Anachronistic and Impulsive needs your help!

I was going to make a lovely post this morning on my experiences at Costume College, but WordPress is making it difficult.

I hate peddling, but the husband and I are catching up on some unexpected financials from this year (namely my emergency wisdom teeth extractions not fully covered by insurance, and some car issues back in the spring that nuked our savings, and we’re still trying to catch up.) My website is due for renewal, and I don’t have the money that WordPress is asking. Because of the traffic that receives, plus the domain and ad-free modifications that I maintain for it, my renewal is not cheap.

I do my best to ensure that the site stays free for my users. I want my information to be free to researchers, and I want to be able to provide the best content possible for re-enactors, SCAdians, and others. To do this, I need help.
There is a donate button on the right side of my page. You don’t have to give a lot, but anything to help off-set the cost of maintaining the site would mean a great deal. I have a stock of new material I’m getting ready to post, but I need a place to post it.
Thanks in advance.

Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina’s Laws of the Conservation of Fabric

It’s occurred to me that I have never actually posted these. I swear there’s a Fourth Law I just came up with recently, but it escapes me.

Anna’s 1st Law: If at first it doesn’t fit, fold the fabric another way until it does.

Anna’s 2nd Law: Measure over 9000 times,  because you can only cut once. If you go to your husband, “Hey hold my beer”, and just go for the scissors, the tunic isn’t going to fit him. (This really happened.)

Anna’s 3rd Law: There’s another way to sew this, but you’re too pissed off to figure it out.



The First Round of “Ask Me Anything” Answers!

Sorry this took a bit, I was hoping to get a few more, but this is a good start.

I think I did myself, and everybody, a great disservice by saying I would help with general medieval information. I sat here and derped pretty hard, so, for future questions, please keep them limited to Roman/Byzantine only for my own sanity, and for the sake of the querents getting a decent answer. Questions can be sent to syrakousina -at- (remember to remove -at- and replace with @, no spaces.)


Libby: Do you know of a survey of band weaving finds from 13th century and earlier?

I’m afraid I do not. Since I don’t weave more than an inkle band here and there, it’s just not something I look for. If somebody else sees this, hopefully they can chime in down in the comments to get you where you need to go. You honestly will have better luck in a weaving group on Facebook than I can find you in 3 minutes of google searching.

 Nicola: I am a fan of your blog and enjoy seeing your research and the work you do for your SCA persona and the community as a whole. I’m a LARPer over in the UK and was wondering how you keep the veils and layers of headdresses in place. The persona I’m currently playing is from medieval times but practical hints and tips would be very interesting to read about, if you’re willing to write about something a little more off topic.

You need to use bands, and pin the veil to the band. This is a period method, and you can really impress your LARPer friends. I’ve used this guide now for years: Now, I’ve made some adjustment since my hair was so short for years, but now I’m growing it out. I’ve found that in a pinch when my hair was in a pixie cut, white cotton headbands you can buy at the drugstore do the job since they really aren’t going to slide anywhere. Now that I have shoulder-length hair, I cap it up first. You can see it a bit here with my 11th Century veil. The cap beneath my veil holds back all of my hair, and then the silk veil is pinned over it, allowing my coronet to just sit on top and not have to be shoved onto my head, or cause more weight. The gentlewoman to my right in the veil is also wearing a cap beneath hers, and you can see the pins better.


Dyonisia: So I have been fascinated with hoods for a while now. I make them and end up giving them away. But i also want to get research information on them. My focus is from 1000-1600.  I also am looking for any embroidery that are on those hoods. Any help would be wonderful.

I am also interested in shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. Looking at what was shipped and where they were going. I am looking at 1200-1600. Any resources ect. would help.

This is a really really REALLY broad topic that I feel could benefit from narrowing down into a specific time and place so you aren’t overwhelmed. Fashion changes a lot over the span of 500 years, and since you did not give a location, I’m going to tell you what I know regarding my area of expertise. I recommend breaking down your project and focusing on one hood from one place at a time, otherwise, you’re going to be overwhelmed and find nothing.

