Exhausted and homesick, but not giving up.

I left the East Kingdom on Memorial Day weekend in 2016 for Caid.
I left Caid for Trimaris in January of 2018.
Three kingdoms in three years, and not without scandal.

I normally don’t post dirt or personal feelings much on this blog. I prefer to have it reserved exclusively for my research and helping others. But sometimes, helping others and performing a service isn’t just steering them down the path of Byzantine goodness, it’s also helping them navigate this crazy life that is the SCA, because as Yoda said: Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

A hobby is not much of a hobby if it starts controlling your life.

Here’s the rub: This isn’t going to be a pleasant post for me to write, but I’m at the point where I need to play SCAdian Kool-Aid Man and bust through a wall. Much like it wasn’t easy last year for me to come forward about my battles with mental illness and the SCA, I need to come forward and discuss how the last year has taken a toll on myself, my marriage, and my want to participate in the SCA.

We had front-row seats to Caid’s “Trimgate” when we were leaving for Trimaris. Our last event was the coronation with the ill-woven trim. I didn’t see the blatant swastikas until after pictures were posted, because the day was rather joyous. The newly-crowned royals were well loved and it seemed like we were going to miss something fun. And, here I was, driving across the country when the hivemind went into overdrive, and those I knew from other Kingdoms were pinging me directly for the dirt. I admit, at first I got sucked right in. I was driving to a place I didn’t want to live. I was miserable and tired. I had no furniture and replied to Facebook posts via phone. I posted things, and then I backed up. I got reminded by others that I needed to focus, and I did. I stopped answering DMs, I started dispelling false accusations that were flying across my feed so fast I couldn’t stay on top of the fact-checking, and I slipped away from conversations that were getting heated and allowed the kingdom I was leaving to take matters into their own hands, which they did with grace, and without me getting in the way or being some weird third wheel to satisfy the hunger of a pack of wolves half the world away chomping at the bit for juicy drama. When all was said and done, that debacle was all and all a result of bad theater. Yes, go ahead, get mad at me: Bad. Theater. Bad choices were made, bad answers were given, bad accusations were being made. None of which, by the way, deserved death threats in response. I hate that knee-jerk reaction. I’ve been at the receiving end of them before in my mundane line of work and it’s usually the ultimate show of immaturity and lack of class. And, also a great way to get the FBI on your ass.

So, that’s how my 2018 started. I shook that off, and tried to make the most of being in Trimaris. I still should have made my husband make a hard turn back at Albuquerque.

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I’m not going to go into the entire saga that was last year’s summer reign in Trimaris. I’m not even going to post names so that search engines pick it up, but, like the Caid Coronation, I had front row seats, again, to the very religious Trimaris Coronation, which used the same ceremony structure as I did for the Eastern Coronation that same month. The words for how I felt watching that train wreck don’t exist. I wanted to chalk it up to Inter-Kingdom Anthropology, but when you get warnings on people the first week you live in-kingdom, the Spideysense tingles a bit hard, and I should have seen all this coming.

Anybody who is friends with me on Facebook, knows I’m actually some sort of fire elemental with a temper like Mt. Etna and enough heartburn for everybody. I also have zero tolerance for BS.

It was -my- Facebook page that his former majesty of Trimaris decided to use as his proving ground for baseless Nazi “jokes” a year ago. And I woke up to a barrage of DMs that made me wonder if somebody I knew died. Seriously. I was asleep the entire damn time, and it was my non-SCA friends who were in the fight.

Sure, blame it on them for instigating all you like, which I got, from a lot of people. Hell, I was victim-blamed enough myself, even from people I thought were my friends. And while I have a lot of friends that run the gamut of political opinion, I’m not a fan of the current hard right. When you start “joking” about treating liberals like Holocaust victims, I don’t care what kingdom you’re from, what your job is, or even if you’re Her Majesty Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, you’re toast. I am going to nuke you from orbit, and rightly so.

