Sorry about the delay in getting this last piece up. I relocated from Trimaris to Atlantia for yet another military PCS, and we’re still trying to decompress having done this just before the Holidays.
The morning of my elevation, still weary from my vigil, I got up relatively early with a plan. As my area of SCA focus isn’t just Byzantium, I felt the need to go back a thousand years and change to pay homage to the old gods in a way that would best suit them, and myself.
I chose October 17th for a reason, it is the Festival of the Khalkeia in the Hellenic faith. It honored both Athena and Hephastus as gods of art and crafts, so it seemed fitting to pour a libation to both of them. But, because of the nature of my husband’s very mobile career choice and our upcoming move from Trimaris to Atlantia, I new better than to make Poseidon jealous.
So I got dressed in one of my archaic chitons I wasn’t afraid to get a little salty, put on the Roman glass necklace I had made a few days before, a reproduction Hellenistic bracelet with dolphins, and a Greek perfume made by Lady Dugu in Northshield. I poured off the last of my hibiscus mead, a fan favorite, into a terracotta amphora, and made Jeff drive me to the beach on base at Mayport where I knew it would be less crowded than a public beach a few blocks south.
It was cool, and windy, and the people there didn’t seem to care that a crazy lady wearing a Greek dress showed up on the sand. Children were playing with their dogs in the surf as the parents watched them cautiously from the shoreline with their morning coffee. We picked a spot close enough to the mouth of the St. Johns River and the major waterway in/off base and Jacksonville as a whole, so that the surfers weren’t nearby. It was quiet for the most part, save the giggles of children and the roar of the waves.
So I dropped my shawl, took my hair down, grabbed the amphora, and walked right into the Atlantic Ocean up to my calves. It was there that I poured my offering to the ancient gods of art, crafts, war, and the sea.
I did get a bit photobombed by a large shipper coming out of the channel, but Jeff did what he could to avoid it for the most part. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better setting to pull this off.
I did upload a few short videos on collars and facings last month, as well as my silly dance offs for the #SCAathome fun. I also edited the Trimaris “Margaritaville” video, which you can find on the official Trimaris Youtube Page.
Wanna see my ridiculousness in action? Here you go:
As of this point, I am taking a step back from the SCA for a duration of time yet to be determined. I will still show up at some events, but current politics, coupled with exhaustion due to drama and other issues has driven me out.
I am happy to continue to field questions and will be actively monitoring my site until I feel fit to return to my research for the society’s purpose. Until then, I am going to be focusing on my mundane research for upcoming conferences, and consider moving forward with my PhD.
I live in Trimaris. It is summer. This post is a little punchy.
I swear, when I lived here 15 years ago, it wasn’t as hot. Granted, I was younger, I had grown up here, and I endured the summers because we were thrown out of the house over school break lest my parents go insane. Jumping Jeebus, it’s hot out right now. I know the Jacksonville area, where I am, can get hotter than the Tampa Bay area, where I grew up, because of the way the breeze crosses the state, BUT STILL!
Don’t get me wrong, Caid was hot. But most events weren’t awful. You could catch a breeze in the shade, and, of course, Southern California is a dry heat. Not that a good Santa Ana Wind didn’t turn you into a raisin, or anything, but your sweat served its purpose and evaporated. There is no such thing as a dry anything ever in Florida. Be it a heat, or a cold. Swamp-ass is the state’s actual unofficial pastime, not to be confused with bad news stories being released on the internet because of the state’s freedom of information act. Moist. Moist is the vocabulary word of this Uncle, Lord Samuel’s Naval Tour Post, and there is no way in heaven or hell that any of my Sartor silks or full on Byzantine anything ever is going outdoors into that schweaty abyss.
