A better look at Juno at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

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.

Click for larger image.
Click for larger image.

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.

“Gee whiz, Mrs. Jupiter, you’re AWFULLY tall!”

Before we get to the knitty gritty, here’s all the pictures I took of her. Isn’t she magnificent?

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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.

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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.

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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.

juno_whatweseeWhat 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!

juno_buttonsFor 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.

“The Dress.”

Once upon a time, Avelina II, Queen of the East, challenged her populace to a garb challenge for Birka. This challenge, was to take your favorite sports team, and basically turn it into garb. Me, having the huge words, “COMPETITIVE SUCKER” written across my forehead, went, “Oh, it’s on.”

You see, class, Anna is not a fan of anything Boston/New England. I grew up in Tampa, and therefore, have suffered through some really horrible seasons with really horrible teams. Fortunately, the Rays are no longer horrible, and the Lightning have never really BEEN terrible, but the Buccaneers? Oh man, I have stories. Your priest on Sunday should not include, “And please let the Bucs win!” during the closing invocation of a Catholic mass during the Vinny Testaverde days.

First, I needed to make a choice. I had three professional teams I could reasonable choose from, and then a huge span of time to play with as far as the garb would go. I gave myself 2 options: Keep it simple, or, MAKE THEIR EYES BLEED! Both the Rays and Buccaneers had been blessed with pretty garish color schemes during their inception, and have since toned down the colors. This also resulted in winning records. Since then, us TB fans have a superstition that changing uniforms makes a winning team. The Bucs broke that, but 2 for 3 ain’t bad. The original color schemes of the teams were creamsicle orange, red, and white for the Bucs; black, blue, and white for the Lightning, and hot green and purple for the Rays. I could feel my eyes bleeding as I tried to mentally design apron dresses around these teams. It was a Viking event after all. I decided to ditch the Lightning first, not that turning contrast stitching seams into lightning bolts couldn’t be awesome, but it seemed the most subdued. Then, I turned to the Rays and the Bucs. I’m not one for being subtle. (To quote my friend Konstantia Kaleothina, “Byzantines put the ‘b’ in subtle.”)

My mind reeled over the idea of designing an intricate “devil ray” in the Norse style for applique on a purple wool dress, baseball stitches on the seams, with a hot green tunic, but I was at a total loss with the idea of the Bucs. They were, well, pirates. Straight out of the cavalier period, even:

Bucco Bruce!

If I went that route, I needed to go uber-late period. I was at a loss. Both outfits were going to require a significant amount of time and resources, and late period requires scary undergarments.

My prior experience with the period.

So, instead of drawing stuff out, and weighing pros and cons, I simply called my family in Florida, who don’t really SCA, and asked their opinion.

“#$%! those Boston fans. Blind the bastards.”

Us Tampanians are so eloquent.

I was still a bit torn, the throwback Devil Ray Viking would be just as hardcore as throwback Buccaneers Elizabethan, but the ultimate deciding factor were members of the Barony of Stonemarche issuing their own challenge to wear orange at Birka.

Challenge: ACCEPTED. (I was so screwed.)

Alright, first, pick a period. It would have to be as late as I could go. Cavalier is technically out of period, you’re looking at the 1630s post-English Civil War, and I’d be damned if I was going to wear a cavalier hat like every other rennie, so I rolled back the clock 30 years, and got to this:

This is Lucy Russell, Countess of Bedford, from a Masque she put on in 1606. She was a huge patron of the arts in the courts of Elizabeth I and James I. She was my muse.

Oh. My. God. It was perfect. Not only did I find a shape I could work with, but this was instant documentation for the use of orange. There’s always a debate on orange in period, and there’s a great deal of evidence that not only did it exist, but it was also wildly popular. Especially in the Elizabethan/Jacobean period. I’ve always been a fan of late period fashions, mostly Italian over English, but I don’t really have the “draw” to the history like I do the Roman and Byzantine Empires, which is why I don’t particularly dabble in the 16th/17th Century.

So period: Check.
Cut: Check.
Easy enough.

I bought the orange linen from Fabrics-store.com as soon as I saw it. “Flame orange” is the name, and it was on sale. Done. Mine.

ZING! Sunny Delight, anyone?