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And sure, you may come in here with your whataboutism and go “But Anna, what about the Alt-Left, they’re all ANTIFA and COMMUNISTS, AND SOCIALISTS AND-” And I will knock you down with every book on my shelf in the form of Chicago Manual of Style 17th Edition citations.

…So now’s a good time to talk about what I do. I’m a historian. A real one. Not just a hobbyist. Some of my projects from my previous employer have involved working directly on the cause and effect of fascism and anti-fascism movements in 1920s-1930s Italy and Germany. So when somebody plays the wingnutty crap on my social media, I tend to get a wee uppity. I can also go into a lengthy discussion on the differences between Marxism-Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, and other examples of Communist regimes because that comes part and parcel with this whole focus on mid-20th Century history that I was doing for a while. (Hilarious for a Byzantinist, I know, but research and historical method don’t change. I also had excellent courses on this period as an undergrad that allowed me to have a springboard.) This is something I know A LOT about, and I also know that it hasn’t been communists sending me death threats.

What this king said was bad. What he was posting on his own account was bad. I didn’t even remember friending him, or why he decided to target one of my threads that specific day. It’s over now. And then Pennsic happened, and then the BOD did their thing, which is still a contended issue.

And then I was nominated to the Board of Directors, and am currently sitting on the list of other nominees wondering if my time is going to come around. It’s a thankless job, and people will hate me for it. I know I can’t go in there with an agenda, and nor do I plan to, but if my voice can be the slightest hint of change, then so be it.

Gieffrei and I refused to attend a single Trimaris event from then on out. We spent our entire last spring prepping for Pennsic as our only SCA involvement, which worked out, because I’m also a member of other clubs and it was nice to see something else for a change. I was reached out to by many Trimarian peers, and while they are all wonderful people with the truest intentions in mind, our hearts were broken. We wanted to be done. We wanted to get our citizenship back in the East, and go forth with that.

Our minds were actually changed at Pennsic by the then-heirs to Trimaris, who heard about my issue, and took the time to hear us out. We’d go to Fall Coronation, and see how it went. Honestly, I really enjoyed the break we had. I was gung-ho active in Caid for 2 years, and I needed a nap.

Jeff, on the other hand, being fresh off of a sea duty, wanted to hit everything he could before he got back to a boat and I didn’t see him again for another 3 years. I obliged him. I decided that we could start reentry by checking out the baronial chancery. I could get back into scribal, and he could meet others. This ended up getting him into scribal extremely hardcore, and he went from painting blanks with my gouache to taking off with my dry pigments and making his own paints for use on pergament in the span of about 2 weeks. My head spun.

We treated ourselves to a trip back up to the East Kingdom for Birka this last January, and it was a nice, fun, change of scenery. But I also found it made me dreadfully homesick upon coming back down to Trimaris after a scant 2 nights away in the frozen north. Jeff fulfilled his dream of chartering the Royal East Kingdom Moneyers Guild while living 1500 miles away, and I enjoyed catching up with friends.

Inter-Kingdom Anthropology between the East and Trimaris is pretty substantial, way more than I experienced in Caid. Every event down here is pretty much the same: you go to one of the three most commonly used sites, and there will be cabins/tents, fighting, fencing, something A&S, and a feast, so the scenery doesn’t really change. This is what works best for Trimaris, and I’m simply making my observation as an outsider. Coronation and Crown are 4 hours from where I live in the kingdom, and are at the same site, so you’re guaranteed to make that haul 4 times a year. My parents live 2 hours from site, so we’ve been able to work from there for a day trip until this weekend when we actually camped it. It’s a nice summer camp site, but provides little opportunity for the populace to bust out their good garb for coronation. If the climate won’t make you want to die in it, the dust will destroy it. It’s a minor detail for those that have lived down here their whole SCA career, but for someone like me with a closet full of fine silks and wools just waiting to be moth bait, it’s depressing. This isn’t anybody’s fault but my own, of course. It’s my wardrobe, and my variety of experience. It’s the price I pay to be a Navy spouse, you could say, but it doesn’t make me any less homesick if anything for the ability to wear something other than linen I can throw in the wash from my Pennsic wardrobe. Hell, even using the term “homesickness” is somewhat ironic in this sense, considering I grew up in Florida.

