As I’m knee-deep in the pre-Pennsic grind, churning out commissioned garb orders and working out more than I have in years (I’m running again, HOORA—oh my knees!) I often find my mind wandering into just strange thoughts. Sometimes when I get angry, I get these negative thoughts that totally affect my performance, so I’m trying to focus more on happy thoughts and Tinkerbells and pixie dust and all that sparkly crap. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the right happy thought to make me fly just yet, but I did start chatting it up during epic moments of sewing procrastination with the other half on what we like the most in the SCA, and court came up.
Not everybody likes court, in fact, I’ve done my fair share of skirting out of courts early, usually for food or “OH GOD THIS IS NEVER GOING TO END HELP.” (If you’ve ever been to Birka? Yep.) So I’m not innocent here. Not by a long shot. However, sometimes it’s the little things at court that makes it totally worthwhile. The point of going is to see somebody you may know get recognized for their awesome, right? So, we thought for a bit, and decided on what we like seeing at court the most here in the East. Obviously, it’s always great to see someone you know and love getting recognized, but what about those folks you don’t know?
A peerage is always great. That’s the epitome of awesome, your SCA master’s degree that can even come with a hood…or spurs, spurs are cool too. It’s always awesome to see somebody be elevated, their emotionally charged ceremony leading up to the moment they swear fealty as a master or mistress of the realm loaded in their new regalia.
And then there’s always the basic Award of Arms, and watching the recipient become totally enchanted at the sight of their first royal scroll and being called Lord or Lady for the first time, and remembering when we were called up there once, blushing, and unsure of how to act in front of royalty.
Then there’s the other awards. In the East, we have one tier of Kingdom awards, called the Orders of High Merit, which are our highest awards (SCA Bachelor’s Degree?) that bestow on the recipient an award of arms if they don’t already have one. I know some kingdoms have both AoA and Grant of Arms level awards, which is kinda cool as well. We also have a variety of unique kingdom awards, such as the Queen’s Honor of Distinction and King’s Order of Excellence that aren’t always given out, those are a lot of fun to see as well.
However, my personal favorite, and I think that Geoffrey was in agreement with me as we sat here on the couch planning and making leather coronets for some friends of ours, is seeing someone receive a court baronage. When you get that, you’ve reached a pinnacle of recognition by the crown that they’re giving you NEW JEWELRY. You get a shiny for your head and you get to be called Your Excellency. Your very excellence made you well, excellent. 😀 Plus, they’re always a surprise award, unlike a landed baronage which requires an investiture (also cool to watch and a good excuse for a party) so the new baron or baroness has no idea what’s going on, and almost always gets misty, which makes me get misty. That doesn’t mean that the kingdom likes you, that doesn’t mean that a polling order says you’re good enough, that means the royalty REALLY REALLY LIKE YOU! Plus, then you get to ask Geoffrey and I to help make you a leather field coronet, and get surprised again when you see it. 😉 It’s becoming one of Geoff’s favorite crafts, even.
Which brings me to my final thought for the evening on the subject, overall, I think being a part of someone’s award, from the AoA through a baronage or peerage, makes it even more special. Because not only is someone you know getting recognized, you personally helped in a way to embarrass, I mean, award them, for their awesomeness. I think that’s part of the reason why I’m slowly getting into calligraphy, because being a scribe puts you in a great position to share the award experience with the deserving parties.
Feel free to comment on your favorite part of court or award given in your local kingdom or barony. 🙂 It’s always cool to see other perspectives.
This last weekend at Palio, and on Facebook, I’ve been asked on what’s the best way to clothe thyself for 2 weeks of camping on the Allegheny. After my last couple Pennsics, I’ve started to create a system of clothing that works for me. I used to bring everything I own, which ensured not running out of clean clothes, but I realized I was still wearing a lot of the same things over again in rotation than wearing, well, everything, so this is what I’ve been contemplating. Note that everybody has their own unique system, and there’s no real right or wrong way to do Pennsic, okay, well, there’s plenty of wrong ways, but here’s assuming everyone comes prepared. The only way you’ll really figure out what works for you is trial and error.
