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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“It’s 1183 and we’re barbarians!” The William Marshal Tournament @ Pennsic

This post serves as a boost and a brag.

This year, the William Marshal Tournament at Pennsic War will be held on Monday of War Week, at the fort, from 5-7pm.  This is correct on the Pennsic website, but NOT in the printed book. Please be advised of this error should you wish to compete or watch.

The tournament has a late 12th Century Anglo-Norman theme,  think the reign of the three Angevin Kings: Henry II, Richard I the Lionheart, and John, with guidelines of participation having an accurate armor kit to this date. There are a few different scenarios that will be fought, including a ransom bout. All battles are melee, as was period for the 12th Century, versus one-on-one like a later period deed of arms.

The Norman husband will be fighting for my honor, and I have been working to make us garb and accouterments to fit in within the period, as our personae are roughly a century earlier. This is 90% because Eleanor of Aquitaine is a hero of mine. ❤

Please come out and support us, as well as the other combatants, at the CORRECT time and place listed above!

A quick favor to ask…

So I’m currently in the lead over at Fabrics-store.com’s Reenactment and Costume Contest, which is sort of funny, because I had to get my arm twisted to enter anyway. It’s even funnier than it’s our Norman garb, but I digress, I could use some votes to stay on top!

It’s simple! Just make an account (free!) and vote once every 24 hours for the next 2 days. The store doesn’t spam you with emails, and you can toggle that once you have an account. I would also appreciate a share or two on social media if you can spare the milliseconds and bandwidth.

The link is here:
http://www.fabrics-store.com/thestudio/index.php?r=photo/detailedPhoto&contest_id=10114&id=3116

And this is our hotness:

Thanks!

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.

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Overdue Modifications to the Norman Longdress.

I need to confess that I name my nice garb. I do. If it hangs up in the closet and doesn’t get balled up and thrown in a tub for camping season, it has a name.

For example, my heavily pearled gold delmatikion is my Dalek Dress. I didn’t name it that, but it stuck, and I certainly did want to exterminate all the things by the time I was finished beading it the first time around. My Turkish fencing coat is the Portuguese Whirling Dervish, because of the colors, and my Buccaneers-inspired Elizabethan from last Birka is the Traffic ConeMy burgundy bliaut is the Norman Longdress, because long dress is long. Much like the longcat of internet yore.

Longcat is Long.

I told you. Long dress is long.

I didn’t fix it last year after I wore it to Smoking Rocks Baronial Investiture, and it’s been sitting in my closet since. Not that anything was terribly wrong with it, but I didn’t have a lacing up one side to create the ruching effect that Norman women found ever-so-sexy. So I simply made the dress tighter, and hoped for the best. It worked, but not that well.

Since the local 12th Night event that I attend in the Barony of Smoking Rocks is usually 11th Century Norman and/or Saxon, I figured that’s where I would get the most bang for my buck with this floor dragger. I didn’t wear it last year since we did a murder mystery in which Anna as a Byzantine needed to be present, so this year, I FINALLY get to wear it again. Time to get the lacings in.

Fortunately for myself, I had some sort of plan when I sewed the thing, and left the side seams unfinished so I could pop one for the lacings. This made me more happy that it probably should have. So I split the right side of the dress from the upper arm to the hip, hemmed it, and got to play with my machine’s buttonhole function 41 times. In theory and practice, yes, I should be doing eyelets by hand, but I assure you all that my machine does a way better job than I can do, and in a quarter of the time. Cheating? Yeah, probably. Utilitarian? Very yes.

So here’s the first look, before I put on the girdle. You can see how the lacing (spiraled, I should mention that) draws up the length of the dress to create the desired wrinkles. The “I’m so important I can afford extra fabric to just wrinkle around mah belly” look.

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And here’s with the girdle, which after doing the requisite dancing around the house, is necessary. The design is not only decorative, but it holds the ruching in place in the front. Otherwise, you’re going to walk on your dress and faceplant. I wonder how many Norman women fell down the stairs before they figured this one out.

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My husband didn’t even pull it as tight as it could go. I wonder if we really yanked it around my chest if it would draw up the fabric more. The torso is approximately a foot longer than my own to allow for this extra gathering. My underdress is tailored normally. Each have 4 gores instead of just on the sides to allow for very full skirting. It is HEAVY, and when I spin around I feel like a princess, and then try not to fall.