So, I have Roman. Roman is good. I only have a full bulbous Roman linen outfits after a recent garb purge, and decided I wanted to be pretty, and converted a lot to the cotton sari trend, which was great in non-schweaty Caid. I wore an ultralight set, composed of two thin cotton saris, one day at Pennsic 2 weeks ago (we had an exceptionally…swamp-assy war) and it stuck to every…crevice…on…my…body…that…could…pool…moisture. YUCK!!! Oh cotton, no! The elegance of the drape was lost when it just adhered itself to my bits. That got pulled off of my body in a hurry and replaced with one of my linen “war tubes” as I call them. Literally, just a one seam tube that I made at war one year that I can pin once on each shoulder for a Bronze Age look. These are often called bog dresses.
Somehow, my brain knew it was going to be a hot war, and decided weeks in advance that I was going to sew up slimmer-fitting chitons in more of an Archaic Greek look, versus the draped fullness you see in later artwork. I kept the embellishment simple, and even sewed most of the tops closed for ease of wear. I don’t think I really want to wear my full Roman dresses ever again.
“Archaic Greek?” You may ask, unsure of what I mean.
So, true story, most of my formal education is in Ancient Greek and Roman History and the Classics, versus Medieval History. We didn’t have any real Byzantine History classes, so I had to sort of do my own independent work in that regard in connection to other courses. Understanding Greek and Roman history is vital to Byzantium anyway, and the Middle Ages for that matter, but yeah, there’s my big secret, I’m not much of a Medievalist at all, I’m a Classicist. You may now ring the shame bell.
So, back to Greece. There are multiple periods of Ancient History, just as we have multiple periods anywhere else. For Greece, it was the Bronze Age, Dark Age/Geometric, Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods.
The Archaic Age (pretty much the 7th-6th-5th centuries BC) is basically when a lot of what we know of as “Ancient Greece” begins to take shape. This is when Homer composed the Iliad and the Odyssey, when Sappho lived, and when sculpture started to make an appearance.
And now, a crash course in art history!
The pivotal sculpture forms of the Archaic Age are the Kouros and Kore statues, or “young man” and “young woman” respectively. There is some speculation on who they represent, but the general idea seems to be Apollo or Dionysus for the Kouros, and Persephone for the Kore. Or, nobody in particular after all. Kouros is almost always stark nekkid, while Kore has been draped with a variety of garments. The style was pretty much lifted directly from Egypt, and predated the more common contraposto-style statues you see from the late Classical period.
Thanks to the miracles of modern science, we’ve been able to really get an idea of what colors the statues were painted, and boy oh boy, are they a treat to the eyes.
When I was still out in California, The Norman and I went to San Francisco for a weekend, and I was able to catch the “Gods in Color” exhibition at the Legion of Honor. The exhibition, which started in Germany, I think, is a collection of reproduction Greek and Roman statues that have been painted to match their original, or experimental, colors. I may have cried a little (out of joy, mind you, again, this is my area of study), and took pictures of every single object in the show, while poor Jeff followed me around with raised eyebrows and bewilderment at why the Persians were wearing what appeared to be Lularoe leggings. (All photos from the exhibition are my own.)
Or why this Kouros had some circa 1999 nipple tats going on. It’s like he listened to Godsmack in high school and made a bad life choice. (I swear, I am actually an adult, and not 12. It’s probably an interpretation of Apollo. Really. Now you know archaic nipple tats are a thing. In actuality, it has to do with the concept of ephebeia, or the adolescent male, in Greek society, but I’m keeping that off of my blog for my own sanity. Anybody interested in it as a scholarly discussion is welcome to contact me by email.)
But what I was really there for were the interpretations of Peplos Kore, and the colored version of Chios Kore. Happy nerd girl tears, again. I threw in images of the Phrasikleia Kore in here for added dweebery and inspiration.
The colors! The trim! Sure, most of it is allegorical to the goddess or person they are portraying and not actually indicative of patterns worn by actual people, but, the options for fun for hot weather garb! I would avoid wearing all of the lotuses that Phrasikleia Kore has on her, only because it’s a funeral stele and they’re symbolic of the afterlife, but the fit of her chiton got me thinking that there is no need to be swimming in fabric. Contrast her to the draped layers on the Chios Kore, means that there were possibly options, and not just limited to the skill of the sculptor, noted by the folds at the bottom of Phrasikleia Kore’s chiton.
