Another Bliaut Battle: Why my husband needs to find a new persona before I strangle him with maunche sleeves. (Just kidding.)

I do wear Norman garb, too, even if I don’t like to admit it. It’s one of those “well, I’m married to one, so I need to look the part sometimes” gigs, much like how he also owns Byzantine garb, to humor me. This post is to help start build content for my Norman Garb Basics page I hope to finish after Pennsic.

My first bliaut I talked about here on this blog, in the chronicles of the Norman longdress. Here and Here.


That one was not without issues. It didn’t fit the best, I back engineered the lacing, and the elongated torso does no favors in linen. I have since parted with this dress to someone who could wear it better.

My second bliaut was easy. It’s an earlier design: no side lacing, and a looser, skimming fit versus a tight, completely form-fitting one. A simple keyhole neckline, made of basketwoven wool. It has a nice drape and I like the fit. It’s more accurate to my husband’s timeline of the late 11th Century if I use similar cuts seen in the Bayeux Tapestry as an example. I am unsure if the lining was ever really contrasting, but I like the way the blue just punches out of this one. I guess this could be considered more of a proto-bliaut.

 

Figuring the experience of these two dresses combined, I could make a late-12th Century version, with the lacing, and the slit neck, and the pendant-style maunche sleeves, and rock it for the William Marshal Tourney at Pennsic as Jeff’s consort.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA. no.

I will say all of my mistakes could have been avoided by ACTUALLY MAKING A MOCKUP AND PROPERLY PATTERNING THE DAMN THING instead of what became another back-engineering project. The hilarious thing is by this point, I can help people figure this pattern out just fine with good results. I guess it’s a good thing that this particular style is too late for Gieffrei and myself, and I just made it with Pennsic in mind, so I didn’t spend the amount of time I normally would lining sleeves.

It started off easy enough. I make my bliaut pattern with a front and back seam, so I sew together 4 pieces for the body. This allows me to put in back and front gores with minimal fuss, and also helps get a clean neckline. I figured this would work great for the slit neck versus cutting the fabric, and draped it as such.

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I applied the trim to the neckline at this point. The V comes down to mid bust. The back opens just below my first vertibrae. I found a vintage sari trim that looks wonderfully Siculo-Norman.

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From here on, it went together pretty smooth, except that I cut the gores a bit too long. That was an easy fix, albeit a frustrating one. I was just careful to line up the front and back seams at the trim when I inserted the gores. Easy enough with a liberal dose of pins.

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Much like constructing a regular t-tunic dress, it went together, and sat on my dress form like a lifeless sack with pretty trim.

The hard part was the fitting. I don’t know many people yet in my area, so having a friend to come over and actually fit this sucker was out of the question, so my husband helped. I put a gusset in the underarm out of habit, thinking that the sleeve would be okay, it was not. So he pinned and marked what would need to be taken in.

Oops. Either he got too excited, or I did. Crap. The sleeves were too tight! I tried it on with an underdress, and split the seam, so I knew this was going to be a tough fix. I could either insert a new gusset that would close the seam, or just lace it up to where it needed to be. To make matters worse, one sleeve was tighter than the other. I got way too scissors happy. @#$%!

When I spoke at the conference at Fordham in March, there was a session given by Gale Owen Crocker about extent garments and fit. We have a very symmetrical view on clothing in the modern period as a result of mass produced garments. The Middle Ages had no such sense. Clothing was tailored to the person, mistakes were worked around. Fabric was precious and so was sewing time. We’re spoiled with mechanization, and forget the “make it fit” view of the period we’re supposed to be representing. Well, considering I had no extra fabric to make new sleeves, I had to make this work.

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The custom gussets were not working out well. I went from triangles to footballs to leaves to giving up. Laces it was going to be.

I measured out 16 eyelets on each panel, for a nice total of 64. I started marking them out, and my husband went, “Uh, you’re going to machine those, right?”

He had a valid point. While machine eyelets are not the best for fabric, handmade ones would take me far too long and far more stress I didn’t need. Machine it would be. Fortunately, my machine does a reasonable job.

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Full sleeve and side opening.
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Adequate machine eyelets.

Despite it being by machine, these are not that fast, and not without error. I actually ran out of bobbin thread in the middle of a row, in the middle of an eyelet, which was the only way Jeff got me downstairs for dinner. NY Strips on the grill, and I still wasn’t going to leave the machine.