We were very much welcomed this weekend at Coronation, and apologized to frequently for last year’s explosion. But I still feel distant, and foreign. I’m not sure if the pilgrimage to Birka did this, or not. I think it was the concurrent ongoing of East Kingdom Coronation and getting those notifications popping up across social media at the same time I was elsewhere that may have done it. It’s hard to watch my friends assume the thrones of the East when we’re not in striking distance enough to help. When we can’t go to the events we were so accustomed to, and were looking forward to attended again before the Navy invested me as Baroness of the Alligators. It’s not that we’re not having fun, we are, and simultaneously can’t wait to leave in order to form the strangest collective of feelings one can feel at once. The folks we’ve fallen in with here in Castlemere are our kind of tribe, so at the very least, if we don’t make it down to the Crown site again, we can still have a good time up here.

I’m sure a lot of this is exacerbated by my inability to find work, my daily struggle with depression and anxiety, and my new friend fibromyalgia, who moved in several years ago, but didn’t get a name until recently. It’s making camping suck, which for me is horrid, beause I love camping events, I love our tents, and now I’m dreading being a physical burden on my husband and household at Pennsic should I have a kicker of a flare. I felt like hot garbage for a fair chunk of coronation, but did my best to not let it show. Nothing some Tylenol and a few cups of magic grape juice couldn’t at least distract me from.
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I also feel that the political climate being what it is, the upheavals across the society being what they are, are also a driving factor in my exhaustion. It did me little good to have last year drudged up again at Coronation, though I wholeheartedly accepted each and every apology given to me, because it is right to do so.

As a historian, I am beyond aggravated at these internet memes and “alternative facts” that support and drive white supremacy and Nazism into Medievalism. I want them out of my game and my life. Period. We’re always told that we should let peers do the work of dealing with such affronts, but I say, in this regard, that we’re all peers when it comes to striking down hate and dragging it out of our lives and our game. When we see something, we DO something. Period. We stop bad theater before it starts so nobody gets hurt making a bad choice, we catch bad behavior in action and deal with it accordingly before they ascend to the throne. No more casting the job off on somebody else based on a hierarchy that will get us a latte at Starbuck’s for $5. It is not “social justice” to want a club that has diversity and inclusion, especially when the periods we are representing WERE diverse. (HELLO The Byzantine Empire had an “Office of Ritual Brotherhood”, which may have been same-sex marriage, AND allowed and accepted transgender individuals to join their calling in the orthodox clergy and FFS there were African blacks in Europe that were NOT SLAVES.) There is enough counter-offensive on the internet now with sufficient documentation from us pros in the history biz to stop this cassarole of Nazi nonsense. I have a hard enough time taking them seriously when they show up dressed like Homer Simpson with tiki torches, but I’d be damned as hell if I let my grandparents’ bones turn in their graves further or the legacy of my husband’s career be diminished by allowing them to walk all over my hobby. We are an educational group, are we not? We do what we need to do in order to blare our ZERO TOLERANCE neon sign from on high and nip this junk in the bud before it blooms.

Despite my own exhaustion, I’m not leaving. I’m not going to quit and let the SCA turn into Uncle Hitler’s Charm School for Wayward Jaded White Men. I may be in pain, but I still have a lot of fight left, and if I gotta go, I’m going colorfully, and with lots of company. I’m sick of reading posts by other members who have had their hearts broken.

If my nomination to the BOD goes through, great. I will do what I can to make the SCA a better place. If I’m ever elevated to peerage, great, I will do what I can to make the SCA a better place, but my work should not be limited to if I achieve those positions.