In the Anna Method, you have 3 categories of Pennsic garb, not including the mandatory outerwear like cloaks because you’ll need one: 1: Court/Nice event garb. 2. Casual stuff. 3: Camp slop. Some things will carry over a bit depending on the day, how hot, how cold, etc. I always go for the full 2 weeks, so I tend to need more. The issue is that a lot of my stuff takes up some bulk, and there’s only so much room in the car. Space Bags are a wonderful invention and help a lot, but it’s not infallible to reduce space once you get there. So rather than bringing everything in your closet, put more thought into what you’re actually going to wear.
For example, here’s my thought process:
Court wear: No bliaut, it drags on the ground. Turkish has pants, good for cooler party nights, Bamberger Gunthertuch outfit is a yes, bring the gold dalmatica just in case and also something to bead on. Ghawazee coat outfit for hitting the Bog with. No apron dress this year, focus on being in persona.
Casual wear (remember this stuff can double for court wear if conditions are questionable): Blue beaded Byz, Rose Byz, Blue chiton, white chiton for layering, blue stola, rust peplos and Northern Army peplos. Green faux silk chiton if layered over white only because it sticks to my skin like ew. Beige tunic dress and sideless surcoat. Sari and choli for when it’s oppressive and you have to go to court…
Camp slop: Make 2 new Party Saxons (what I call ugly plaid bog dresses) since you gave some to a friend, flannel tunic dress, maybe one more of those for chilly nights, ugly cotton tunic dress with the short sleeves, purple pants, tank tops for grunt work. Sleep dresses.
Shoes: Flip flops, Crocs (you can hose them off, BIG.) Roman sandals, China flats, fight boots.
Outerwear: Cloak, Birka coat, Skaramangion if finished.
Now, this isn’t everything that will be on my final list, but it gives an idea of how I try to mentally place my garb, and reduce my bulk, and there’s also things that I can share with Geoffrey, though I tend to prefer dresses over pant or braies. There’s some camp garb I won’t leave camp in, and there’s some I will stroll around the merchants in if I don’t particularly care who I run into, which is often. This is my vacation, and if you can’t deal with seeing me at my worst, you don’t deserve to see me at my best. I’ll be honest, there are days in camp I just need to put on mundane yoga pants and hide from the world. There are days when I’m just in a tank top and a broomstick skirt, and 99% of the time, I’m barefoot. This is okay, your camp is your space, and your tent is your house. Wear what makes you feel relaxed and comfortable, but still able to do the necessary chores.
Now, the number one consideration isn’t the amount that you bring, it’s planning for what Pennsic will throw at you weather-wise. As somebody who lives in New England, where we are fortunate enough to have all 4 seasons, we tend to plan for all the weathers. Not everyone in the country has seasons, and as someone who grew up in the balmy tropics of Florida, I know half the stuff I wear up here wouldn’t see the light of day down there. You need to be prepared for the extremes, I am not kidding. My first Pennsic, it rained the entire time. It’s been over 100 degrees and dry, there have been tornadoes and microbursts that can severely damage camps, and there can be bitterly cold nights that result in frost on the grass. The majority of the time, you can expect warm temperatures in the 80s and 90s, with a consistent chance of rain. Wet and dry conditions result in lots of mud and dust. The sight is usually good about helping control the dust levels by wetting the roads, but mud is unavoidable, and the ground is saturated in natural iron that gives everything a staining rusty tinge that’s impossible to get out of garb. This is where you need to plan well.
My persona is high Byzantine. I’d be damned if I’m going to wear one of my white tunicae after a rainstorm. Nope. No way. I highly applaud the folks who dress in their persona the entire time, especially the women in late period, because your balls are bigger than mine. I have no qualms with being a slob if it means saving my good clothing. This is why I wear a lot of classical Roman in the summer to begin with. That, and I tend to get very warm in long sleeves.