After about 12 hours of work spread out over 4 days (I was getting punchy), I finished it. I was hoping I could use one of my existing underdresses, but I don’t have a white one that is slim enough so…more sewing for me! @_________@ I do need to weave a wider belt and will probably do that on-site at Pennsic, since I’m pretty fast with inkle, and can get nice materials from the merchants. The one I used here is handwoven trim I made last year. I’m thinking it may look nice as the trim on the underdress.

Observations:
Make a freaking mockup, you lazy bint!
Linen is still not as good for a bliaut as wool, but Pennsic is death.
Triple check your husband’s work, and you know, make a mockup.
Not a fan of the slit neck as much as the keyhole. because of the way it effects the fit on top.
Really not a fan of the lacing, and I don’t think my next one (parti-heraldic for Crown tourney) is going to have them.

After Pennsic, I’ll be posting my pattern for my bliaut block in the Norman Garb page.

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Dressing the husband: Variations to the Manazan Cave Tunic

I barely sew men’s Byzantine clothing. I know where to look, where to point friends, but for the most part, I personally haven’t touched it. My husband is a Norman. He wears riding tunics, and basic linen gored tunics with keyhole necklines. He likes them, and looks good in them. His complexion and appearance echoes Anna Komnene’s description of Bohemond I of Antioch in the Alexiad almost verbatim. It’s disgusting how Norman he is.

But we have a deal: I sew it, and he wears it.

Up until this project, I’ve made him 1 “SCA Byzantine™” tunic, made from lovely wine colored thick linen with potamia and fancy cuffs, but it’s sewn to his usual Northern European tunic style, versus anything actually Byzantine. I’ve also made him exactly one Roman tunic, and one later Roman dalmatica with clavii stripes for when the weather is stupid hot. He mostly stays in his period, with long sleeves on in warm weather because he’s very fair. Lightweight linen is his friend.

I’ve been meaning to try this pattern for a while, so, one day, I decided to sew things, and that he was going to deal with it.

The mummies of the Manazan Cave City date from the 9th-13th Century, though I believe more recent studies are putting it at the end of this period. Manazan is located in the region of Cappadocia, in Anatolia, present day Turkey.  This shirt is based on the mummy at the Karaman Museum.

The pattern I used that I felt had the best walkthrough, is here, by the folks who used to run Birka Traders in Lochac: http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisandpeter/manazan_shirt/manazan_instructions.htm

They haven’t updated their site since 2014, but if you’re reading this, thank you, Christobel and Peter, you helped me figure out pieces to my mental puzzle in constructing this based on Dawson’s descriptions.

I haven’t really ever seen this done in the SCA. At least not in my parts, aside from a member of my household, who I think I may have given the link to. I knew that the standing collar was seen in some Byzantine art, but I always kind of avoided it, since I hate being choked and didn’t know what was going on. After finally making a series of these for my husband, I gained a better understanding of how the shirt works, and feel like a ditz for not trying it sooner.

The Manazan tunic is, on the most basic level, a keyhole neckline with a placket over it. That’s it! Once you get that in your head, you look at the picture and go, “Oh.”  Trust me, this is way easier than it looks at a first glance.

I made him three types, in this order:
An indigo linen version, without the standing collar, knee length.
A white linen version as an esoforion/undershirt, with the collar, knee length.
A swanky silk version as a court garment, ankle length.

I had a surplus of weird, secondhand linens I wasn’t afraid to screw up something on, so I decided that the first version would be out of a mid-weight linen with a rich indigo color that straight up reminds me of blue jeans. (In retrospect, I’m pretty sure it’s real indigo dye, talk about a luck out.) I like the idea of wearable mockups. If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work, but if it does, then you have a finished garment.

The way it works, is that the collar has to be completed before attaching the sleeves and side gores. The dark linen makes it hard to see details here, but here’s some photos of the construction.

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Placket closed.
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Placket open.
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Kind of a weird closeup, but when I attach facings on the inside, I use a hand invisible hem stitch. This stops the bold lines of machine sewing being visible on the front, and tacks it down securely. The machine zigzag is lazy finishing on the edge of the facing.
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Finished and laid out on my table so you can see how high the gores go under the arm.
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On the Norman. Following the instructions of the pattern to determine measurements gave us a very wide tunic, but when you see period garments, they are rather baggy, if not “bulbous” on men’s figures.

 

Adjustments made after the first tunic:
-Take in the measurements a couple of inches on each panel
-Re-calibrate the neckline gauge for a tighter fit (I added a half inch when I didn’t need to.)

Onto the full construction with the band collar out of crisp, white linen that took me 6 washes to get it usable. The white allows a more visible depth to the layers on the collar, so I have more pictures.