Inspired by this fit, and bored with a stack of fabric at my parents’ house when house-sitting back in June. I decided to make a slimmer fitting chiton by taking 2 yards of 58″ wide linen, folded the short way. I determined that I could do this with less than 2 yards for my figure at this width. I know that not all women are created equal, so I apologize if this particular hack doesn’t work for you, but the style is still doable. For me, I found that I could go about 32″ per front and back panel and still have plenty of ease with my 42″ bust and even wider hips. This is a heck of a lot cheaper and less cumbersome than one of my 4-yard Roman style chitoi/tunicae interior.
I threw some trim on the top and bottom, and added a slit to one side seam for walking ease, and thus, my “archaic” chiton was born. Half the fabric as a Roman one, and still a flattering fit.
I sewed the top of the first one, instead of adding buttons or pins, and this allowed me to wear a real bra at Pennsic, instead of a tube bra, which relieved some of the uncomfortable under-the-boob sweat that women are subjected to. I lived in this thing at war.
So I made more! The black was inspired by some Romano-Egypt fayum portraits with the addition of the clavii (note that Romano-Egyptian garments were MUCH wider), and the yellow was straight out of the yellow Peplos Kore above. The trim is vintage sari trim I got from Ebay. Perfect! (The black has alligators. Because!)
The yellow I had some fit issues with. The trim made it stiff, and it wasn’t as flattering, even with my parents’ cat Mary Jane lending her assistance. So when I got back to my house, I added heavy brass buttons to the sleeves, and BOOM! A completed look and a smoother fit. I wore this one with a red himation/palla to the Courtesan Bacchanal at Pennsic.
For the finale, I ended up making one out of wool I had just laying around. Check out this draping! It looks SO PERIOD in contrast to linen! (I don’t have a full length mirror in my current apartment. So you get the Soviet selection of my propaganda collection instead and some curing silk banners.) I did try wearing it at Pennsic. Once. While it breathed well, and totally wicked the moisture off of my skin, the sun hitting it was too much for my modern sensibilities, so I went back to the linen. I do need to wear linen against my skin UNDER the wool next time (this is a nice basketweave that doesn’t itch or scratch) for a more accurate interpretation and perhaps less of a chance of being baked alive.
So, before you all run off to try this, I want to make a disclaimer, while I called this my Archaic Chiton, I’m only doing so because of the slimmer fit. In Greece, they sewed no seams. Everything was wrapped, pinned, and belted. I do not, and never will, have the huevos to pull that off.
Here is a drawing of my measurements, and basically how I did it, for those that want to try the slimmer look, as well.
For my next trick, I may actually attempt a full archaic look with those crazy colors and embellishment. Let’s see if I actually get around to it.
Sorry this took a bit, I was hoping to get a few more, but this is a good start.
I think I did myself, and everybody, a great disservice by saying I would help with general medieval information. I sat here and derped pretty hard, so, for future questions, please keep them limited to Roman/Byzantine only for my own sanity, and for the sake of the querents getting a decent answer. Questions can be sent to syrakousina -at- gmail.com. (remember to remove -at- and replace with @, no spaces.)
Libby: Do you know of a survey of band weaving finds from 13th century and earlier?
I’m afraid I do not. Since I don’t weave more than an inkle band here and there, it’s just not something I look for. If somebody else sees this, hopefully they can chime in down in the comments to get you where you need to go. You honestly will have better luck in a weaving group on Facebook than I can find you in 3 minutes of google searching.
Nicola: I am a fan of your blog and enjoy seeing your research and the work you do for your SCA persona and the community as a whole. I’m a LARPer over in the UK and was wondering how you keep the veils and layers of headdresses in place. The persona I’m currently playing is from medieval times but practical hints and tips would be very interesting to read about, if you’re willing to write about something a little more off topic.
