and Immaterial Grief: The Last Will and Testament of Kale Pakouriane” by Angela L. Costello. Do not reproduce without permission.)
The culmination of this project is the reconstruction of a sample of Kale Pakouriane’s wardrobe, and thus this study has shifted from the historicity of Kale’s material culture, into an exercise of experimental archaeology where her words on parchment are revived into true physical pieces. The purpose of this study is not just to stitch a set of stunning Byzantine garments, but also to bring a woman long gone from the world back to life through her costume so that a portrait of the aristocratic Byzantine woman of the late eleventh century can be made.
For this study, I have chosen four pieces from within her will in order to create a complete outfit: her orange garment, her purple mantle with the pearls, her green girdle, and her turban with gold designs. I will assess each garment and demonstrate the choices I have made through careful analysis of contemporary artwork, and the opinions of other historians.
The “Orange Garment.”
Kale’s vague descriptions of her garments make it incredibly difficult to determine what specific cut or style her dresses are supposed to be. Within her will, she uses the term himation as the descriptor for nearly every article of clothing, which poses a problem for those attempting to understand the variety of Byzantine dress. Himation is as clear of a descriptor as somebody referring to every top as a “shirt.” On the other hand, it also provides readers with an idea of what could be everyday vernacular when it came to describing one’s attire, much like we do in modern society. Asking a friend or a spouse to hand you your “blue dress” is more succinct than providing a narrative on the cut and materials. For this, it can be assumed that Kale was aware that her beneficiaries would know which garment was what as long as the basic description of color or material was included.
Timothy Dawson makes a valid assumption in that Kale would have been wearing the delmatikion, or dalmatic, with the exaggerated long and wide sleeves popular in eleventh century women’s court wear. Being that Kale was the kouropalatissa, and had the income for luscious imported silks, this dramatic dress in a bright, citrusy color shot with gold threads would have been guaranteed to turn heads and show off the luxury that she was afforded.
Before continuing on the cut and structure of this gown, the issue of the translation of the color needs to be addressed. The Romanized transcription of the term within Kale’s will is kitrinon, which the King’s College translation attests to “of yellow.” This is not incorrect, as the modern Greek word remains the same. Dawson, on the other hand, translates the term into orange. It is possible that the word could have a double meaning, much like purpura in Latin which could mean any color on the spectrum from red to purple, so Dawson should receive the benefit of the doubt for his assumption that Kale’s dress may have been orange. Both colors could have been achieved using period dyestuffs, including murex, through the skilled use of light sensitivity and various mordants by an expert dyer. The assumption that the material was samite is based on the inclusion of the word hexamiton, the compound twill weave that would have resulted in a weft-faced structure creating intricate brocade patterns. For the sake of this exercise, an orange-yellow-gold silk brocade was used to create the garment.
Returning to the cut and fit of the delmatikion, the long, wide wristed sleeves have already been mentioned. Existing artwork from the eleventh and twelfth centuries show this style of gown to be full length, and not of a tailored fit. Contrasting colored bands of trim were commonly seen on the upper arm, sleeve openings, and bottom hem. Necklines could vary wildly, from extremely close and high-necked with no embellishment, such as in the donor portrait of Irene Gabras, to a heavily embellished v-neck as seen in a manuscript showing the Dance of Miriam. The latter is used heavily by Dawson in his support of a sailor-like collar on the v-neck and a flat placket falling on the upper back, which does not seem evident when I examine the manuscript, and compare it to others that show comparatively decorated yokes. It can be assumed that what is actually being shown is a decorative facing, rather than any sort of floating collar. The facing would not only serve as embellishment, but also as a way to conceal and protect raw edges at the neckline. A square or v-shaped facing would then be much easier to turn under and stitch down to secure the raw edges, versus the labor-intensive round facing, which was also popular. Dawson’s citation of the Smyrna Octateuch folio showing the virgin and the unicorn may give more insight into this sailor-collar idea, but it still comes across more as an open lapel, rather than the long flap across the back of the shoulder. Unfortunately, the Smyrna Octateuch has been lost, and all that remains are aging photographs. Either way, it does not appear to have been a popular look beyond a handful of images. Most artwork supports a tighter fitting neckline.