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There really is no easy way to avoid handsewing on this pattern. You can if you want, but it won’t look right. After I attached the facing inside with the blind hem as seen above on the indigo tunic, I also attached the band collar to the inside by hand.  You can do a machine running stitch when you initially attach it at the base, but when you flip it up and close it to the inside, hand is necessary, otherwise the outside will look ugly. I’m planning on handsewing a whole one for myself.
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View from the inside looking out, so you can see the keyhole neckline, the facing, the placket, and the collar.
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The same view from the outside.
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Let’s face it, this is basically Byzantine Han Solo.

I actually screwed up. I made the band too short because I read the pattern wrong. I repaired this by adding another length of band, versus taking the whole thing off and starting again. My husband destroys collars because his sweat contains amine, a chemical used on submarines to purify the air that also dyes everything a gross shade of rust, so he kills tunics and bedsheets by the dozen. I’ll replace it once it gets gross.

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On the board, puffy before ironing, with the repaired collar.
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Actually on. I used a small white glass bead to make the toggle. Doesn’t it look so much more crisp than a normal keyhole?

Things learned from the full construction:
-Taking in the couple of inches doesn’t matter, this is a wide tunic.
-Pay attention to the taper on the sleeves, men have forearms that women don’t typically have. I made them a little snug, but not uncomfortably so.

For the grand finale, I wanted to see how I could really jazz it up. I had 3 yards of beautiful silk broadcloth in my stash reserved for when Gieffrei decided to dress like civilized folk, as well as my usual stack of  dupioni remnants for trim, and a brocade I had stashed from when Sartor had a sale last year.

The broadcloth was narrower than the panels I had used on the blue tunic, and just about where I cut them on the white one, so I lucked out. I was nervous that the longer length would screw with his stride, but it did not. Instead of putting the facing on the inside, I put it on the outside for some pizazz, and made the placket from the brocade. Added some cuffs with the dupioni, and bottom trim with the brocade, and voila.

The alb of the Holy Roman Empire was my inspiration for his look, only sans all the pearls. (I did buy pearls, I just haven’t sat down and gotten busy with them yet.)

Alb of the Holy Roman Empire
Kamision of the Holy Norman Jeff.
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Detail on the neckline before I finished it.

I don’t have good pictures of him fully dressed head to toe, that’s next on the agenda.

Here’s an extremely flattering shot of us both at East Kingdom Coronation, where you can see the band collar peeking out. The chain is tarnishing and already ruined it, so, I get to replace it sooner than him sweating amine, I guess. Boys are gross.

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“Protect ya neck!” Or, how Anna learned to hide Gieffrei’s delicate collarbones.

[Yes, the woman who named her site after a VNV Nation song just dropped a Wu Tang reference. Not even sorry.]

My husband has a huge head and a normal neck. Those of us who sew know what this means, it means a gaping maw of a neckline that shows off the Norman’s delicate ginger skin. And while it’s nothing a nice brooch and a gallon of sunblock can’t fix, it’s not -right-.

I’ll be posting soonish on dressing my husband in Byzantine, (yes, really, men’s garb, you heard it hear first), as well as including a new page on Norman Garb here on my site (*faints*) but I needed to reassess my approach toward fit.

During my short time in Caid, I had a discussion with a friend about necklines. American reenactors and re-creators make our necklines too big. After her visit to Scandinavia and meeting with Viking reenactors in the land of Where This Stuff Actually Happened, she gave me some tips on how to fix my stupidity.

I’m sure that this technique is known to a few people and I’m going to get a “WELL, DUH!” Gibbs Slap in the comments, but knowing also that there’s some derpy sewers out there who probably make the same mistakes I do, this post is important.

For the longest time, I’ve been following a formula given to me a while ago: You draw your neckline 3-4″ each way from the center point, 2″ down in the back, 4″ down in the front, and add a keyhole slit. This gives a lopsided oval effect with a shorter back than front, which is essential for comfort, but it’s just too wide around the neck. My husband’s head is 26″, his neck is 17″. He’s not a jacked guy, but he’s tall and broad, so making garb that doesn’t choke him has been a challenge.

Here is my new hack: Neckline gauges.

A true circle with the circumference of our necklines (13.5″ for me, 17″ for him), marked up showing increments of  1/2″ from the back toward the center mark. Ignore where it says “+ allowance”, I tried that and it made it too big. Just go with the regular neck measurement, the hem or facing will take care of that ease.

20180322_113304You place the gauge on the fabric, center mark matching to the dead center of where you want the neckline to be. Then, move it forward to where you want the depth of the back to be. I’ve done both 1″ and 1.5″ with good results. The dotted line helps you maintain the angle toward the front, and where you can mark your slit.