This is going to take a village, a populace, and a knowne world.

Never Again. And not in my SCA.

Queen of the Alligators: The SCA, the Military, and Mental Breakdowns.

A portrait of my majesty.

We lost Carrie Fisher a year ago today.

While Space Mom has little to do with the current Middle Ages, I’m using her activism, as well as the tradition of “feats of strength” on Festivus, on this last day of Saturnalia, to make a difficult post that I’ve been putting off as part of my psychotherapy.

Write about it. They always say to write about it. Write things down.

So, this post is going to tell you more about me than you ever really wanted. This is a vent, a way to open dialogue. This is not a cry for help, or a way to get attention. This is a necessary discussion that needs to happen, because I know I’m not alone.

My real name is Angela, and like so many others, I have clinical depression, with a chaser of generalized anxiety disorder. My brain decided chemicals are for losers around the same time my immune system decided my thyroid was a tasty snack, and and some sort of switch flipped from normal to batshit crazy. Or rather, somebody noticed that I was batshit, and that we needed to deal with it.

In January of 2014, I found myself a crying, broken mess in my now-husband’s barracks room. I was physically and mentally exhausted. An application to graduate school had been denied 2 weeks from the start of the semester, and my plans were suddenly on their head. The Norman’s solution?

“We should get married.”

My response was an expletive, but the rest was basically history.  Two months later, I married the United States Navy. It was 13 degrees outside. I was accepted into graduate school the same month, and things appeared to be smoothing back over. Access to consistent healthcare now meant that my weird mood issues and lethargy could be addressed. I figured it was diabetes. Fortunately, I was wrong. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune illness that effected my thyroid and would keep me on pills for the rest of my life. As far as AI diseases go, I got off lucky,  guess, if there is such a thing. Hashimoto’s is very manageable. It does still knock me on my butt with flares, which usually happens after being extremely active or overstimulated for a few days, but I deal with those as they come. We figured that was the reason for my crankiness.

Healthcare is really only a fringe benefit to military life. I would soon find out it was a cornerstone of precious sanity in a world of pure, unadulterated chaos. In the last 3.75 years since we’ve been married, there was a move to NH, he made Chief, he was sent to Guam for three months, and the boat he was on got moved to San Diego. I moved to San Diego. He was deployed, and got extended. He came back, we tried to be normal for 2 minutes, and the hits just kept coming. I’ve was told it wouldn’t be this nuts. I’ve seen that it’s not always this nuts. In fact, it seems like we’re the only people that consistently get Eris at the detailer desk. Heck, my husband’s last sea duty started in Kuwait. Kuwait. He’s a ginger submariner, for freaking sake.

Sure, you’re sitting there reading this, going, “Well, you knew what you signed up for. Deal with it. This still has nothing to do with the SCA, why are you complaining about  this? You didn’t have to marry him.” And all of that is correct. I’m setting the scene. Also: rude.

You see, the husband made Chief Petty Officer while we were AT Pennsic. This is when we knew that the balance between hobby and real life was a delicate one. Granted, Chief Season in itself is a special hell, and I got my first dose of going to events without him during the time we were a couple. It seems so normal now, that when he DOES go, it’s like a miracle. When he was in Guam, I kept myself busy with school and events. It was doable. The San Diego move was a little harder, but I still had my MA to complete, and events to go to. He couldn’t make my graduation, but at least got leave for my defense. He didn’t help me move to San Diego, and I didn’t see him until after being in the city for 3 weeks, alone. The SCA was my lifeline during this time. I went to an event, I met the people in Calafia. I was able to get advice on where to shop, where to eat, what to do. It proved to be more of a resource than you ever expect a silly club to me. The SCA saved my sanity during his extended deployment, and his first event home was Potrero War.