The overall shape of the gown appeared to be A-line, which would naturally facilitate a greater range of movement, as well as require more fabric, which would then equate to more wealth. For this exercise, I have developed a simple pattern using the bolt width of the silk plus added gores to achieve the desired hem width. This is a technique seen in a contemporary extant garment from Palermo dated to the twelfth century. Bands of blue fabric with gold embroidery were used for the contrasting effect of the typical trim patterns shown in contemporary artwork, and the sleeves were lined with a light gold silk, also mimicking period trends. Beneath this, Kale would have worn a garment known as a khiton or kamision. Very little of this undergarment is shown in manuscripts aside from the occasional decorative cuff, which attests to a more fitted silhoulette. The kamision supporting this delmatikion is red linen, with silk and embroidered trim embellishments. It is based on the shape of tunic within the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The “Purple Mantle with the Pearls.”
This mantle is of considerably less controversial structure than the delmatikion, but the resulting garment is far more dramatic, much like the original must have been. The defining factor here is understanding the various terms for mantles and cloaks during the Byzantine period, and defining their differences. Kale lists this piece as a mandyas, rather than a sagion, or the previously mentioned veritably unique thalassa. Most importantly, it is not a khlamys, the semi-oval cloak that appeared to be strictly reserved for imperial wear only. The primary differences between a mandyas and sagion seem to be length, and possibly decoration.
The most convincing evidence I have found that shows a woman robed in the mandyas is the image of Saint Pelagia from the Menologion of Basil II, dated to the early eleventh century. Here, you can see that is it of an ornate material, with a band of trim running the entire front opening including behind the wearer’s neck, and clasped at the chest. This is achieved with a semi-circular or semi-oval shape similar to that of a khlamys, though the khlamys, aside from being worn only by the emperor and occasionally the empress, was fastened at the right shoulder, versus in the center of the chest.
For this project, Kale’s mandyas is constructed of a semi-oval cut of purple and red shot ecclesiastical vestment silk brocade, which mimics the rich silks that would have been exclusively produced by the imperial workshops in support of the hypothesis that this garment was a gift from Alexios I. The straight edge is embellished with a red and gold trim, and large freshwater pearls. Multiple smaller freshwater pearls dot the surface of the shell of the mantle to add to the decadence, and it is lined in a rich red dupioni silk to provide contrast, in addition to adding to the value of the garment by using another prohibitively expensive dye color that could be achieved by murex, or the kermes insect.
The “Green Girdle.”
Simple, but probably an essential piece of clothing should Kale have chosen to girt her gowns closer to her body. Again, vagueness takes its toll when she mentions nothing but a green zonarion in the same bequest to her sister as the purple mantle with the pearls. Very little evidence exists as to the appearance of belts and girdles during this period, other than the sashes worn by the women performing the Dance of Miriam, or the bunched waistline of Irene Gabras, both seen in the artwork used for the orange delmatikion. There is an elaborate fabric belt fragment currently in the collection of the British Museum, but it is dated over two hundred years after Kale’s life, and contains embroidery in Cyrillic text, which attests to a Slavic, rather than Greek provenance. It had to have been an impressive piece with considerable value for Kale to offer it as a bequest, therefore the interpretation needed to reflect this.
The zonarion for this exercise is composed of emerald green dupioni silk and made in a length similar to that shown in The Dance of Miriam. The outside has applied trim in golden peacocks, an animal motif that was exceptionally popular in Byzantium due to its association with paradise.
The “Turban with Gold Designs.”