Here I am demonstrating it on a piece of scrap linen:

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White on white was a horrible idea, but let’s pretend that fold in the scrap is our shoulder seam or fold.
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Place the gauge on the fabric, matching center points.
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Move it forward to how deep you want the neck to be. In this case, I’m leaving 1″ in the back, so I’m putting my 1″ mark over the center mark.
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Trace, and cut.

Give that a shot. Practice on a scrap and put it over your head. You should have a neckline that comes right up if not a bit above the clavicle, and looks more accurate. Voila!!

Clearly, a closed slit is vital to the tight necks in Byzantine artwork, but you never see the slit! What do we do?

We cover it, or move it to the side.

The Manazan Caves tunic covers the keyhole slit with a placket. And I was a a fool to not have tried to make one of these sooner. You can find a great walkthrough from the folks Downunder at Birka Traders here: http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisandpeter/manazan_shirt/manazan_instructions.htm

I’ve constructed this for my husband with great results, both with, and without the band collar. This is also where I learned to NOT ADD A SEAM ALLOWANCE ON THE NECKLINE.  I’ll be posting a better walkthrough once I’m done with his new collection of tunics so I can discuss my experience using the pattern above.

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The other option is to put the slit off-center. The most common is just down the left side of the neck, as seen in the Alb of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Palermo Tunicella. While both not “Byzantine” garments, the Eastern influence is evident.

The Coronation Alb of the Holy Roman Empire. The left slit is closed with fingerloop braid. Click on this to see the larger image, it’s worth it.
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The Palermo Tunicella, with the deep slit off left on the neckline, surrounded by a band of brocaded trim.

 

Another option is to use the shoulder seam as the slit. You see that in the Met Tunic I have posted on (link), and I emulated that for my 12th Century Ensemble (link).

So the next time you’re at a loss, looking at source artwork and wondering why your necks don’t look right, give this idea a shot and try a variation for a new fit. I know I’ve been totally converted.

Video walkthrough of Sari Dalmatica/Delmatikion!

I did a thing!

Note that this is only a plausibly period approach with modern liberties. This is just a way to make good-looking, passable Byzantine garb on a budget for themed events, allow newcomers to try out a different style or persona, or make a low-cost “casual” wardrobe for when wearing fancier clothing is not appropriate (outdoor/warm weather events, wars, etc.)

This is a beginner/intermediate pattern. You will need to know how to do facings and have a basic idea of rectangular construction. You will still need a long sleeved undertunic, as well.

Pay no mind to my lack of makeup and phone acrobatics.

Once Upon a Dream: A Foray into the 15th Century

We have an event here in Calafia called Winter Arts. Being that it’s one of the few events in the barony where you’re indoors, typically, you want some fancy duds.  Back in September, a group of us decided that we would tackle something different, and something different being Burgundian.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure 99.9% of the women and those identifying as such, who grew up with Sleeping Beauty, wanted a dress with a hennin and to be a princess and spin in circles and look pretty all the time when they were little.

…The 1% was me, who wanted to be Maleficent, but anyway, I digress. Burgundian is that clothing style that invokes the memory of a romantic High Middle Ages of pointy hatted damsels and dramatic gowns of fur and fancy fabrics. So, why the hell NOT do it?

Being that I was moving soon (note that past tense for the moment), I set limits for myself on what I could and could not use when drafting this project.

1: All fabric needed to come from my stash, or have minimal cost.
2: If I finished my gown, Gieffrei would get his, but not vice versa.
3: I would make the ridiculous hat and be fabulous.
4: I would absolutely not use that fuchsia linen and be Maleficent.

Being that my fabric is mostly Byzantine, as a result, so was my Burgundian. I had a ton of black ecclesiastical stuff I picked up at a yard sale last year, and I decided that would be my gown, because nothing says high gothic garb like being…gothic. The kirtle I would totally do the right way with front lacing and make it fitted and supportive. By myself. Okay, sure, Anna. The fur I got from a friend who has bags and bags of the stuff because she does viking living history and random people just give it to her. So, I got the real mink. I don’t mind using real fur, especially if the animals had been dead long before I was born. Or in this case, my grandmother was born. We’re talking some seriously old vintage sleeves.

For the patterns, I used a combination of Reconstructing History, and the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant. I probably didn’t NEED the paper patterns, but sometimes I need a bit more of a visual in order to grasp a new concept, after that, I usually “get” it. Kass’ patterns are usually pretty simple blocks that give me a lot of leeway for customization and fitting, anyway.