Between August 2015 and August 2017, I had spent probably about 4 months with him. We were eager for the break from this sea duty, returning to New England and the East Kingdom where our friends and family are. I was applying for jobs at some of the larger museums in the region and was eager to start my career back East. He got his orders to Connecticut in August, and by mid November, we were inspected, had a house, and were ready to go. Less than 2 weeks from our move date, those orders were canceled, and he was suddenly being sent to a sparsely populated corner of Georgia, and my brain split in half. I’ll come back to this in a bit.

I’ve known for some time that something wasn’t right upstairs. I was prone to ridiculous mood swings and moodiness as a teenager that was written off as being dramatic and, well, a teenager. High stress situations tended to make me flustered and upset beyond what seemed normal, and it didn’t take much for me to find a reason to lay on the couch and cry for weeks, overcome by muscle soreness, and by grief for seemingly nothing. While planning for the move to San Diego in the middle of writing my thesis, I started seeing a social worker at my university to help with stress management. She was concerned about my mood, and by things I was saying, and recommended I sit in front of the sun lamp (It was winter at the time), and said that even though she wasn’t a doctor, she was certain I was exhibiting signs of mental illness, probably anxiety and some kind of depression, maybe seasonal. She gave me therapy homework to help with my stress that ignored completely, and I just trucked through that last spring, living off of protein shakes, sadness, and Taco Bell.  I should have taken her recommendation to seek out an actual psychologist, but I was busy, and felt embarrassed, because I was probably just stressed.

I should have paid more attention. My thought process prior to most events, especially big ones, tends to work like this:

-If I wear this, then XYZ.
-If I wear this, then ABC.
-I don’t even know why we do this.
-What will they thing if I display this?
-What will people say if I show up at this class?
-What will people say about MY class?
-I wonder if I’m going to be heckled again, what do I do?
-Do I know my stuff well enough?
-Ugh, I’m not going.

Like textbook impostor syndrome, right? Of course it is. Extroverted, talkative, strong women like me don’t have anxiety. That makes no sense.

I flew out to Pennsic from California that summer, and realized that I was wrong. I caught myself having anxiety attacks over and over for seemingly dumb reasons. My thought processes were a mess, and where I was once excited about the event, and seeing my friends, instead I found myself questioning everything I did.

– Do they even still want me around?
– Will I make people mad for sitting with Caid for A&S?
– Why is my household treating me like this? 
–  I am an extrovert, why do I want to have nothing to do with this vigil in my camp? What is going on?

It was also dangerously hot, and my constant worrying about opinions of me make it easy for me to forget to take care of myself. This came to a head, and I ended up leaving war on an early flight back. It took weeks for me to want to go to an event again. I felt cowardly, tired, and depressed over Pennsic. Gieffrei finally dragged me out, and I ended up winning Queen’s Champion of A&S when I did. What the hell was going on with me? This wasn’t right.

I had another meltdown during his deployment when I fell, broke my computer, and hurt my knee. Chalking it up to stress again, I just let the waterworks fly, and let myself feel like ass for weeks until it blew over.

This last one? It was the last straw. Not just for me, but for my husband as well.

Back to my brain ripping in half, I felt as if I had ran into a hard glass wall. The life we had set up for ourselves was suddenly out of reach, but we could still see it. My job? Gone. Our house in CT? Gone. The SCA? Gone. Each thread of happiness I had got cut, and I found myself laying on the floor in the living room, wondering if it was worth it to end it all. Not a normal, rational reaction to dealing with a sudden change in your life. While the husband was trying to snap me out of it, and discussed making a plan to deal with the new move, my mind wouldn’t budge. It was still moving to CT. It was still going back to see our friends and family, into the house we had just secured. We were going to 12th Night and Ice Weasel and East Kingdom 50th Year, and I was doing research for the Byzantine Coronation in April. No, I was not moving to Georgia. There wasn’t even a stronghold at this base, no Meridies presence at all. The nearest group was an hour away, in Jacksonville, FL, in Trimaris, but I didn’t want to deal with another kingdom. I started in Trimaris ages ago, but I had a negative experience at fight practice, when I was driven off the field by aggressive men who didn’t want women in armor. I wanted the East back, and if I couldn’t have the East, I was staying in Caid. This wasn’t fair. It was ridiculous, and he needed to try to fight it. We were moving in 12 days. A neighbor ran over when she found out I wasn’t doing well, and, doing her best to make me laugh, insisted that I accept this fate by naming myself Queen of the Alligators. I would sit on my front porch with a tiara and a pretty dress, and hold a court of crocodilians while crushing a flat of cheap beer. Admit it, the concept has promise.