Another thing to consider greatly is your sensitivity to the sun. I’m blessed with Italian and Black Irish (Irish folks descending from the moors and Iberian Celts) heritage, so I tan well and have a lower risk for sunburn. Therefore, exposed arms and legs aren’t as dangerous to me as say, my Lord Geoffrey, who is as Northern European as the white cliffs of Dover. So where I can go as Roman or in generic bog dress #42, he has to cover. He’s a Norman persona anyway, so this helps, but we’ve also decided to put him in generic Middle Eastern kaftans made from ugly striped linen like this:
Because he can still wear short sleeves under it, as well as straight pants with sandals to control body temperature, without sacrificing his skin to Helios. Sunblock is still needed, of course, but not by the gallon.
Also, hat. All the hats. If not a hat, then a veil or some sort of cap. Not only is it period, but it’s period for a reason: Your face and your scalp are going to cook. They sell big straw hats at war for about $5 each. They will last you the event, and you’ll look goofy, but it’s better than sun poisoning on your noggin and helps eliminate the need for sunglasses.
Here’s some ways to “cheat” at garb for Pennsic to make it a more affordable and comfortable experience.
-Sew/purchase your garb in natural fibers only. That means linen, wool, and cotton. Linen above all, because it will keep you cool, keep you warm, take a beating and wash well. Wool will keep you warm but doesn’t wash as well. Cotton is good depending on the weave, but it won’t take a beating. Quilting broadcloth is garbage, avoid it if you can and spend the money on better quality fabrics like homespun cottons, or, you know, linen. However, flannel tunics are a great way to have snuggly warm dresses and tunics for the chilly nights in camp
-Bandeau bras under bog dresses and classical garb. I got a pack of them from Amazon for like $15. No straps, and tight enough support to hold the girls in without the dreaded Roman sideboob. I have a 36D bra size and they still fit.
-Shorts. Yes, ladies, I’m looking at you. Not everyone has a thigh gap, and I myself am an accomplished victor of chub rub chafing which ruined a war for me. You need bike shorts or compression shorts under your dresses. You could make short braies, also, which I’ve done, but seriously…protect your thighs. Shorts and Gold Bond after a shower. Don’t ignore this advice. I’ve also heard that Body Glide is a great product to help with this (and under the boobs) as well as an antiperspirant, which doesn’t work for me. Ripping up your thighs is a great way to ruin your event.
-PJ pants. This is a great way for guys (and ladies!) To have legwear for cooler nights and days without wearing jeans or making tons of pants. They’re usually cheap at stores like Target and come in colors and all sorts of fun plaids that could pass off as something Celtic or Viking, even though everybody knows you’re in PJs, because a lot of people do it. These make great “camp slop” for when you want to save your nice stripey pants for a higher profile day. Scrub pants can also work, but don’t wear blue scrubs, that’s what the Cooper’s staff wears.
-Crocs. I think they’re ugly, too, but after I watched campmates hose off their shoes after a muddy night and before they got in the car to go home, I became a believer. My winter boots are Crocs, and they’ve worn lots of mud here in the spring events. Plus, Crocs come in other styles that aren’t so…Croc-like. This doesn’t mean don’t bring better shoes for nights you want to go out, or for court and such, but after I’ve destroyed, and I do mean DESTROYED, flip flops and China flats at war, I’d rather just invest in these ugly things and have my feet look like duck’s feet if I can hose them off.
-Buy packs of underwear and socks when you get there, you’re going to need these because you may throw out more pairs of socks than you think. I don’t care how much you pack from home, BUY MORE.
-Leave a bag of clean mundane clothing, shoes, and undies in the car. You’ll thank me later.
Okay, what the heck is a Bog Dress?
A bog dress is a peplos, plain and simple. Just like the Romans made them. They were worn throughout Bronze Age and Iron Age Europe and they’re an excellent way to make cheap hot weather garb. I separate my Roman dresses from bog dresses by calling them my Party Saxons, mostly because I’m wanton to pick out the most horrific plaid homespun cottons at Joann’s for them and blinding my camp. This of course, isn’t necessary, and I’m just not terribly a nice person. 🙂 I do recommend making them out of the homespuns though, even if they’re horrific, because you’re only paying $4 a yard, don’t need much fabric, and if they get wrecked beyond a washing machine or repair, oops, into the dumpster they go. You can also make them shorter and feel like Artemis for those extra sloggy days.