You need to use bands, and pin the veil to the band. This is a period method, and you can really impress your LARPer friends. I’ve used this guide now for years: http://www.virtue.to/articles/veils.html Now, I’ve made some adjustment since my hair was so short for years, but now I’m growing it out. I’ve found that in a pinch when my hair was in a pixie cut, white cotton headbands you can buy at the drugstore do the job since they really aren’t going to slide anywhere. Now that I have shoulder-length hair, I cap it up first. You can see it a bit here with my 11th Century veil. The cap beneath my veil holds back all of my hair, and then the silk veil is pinned over it, allowing my coronet to just sit on top and not have to be shoved onto my head, or cause more weight. The gentlewoman to my right in the veil is also wearing a cap beneath hers, and you can see the pins better.
Dyonisia: So I have been fascinated with hoods for a while now. I make them and end up giving them away. But i also want to get research information on them. My focus is from 1000-1600. I also am looking for any embroidery that are on those hoods. Any help would be wonderful.
I am also interested in shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. Looking at what was shipped and where they were going. I am looking at 1200-1600. Any resources ect. would help.
This is a really really REALLY broad topic that I feel could benefit from narrowing down into a specific time and place so you aren’t overwhelmed. Fashion changes a lot over the span of 500 years, and since you did not give a location, I’m going to tell you what I know regarding my area of expertise. I recommend breaking down your project and focusing on one hood from one place at a time, otherwise, you’re going to be overwhelmed and find nothing.
Disclaimer: I’m not an embroiderer, and as far as my personal scope of research goes, you won’t find much at least in the Byzantine area. They were more into woven designs that were appliqued on. As far as if this applied to hoods, I’m not sure. The Byzantines were not “hood wearers” like you see in the western part of the continent. The one hooded garment that you see commonly is called a “paenula”, a very simple hooded poncho that goes back to Roman times. After the 6th Century, you don’t see it too much outside of iconographic interpretation, which makes me think that maybe it fell out of style in the cosmopolitan areas during the early centuries, but maintained part of the traditional imagery we still have today. The climate in the Eastern Mediterranean is different than say, France, so hooded garments seemed to be pushed to the wayside for turbans, veils, and other headwear. Seeing gold work on turbans was common. The type of design is referred to as “grammata” in the original Greek, so basically golden letters, possibly pseudo-Kufic script. Of course, paenulae may have still been used in the countryside as a functional garment, but most depictions of working class Byzantines show little to no embellishment. Who the heck wants to clean mud off of expensive, time-consuming embroidery?
On the subject of your interest in shipping, again, you need to narrow this down. You have a 400-year timespan, and no specific culture or ports in mind. From 1200-1400, the crusades dominated the Eastern Mediterranean as well, with the Fourth Crusade wrecking the commerce of the Byzantine Empire for the remainder of its existence.
I do love your enthusiasm, but let me give you some helpful research tips to make your massive interests work a bit smoother in your favor. I feel like you really don’t know where to start, which is why you’ve asked me such broad questions, and that’s okay, we all have humble beginnings.
A good rule of thumb is: if your Google search isn’t coming back with anything, narrow it down until it does. “Medieval hoods 1000-1600” is going to probably give you a Pinterest, while “extant medieval hood” is going to give you images of stuff that is still around from museum databases. “Hoods worn in medieval France” is going to give you better answers. Head right to the Met or British Museum websites and look up their collections, they’re here to help! Same with your interest in shipping. This is where getting into the fun journal databases will be a huge advantage. You can even pop over to JSTOR and put in some search terms. I found this article first shot just typing in “medieval Mediterranean shipping”: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt1kgqt6m Chances are, you have friends with JSTOR or library access that can help you get the material. If this is something you really want to focus on, it may be worthwhile to invest in an account. Who knows, you could end up getting enough material to write your own Compleat Anachronist! Good luck!