Finally, we come to the one mention of head covering within the confines of Kale’s inventory, her fakiolion, or turban. She gives no color for the overall headdress, but does state that it has gold-work embroidery of letters or designs (grammata.) There is a great deal of pictorial evidence of both genders in Byzantium wearing turban-style head coverings, but women had a great deal of colors and embellishments. Kale’s fakiolion probably followed the common trend of being fringed, and having the loose ends of the wrap hanging on the side of the head. This would facilitate showing off the elaborate gold trim or other fine details that would enhance the overall richness of a completed outfit. The image of Saint Pelagia already mentioned has her as the center figure wearing this exact type of head wrap in blue fabric with rich gold decorations and what appears to be white fringe. Within the same manuscript, Saint Thessalonika wears a similar wrap with what appears to be sheer, fine fringe along the side of her face.
For this project, a fine linen and silk blend scarf was used. As artistic record dictates, these turbans were typically colored, rather than just being plain white, so the scarf acquired is orange, to match the delmatikion as what seemed to be popular at least in the depictions of the Menologion of Basil II. Rather than embroidery, gold openwork trim was applied at the ends, and along the long end of the scarf where the wrap would touch the forehead as shown on both Pelagia and Thessalonika.
A Note on Materials Used
Materials available today are vastly different than what would have been on the market during Kale’s lifetime, but some similarities remain. In order to complete this work, fabrics still had to be acquired from “The Silk Road”. The materials for the mantle and gown were purchased from a mill in India that manufactures sari silks, the scarf for the turban was woven by a specialty fabric seller in the Czech Republic, and the linings and belt materials were purchased from sellers within the United States that source from international manufacturers. So despite the fact that the silk merchants and guilds of Constantinople are long gone, the collection of garments is still worldly and imported. Kale may have found this exotic and luxurious, but the truth is that due to the size of her estates and amassed wealth, as well as rank and received gifts from the Emperor, Kale would have flaunted the finest domestic materials available.
It should be noted that the dupioni silks used in this exercise would have not been used. Aside from the weave being considerably modern, the slubbed texture would have made it quite inferior and unattractive for aristocratic wear. It was chosen for this project due to cost effectiveness, and variety of colors and effects available for the modern consumer. Shot silk, that is, fabric woven with a different color warp and weft to create an iridescent effect, was available.
The trims used are modern sari trims, available through a variety of craft sellers. Appliqued trim was extremely common, dating as early as the Coptic garments of Byzantine-controlled Egypt, though they were typically tapestry or inkle woven bands. These modern trims provide a convenience and a reasonable substitute for labor-exhaustive gold work spangles and embroidery. The same can be said for the gold ribbons applied to the turban. Kale’s will does not dictate whether these grammata were embroidered or applied, but this modern alternative feigns the look for the concept of creating the image, which is what the exercise was truly about.
Despite shortcomings in the authenticity of modern supplies and technology, this exercise successfully transformed vague inventory listings into plausible garments that were once a part of Kale Pakouriane’s wardrobe. Through these garments a snapshot of a life is created, and a glimpse of the opulent life of Kale can be visualized.
 Timothy Dawson, By the Emperor’s Hand: Military Dress and Court Regalia in the Later Roman-Byzantine Empire. (Yorkshire: Frontline. 2015.): 87
 Appendx A, Figure 6, Parani 77 n.103. Parani also cites two other depictions of the fakiolion on Eudokia in Cappadocian churches, but I have been unsuccessful at locating photographs of the exact frescoes. Also, Appendix A, Figure 7.
 Dawson, “Women’s Dress in Byzantium,” 49, when he discusses possible definitions for the thalassa mantle.
I have successfully transferred my domicile from the East Kingdom and the balmy tropics of New England, to the sunny and never-changing perfection that is Southern California.
I do have updates I need to get done, but I’m also planning for San Diego Comic-Con, and Pennsic AT THE SAME TIME. Yes, that’s right, I’m flying to Pennsic, which should be an interesting experience because I’m a lunatic and think this is good idea. I will also be teaching ONE class, due to streamlining my packing. (Help!)