These were my stages of madness:

First garment: The front laced kirtle.
Second garment: The v-necked gown.
Third garment: Gieffrei’s houppelande.
Fourth garment: Gieffrei’s chaperon.
Fifth garment: My double hennin.
INTERMISSION: The epic meltdown.
Sixth garment: Replacement Caid-friendly kirtle.
Finishing touches.


First garment: The front laced kirtle.

I’ve wanted to be fitted for a cotehardie for a while, now. Despite all the crap I give my friends in the 14th Century Mafia (who all rightly deserve it,) I’m intrigued at the idea of having a supportive garment that is comfortable for all-day wear at an event. The short-sleeved type I attempted is more fashionable in the 15th Century, and often seen with contrasting, decorative sleeves. Using the basic bodice block that came in the RH pattern, I extended the skirt from it, versus attaching one at the waist seam (this is also seen in some period artwork I came across.) The real bitch was fitting it. You cannot do this by yourself. It was Thanksgiving night in my house, I was upstairs getting my chest jacked up by a friend who had come over for dinner. It’s what SCAdians do on holidays.

I need tweaks, but I did end up with a supportive gown. The material is a light wool coating, and it will work great as an undergarment, or a standalone dress. I figure once I get a proper fitting and pattern made for -me-, I’ll be way more successful, but as my first attempt at any form of the Gothic Fitted Dress, I can’t complain. I am soooooo not used to the wider neckline, though. I feel like it’s staying up by some sort of magic, and I pretty much feel naked, even though that is the style. (I also look pregnant, which is also, an unfortunate piece of historical accuracy that modern sensibilities need to get over.)

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“Okay Norton, try it on.”
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They’re staying up!
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Belt helps break up my figure better.

…Then I checked the weather. San Diego wasn’t going to get cooler than the 70s-80s for the event. Wool under brocade, even indoors, could be a death sentence. Did I have time to make another fitted one from linen? No. I would have to improvise, so I set this aside for another day. It’s currently hanging up on my closet door, needing more eyelets and a hem, and body linen, because wool against the skin is awful. I will be returning to this project.


Second garment: The v-necked gown.

This was way easier than I thought it would be. Rectangular construction on the body, fitting your figure on the side seams above the gore, and inset sleeves. I finished the bulk of the gown itself in a matter of 2 hours on my machine. The hard part would be the fur, but that was being saved for later. I skipped the train, because I don’t like people stepping on my garb. Fortunately, there was plenty of fullness without it. The v-neck is simply shaped out of the front seam.

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Admit it, the teal elastic belt really sets off that Byzantine ecclesiastical fabric.
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No train needed. There are side gores, as well as shaped panels to add fullness.
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Placing the mink to determine how I was going to cut it.

 


Third and Fourth Garments: Gieffrei’s houppelande and chaperon.

Jeff was super reluctant to do this, SUPER reluctant. Not all men are into the idea of fancy later period, so it took some coercing. I would make the garments in the larger, less fitted style versus the short, pleated doublets of younger men seen in period artwork. This also eliminated my need to fit my husband for joined hose, and he could get away with wearing a set of braies and chausses. I had a nice herringbone linen tunic he could wear as his undershirt, and we would just fluff him up with accessories to give the period look.

I was short on fabric for the houppelande, but I did what I could. He basically had no gores to add any sort of fullness, so I had to work with the width of the brocade. This resulted it things getting off center and making me want to cry.

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Don’t look at the seam, DON’T LOOK AT THE SEAM. Ahhhh!

In the end, it came out passable. AND FAKE FUR IS AWFUL TO WORK WITH.

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Costarring my dirty laundry and an unmade bed.

I also knocked out his chaperon/dagged hood in about a half hour. I did this the traditional way, just cutting the hood out of the wool and sewing 2 seams. Then you roll the face opening of the hood up and plop it on top of your head so you look like a weirdo. Bam! Instant hoodlum. (This is where the term comes from!)

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“You like dags? You know, dags!”
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He loved it!

Fifth garment: My double hennin.

We had a hat day that included brunch and mimosas. If you don’t craft with mimosas and brunch, I highly recommend you try it, it seriously helps.

I’m not a hat maker, I’m pretty awful at it, so I was expecting to make a regular truncated hennin and lappet, and call it a day.

But no, Anna can’t do anything basic.

Adelwyn made the pattern for the double hennin from The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant, and my brain went full on Sleeping Beauty evil fairy queen at the sight of it, and the rest was history. We shared the pattern, and I got to fight with buckram.