Marc: I found your blog via a search on Byzantine costuming – and noted that you’re up to answering questions about same.
Well, I have a perhaps atypical one: I’m finishing in the details of a story set in early 14th Century Trebizond, and I haven’t been able to put together visually a wedding dress for one of the legendary Trapezuntine princesses. I have some vague piecemeal ideas, shoulder panels covered with pearls, etc. and I can draw a little from Pisanello’s St. George and the Princess of Trebizond, but I really can’t imagine what a wedding gown at that level of Byzantine society would look like – particularly the colors.
So, while I’m taking a short break from heavy SCA sewing and research, I want everybody to help me keep my brain ticking.
Every week, or however often I get questions, I’m going to have a question/answer column here on my blog. Feel free to ask me anything about Roman and Byzantine history, textiles, clothing, etc, and I’ll give you a complete answer, or as complete as I can, with citations to send you on your way. General ancient and medieval history questions can also be fielded if you’re looking for something more broad.
If this gets busy, I don’t know how many questions I’ll be able to answer, but I’ll do my best to make sure that everybody is covered.
We always see them: the funky printed cottons in the stores. Sometimes we can’t resist, and then we wonder why the heck we bought it in the first place. Clearly, you can’t make garb out of silly prints!
Or can you?
This summer, I had a weird awakening. It’s no secret to my readers and friends that I’ve pretty much busted my rump this last year on research in Byzantine dress. From investing the money in Sartor fabrics to finding some of the best linens and trims I could to make a splash dropping my 12th Century side-eye skills, and spending 4 months on a master’s thesis where I dug into an 11th century will, I sort of put on a display this year like some swaggering Byzantine peacock (Byzancock? Argh, no, bad term, there.) It worked, and I’m exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of new exciting things out there waiting for me to sew, like my upcoming foray into Sassanian Persian for my husband and I, only because I hate money and I dropped it like it was on fire at Sartor while at Pennsic.
I am no longer in school, and working freelance back in the graphic novel industry, so yeah, I have the time to play with sewing again. Sassanian will be fun, it’s something I’ve wanted to examine for a while as a predecessor to my period’s Silk Road fashion. Plus, I think there are cool hats involved.
I digress, we came here to talk about fun garb, not Anna and Gieffrei’s soon-to-exist “you spent HOW MUCH on that silk?” Sassanian Persian with dorfy hats. Fun garb. How’s this?
Yes. I did.
Go ahead, clutch your pearls, get a shot of bourbon, whatever it takes. I made this garb. And I wore it too. At Pennsic for a party. Yep.
A lot of my friends think that I have this over-the-top obsession with flamingos. In fact, I really don’t. I just love tacky lawn flamingos. Now, Mistress Vibeke Steensdottir back in the East Kingdom? Now SHE’S the awesome flamingo maven, complete with flamingo wing heraldry. She was the first person I know to document flamingos in period, so really if anybody deserves the credit for flamingo adoration, it’s her, not me.
I own pink lawn flamingos because I bought them for holiday decorations. I got mad at my former apartment complex for having stingy rules about decor and “religious” exemptions, and went a little nuts. They also look hilarious in snowbanks.
But anyways, yes. The short story is that the flamingo fabric magically appeared in my shopping cart at Joann’s during a sale event on red tag materials and then it came home with me. My initial intent was not garb, even though I joked about it online. It was going to be curtains or a sundress, or something festive to add to my Flamingomas decor. I mean, it’s a printed cotton twill. It would make crappy garb, and probably get me some sneers if I did it anyway.
Fast forward, I graduate, I move across the country, I’m unpacking my fabric onto my shelves, and I see those flamingos staring right back up at me. And that’s when I remembered something.
Let’s take a closer look:
Two out of three women in this section are wearing gowns with some form of obvious waterfowl, probably geese or ducks, maybe even in a way for the artists to mock Theodora and her former profession, but it’s pretty clear. So yeah, waterfowl on Byzantine garb, check.