That one class is entitled, “An 11th Century Byzantine Noblewoman’s Closet.” It’s a snippet of my research for my master’s thesis, and I look forward to sharing my knowledge. It is currently scheduled for August 6th at 1pm in A&S 8. I plan to have the handout posted within the next couple of weeks.
I hope everybody has a great war season, and I look forward to seeing many faces at Pennsic War.🙂
Well, I’m moving, anyway. I’ve successfully completed my masters program, and I’m relocating to join my lord husband across the country at his naval posting. I have lots of cool stuff on my master’s thesis I can’t wait to share, but this blog will be on hold a bit while I pack up here in the East Kingdom, and get to my new home in Caid. I expect it will take several weeks to really settle in, considering I’m as East Coast as a hurricane smoking a clove, and I’m being transplanted to California.
I am teaching at Pennsic, (Yes, I’m flying from CA to PA, I’m insane) and will be posting more on that next month.
I hope everybody enjoys the start of summer, and I hope to see you all at a Caidan event soon! In the meantime, here’s a photo of me wearing my master’s project. Yeah, I got to make garb, talk about playing off of your strengths.
Over the last few weeks, I completed a new court outfit based on the Eisiterion of Agnes of France, dated to the 1180s. It’s later period for my persona, but I was intrigued by the differences between the 11th and 12th Century as far as shape and embellishment went, so I gave it a try.
Now, this is an outfit that is not for every day, or even minor courts, this is specific to very formal events, and comes from a manuscript in which the 9 year old princess from France is brought into Constantinople and converted to fabulous by 70 (!) women wearing these outfits. I don’t know about you guys, but if I was a little girl, and I had suddenly gotten surrounded by weirdos looking like this and speaking a foreign language, I’d probably be pretty intimidated. Pictures will enlarge to show better detail. Courtesy of the Vatican Archives and their epic digitization project.
The propoloma is more “shovel” shaped than my other one, and I embellished it to make a coronet. Same procedure as the other one: 2 layers of wool felt and it’s self-supporting. Embellishment is shot silk, mother of pearl cabochons set in fine silver cups because I hate money, but I don’t hate it too much, since the bezants are gold-plated brass. Silver is one thing, gold is another, and I can only get my husband to cave so much.
Curves are very difficult to deal with. I tried the tube method, and the seams were unruly the whole time. I opted for the more tedious clipped and pressing method, and despite unevenness that I can see, it came out fine. The kharzanion (trinity temple ornaments) are wrong, and temporary. Konstantia is making me a proper set, but we ran out of time. So, I opted for a pair of really ugly earrings my dad gave me as a, “Here, you do crafty things, find something to do with these.” And I did. They’re gaudy, but the whole outfit is pretty gaudy.
I made the delmatikion before the kamision. I wasn’t concerned about either, but I wanted to give it the time it deserved. The fabric is from Sartor.cz (Gird your wallets) and they called it the Oseberg textile. This is incorrect. It is a Persian textile that would have been available in period to Byzantium, but it is currently in a Japanese collection. Unfortunately, they only ran it in polyester, but as it’s in my heraldic colors, I couldn’t resist. The poly is super high quality, seriously, I never thought I would use “long staple polyester” in a sentence before, but I did. Aside from the expected fraying and nightmares associated iwth poly brocades, it sewed up really smoothly.
The Orange arm bars and neckline are made from the orange silk I purchased for my thesis project, which will be a post incoming upon completion. the arm bars were enhanced by some orange sari trim I had in my stash, and couched down faux pearls. The pearls on the neckline help hide the imperfections that probably only really bother me, but a Byzantine lady cannot have enough pearls. There’s no such thing, and, faux pearls are in fact, period.
