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.
Fight garb: Fencing entari, Fencing caftan, stripey pants, salwar, tunics.
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.
There’s also plenty of other guides available to check out, just by running a search.
Here’s Master Liam St. Liam’s guide on 10 must-do things at your first Pennsic:
So as you can see, there’s no shortage of information out there to help newcomers. I hope I was at least able to give an idea on how to plan your clothing.
6 thoughts on “Auntie Anna’s advice on how to dress for Pennsic.”
As someone who is about to inventory all the garb in prep for her first Pennsic, thank you! This is awesome!
I’m glad it helps!
Anna, meet Aline. Aline, meet Anna. Aline is AWESOMESAUCE. Anna is too.
I was lucky enough to attend SCA 50 Year Celebration in Indiana. Horrendous thunderstorms, 50 mph winds, 95* daytime temps with 95% humidity and no breeze, and 78* temps at 4 AM, give me an advantageous perspective that many Pennsic newbies won’t be so fortunate to have.
Funny enough I was looking up bog dresses as none of us have really looked at our garb in a couple years and stumbled across this. Thank you for the reminder of what we need as both Aloysius and I are going Roman this summer running GNEW and two full weeks at Pennsic. I hope to see you there and maybe chat a bit about garb? In writing this, I need to find my orange/red Hawaiian Roman garb – you know the fabric.
Unfortunately, I will not be at Pennsic for a few more years. Jeff is retiring from the Navy in 2024, and then I graduate in 2025. I’m heading to Colorado in a bit over a week for an archaeological/cultural heritage scanning project.