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.

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: https://www.etsy.com/listing/456038546/masters-project-material-wealth-and?ref=shop_home_active_1

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, http://db.pbw.kcl.ac.uk/jsp/narrativeunit.jsp?NarrativeUnitID=23680 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. https://veloutiere.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/byz-velvet-full.pdf..” 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.

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.

icon 2.jpg

12th Century High Court Wear and Proper Execution of the Byzantine Side-Eye.

Over the last few weeks, I completed a new court outfit based on the Eisiterion of Agnes of France, dated to the 1180s. It’s later period for my persona, but I was intrigued by the differences between the 11th and 12th Century as far as shape and embellishment went, so I gave it a try.

Now, this is an outfit that is not for every day, or even minor courts, this is specific to very formal events, and comes from a manuscript in which the 9 year old princess from France is brought into Constantinople and converted to fabulous by 70 (!) women wearing these outfits. I don’t know about you guys, but if I was a little girl, and I had suddenly gotten surrounded by weirdos looking like this and speaking a foreign language, I’d probably be pretty intimidated. Pictures will enlarge to show better detail. Courtesy of the Vatican Archives and their epic digitization project.

The propoloma is more “shovel” shaped than my other one, and I embellished it to make a coronet. Same procedure as the other one: 2 layers of wool felt and it’s self-supporting. Embellishment is shot silk, mother of pearl cabochons set in fine silver cups because I hate money, but I don’t hate it too much, since the bezants are gold-plated brass. Silver is one thing, gold is another, and I can only get my husband to cave so much.

Curves are very difficult to deal with. I tried the tube method, and the seams were unruly the whole time. I opted for the more tedious clipped and pressing method, and despite unevenness that I can see, it came out fine. The kharzanion (trinity temple ornaments) are wrong, and temporary.  Konstantia is making me a proper set, but we ran out of time. So, I opted for a pair of really ugly earrings my dad gave me as a, “Here, you do crafty things, find something to do with these.” And I did. They’re gaudy, but the whole outfit is pretty gaudy.

I made the delmatikion before the kamision. I wasn’t concerned about either, but I wanted to give it the time it deserved. The fabric is from Sartor.cz (Gird your wallets) and they called it the Oseberg textile. This is incorrect. It is a Persian textile that would have been available in period to Byzantium, but it is currently in a Japanese collection. Unfortunately, they only ran it in polyester, but as it’s in my heraldic colors, I couldn’t resist. The poly is super high quality, seriously, I never thought I would use “long staple polyester” in a sentence before, but I did. Aside from the expected fraying and nightmares associated iwth poly brocades, it sewed up really smoothly.

The Orange arm bars and neckline are made from the orange silk I purchased for my thesis project, which will be a post incoming upon completion. the arm bars were enhanced by some orange sari trim I had in my stash, and couched down faux pearls. The pearls on the neckline help hide the imperfections that probably only really bother me, but a Byzantine lady cannot have enough pearls. There’s no such thing, and, faux pearls are in fact, period.

The neckline itself is the side-keyhole design that pops up on some extant pieces. It closes with a shank button and loop.  Here it is to the point of hanging up pre-hemming. The sleeves have a 36″ drop. THREE. FOOT. SLEEVES. Oh, and they’re lined in a very light gold dupioni. The manuscript shows a white visible lining, but I couldn’t go with just white.

The kamision I wanted to double as a basic dress for when I’m not wearing a delmatikion for court, but still have enough pizazz for nice indoor events. More fake pearls on the neck to simulate a superhumeral, and more fancy sari trim. The neck and cuffs are faced with a green and red shot dupioni. The body is Pompeiian Red linen. This was my climate control once I got to the event site, because over 600 people plus polyester is no good.

The sari trim on this MAKES the garment, because it’s not a difficult pattern, and I know it like the back of my hand. I made adjustments for the sleeves since I was using a different bolt width, but that’s it. This is one of those demonstrations where embellishment can change everything. It elevated a simple tunic dress from “okay” to “WOW”, while creating no more labor for me had I used a commercially available trim. Work smarter, not harder. Though, one day, I’ll learn to embroider this well. I really want to learn, but time is not on my side at the moment.