There’s a couple different ways to make them, usually you’ll see the traditional style with the flaps in the front and back, but I’m starting to move away from that and just making a tube to pin at the shoulders to conserve fabric, as my Roman ones take up the entire bolt width and cut lengths. I also found this great pattern by Alfrun online, and she pleats the tops to make it more fitted and use less fabric. I’m going to try this style for this year’s war: http://awanderingelf.weebly.com/a-wandering-elfs-journey/sca-standards-the-bog-dress
But what about stuff other than garb?
I have a friend of mine who I camp with who has done this way more than I have. So quite a few years ago, she made a site, called Pennsic 101, that will get you through the basics. It is dated and does go back to before cellphones were the norm, but it’s still a great starting point.
This weekend is my [new] barony’s annual Palio, or civic competition. Stonemarche is broken up into 3 rival contrade, or districts, that compete in games and tournament to determine a winner. Originally, I wasn’t planning on going, since this weekend has always been reserved for Vinland Raids down on Cape Cod. Unfortunately that event is on hiatus, so, off to Palio di Stonemarche to roll some cheese we go!
Then I thought, “I should wear something red and yellow for the Hippocampo Contrada!” And figure I had some stuff that would work.
…and then I basically got garb challenged. I had 2 weeks to make a new outfit for this event. Ugh, why do I get myself into these things?! So I settled on 16th century Italian working class pretty quickly. Because I’m broke, I pillaged my old garb piles, and decided to kill the old red stola I had that was way too big and I never wore anyway. This would be my dress material. I found an old chunk of blackworked cotton from when I actually pretended to be Late Period for a while, and some white linen for sleeves and…
I kind of feel like Ronald McDonald, but considering it was thrown together from a box of scraps and bias tape, I can’t complain. The pattern drafting instructions I had from my collected old notes back from when my persona WAS 16th Century working class Italian that I never did anything with, and I finally made a damn Campi-style dress. Not without tons of flaws, mind you, considering the materials at hand, and I probably wouldn’t have done it at all if it wasn’t for the fact that my machine has an automated buttonhole feature. Other then that, after I got through the hiccups of fitting the bodice, the rest went together insanely easily. The camicia’s collar is also just white hem facing. Hey, I did say, “box of scraps” didn’t I? The skirt isn’t as full as it should be, but it’s not as slim as it appears in the pic, either. I’m also glad that 2 layers of linen and some interfacing in the front is apparently enough to control my figure without boning or a heavier interlining.
At least I can wear this again next year at the event! And once I do move back south, I plan to give the dress to the barony so another can enjoy it.
I basically just sewed what I saw. I’m sure there’s more tailoring that should be going into this, but this isn’t for an A&S project, or persona development, this was made for 100% fun, unlike my orange traffic cone, which took me almost a month’s worth of work and did require some actual research. But still, this is what happens when I get challenged to make garb. I am the reason why we can’t have nice things.
Here’s some other pics circa 1580’s I used for reference:
That’s 2 late period outfits in a year, as opposed to when I claimed to be late period, and had like, none. Wow, Anna. WOW.
I do have some much more interesting Byzantine stuff coming up soon. I just need to get through my rush at work before Pennsic, my Pennsic classes, and whatever other curveballs before I start posting more research relevant to the site. Until then, enjoy my ghetto fabulous Italian Ren dress.
So I was able to get some calcium carbonate (natural chalk) from a brewing supply store, and decided to, you know, put it on my face with the other questionable materials I’ve been using.