Disclaimer: I’m not an embroiderer, and as far as my personal scope of research goes, you won’t find much at least in the Byzantine area. They were more into woven designs that were appliqued on. As far as if this applied to hoods, I’m not sure. The Byzantines were not “hood wearers” like you see in the western part of the continent. The one hooded garment that you see commonly is called a “paenula”, a very simple hooded poncho that goes back to Roman times. After the 6th Century, you don’t see it too much outside of iconographic interpretation, which makes me think that maybe it fell out of style in the cosmopolitan areas during the early centuries, but maintained part of the traditional imagery we still have today. The climate in the Eastern Mediterranean is different than say, France, so hooded garments seemed to be pushed to the wayside for turbans, veils, and other headwear. Seeing gold work on turbans was common. The type of design is referred to as “grammata” in the original Greek, so basically golden letters, possibly pseudo-Kufic script. Of course, paenulae may have still been used in the countryside as a functional garment, but most depictions of working class Byzantines show little to no embellishment. Who the heck wants to clean mud off of expensive, time-consuming embroidery?

On the subject of your interest in shipping, again, you need to narrow this down. You have a 400-year timespan, and no specific culture or ports in mind. From 1200-1400, the crusades dominated the Eastern Mediterranean as well, with the Fourth Crusade wrecking the commerce of the Byzantine Empire for the remainder of its existence.

I do love your enthusiasm, but let me give you some helpful research tips to make your massive interests work a bit smoother in your favor. I feel like you really don’t know where to start, which is why you’ve asked me such broad questions, and that’s okay, we all have humble beginnings.

 A good rule of thumb is: if your Google search isn’t coming back with anything, narrow it down until it does. “Medieval hoods 1000-1600” is going to probably give you a Pinterest, while “extant medieval hood” is going to give you images of stuff that is still around from museum databases. “Hoods worn in medieval France” is going to give you better answers. Head right to the Met or British Museum websites and look up their collections, they’re here to help! Same with your interest in shipping. This is where getting into the fun journal databases will be a huge advantage. You can even pop over to JSTOR and put in some search terms. I found this article first shot just typing in “medieval Mediterranean shipping”: Chances are, you have friends with JSTOR or library access that can help you get the material. If this is something you really want to focus on, it may be worthwhile to invest in an account. Who knows, you could end up getting enough material to write your own Compleat Anachronist! Good luck!

Marc: I found your blog via a search on Byzantine costuming – and noted that you’re up to answering questions about same.

Well, I have a perhaps atypical one: I’m finishing in the details of a story set in early 14th Century Trebizond, and I haven’t been able to put together visually a wedding dress for one of the legendary Trapezuntine princesses. I have some vague piecemeal ideas, shoulder panels covered with pearls, etc. and I can draw a little from Pisanello’s St. George and the Princess of Trebizond, but I really can’t imagine what a wedding gown at that level of Byzantine society would look like – particularly the colors.

 You’re actually in luck, because Maria Parani has written a great article on this, and it’s available for free on  

Hopefully this gives you the answer you’re looking for. I could cite it, but having the whole article in your face is probably better than whatever I could blab. Good luck with your novel!

Ask me anything!

So, while I’m taking a short break from heavy SCA sewing and research, I want everybody to help me keep my brain ticking.

Every week, or however often I get questions, I’m going to have a question/answer column here on my blog. Feel free to ask me anything about Roman and Byzantine history, textiles, clothing, etc, and I’ll give you a complete answer, or as complete as I can, with citations to send you on your way. General ancient and medieval history  questions can also be fielded if you’re looking for something more broad.

If this gets busy, I don’t know how many questions I’ll be able to answer, but I’ll do my best to make sure that everybody is covered.

Got a question for me?

Hit me up at syrakousina at

Happy New Year!

Sorry I haven’t posted much in the last few months. I’ve been settling into my new home on the West Coast and getting into the swing of being in a new Kingdom. I haven’t been doing too many projects, because my brain needed a serious cool-off period following my master’s degree, so I’m been upping my service game instead and generally having a good time.

Classes have been taught at Pennsic, Northshield Coronation, and Great Western War. I won Caidan Queen’s Champion of Arts and Sciences with my iconography work back in late August, and I’m preparing to pass that on for the next reign. Aside from that, I have a pile of fabric and a Hail Mary going into next year as I focus on expanding the Norman Husband’s collection of garbery, as well as bring some of my stuff up to snuff. (Sartor happened, I have the smoking holes in my pockets to prove it.) I’m also going to be playing with block printing! YAY!