But seriously, flamingos?
Now, I’ve seen this thing in person at the Cloisters. Those birds are screaming pink. Yes, they have green ones facing them, but that pink is deliberate. Sure it says swans or herons, but you know, we all know. Who makes deliberate acid-pink birds on a chasuble and wants us to think “swan”? Okay, that’s a stretch. I know.
Want even more of a stretch? You’re probably wondering how I justified having a cotton tunic? A printed one at that. Well, recent research has let me to uncover a booming cotton industry in Anatolia, but also, that printed cotton fabrics were coming out of Persia during the Middle Ages. Like this example from the 11th Century.
So basically, what I just did was stunt document a 6th Century flamingo dalmatica by using objects from the 6th, 11th, and 15th Centuries from 3 different cultures. It’s not something that will pass an A&S competition, so please don’t try this and tell your judges I said it was okay, but it was a way for me to appease my accuracy-brain for the sake of fun. We do this for fun, and it’s still okay to have fun.
Now, don’t go making yourself a closet of these things and brag that my blog told you it was okay. Make one. Wear it to a party or to a silly garb event. See if you can document some shapes and techniques and turn it into a conversation piece, which is basically what I did with mine.
“Hey, did you know that printed cotton is period? This tunic is silly, but let me tell you about this fragment I found while doing research…” Seriously, it sparked some great interest in printed textiles, which is already a growing trend in the SCA. So, why not see what direction a goofy idea can take you for your next big project?
On another note.
Speaking of authenticity brain…
The funny thing is that why I was planning the Fowl Dalmatica (yes, that’s what I call it), a bunch of friends were checking out Duchess Aikaterine’s tutorial on Youtube on how to make a Roman stola out of a sari.
I’ve had this love/hate relationship with saris being used for Roman garb for the longest time. I love it because it looks amazing. It’s beautiful, it’s exotic, it looks decadent and exactly what a Roman woman would have loved. I hated them only because they weren’t period and refused to make one for myself. Which is kind of a stupid reason, considering I made Jeff and I’s Babylonian garb out of vintage saris, so I’m really a big fat hypocrite who got stuck in the authenticity brain pool, swimming in circles, versus letting myself have fun.
…So I did it. I regret nothing and I want to make more. Plus, her draping technique for the stola is way better than my pinched in neckline, and the front/back seams versus side seams may just make more sense.
I will say that it definitely doesn’t work as well with linen unless it’s a thin, hankie weight linen. I made one of a 5oz linen and it just didn’t…manifest at the shoulders like the cotton and the 3.5oz linen did. So keep that in mind should you try this pattern. I’m going to try again with that fine pink linen I just got in from Sartor (see above) since it’s rather sheer. It would make a lovely stola, and I do need to start dressing like I’m married more often.
The only real downside to wearing the thin sari cotton is that it’s clingy, so I’m not sure how well it would do as a chiton underneath. I picked up some more vintage saris from eBay to try, as well as a couple of real silk ones at Pennsic (by the way, if you bought the 4 for $100 silk sari deal at Pennsic, better burn test a swatch, I got 2 real silk ones, a totally poly one, which I knew and bought really only for craft purposes, and a nice art silk one that melted to the plate when I burned it, so yeah. Check your purchases.) DO NOT MAKE THIS OUT OF ART SILK. Art silk is not “real” silk, it’s short for artificial silk, and is usually a poly rayon blend. You will boil alive. Granted, in real silk you’ll boil too, so, pick your poison. I’m not sure if the Romans had access to cotton, even though it was being cultivated in Egypt and Persia pretty early, but it’s a far better option than dead dinosaur.
I’m going to be making some more lightweight Roman and Byzantine (which I’m calling the Byzanlite) for regular wear here in Caid. My garb arsenal was just not originally designed for events at 110F, but hey, for when we get a cold front in February, I guess I’m set.
So, the moral of this story is don’t be afraid to shake off the stuffiness once in a while, and remember we do this for fun.