I do think that the bliaut itself would be far more beneficial in wool than linen. I can’t afford that much dress-weight wool right now, but the stretching and conforming to a shape with body heat versus the less pliability of linen would make a HUGE difference. So those reading this post to get ideas, I would recommend that if you can swing it. If not, linen is a perfectly fine choice.

I’m hoping to finally get REAL pictures of me in this dress next to my Lord in his Norman. So we’re finally in the same time period at the same time. Once I eventually make him real Byzantine on par with my own instead of the one tunic he occasionally wears when I order him to, we can have a set of good photos for things such as holiday cards, and gifts for our families who think us terribly weird. 😀

Long Dress Is Long

So I made a bliaut this week.Yep. This happened.

I’m sure readers are wondering why a woman, who is normally focused on the clothing of Rome and Byzantium, is now making Norman garb. Well, for one, I’ve wanted one for a long time. For twos, my persona is half-Norman. My boyfriend is Norman, and the freehold I am apart of is a Norman keep. So…it was only a matter of time before I made Norman garb for myself. My friends in the neighboring barony are being invested as baron and baroness this coming weekend, and they are Saxon. So, what could be funnier than all of their pals showing up as Normans to the party? Our area 12th Night event is also very early 12th century and traditionally a 10 foot rule event, so I needed to make something appropriate for that, also. The only hitch was that I’m 11th Century, 1090s to be exact, so I had to find evidence to support the wearing of this garment in that period. That was relatively easy, as the Bayeux Tapestry clearly shows women wearing snug dresses with droopy sleeves. Tada!

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Queen Aelfgyva says, “Whatevs.”

I found the spot of evidence I needed from Sarah Doyle’s Page on The Clothing of Norman Women in the Late 11th and Early 12th Centuries. She gives a wealth of sources that made it easy to get an idea of the style I wanted to make, as bliauts can vary quite a bit. I wanted to keep it relatively simple with sleeves a reasonable length such as Aelfgyva’s above, and line then to show contrast as what seemed popular during this period. The only other real issue I had was determining a neckline, and I went with the keyhole rather than the V-Neck. It will be mostly covered by my veil anyway.

The process didn’t take too long. I made an underdress out of black linen and 4 gores. I threw some trim on the neckline, cuffs and bottom hem. The main gown is made from a deep red linen, that also has 4 gores and cut-out underarms to allow for the easier attaching of the sleeves. The sleeves were really the most tedious part, but still not difficult. Linings don’t scare me, but I ran into some hiccups as far as being able to ensure the hiding of seams but still closing a side seam up after the sleeves were inserted. So I basically had to partially complete the sleeves and then leave about 5-6 inches unsewn so I could attach it to the main body of the dress. Easy enough. Under normal circumstances I would have sewn just the linen together and then finished the green silk lining over the seam by hand, but it was fighting back and some points weren’t matching as well as I planned them too, SO, the silk got machined into the seam and finished with a zig zag. This makes me worry a bit about fraying, but it was the best option given the circumstances, and that I decided to make this 3 days before wearing it. More on that later. Here’s some pictures of the sleeve process.

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Before pressing.
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After pressing.
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Attached to the body. There’s also trim on the outside, which I should have waited to do by hand.

Once the sleeves were on, the dress came together much faster. All I had to do at this point was finish the trim on the neckline, sew on the side gores and then close the sides. The dress itself is a foot longer in the torso than a normal tunic dress, this allows for the ruching look that was desirable during the period. I opted to not lace the side of the dress. This results in some interesting shimmy shimmy shakes to take it off, since I had to take in the sides to make it tight enough.

I told you. Long dress is long.
I told you. Long dress is long. This is what it looked like before I shaped the side seams.

And here’s a snapshot of my first test fitting before taking in the sides.

936008_10151835748198143_1029283617_nI pulled in the sides a bit more after this, and made the girdle out of the leftover trim I had. The only REAL mistake I did was attaching the trim on the upper arm before sewing the side seam. This sounded like a great idea at the time, but they don’t match up, which you can kind of see if you’re standing behind me. I expect to hear some crap about that this weekend. So I figure once the event is over, I can go and remove the trim, and replace it by hand so I don’t have that problem. I’m still not sure why my measurements are off.

The only other real “problem?” I’ve lost weight. 8 inches total from my hips alone to be exact from two points, so making a fitted dress earlier in the year was going to be a problem. Chances are if I keep this up, I’m going to have to not just take in more from the sides, but put in the lacings to MAKE it tight enough. This is why I had to wait until last minute to make it. 🙂