All together on the dress form:

I made a fast maforion (veil) out of a semi-oval piece of the same silk I used on the propoloma. Some women in the manuscript have bands of color on them, some don’t, and it doesn’t seem consistent with the bands on the hat, so I left it plain for now. It took some creative pinning on my snood, but it worked. I’ll probably take a series of photos showing how I did it eventually, but I am so overwhelmed with schoolwork right now, updating my blog is not top priority, and I apologize.

Here’s the requisite goofy pics at Coronation. My sleeves were unevenly draped, which is killing my OCD, but the silhouette was there. Lord Brenden Crane took the professional shots in our populace “photo booth”.

Oh, that side-eye pic was intentional. Byzantine side-eye is period. Here’s a shot from the same manuscript. The empress does not seem pleased at the emperor and his new friend.


The Importance of Mantles in Middle Byzantine Fashion

This is a very short disorganized blurb, and I apologize, but I wanted to get some notes down from what I’m exploring as far as my thesis goes.

As I’ve mentioned previously, my master’s thesis is exploring the last will and testament of Kale Pakouriane from 1098. I’m going into her inventory and trying to reconstruct her life from her material culture. One thing that really sticks out is the amount of mantles she has.

There are three different words for “cloak” or “mantle” in her will: mandyas, which I’ve already written up as the semi-circle one last year. The sagion, which was evidently shorter, apparently knee-length versus ankle-length, this is something Parani points out in Reconstructing the Reality of Images, and then the one line where my translation was getting extremely confused because of words is a garment that was allegedly called the thalassa, or “sea”. It was another type of cloak, but according to Dawson in his article within Varieties of Experience, there’s only a few mentions of it in written history, namely De Cerimoniis, where Constantine Porphyrogennetos refers to it as a gift for royalty, and in Kale’s will. He’s not sure why it’s named this, but narrows it down to having to do with a particularly luxurious fabric that could vary from a specific shot silk from the Arabian peninsula, or a blue/green/gray dyed COTTON from Persia or Hindustan. We just don’t know, and may never know.What this does mean, however, is that it was particularly luxurious.

What this project has taught me so far was that these mantles were a way to show off wealth and probably protect your equally luxurious clothing. Kale had an impressive wardrobe. I just ordered the French translation of the will and the scans of the actual Greek document. $200 later. Academia is stupid.

I know this is going to raise a lot of questions, but I don’t have all the answers yet. Please be patient while I work on this. My mundane life and graduate degree must come before anything SCA. I just wanted to get this information out. These little nuances will greatly change how we should project ourselves in 11th Century Byzantine clothing.

Tonight’s post is being brought to you by the world “subtle,” and viewers like you.

I thought I would do something more fantastical for my 100th blog post, but no.

I’m sorry, I’m going a little thesis stir-crazy after a long day of frustrating research in three language, and I need to let my brain leak out of my ears a bit.

So here’s a self-portrait:


Fantastic updates will be coming soon! I just need to go through pages of handwritten OH GOD WHAT IS THAT and formulate a public post from it.

And for my next trick…

So I totally lied about doing updates over winter break. I am working on some sewing, but for the most part, I wanted to give my poor burned out brain some time to unwind after a particularly difficult semester.

Here’s a few important and interesting updates:

In June I will be relocating from the East Kingdom to the Kingdom of Caid. This will be a short-term relocation with an inevitable return to the East due to my husband’s naval career, but it will definitely affect my attendance at events to teach. I am planning on Pennsic this coming summer by flying into Pittsburgh, but I will NOT be at 50 Year. As much as I’d love to go, the timing with the move is making it impossible, and there is no way around this, as mundane life comes first.  However, I am looking forward to infiltrating, I mean, attending, new events on the West Coast for the short period of time we will be out there. I will know more about schedules and such after the move and once my own employment is sorted out. Right now the ultimate goal is to secure temporary work as adjunct faculty within the San Diego Community College District, but there is no guarantee I will be offered a teaching appointment. But this blog isn’t about mundane stuffs…

The cool news is that this is the semester of The Thesis:


For my final project of my master’s degree, I am exploring the material culture of the Last Will and Testament of Kale Pakouriane, an 11th Century patrikia who entered a convent upon being widowed. I will be making a selection of her things.