Now to approach the details. I entertained a great deal of ideas of how I was going to do trim and lace. Venetian lace I found easy enough, but the stripes…I wasn’t sure. I figured I could use different color bias tape, and make it easy on myself, and that’s what I was pretty much going to go with, until my boyfriend got me a sewing machine for Christmas that embroiders. Oh LAWD, he created a monster!

I had one more issue: I’m dieting. In fact, I’ve lost 4″ from my waist since the challenge was announced, and I needed a corset. I HATE MAKING CORSETS. I figured I could spend the money, have someone do it for me, and then just re-sell it, but I caved, saved myself about $50, and bought the materials myself. The game was afoot.

First I made the skirt. It’s a simple 6-gore skirt with a drawstring waist. Not accurate, it should be gathered into a band and hooked closed, but…it was a 10ft rule competition, and I’m not Elizabethan. I was going to take shortcuts. I sewed the skirt together, threw it over the hoop, and laughed, really hard, over how orange it was. I sent a picture to the boyfriend, and he was mortified.  I created a simple embroidery pattern using the stock stitches on my machine, and chose them for the following reasons:

The white reminds me of sunbursts or lightning bolts. So it pays a bit of homage to the other two pro teams in Tampa Bay, and the red were palm trees. This was my little salute to home. The red-white-red pattern is the same as on the orange uniform components.

IMAG0984 IMAG0986 IMAG0992 IMAG0994The smock was another fast garment, all things considering. The pattern is basically the same as a t-tunic with some minor variations, in this case, I created a mock partlet (another shortcut, don’t kill me, Elizabethan personae reading this!) and embroidered the snot out of it with my machine to resemble blackwork in orange. I applied the wider Venetian lace around the color to mimic Lucy Russell’s look, and did the orange-red-orange stripes on the cuffs as seen on the white jersey pieces of the uniform. It’s 100% white linen.

IMAG0995 IMAG0996 IMAG0999The two unfitted pieces of clothing were done. Now came hell: I needed to make the corset before I could fit the jacket. I had no choice but to wait until last minute to ensure a proper fit to whatever measurements I was at. (Being that I started the diet at a 37″ waist and am now 33″…I’ll take it.) This happened on January 19th, I wore this thing on January 25th. I used the Elizabethan Corset Generator and just followed it step by step. I used boning casing to help me measure out the lengths that I needed. This created an extra step, but I think it helped the rigidity of the corset, which was good. I had to call for backup to my friend Faelan MacLochlainn, a man of many tools, to help me snip the boning because I couldn’t do it with the tin snips he had loaned me. It took him a total of 10 minutes. I capped the bones myself, and sewed the sucker up without a hitch. The real issue came when I had to pop the eyelets open. I broke two seam rippers and the corset flew across the room. After that outburst, I resigned to a pair of sharp little scissors, and laced myself up. It fit. Hot damn, I made a corset in about 12 hours that didn’t hurt me, or pinch, and I could jump around in it easily without the girls popping out. It wasn’t the finest piece of tailoring I’ve ever done, but it WORKED. Plus, the wooden busk is fun to knock on and impresses your friends. The corset is made out of 100% cotton twill I had laying around.


Elizabethan spankies. Totes adorbs.

…Then I got sick. I decided it was a wonderful idea to catch a cold Sunday night, so all day Monday, I felt terrible. I got enough strength to go into the sewing room and put the sleeves together for the jacket, but that was it. I lost a whole day. Tuesday, I forced myself off my ass and in there, embroidered the sleeves, and started on the sloper for the jacket. I did use Reconstructing History‘s pattern for the gored English jacket, which helped, but I’ve worked with her patterns enough to know that they aren’t full proof, you NEED to make them fit. I had a friend who was supposed to come over and help, and then it snowed 6″ to spite me. Because Providence is not known for their expert snow removal, I was on my own.

A late Elizabethan/early Jacobean gored jacket.