And fight we did.  After he had his own explosion quelled, he dragged me to see a counselor on base, but I felt talked down to, like I was a kid throwing a tantrum. I was told that my feelings were valid, but I needed to nut up and shut up, we needed to make our plan for the new move. I left feeling less than sensational, but a small piece of my brain feigned acceptance, and suggested we put up the Saturnalia tree since we clearly weren’t leaving, even if I was still grasping at a glimmer of hope this was all just a misunderstanding that would be fixed.

I should have known better, we were warned by another SCAdian serviceperson who had done their share of voluntold traveling the world. Don’t be so optimistic that you’re going where you want to go.  No orders are final until his ass is in the chair. Get ready to spend the rest of his career being transient SCA nobodies. 

A week later, despite the local command doing what they could to overcome Navy bureaucracy, he got the official paper orders. Kings Bay it was. I was shattered. I was unable to function enough to even think straight about what to do next. Gieffrei had to leave work early (which he was fine with, considering his own mood) and had to take me to the ER since I decided I wanted to disappear rather than deal with anything else. This accomplished nothing but putting me in 2 hospital johnnies and a pair of socks, in a cold room for hours, being questioned by three different MDs. This wasn’t me, this wasn’t normal, and yet, it was such an oddly familiar feeling. It was brought to my realization that I’m so used to being sad, angry, and stressed, that finding the bright side to anything was not possible. I was given a list of numbers to call, it was time to make an appointment. These were the hardest phone calls and emails I’ve ever made in my life, ones that should have been done years ago.

I bawled during my first therapy session, blubbering about everything from having to call to cancel the lease on our house in Connecticut to being unable to even look at homes in Georgia. To having to explain to a stranger that I was a weird nerd who did medieval things and that all of my people are in one place, and there was nobody near this new place.  I expected to get some weird reactions, but I did not. I expected to be told to put it aside to focus on my “real life”, I did not. My therapist was in my brain better than I was, but of course, that was their job. My hobbies mattered. The SCA mattered, the 501st mattered, my drawing and painting and sewing and comic books, this all mattered. I wasn’t treated like a child. I was allowed to be upset, frustrated, and overwhelmed. I was allowed to believe that life wasn’t fair. Even as I type this, I’m welling up, because I certainly wasn’t fixed immediately.

The diagnosis, after a long chat besides my current situation, was clinical depression, and anxiety. I was broken. Great. I had reasons for my behavior, but now I had that fear of whispers behind my back. What would people think of me, now?

“Oh, there goes crazy Anna, it’s fine. She just cries all the time. I don’t even know why she comes to events anymore.”

You see that? That’s what anxiety does to you. I can’t get rid of that thought now.

Not that it matters, you have no friends in that part of Meridies or that part of Trimaris. You may as well quit.

I wish I wasn’t having these thoughts, but they’re real.

Right now, the prescription is just therapy. Having to move makes it hard on me to explore psychiatric evaluation and medication, since such things need to be monitored. I don’t even want to talk about this. I want to pretend it isn’t real, and that I’m still just a ball of stress, and this too, will pass, but, it’s not passing. There’s still that plexiglass wall, with my normal life on the side, and I’m pounding at it, crying my eyes out and wondering what the hell we did to deserve this.