DISCLAIMER: NOT APPROVED BY THE FDA, NOT APPROVED FOR COSMETICS, YADDA YADDA CANCERFACE YADDA YADDA DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Okay, so…the article I’m using as a basis for this starter kit said that the chalk was mixed with vinegar. So, I raided my kitchen for white wine vinegar that I typically use to make sekanjabin or oxymel, and combined the two in a plastic cup. This immediately caused the fizzies due to the reaction of the acetic acid releasing the carbon, much like what would happen with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) but not nearly as explosive. This intrigued me and worried me, but it seemed too thin, so I added more chalk to get a paste that was more reminiscent of a modern liquid foundation. I slathered it on my arm for a patch test, and let it dry. It didn’t look so bad or cause a reaction, so…
…I slathered it on my face… As you can see, it was a bit…paste-like, and didn’t blend well. It clung to every wrinkle and scar or zit on my face, and I immediately remembered I was in my 30s. So I washed it off with soap and water and it came off quite easily. (Note, it’s not in my hair, that’s my Rogue stripe.)
So I thinned the paste with more vinegar, and got a more powdery, fast drying finish. It was still lightening my skin, but not the consistency of glue.
Quickly, it was evident that thin layers would do the trick. It’s not an emulsion like a modern foundation, and therefore the mineral can be displaced and clump easily, as you can see on my eyebrow and cheek. I did apply it with a modern cosmetics brush as well, so I need to do more research into period applicators, that should also help.
Well, there was only thing left to do: PUT THE WHOLE FACE ON. I went lighter on the red ochre this time, since I haven’t yet made my balm for it as planned. I should do that, oh, tonight.
I applied the lamp black to my eyebrows and as eyeliner using the olive oil mixture from my first post. (I also patch tested this. ALWAYS PATCH TEST!) I went a bit crazy with it on the eyebrows, I need better brushes to tone it down. Eyeliner was done by toothpick.
This side was a bit heavier, and I look even less glamorous:
Of course, now I had to take this stuff OFF. Modern soap and water worked fine for the chalk and the ochre, but the carbon?
. Not so much. (I had to.)
I was able to remove it using the olive oil mixture it was applied with, to a point, and then with a non-oil based modern makeup remover, which helped but wasn’t great. The oil is needed to break up the black. It’s very staining, and I wasn’t able to remove it completely, so I think a modern oil-based remover would do the job nicely.
So, I now have the beginnings of a basic Roman makeup kit which should make my A&S display this weekend at Palio di Stonemarche an interesting one. I hope to have something more to show come Pennsic.
A pigment used for blush and lip stain from Egypt through Byzantium was red ochre. This is a very safe, non-toxic pigment that is derived naturally from iron oxide (rust) and hematite. It’s been used in artwork since the cave paintings in France, so we know it’s been around for a very long time, so use in cosmetics would make sense.
Like I mentioned, it was used as a blush, and a lip gloss. The Roman women were known for going a bit…overboard with their rouge, so sayeth Martial, who was convinced their faces would melt. Well, here’s my face, complete with annoying duck face (I HAD TO) slathered in rust. Really. Note my bathroom light for whatever reason makes my black hair look purple. It is not. It is black, but other than the the pigment looks correct.
This is 100% natural red ochre pigment that I use for my icons from Earth Pigments. I applied it to my face using a modern angled blush brush.
My right cheek I applied the pigment straight on with knocking the brush a couple times to remove excess. The resulted in…OH MY GOD. ORANGE CHEEK, with next to no fall out.
My left cheek I used the brush after I had used it on my right, and it gave a nice bronzing effect. This would have been a lovely healthy glow that I think the Egyptians prized, but Roman ladies apparently were a bit more bold with their color usage.
I applied the pigment to my lips using a Q-tip soaked in olive oil. The pigment still dried my lips out quickly, but it did not burn.
I assume once I get the chalk and vinegar face paste on there, it will look even more ridiculous. I will be making that up once I find powdered calcium carbonate, which is true chalk, versus the gypsum chalkboard “chalk” used today. I should be able to locate it in a vitamin store or a brew store.
I’ve decided that since my Kingdom thought I was good enough to get a Maunche (and I got to write OM after my name on a class handout coming up. WEIRD!) I needed to step up my game and get down and dirty. Since I’m really good at making a mess, I decided to jump into the dangerous, but interesting world of ROMAN COSMETICS.