I have not settled on which things yet, her inventory was impressive and I have three months. The primary goal of the project, in addition to making things, is actually attempting a reconstruction of her life from this inventory. This obviously includes her wealth, but also tangible goods, why she made the bequests that she did, and how class structure affected her decisions to leave lower household members with significant inheritances from her estate. I’m very excited about this project, and the bulk of my upcoming posts will be regarding this. I’m considering making a mundane blog for it, but I need to go over requirements with my academic committee first to see what they recommend. Either way, anything posted on a separate page will be mirrored here for the benefit of the SCA. Once completed, I’m going to submit it for publication in the form of a Compleat Anachronist.

I also have a short research paper on the Perception of Women during the Ancient Greek periods that will be published on the East Kingdom Gazette this week. Once that goes live, I will re-press it here.

I hope everybody is having a splendid New Year so far, and I look forward to sharing my progress on this epic project!


“All I wanted was a cloak!” Part I: The research.

Really, that’s it. A cloak.

I mean, I have one, it’s a basic generic black wool with a lined hood and shoulder seams. I made it about 10 years ago and it’s still going strong. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s also not any particular period. Since I’ve been digging into Byzantine outerwear, I’m trying to discover what my persona would have worn, as well as other options in cloaking and coating for both men and women. It does snow in Constantinople, not a lot, but it does, as seen in this modern photograph of the Hagia Sophia from Wikipedia:

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire:

This is actually the balcony of my apartment after the 2nd snowstorm this month. Today we’re getting the 4th foot+ blast. I want to cry.

Outerwear is important, just as much then as it was now. I plan on keeping my first cloak for outside use when the weather is exceptionally foul, but to have one for nicer occasions outside in the cold or inside cold venues will help complete my look as a properly dressed 11th Century Eastern Roman woman.

This post serves as a cautionary tale into how looking for a simple garment can turn into a whirlwind of research that you didn’t expect. This is the method to my madness.

First I picked up the Byzantine cloak clasp offered by Raymond’s Quiet Press, you can buy your own by clicking on the pic.

In addition to some wool and trim, I had the materials necessary to get started.

I never intended on this to become any sort of research project, I just wanted a cloak. So a fast search on the internet came up first with what I always refer to as the paludamentum in Latin, or a chlamys in Greek, a male cloak fastened at one shoulder, such as in the mosaic of Justinian and his entourage at Ravenna, but the women in Theodora’s mosaic are wearing wrapped shawls,  EXCEPT for the Empress herself, who is also in a chlamys. I haven’t seen too many images from the 11th Century in which these are worn by anybody other than the imperials. It seemed to have evolved from daily wear of even lower office holders (for men!) into ceremonial dress for high court functions.  This theory is supported by Maria Parani in Reconstructing the Reality of Images: Byzantine Material Culture and Religious Iconography 11th-15th Centuries, which I was able to snag on interlibrary loan to begin preliminary research on my Master’s Thesis.

Michael VII Doukas wearing the chlamys, while his attendants wear mandyas, or front closed cloaks. From Coislin 79, f. 2r. Shown in Parani, page 11.

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.[1] So as tempting and shiny as the garment is, unless you are the queen of your SCA kingdom and it’s your coronation, or some extremely important court event, you probably should avoid wearing this garment. Even for men, if you’re middle period (10-12th century) Byzantine and not a king, I’d skip this. It’s just too presumptuous.

Moving away from this idea, there’s the paenula, which is the traditional Roman hooded cloak that dates from antiquity.

Image found in a search online with the search page Hedgy.com, but it would not load.


The only time you see this worn by a woman in any art is by the Virgin Mary and other ecclesiastical women in icons. Avoid this one too. Not only was it out of style pretty early on for both genders, and you wouldn’t want to commit the sin of wearing such an outdated fashion, but the Romans had a very high regard for their iconographic imagery, and this is another one of those things you should just avoid wearing.

Timothy Dawson argues that the practicality of such a garment would be useful, but evidence of its wear in period in scarce[2]. I agree with him here, though I assert that the reason for such scarcity would be the connection to the Virgin, and therefore making the garment a symbol of her own connection to the past. For women who wish to cover their heads in a simple, demure fashion both indoors and out, a veil or wrapped shawl/palla works just fine.