…Not that I don’t think hours on International Medieval Bibliography and making interlibrary loan requests isn’t still fun, mind you.
I managed to get back to the Met last month, and spend a whopping six hours there, never getting off the first floor. Again. Well, except for the Roman study rooms, but I digress. They have a really neat exhibit right now under the stairs in the Jaharis vault (where my favorite tunic was) that shows off some very cool painted liturgical linens from the late Roman/early Byzantine Egyptian period.
I’m going to start trying the technique, as it doesn’t look too daunting, it’s just egg tempera on linen, either pure white or dyed indigo. I figure if I can frame the fabric in an embroidery apparatus, it should work. As far as I know, the fabric wasn’t sized or gessoed prior to painting, at least it didn’t seem that way, so this could turn into a big mess. Should I succeed, I see a very nifty, period way to display heraldry indoors.
I finally got a chance to go back to the MFA yesterday and see Juno with a head on. When they acquired her in 2012, she was decapitated and needed a nose job.
When I went last year in 2014, she was blocked off because of a special event. So yesterday, finally yesterday, I got to take in her entire massive splendor, which I must admit, makes you want to drop to your knees in worship just because of her sheer size. This also meant that I finally got a chance to analyze what’s going on with her layers.
All photos were taken by me with my phone at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. They can all be blown up to a larger size by clicking on them.
Before we get to the knitty gritty, here’s all the pictures I took of her. Isn’t she magnificent?
And now we get to talk about what we’re looking at. That’s a peplos over a chiton. (Remember, here at Anna’s Rome, we use the Greek terms for Roman clothing to better determine the difference between the two garments. For more information, please visit my Ancient Roman Garb page.) Now, my observation of this from 2012 apparently sent some folks into a minor tizzy on the internet, because that is what the internet is for. Clearly I meant stola, clearly I was wrong. Clearly I didn’t know what I was talking about.
THAT. IS. A. PEPLOS. OVER. A. CHITON. With the left shoulder unpinned and rolled down to reveal her breast, and the right side left unsewn to add to the really detailed open drapery the sculptor had a field day with.
The stola had its golden age in the Republic. This statue, at least the body of the statue, is dated to the 1st Century BC. (The head was a later addition in the 2nd Century AD.) So you’re looking at the early Empire. Now, some women did continue to wear the stola well into the Empire, it was popular in the Flavian court, which may have been more conservative than the Julio-Claudians. The concept of fashion and trends was just as alive then as it is today. But what this does is provide women with an alternative to the frumpy blimpy stola that allows them to maintain the modesty expected of a matron while being more mobile and less confined to layers upon layers of cumbersome material. (More info on stola can be found above in Ancient Roman Garb page.)
Now, sculpture always interprets the ideal, not the real. Gods and Goddesses will always be the ideal, no matter what, but it’s worth noting the way the material drapes against her body and allows for some clingy sexiness. This cannot be achieved with today’s linen. My assumption is that we’re looking at some really REALLY fine tropical weight wool gauze, which I HAVE seen occasionally at a premium, but that’s what was worn more often than linen. It was more colorfast and easier to weave versus the smelly process of retting and laundering flax. It also would have felt nicer against the skin than wool does today.
So let’s take a closer look, care of Photoshop and some bad transparent painting.
Now you can really see the separation of the layers from the front, which is where the sculptor would have paid the most attention to detail. The peplum (flappy bit) is clearly visible, and unlike a stola, the garment is shorter, and reveals the chiton underneath, rather than reaching to the floor and touching the wearer’s instep such as her chiton does. There is no visible sign of belting but one tassel on the side (we’ll get to that in a second.)