The neckline itself is the side-keyhole design that pops up on some extant pieces. It closes with a shank button and loop. Here it is to the point of hanging up pre-hemming. The sleeves have a 36″ drop. THREE. FOOT. SLEEVES. Oh, and they’re lined in a very light gold dupioni. The manuscript shows a white visible lining, but I couldn’t go with just white.
The kamision I wanted to double as a basic dress for when I’m not wearing a delmatikion for court, but still have enough pizazz for nice indoor events. More fake pearls on the neck to simulate a superhumeral, and more fancy sari trim. The neck and cuffs are faced with a green and red shot dupioni. The body is Pompeiian Red linen. This was my climate control once I got to the event site, because over 600 people plus polyester is no good.
The sari trim on this MAKES the garment, because it’s not a difficult pattern, and I know it like the back of my hand. I made adjustments for the sleeves since I was using a different bolt width, but that’s it. This is one of those demonstrations where embellishment can change everything. It elevated a simple tunic dress from “okay” to “WOW”, while creating no more labor for me had I used a commercially available trim. Work smarter, not harder. Though, one day, I’ll learn to embroider this well. I really want to learn, but time is not on my side at the moment.
All together on the dress form:
I made a fast maforion (veil) out of a semi-oval piece of the same silk I used on the propoloma. Some women in the manuscript have bands of color on them, some don’t, and it doesn’t seem consistent with the bands on the hat, so I left it plain for now. It took some creative pinning on my snood, but it worked. I’ll probably take a series of photos showing how I did it eventually, but I am so overwhelmed with schoolwork right now, updating my blog is not top priority, and I apologize.
Here’s the requisite goofy pics at Coronation. My sleeves were unevenly draped, which is killing my OCD, but the silhouette was there. Lord Brenden Crane took the professional shots in our populace “photo booth”.
Oh, that side-eye pic was intentional. Byzantine side-eye is period. Here’s a shot from the same manuscript. The empress does not seem pleased at the emperor and his new friend.
I took a break from iconography for a while because I felt like my art wasn’t up to snuff, and I was thinking of giving up. By the way: never give up. I had the pleasure of working at the Museum of Russian Icons over the fall semester of 2015, and I learned a lot while I was there, including getting the change to work with the entire inventory, and examine, and touch, period icons. While I was there, I went ahead and purchased some better accurate pigments and more gold, and decided it was time to get back into the swing of things. Initially, I was going to try my hand at turning an icon into my husband’s backlog scroll for the Order of the Silver Crescent, but then I got an offer I couldn’t refuse: Konstantia, my blue twin out in Calontir, was to receive her Herald Extraordinary, and the now-Gold Falcon Herald, Uji, invited me in on the shenanigans.
Initially, I was asked to just do the words. Here is what I came up with instead. Oops?
First, I purchased real icon boards from Pandora Iconography Supplies. It doesn’t have a kovcheg (recess), but that’s because those are expensive. Each 11×14″ board is $55 a piece as is, and custom made upon ordering. I tried my hand at gessoing my own panels, and uh, yeah, nothing beats the real thing by the professionals, even at the price.
So I laid it out, as you do. The pattern is from an actual 13th Century icon of St. Gabriel the Archangel (Herald of God, and the end of the world, and stuff.) and is still popular today.
Then I prepared the halo for gilding with real red clay bole, which I also purchased from Pandora. As you can see this go around, I also bole’d the edges. This is something I learned at the museum. It symbolizes the artist being mortal, and rough around the edges, therefore, it doesn’t get sanded and burnished like the halo does.
Note the thickness of the application here. This is vital to a good leaf adherence. You literally just puddle the liquid bole on, try not to get air bubbles, and let it dry.
After the nice thick layer of bole dried overnight, I burnished it with agate to bring out that blingy shine.