Moving away from the chlamys and paenula, the other option would be the half-circle cloak.

The same images on Dawson’s website over at Levantia.com.au are also in his article within the Varieties of Experience book cited above. So went to myself, “Oh look, there’s a cloak. Sold.”

Finally, a design that was easy and period, and above all, not being presumptuous in rank, all I really need. It’s not like I wanted to put in more research that I really needed for a cloak, but I do like to check the primary sources to get ideas for embellishments and the like. So Plate 10 in “Woman’s Dress in Byzantium” matches the same that he has on the page for “A Typical Middle Byzantine Outfit” here: http://www.levantia.com.au/clothing/reddress.html.[3] This is where my confusion set in. On his page, Dawson refers to this as a mantion, and cites a page from the 1839 edition of De Ceremoniis for the source on this. Fair enough.

I dig up the ebook on Google Books, and begin translating the ecclesiastical Latin of Reiske’s commentary on the page cited, and found that there was nothing of the sort there, in fact, it’s about pyrotechnics, Persians,  and contains a great deal of commentary on a primary source in Arabic. It is unclear from Dawson’s footnote if this is volume one or two, and since two is the only one I can ever find copies of, I went with that. Just to be sure, I searched the document on Google Books for the Greek spelling of mantion, μάντιον, as Dawson suggested on his page, and found nothing. So then turned back to “Women’s Dress in Byzantium” and found that his research was inconsistent in the section where he discussed cloaks and mantles on page 48. In the actual printed article, the word “mantion” isn’t even mentioned, and instead he uses “mandyas,” and supports this through several citations of manuscripts. The book may be a few years older than the webpage, which was last modified in November 2013 according to the page info, but I’m still not 100% sure on why Dawson changed the name between publications. If I can locate the correct supporting evidence in De Ceremoniis, I will know for sure. Until then, I’m chalking it up to a simple error in the footnote that is leaving the source vague. Parani supports the use of mandyas as the correct term.[4]

Now, a mandyas I know is the modern ecclesiastical cloak of the same cut. It’s basically a half circle ornamented in a variety of ways, draped over the shoulder and pinned in front. That’s it. The design is frankly, timeless.

I did some searching for Dawson’s cited manuscripts and couldn’t locate most of them online. This is a common hurdle, as not all libraries have been digitized yet, but fortunately for all of us in the future, they will be. Even the Vatican is digitizing their manuscript library. Even though my initial searches were fruitless, I did find some neat sources for future perusing. I did have some luck with the Menologion of Basil II, which does have its own Wikipedia page for those seeking instant gratification, and found a couple of images, including the empress in a chlamys and a sainted nun in a paenula. What I needed though was evidence of women of aristocratic status wearing it, and folio 98 delivered. Both Dawson and Parani cited this image, and Parani included it in her book.[5]

St. Melania the Younger from the Menologion of Basil II. To me it looks like she’s in a paenula.
Empress Theophano from the same manuscript. Notice how her chlamys is fastened on her right shoulder. A women wearing this in artwork signifies the empress.
Folio 98 of the Menologion of Basil II, featuring St. Palagia before and after she is called to God.

This image above shows both a saint and a laywoman. The haloed saint Palagia wears the hooded paenula, while the woman in the middle, whom I’m assuming is Palagia repenting her sins before converting and devoting her life to God, is secular dress, and, tada! Wearing a mandyas.

Another image that supports the wearing of this style of mantle is one that I’ve previously shown during my research of the propoloma are the donor frescoes of Irene Gabras, and Anna Radene in its full form. The one of Radene shows the traditional thick trim outside, as well as an elaborate lining  behind the magnificently large sleeves of her red 12th Century delmatikion.

Irene Gabras, image borrowed from 1186-583.org.
Anna Radene from the church of Sts. Anargyroi in Kastoria, Macedonia. Image found on Surprisedbytime.blogspot.com, but the church also has a smaller image here: http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr/HellenicMacedonia/en/img_C252a.html


These three sources span the period from 1000-1180, so it’s safe to say that this garment was very much in style for probably a fair portion of the 10th Century, the duration of the entire 11th Century and into the 12th. All three are featured within Parani’s book.[6] Since my persona is a woman who could have served as a zoste patrikia such as the likes of Radene, it is safe to assume that wearing the mandyas in her style would not be presumptuous, and therefore the route I should take.