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“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dreaaaaaam…”

And that’s when Maleficent was born. I decided that I would cover the hennin in the same black fabric as my gown, and I would make the replacement kirtle out of this fuchsia linen I had just laying around in my stash. It wouldn’t be exact, as Maleficent is clearly wearing a houppelande and not a fitted gown, but I would make it work.


INTERMISSION: The epic meltdown.

There is one thing worse than real life punching your SCA, and that’s real life punching your EVERYTHING. Without warning or explanation, Gieffrei’s orders back to the East Kingdom were cancelled, nine days out from turnover and twelve days from our scheduled move. He was being rerouted to an unincorporated corner of Meridies on the Trimaris border in February.

This sucked the life out of me. Right. Out. I already suffer from depression and anxiety, and I will be making a post about this next, but this was like taking a baseball bat to the chest. What about our house? What about my job? What about my life? Everything we had planned to do when we got back to New England was ripped out from underneath us like a carpet in a cartoon, and it hurt just as much.

In one final blow, his current position ordered him to work during the event, after I had done all of this sewing for the both of us.

Winter Arts stopped mattering. I was ready to toss the project aside, curl into a ball and cry while I mourned the next 3 years of my life. Jeff was having none of this. I got dragged upstairs back to my studio, and told to finish it for him. He stood and watched as I cut the covers for my hennin, and he gently cut the seams on the vintage mink for me while I sat at the sewing machine spewing vicious epithets at the US Navy (which didn’t hear me). The project was now a rage sew, versus a fun new thing.

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The beautiful work Jeff did cutting the seams on the vintage mink.

Sixth garment: Replacement Caid-friendly kirtle.

Nothing special about this, just making the wider neckline out of a typical tunic dress. Fighting my depression, I threw this together in 2 hours of absolute rage including industrial music at full blast and yerba mate tea. I wasn’t sleeping anyway, so it no longer mattered. I think it was like 10pm when I took this picture.

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CAFFEINE PLUS FUCHSIA LINEN EQUALS FLYING

Finishing Touches

I was down to the wire. The hennin needed to be covered, attached, and veiled. After I covered the buckram, I made the fillet out of black velvet, and put it on over my gold snood. This provided a base for the pins, and created friction to keep the hat on. Normal hennins that encompass the entire head will sit on your head without pins as long as this band or lappet is in place. It’s a neat trick. I dug out one of my favorite dirty pilgrim badges as a piece of flare.

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Just keep sewing. Sewing means you don’t have time to cry.

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Nailed it.

 
The night before, I was working on the belt and Adelwyn came over, and I helped her figure out the last pieces of her puzzle. Isolde also showed up, and offered to attend the event as Gieffrei so the garb would get worn.

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TONIGHT: Playing the role of THL Gieffrei de Toesni, is Isolde de Featherstan.

I still had to attach the fur and the sleeves to my gown. There are no pictures of this. It’s me, on the couch, sneezing a lot from handling old fur, and tacking it down onto my dress in a manner that I could remove it.

Around 9pm, I finished.

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It just screams evil queen of luxury.

Pictures!

I have to admit, I totally felt like a damn princess. Not in the SCA sense, but in the little girl fairy tale sense. Pointy hats, full dresses, this is the Middle Ages we all know as a little kid. The best part, is that everybody in the group did different variations of the houppelande or fitted v-neck gown, so we really looked like the amalgamation of color and hats that is seen in the period paintings. Totally worth the stress.

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I definitely like the veil over the hennin better.

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Awkward prom with my “husband.”
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It was breezy!
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We tried to emulate some poses we saw in paintings. Such as stabbing yourself, vomiting, and looking on in disdain. 
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“Behold, our barren field of…”

I had to throw in this last finishing touch. Maleficent leggings to give the stealth cosplay a bit more fluff.

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Gee wiz, I crack myself up.
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Price of Lularoe Disney Leggings: JUSTIFIED.

 

Sari not sorry, and an unexpected surprise!

I’ve posted previously on how using vintage cotton saris works for posh-looking classical garb on a budget. So, during my sari splurges, I picked up a few that I thought would work for Byzantine applications. It only took me a year to complete an unfinished early-period style dalmatica, but once I focused, I got it finished in a couple of hours for wearing at Calafia Anniversary.

I didn’t get any in-progress pictures, but here are the results:

 

 

The method:
Use the sari as fabric. It’s narrower than most modern bolt widths (around 36-42″ wide) so plan accordingly for what you need. I’m not that tiny, but it worked fine for my 42″ bust using the full width, and just cutting the garment into shape like and old-fashioned t-tunic with the Byzantine curved underarms. I didn’t add gores, but I did have enough left to consider putting in narrow ones if it came down to it. So this is a bit more slim-fitting than an actual period garment would be. I saved the extra to use as sleeve extensions instead, which I haven’t done yet. I may just keep the short sleeves, which is just the finished edges of the sari, thus eliminating the need for a hem or trim application.