Here it is, my disclaimer: What I do here is at my own risk. Please, for the love of Hades and all that is holy, do not try this at home if you feel that you may react to any of these cosmetics or their contents make you feel unsafe. Although I am working with non-toxic ingredients, some of them can be a bit scary.
The Romans (in this case, we are including the Byzantines, as they SHOULD be included) were fond of personal hygiene and their appearance, so there’s a great deal of information on what they used for makeup, face creams, depilatories, and the like, so it’s something I’ve been kicking around for a bit. After talking a bit with Mistress Aife who has done similar things with Irish cosmetics, I decided, “Oh hell, why not? As long as it’s not lead and mercury I should be fiiiiiiiine.”
So I decided to start with the famous kohl eyeliner that was all the rage in the Levantine civilizations, and the early 1990’s. I’m a pretty heavy eyeliner wearer when I DO wear makeup (see also, 1990’s) so I always have some on when I have court garb on, but if I want to be authentic, I should take the next step.
For the most part, kohl was made (and is still made in some countries) with galena, which is lead sulfide. This is baaaaaad. So, I looked for alternatives. Immediately, I found that both in period and in modern preparations, lamp black is used with some sort of medium to spread it on the eyes. In Roman times, this is a scented oil or water, and in modern times, it’s ghee, a clarified butter. So, here I was getting all excited about this fun new exciting way to make sexy eyeliner when my med school friend Margaret down in Meridies nearly beheaded me on my Facebook page. Come to find out, soot and lamp black have something called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and these such things are a carcinogen. Who knew? She did, and then I got a bummer, but I was determined to make some anyway for science and display purposes. I have no intention of putting this stuff on my face, but I needed to find an alternative. So, in some skimming today of a couple of articles, I found that they also used charcoals and ashes, basically anything that could smear black. Saffron was suggested, and I happened to have some I could, well, reasonably part with. So I made 3 batches of kohl, lamp black, willow charcoal, and saffron ash, and a scented oil carrier that’s simply olive oil with a few drops of frankinscense and myrrh. Here are my observations:
Lamp black: This stuff is great. If it wasn’t for the fact it could give me cancerface (that’s a thing now, I just made it up) I would rock this. Why? It’s smooth and already somewhat creamy from the oil content from my burning lamp. It made a beautifully dark line on my wrist that didn’t wash off easily. I’m really tempted to use it on my eyes, just once, but my better judgement is getting the best of me. As you can see, I used my Roman lamp from Claybaby Pottery, with a wick I braided myself out of fustian and olive oil, and collected the soot in a lead-free pewter mortar.
Willow charcoal: I have lots of charcoal sticks around the house, so I picked one from a natural source and got to smash it up in a mortar and pestle. This was great fun and a great mess. I wish I could grind it a bit better, but it did give me a decent line once I got the balance between kohl and oil down. Easy, readily available ingredients that are affordable, and charcoal eyeliners are already prevalent in the modern market. And one stick of charcoal filled my tin. I’ll have eyeliner forever! I want to try to apply this using modern eyeliner brush and water.
Saffron ashes: I was hoping this would be better, I really did. I need to figure out a better way to carbonize the saffron, because at first I tried to burn it on an incense burner/oil warmer. That didn’t work well, though my house smelled lovely. So I resorted to just getting impatient and setting it on fire with my lighter in a metal jar lid. This burned it, and I was able to get ash from it, but it does not carry well as a liner at all. It was suggested by both Geoffrey and a friend on the Romans of the SCA page to treat it as if I was making charcloth. So basically, I need to put it in a metal container and bake it until it turns to ashes. Yes, I’m basically cremating saffron…I’m going to need to buy more I’m not afraid to waste for this project to do this. The bit I burned did not yield much.
Here’s a picture of my filthy arm, top to bottom is lamp black, saffron, and charcoal:
I will be re-trying the saffron kohl sometime this week, as well as making my face whitener and blush. Once I conclude this project I’ll provide a list of sources I’ve compiled.
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