At first, I thought she was wearing a rolled palla or something over her shoulder, but now that I’ve been able to really circle the entire sculpture 17 times before my husband dragged me out of the gallery, it’s clear that it’s only pinned on her right shoulder, and that the garment is rolled down. The only idea I have regarding this is to pay attention to Juno’s sexuality. I’ve been mulling over the idea that the peplos as a sole garment with no under layer is the mark of a virgin, you see this with statuary of Athena/Minerva and Artemis/Diana. In this case, Juno (Hera) is the Queen of the Gods, she has children, and a sexual relationship with her husband, Jupiter (Zeus.) The peplos revealing the breast in such a manner could better facilitate breast feeding, but it also goes, “Hey, yeah I’m modest and married, but I’m still desireable.” As on the other side of the modesty spectrum, Aphrodite/Venus is often shown just wearing a chiton that is usually falling off, or nothing at all. So this bridges the rigid virginal appearance of some goddesses with the hypersexualized appearance of other. You have a modest, married woman, who has nursed her children, and is still revered as a mother to her worshipers. Juno herself had many, many roles as a Roman Goddess, ranging from being Queen of the Gods, a patron of Rome in the Capitoline Trio, an image of war, motherhood, childbirth, creation, etc. There’s no really good way to nail her down, so it would depend on the local cult. The provenance of this statue seemed shaky on the placard, but one could assume that in the particular shrine this sculpture was carved for, her motherhood and patron of childbirth probably took precedence, just because of the attention given to one breast, and her lack of armaments.
Here’s the side views. As you can see, little attention was given to her back, or pieces were sheered off to make way for a mounting mechanism at one point in time. I do want to pay attention to the open sides of the peplos in the first image. Traditionally, this garment was belted and overlapped to help conceal the body. Romans were more modest than Greeks in that regard, and they probably would have sewn it shut. This is left open and unbelted. There is one small tassel visible in that same image that shows the open side, which could be reference to an open girdle, or something hanging from the top. (I really couldn’t see. She’s tall!) In the case of the girdle being left open, that really lends to sexualization of the statue. The visible tassel likely belongs to the girdle of her chiton peeking out from the side of the open peplos, which would make sense, because her sleeves are nice and taut, signifying the garment being pulled against the body.
Overall, this style is pretty unique and the placard doesn’t state either way. It does pay attention to the open side of what they refer to as her mantle, *grumble*, but that’s really it. There’s only so much you can put down before people get bored at museums, anyway, unless you’re me, and you go, “BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT!” But I don’t work there. That’s what.
What I do really love though, is the amazing detail the sculptor gave to the sleeve treatments on the chiton in the last image that focuses on her left side. Those look like cloth buttons, rather than metal, and they’re a pretty good size in comparison to her dress. Which gives us reenactors and re-creators more ideas on how to embellish our garments. They also don’t go all the way to the neck, and just stay on the upper arm. Curiouser, and curiouser!
For those of us who want to emulate this look, I would advise against the one-shouldered thing. Leave that to the goddess, as that would not have been very proper for a Roman matron to wear, even in the house (unless you’re breastfeeding of course, when having functional buttons on the chiton is also a fantastic solution.) Other than that, now that we have concrete (eh, marble?) evidence of a peplos being worn in lieu of a stola for a Roman matron, the days of wearing eight yards of fabric over another four are over for women who actually like walking around events without tripping on their garb.
We’re always so quick to forget that fashion has been a phenomenon for thousands of years. Women just didn’t wear one or two style dresses. They wore what was in style, they wore what was popular in other places and made it work for them. I’m a firm believer that the clothing of Roman women was pretty limitless. They were essentially the original divas.
This is a public gallery on Facebook by Ratna Drost, who is a researcher and reenactor at the Archeon museum in the Netherlands. It’s a collection of her interpretation of provincial (Think Gaul and Belgica) clothing, with some great cold weather options for those of us who live in the Frozen Tundra. I’ve been pretty good about sticking with my Byzantine lately, but some of these looks are totally inspiring.
I hope these images help those looking for alternatives to the traditional peplos and chiton looks. I would recommend sending questions to Ms. Drost herself. This is not my work, I just wanted to share this great collection!