The bottom embellishment is the pallu (decorative end) of the sari, applied as a facing to the bottom hem, and then covered with spangly trim to completely seal all raw edges. The weight on the bottom is essential, otherwise sari fabric is just too filmy and light for the proper fall of an over tunic. I should have done a facing on the neckline as well, but I ran out of steam.

Pros:
~Cheap
~Easy
~Good for outside events where there will be dirt, but you need to dress a bit nicer. I spend $17 on the sari. If it gets wrecked, all I do is remove the trim and throw it out, versus crying over potential damage to my nicer clothing.
~Great for newcomers, or those looking for a garb “one-shot” for a themed event, due to all of the above.

Cons:
~Too slim fitting for accuracy, and may not work well for fuller figures.
~Cotton is too filmy for a nice dalmatic/over tunic. This is a cotton/poly blend, so if it was a bit hotter, I could have risked being really uncomfortable. I did get chilly near the end of the day. I picked it because the pattern is actually quite period for early Byzantine, and decided to take the risk. 100% silk would be best, but then cost can become an issue.
~A lot of saris are “art silk”, which is not real silk, it’s short for artificial silk that is 100% dead dinosaur. A lot of these are far nicer than straight cotton ones, but it’s a great way to make yourself garb that doesn’t breathe, so shop carefully, or plan to wear it sparingly (and indoors!)

Conclusion:
I will probably make a couple more of these for Pennsic or other grubby camping events when I need to not look like a scrub, but I wouldn’t recommend filling a wardrobe with them.

Ironically, I was wearing this when I was summoned by their Majesties of Caid and gifted with their Lux Caidis, the Grant-level award for Arts and Sciences. It caught me completely off guard, because I had moved closer to see if one of the friends I had written in was receiving the award. Evidently, when they called my name, I made a velociraptor shriek of surprise.

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Caid has been velociraptor-free for zero days.

Here’s a bad picture of the medallion on my chest, just above my Eastern Maunche, which carries the same precedence.

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Unfortunately, with me returning to the East Kingdom in December, I feel like I have really no time to repay Caid for the precious gift, and it’s hard to put my honor into words.

Smashing the idea of the “Byzantine Period.”

So, you want to have a Byzantine persona? Welcome to the ranks of the mysterious  medieval orient.

This, and more, are going to become a page here on my site shortly *points up to links*, I just need to find time to sit down and do it. Until then, I feel the information I am presenting here is somewhat necessary for SCAdians to find direction in their path, either to a full-fledged persona, or a garb project for a themed event.

Often, when people ask me what a Byzantine should wear, I respond with, “What period?”

This gets me a look of total confusion, and a response of, “You know, Byzantine.” I take a deep breath, and prepare to either bore the poor individual to tears with a well-rehearsed speech on the massive construct that was over 1000 years of history, or I open the flood gates and get them more excited about digging into more. I always hope it’s the latter, but the foremost argument I have to make is this:

There is no “Byzantine period.”

Repeat after me:

There is no “Byzantine period.”

That is the equivalent of asking somebody for French garb, and nobody ever just says “French”, there’s usually a century attached to it. Why is this never the case when it comes to Byzantine? Byzantine, like French, is a culture, it’s a place, it’s not a standalone period.

The Byzantine Empire, which is an anachronistic term for the Eastern Roman Empire, was the longest running medieval culture in Christendom. I use that term specifically, since it was not really a European culture, as much as it was an “Eastern” culture, or, generally referred to as “oriental.” Of course, that word today has a completely different connotation that comes across as somewhat pejorative of the Far East, but in actuality, it literally just means “eastern”, and that is exactly how the Western Europeans viewed the Romans, whom they referred to as Greeks. Both are correct, but a Roman would never call themselves Greek. 😉 They barely viewed themselves on the same plane of existence as the rest of the continent, as it was, and as my brother just haughtily remarked on my Facebook page less than 3 minutes after announcing I was writing this post, viewing the Eastern Romans as “medieval” is even somewhat insulting, but for the sake of the instructional nature of what I’m trying to do, this is the approach I’m taking. (What can I say? Byzantines were snooty people.)