After the gold leaf (23kt double gold in this case) was down, the sankir and roskrish are applied, including real vermilion for the cloak. That’s mercury sulfide. You know, death in paint form. (To quote my grad school classmate and fellow SCAdian Wilhelm: “Only in the Middle Ages could something so mundanely boring potentially kill you.”) The stuff was like painting on a cloud though, but at $18 for a smidgin, I don’t see myself using it all the time. This was a special occasion that warranted potentially poisoning myself.
I tested the shell gold on the vermilion once it was dry to see how it would turn out, and decided yes.
And the highlighting process begins, with poor Gabriel looking as if he literally can’t even.
Some hot dry pigment action:
And then ALL THE SHELL GOLD. OMG, SO MUCH GOLD.
Roll that beautiful inscription footage, ah yiss…
And then, the actual “scroll” wording needed to go down. I based this on some period examples of text included in the borders of icons. I need to work on my lettering, but I think I did a fair job, considering this is my first icon “scroll” ever. I kept with the plain yellow ochre border, as it was an extremely common choice in period. It’s also affordable and predictable.
And DING! SCROLL IS DONE! Words are based on the Akathistos Hymn to Mary.
Gabriel can’t even. Literally.
Obviously, I had to send it from the East to Calontir, and I managed to sneak it in the mail the day I left for Spring Break. Now that it’s signed, she needs to send it back so I can apply the oil varnish and make sure that it’s protected properly.
Oh, the kicker? I did her garb for her Stepping-Down from Gold Falcon, and surprise Herald Extraordinary bestowal as well.😉 Which at least, she commissioned and knew was coming.
I am so dead the next time I see her. *shifty eyes*
This is a very short disorganized blurb, and I apologize, but I wanted to get some notes down from what I’m exploring as far as my thesis goes.
As I’ve mentioned previously, my master’s thesis is exploring the last will and testament of Kale Pakouriane from 1098. I’m going into her inventory and trying to reconstruct her life from her material culture. One thing that really sticks out is the amount of mantles she has.
There are three different words for “cloak” or “mantle” in her will: mandyas, which I’ve already written up as the semi-circle one last year. The sagion, which was evidently shorter, apparently knee-length versus ankle-length, this is something Parani points out in Reconstructing the Reality of Images, and then the one line where my translation was getting extremely confused because of words is a garment that was allegedly called the thalassa, or “sea”. It was another type of cloak, but according to Dawson in his article within Varieties of Experience, there’s only a few mentions of it in written history, namely De Cerimoniis, where Constantine Porphyrogennetos refers to it as a gift for royalty, and in Kale’s will. He’s not sure why it’s named this, but narrows it down to having to do with a particularly luxurious fabric that could vary from a specific shot silk from the Arabian peninsula, or a blue/green/gray dyed COTTON from Persia or Hindustan. We just don’t know, and may never know.What this does mean, however, is that it was particularly luxurious.
What this project has taught me so far was that these mantles were a way to show off wealth and probably protect your equally luxurious clothing. Kale had an impressive wardrobe. I just ordered the French translation of the will and the scans of the actual Greek document. $200 later. Academia is stupid.
I know this is going to raise a lot of questions, but I don’t have all the answers yet. Please be patient while I work on this. My mundane life and graduate degree must come before anything SCA. I just wanted to get this information out. These little nuances will greatly change how we should project ourselves in 11th Century Byzantine clothing.
I managed to get back to the Met last month, and spend a whopping six hours there, never getting off the first floor. Again. Well, except for the Roman study rooms, but I digress. They have a really neat exhibit right now under the stairs in the Jaharis vault (where my favorite tunic was) that shows off some very cool painted liturgical linens from the late Roman/early Byzantine Egyptian period.
I’m going to start trying the technique, as it doesn’t look too daunting, it’s just egg tempera on linen, either pure white or dyed indigo. I figure if I can frame the fabric in an embroidery apparatus, it should work. As far as I know, the fabric wasn’t sized or gessoed prior to painting, at least it didn’t seem that way, so this could turn into a big mess. Should I succeed, I see a very nifty, period way to display heraldry indoors.