Now, I have already been asked, “What makes a mandyas different from a chlamys?”

This is a good question.

Both historians I have cited, primarily Parani as she has focused on the differences in both imperial and aristocratic dress, agree that the chlamys is absolutely imperial only. Descriptions lead me to believe that the broaching at the right shoulder, as well as the addition of the traditional ornamented panel, the tablion, are the single most important things one needs to pay attention to when making cloaks for  themselves.[7] It was extremely ornate, and not practical in any sense of the word for wearing outside of high court ceremonies.[8] So in theory, this thing was probably so heavily laden down with jewels and metals that not only was it out of the price range of anything but the imperial family, but also its sheer weight was probably enough to keep the wearers indoors. I also believe that since the Roman paludamentum, which is essentially the same garment as the Byzantine chlamys, was trapezoidal (think rectangle with the two bottom corners cut off) and not semi-circular, that the imperials would have preferred to maintain the ancient shape, versus the easier to cut and trim half-circle counterpart.[9]

Note: If you see an icon of an angel or saint wearing a chlamys, remember that these figures are often in imperial ceremonial dress, as that is to be expected of all divine beings.

Here are patterns I just cooked up to give a better understanding:



As for how these can be embellished, if Anna Radene is any indication, the aristocracy did not slouch when it came to blinging their accoutrements. In Dawson’s article, he discusses the will of an aristocratic lady by the name of Kale Pakouriane in which she discusses her clothing items, including heavily embellished mandyai with silk, pearls, and gold bands.[10] Parani brings up this same document for different reasons, so now it’s on my “MUST FIND” list, so that I too, can get a glimpse into the belongings of a high ranking lady of this period.


Anyways, I’m cooked. This just goes to show you how much you can find about one garment in just 2 monographs and an afternoon to kill looking for images and writing a blog post. I will be planning and making my own mandyas this week.


….all I wanted was a cloak. Seriously.

But at least I didn’t want a Pepsi.

If you don’t get this, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoF_a0-7xVQ



Bibliography (image sources cited within text):

Constantine Porphyrogénnētos, De Cerimoniis aulae Byzantinae libri duo. London: Oxford. 1830.

Dawson, Timothy. “Propriety, Practicality, and Pleasure: The Parameters of Women’s Dress in Byzantium, A. D. 1000-1200.” In Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience AD 800-1200, edited by Lynda Garland. Hampshire; Burlington: Ashgate, 2006.

Goldman, Norma. “Reconstructing Roman Clothing.” in The World of Roman Costume. Edited by. Judith Lynn Sebesta and Larissa Bonfante. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.

Parani, Maria. Reconstructing the Reality of Images: Byzantine Material Culture and Religious Iconography 11th-15th Centuries. Leiden;Boston: Brill, 2003.


[1] Maria Parani, Reconstructing the Reality of Images: Byzantine Material Culture and Religious Iconography 11th-15th Centuries, (Leiden;Boston: Brill, 2003.) 17-18.

[2] Timothy Dawson, “Propriety, Practicality, and Pleasure: The Parameters of Women’s Dress in Byzantium, A. D. 1000-1200.” In Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience AD 800-1200, ed. Lynda Garland, (Hampshire; Burlington: Ashgate, 2006.) 48.

[3] Dawson, “Woman’s Dress in Byzantium,” 73.

[4] Parani, 73. Here she’s citing the will of Kale Pakouriane, a lady of the middle Byzantine period who discusses clothing in her will. She also discusses it as being an alternative garment worn by the Emperor on pages 16 and 17.

[5] Parani, plate 80. Vat. Gr. 1613, f. 98 depicting St. Pelagia the Harlot

[6] Ibid, plates 80, 81, 84.

[7] Dawson, 49.

[8] Parani, 12.

[9] Norma Goldman, “Reconstructing Roman Clothing,” in The World of Roman Costume, ed. Judith Lynn Sebesta and Larissa Bonfante, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.) 233.

[10] Dawson, 49.