I plan to stay mostly local in Caid for the spring and summer, only because I’m so tapped out with travel from this year, I need a break. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind, but I have other facets of my nerdery I need to focus on in the coming year, including my mundane work as a comic book artist and writer, and a highly anticipated upcoming trip to Star Wars Celebration in Orlando in April. But alas, Star Wars costumes, aside from having some Byzantine influence in the prequels, aren’t really SCA compatible. 😉

I hope everybody has a lot of upcoming plans and good vibes going into 2017/AS 52. Look out for some layout and content updates coming soon.

Yes, it is OK to have fun with garb!

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.


Ah, me precious….
I shall hug it and squeeze it and call it George!

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?

Anna, that doesn’t look so bad, what’s the big deal?

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.

Something tells me my yard won’t look like this in Caid.

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.

Good ol’ Theodora and her ladies.

Let’s take a closer look:

I see some fowl dresses in there!

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?

Image Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image links to museum listing.

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.

Taken by me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, January 2016.

I’ve also seen this one in person, and it pretty much made me squeal in the gallery. You can read more about it here:

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.

It looks pretty cute on its own, but sari cotton is super sheer.
This is me being serious at Leodamas of Thebes here in Calafia. As you can see, I stitched some dolphin bezants on the straps for my own personal touch. I really liked this color combo.

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.


Thesis Recap, moving onward.

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.

So, now that the thesis several months behind me, and the academic PTSD is fading, my thesis is available for a small fee on Etsy here:

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.

Achievement unlocked.

Kale’s will, from Actes d’Iviron Vol. II
Symbatios’ will, from Actes d’Iviron Vol II.
Agios Vasilios cell near Iviron monastery, Mount Athos, Halkidiki, Greece
Agios Vasilios cell near Iviron monastery, Mount Athos, Halkidiki, Greece. This is where Symbatios’ may have been buried.

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.


(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.[1]

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.[2] 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.”[3] This is not incorrect, as the modern Greek word remains the same. Dawson, on the other hand, translates the term into orange.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] 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[7], to a heavily embellished v-neck as seen in a manuscript showing the Dance of Miriam.[8] 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,[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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[12]. 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.[13]

            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.[14] The primary differences between a mandyas and sagion seem to be length, and possibly decoration.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

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,[18] 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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21]

     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.[22] 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.[23] Within the same manuscript, Saint Thessalonika wears a similar wrap with what appears to be sheer, fine fringe along the side of her face.[24]

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.[25]

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.


[1] Timothy Dawson, By the Emperor’s Hand: Military Dress and Court Regalia in the Later Roman-Byzantine Empire. (Yorkshire: Frontline. 2015.): 87

[2] Ibid.

[3] Lefort, 179.27 for the original text, for the Narrative Unit from the Prosopography of the Byzantine World, run by King’s College in London.

[4] Dawson, “Women’s Dress in Byzantium,” 51.

[5] Muthesius, “Essential Processes.” 159.

[6] Susan Landry, “On the Possibility of Byzantine Velvets.” (2003.)  Accessed March 28, 2016.” 8.

[7] Appendix A, Figure 1.

[8] Appendix A, Figure 2.

[9] Dawson, By the Emperor’s Hand, Plate 17.

[10] Ibid.131 note 130.

[11] Appendix A, Figure 3.

[12] Dawson, By the Emperor’s Hand, 19, quoting Constantine Porphyrogennetos’ De Cerimoniis.

[13] Appendix A, Figure 8.

[14] Parani, 17-18. Parani discusses briefly in her chapter on the Imperial Costume that the empress was invested in the chlamys, but probably did not wear it otherwise.

[15] Ibid. 73.

[16] Appendix A, Figure 4.

[17] Appendix A, Figure 5, Here is Empress Theophanu from the Menologion of Basil II, wearing the khlamys in comparison to Pelagia’s mandyas from the same manuscript.

[18] Appendix A, Figure 6, a contrast lining is shown here on Anna Radene’s mandyas, only the solid color is on the exterior, while the ornate brocade is seen as the lining.

[19] Lefort, 179.22-23

[20] “The Branko Belt.” British Museum number 1990,1201.1.

[21] ODB, 1611.

[22] Lefort,  2.179.23. Parani 78. n.104.

[23] Appendix A, Figure 4.

[24] 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.

[25] Dawson, “Women’s Dress in Byzantium,” 49, when he discusses possible definitions for the thalassa mantle.

Hello, Caid.

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. 🙂


We’re moving!

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.

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