So, as a newcomer, consider the Byzantines the medieval Greeks, because that is exactly who they were.  Wash the romantic imagery of draped clothing, columns, and Socrates out of your head, because I know that’s exactly where you went. 😉 While ultra-early Byzantine would be basically Roman, let’s fast forward a bit to the 6th Century, during the reign of Justinian and Theodora. Here, we find what most scholars refer to as the shift into what is considered “Byzantine,” versus Late Antiquity. The culture did shift, and with that, so did clothing, language, religion, law, architecture, etc.

This is the period most SCAdians view as “Byzantine”, the 3 pages in their Western Civilization textbook devoted to the laws of Justinian and how his wife may have been a prostitute, and onto the feudal system you go in the next chapter. This is where I need my readers to start thinking outside of this box, because you’re looking at a total of 38 years encapsulated within the time Constantine renamed the Greek town of Byzantium to the new Roman capital of Constantinople in 330, to 1453 when Constantinople was taken by the Ottoman Turks. That’s a lot time to assume that everybody wore exactly what Justinian and Theodora wore in the San Vitale mosaics.

I break the Byzantine Empire down into 4 parts for ease of understanding culturally, but there were still shifts within. Heck, I just got an older book this week on the cultural changes between the 11th and 12th Century, which is where I “live”, so even I still need to do more nailing down.

The Byzantine Periods According to Anna:

Roman Period 330-500 CE
Early Byzantine Period (including Iconoclasm) 500-900 CE
Middle Period (Golden Age) 900-1204 CE
Late Period (Collapse) 1261-1453 CE 

Important dates you NEED TO KNOW:

First Iconoclastic Period: 726-787
Second Iconoclastic Period: 814-882
Establishment of the formal Varangian Guard: 980’s
Sack of Constantinople during the 4th Crusade: April 12th, 1204
Latin Empire/Empire of Nicaea: 1204-1261
Empire of Trebizond: 1204-1461
Despotate of Epirus: 1204-1479
Fall of Constantinople: May 29th, 1453

I’m not going to go into a detailed history of the Fourth Crusade and the successor empires during this post, but as you can see, after the sack in 1204 by the crusaders, things kinda hit the fan and shattered. The Empire did not recover fully, and it remained unstable through to the absolute fall at the hands of the Ottomans in 1453. In my opinion, both scholarly and SCAdianly, anybody who wants a persona post-1204 has their work cut out for them. It can be done, it SHOULD be done, but I have yet to really see anybody nail it. My persona was probably dead by the mid 12th Century, so it’s all science fiction to me. 😛 Likewise, anybody looking for sources during the 8th and 9th centuries will also run into a lot of dead ends. Iconoclasm resulted into the loss of most artistic record from that period and earlier, which is why we have more illuminated manuscripts, frescoes, and mosaics from the 11th and 12th centuries than we do the 6th and 7th. These are all unfortunate events that are part of the Empire’s history, and as researchers and re-creators, we need to come to terms with it. Some things will just not be done easily, but what you can find could be incredibly rewarding.

I’m going to wrap up this post with a short selection on clothing, since that’s what a lot of people want to know about. When I make my full page, I’ll go into more detail regarding other factors.

Sumptuary laws are, and always were, a thing. Many pieces of artwork we have are just of imperials, and the average aristocrat, and certainly not the commoners, would be wearing the same fashions as their rulers.  While, as far as I know, there are no harsh rules in the SCA regarding dress aside from peerage elements and coronets in some kingdoms, in period a fashion faux pas could be devastating depending on when and where you lived, so if you plan to take the Byzantine route seriously, such laws need to be taken into account when it comes to your wardrobe, both male and female. Even shoe color was regulated. That idea of Byzantines always wearing red shoes? Drop it. That was for Imperials ONLY according to De Cerimoniis, a court manual written in the 10th Century. Prior to that? It seemed to be more widespread. Little things like that can make the difference between, “That guy in the clavii striped tunic and red shoes is a Byzantine” to, “Wow! You’re wearing something I’m not familiar with as Byzantine, tell me more.” There is so much of this culture that the SCA has just not explored.

Look at the differences between the clothing in the images below just to get a sense of how much things really changed over time.

6th Century Imperial and Attendants, showing a variety of fashions from the reign of Justinian I.
14th Century Imperial fashions from the Lincoln Typikon, showing the encroaching Ottoman Turkish styles present in dress, 100 years before the Empire fell. Tell the 14th Century Mafia to step aside, this is how it’s done.

The purpose of this post is, of course, not to chastise, but rather remind folks that there’s so much more out there to explore. Break out of the SCAdian conscience of just “Being Byzantine”, and find your home somewhere within your own personal One True Century, within the One True Empire.

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Konstantia made this for me. This is why we can’t have nice things. (I was making sekanjabin en masse for an event. I SWEARRRRRR!)