IMAG1010 The first fitting was fine, and I even had wiggle room. So I went in, put the whole thing together, kept one side of the sleeves open to make it, you know, “swashbuckle-y,” I spent hours getting those inset gores in place only for them to all look horrid and have to be redone, and when I finally went to put it on…it didn’t fit. I was living a nightmare. I was ready to give up. Crying, I consulted a couple of friends on Facebook on my options. Inserting fabric was always a good choice. They had stomachers, and it’s always period to add little gores and gussets where you need them. So, I measured out the difference, made gores, sewed them on, had a LARGE glass of wine, and went to bed. Tomorrow was another day, but it was also cutting it close.IMAG1012I ran out of hooks and eyes, and had to wait until my boyfriend came home Thursday night for an emergency run to Joann’s in order to get it all together. It took me a couple hours to sew on the 22 little pieces, but I wasn’t sleeping until it was done. Friday morning came, and it was time to pack, but wait, there’s more! Because of how low-cut the jacket is, I decided to create a stomacher for my corset with the same stripe pattern as the smock, I added MORE embroidery to the jacket so the gores were accented as seen in period pieces, and then I went and made the cap with the same false blackwork to look like the Bucs helmet stripes. So help me God, I was done. I didn’t want to sew another stitch!

It’s very hard to take a picture of the back of your head.
First full fitting before I added more embroidery to the jacket.

My hat I purchased from Stitches in Time (I’ve never made a decent hat and figured this was a bad time to try), I got obnoxious socks from Sock Dreams, and the hoop was just a cheap commercial one from eBay. The pearl strand I had was a vintage piece that my mother found at a white elephant sale for $5. They are actually low-grade saltwater pearls from the 1920s that have lost their lustre, but whatever. REAL PEARLS! I threw some glass drops from another necklace I had on silver hoops, and called it a day. We were off to Birka!

It was very hard not to explode and tell everyone what I was doing the whole time. A few people knew, especially Isabeau Du Valle and crew (The 14th century Sporting Portugal soccer team, for those who were there) who had also shared their idea with me. We were all insane, that much was for sure. I wanted to just shout, ‘HEY EVERYONE, GUESS WHAT I MADE?!” But I refrained, albeit almost bursting at the seams. And Saturday morning, I doned basic Byzantine to get breakfast and get some strolling through the event done before I turned into a walking traffic cone. At 11:30am, I saw someone wearing a Bruins apron dress, and that was it. I needed to change.

Somebody dropped the Big Sombrero on Ray Perkins.

I was nervous. I had tried it all on at home, and I knew it fit, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull it off. Orange is a hard color to wear. Even though I felt I looked okay, and so did the recipients of my test shots/selfies, I remained a bit unconvinced.

Then I took this selfie, and I realized that I never felt so posh in my life.

IMAG1028The way that the lace fell around the neckline was exactly as I had imagined it, and my thankfully [lightly made up] olive complexion just glowed.Unlike my poor Lord Geoffrey, who reflected it he came too close. I had begun emanating my own force field of Tampa Bay Buccaneers creamcicle orange.


So after the typical fuss and muss and pin and fixing a falling off hook, I came off the elevator into the lobby into a sea of stares. People were closing their eyes and blinking, or even looking away. I had effectively managed to blind a small percentage of the event before I even hit the main drag. I’m pretty sure I broke a few Laurels. 😉

Mission: accomplished.

Most reactions were “WOW.”(or maybe it was “ow?”) Others were just wided eyed in wonder/horror at this lacey orange monstrosity that had appeared before them. So I paraded around the merchants, receiving compliments and, “WHY?” from several folks. I tried to find the perfect knife to hold in my teeth, but Geoffrey insisted it was a bad idea. Most people asked if I was representing Syracuse University, being that my persona is from Syracuse, Sicily, but no. Once I mentioned it was old school Bucs, I got a lot of rolled eyes and, “Of COURSE you would do something Tampa!” Sneers. Hah. Mission doubly accomplished.

The fashion show was…AMAZING. There was nobody there that didn’t astound me, and Baron Xavier and Baroness Maria’s Patriots landsknecht totally deserved the win. They were unbelievably detailed up close, and I really wish I would have brought my camera down to get pictures of everyone. Once a public gallery goes live, I’ll post it here to share.

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– Do not be afraid of trying new things. Ever.
– A properly fit Elizabethan corset will not hurt you, nor are they that hard to make. You can even put it on, lace it up, and take it off yourself if you spiral lace it.

– Lucy Russell was a pretty amazing woman for her period.

– I look good in dayglow/signal corps orange. I cannot wear Lord Geoffrey as an accessory, though.

Will I wear this again?:

I’d be foolish not to wear it again after all the work I put into it, but it will just have to wait until the right time and place. Probably Pennsic for Midnight Madness. I may bring it down to the Bay Area Renaissance Festival in March when I go to visit my family, but that site is very dusty and usually turns the hem of whatever I’m wearing kinda black.