The latest development is that we decided to live in Florida versus Georgia. I grew up there, albeit far from Jacksonville in the Tampa Bay area, but at the very least, my immediate family is within a 4 hour drive. We’ll be in an active barony, which was part of the sell, but honestly, I’m not sure how active -we’ll- be.  Still, it’s better than living just across the border, and having not even a local A&S night or fight practice to socialize at. My husband will have an hour commute, and I feel like it’s my fault, because he decided it was best for me to be in civilization. As civilized as Jacksonville can be, anyway. (Hey, I’m from Tampa, I have to jab.)

There’s still too much we have to do. We were supposed to be here in Caid until February, but now we’re moving mid-January. I need to get a job, relatively fast, and we’re down a car. We still have to go to New Hampshire to get our stuff in storage, including our large pavilion, and can’t do that until the spring. Needless to say, we won’t be at Gulf Wars, so please do not push it as a platitude. Our spring trip to New England will include East Kingdom Coronation, so I can fulfill their highness’ wishes for a Byzantine theme. We will be at Pennsic, or at least, Gieffrei says we will. We are not making plans for Trimarian or Meridian events at this time until we get over this shock, and I can become employed, because we’re gonna be flat broke if I don’t.

Things will work themselves out because they have to. Not because I want them to, or because I’m looking for a bright spot. I’ll get a job, I’ll live in misery in the sweaty corner of the country, back in the Motherstate, and then who the hell knows what we have next. Acceptance is going slowly, and there is still the option of me taking off for a job with some merit elsewhere. There’s too many variables, and it’s eating my brain like candy. This was the worst time for me to come to terms with my mental illness. The Holidays don’t help.

I found solace in the idea of being Queen of the Alligators. Of course, being queen without being a consort in crown doesn’t work in the SCA, so I can’t really call myself that in a SCAdian context without getting chastised, even in jest. But, as a baroness, I can wear a coronet, so I went on Etsy, and found brass alligators, six of them, and this will be happening. I also found woven trim, but it hasn’t come in yet.

Alligators are New World, but crocodiles are Old World, and a heraldic charge, so I’m also looking into registering one as a badge. Though, I’m sure if I dug into enough information about the settling of St. Augustine, I could probably find a reference to an alligator within SCA period. It does matter, after all, they look different, and alligators tend to be cuter since they have a broader snout, but I digress. Once a Florida girl, always a Florida girl, even when we try to run.

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A crocodile tergiant, or.  Well, it really looks more like a caiman with that snoot, but whatever.

I wish I could give a more positive answer in conclusion, other than sticking it to the Navy while creating novelty in the SCA with large reptiles, but right now, it’s the single thread of happiness I have, even in its absurdity. I think Space Mom would approve. I don’t know what the eventual step toward psychoactive medication will do, but I’m sure it’ll be interesting to feel like a nice, normally functioning, adult human being.

Kittens!

And this disjointed nightmare is how I tell the internet that I’m moving back to Trimaris after 15 years.

 
Baroness Anna Dokeianina Syrakousina, Lady of the Alligators
Conch Republic of the Early Disaster

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These were my stages of madness:

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


First garment: The front laced kirtle.

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

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

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

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


Second garment: The v-necked gown.

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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Costarring my dirty laundry and an unmade bed.

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

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

Fifth garment: My double hennin.

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

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

But no, Anna can’t do anything basic.

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

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

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


INTERMISSION: The epic meltdown.

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

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

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

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

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

Sixth garment: Replacement Caid-friendly kirtle.

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

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CAFFEINE PLUS FUCHSIA LINEN EQUALS FLYING

Finishing Touches

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

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

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Nailed it.

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

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

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

Around 9pm, I finished.

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It just screams evil queen of luxury.

Pictures!

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

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I definitely like the veil over the hennin better.

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

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

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

 

Sari not sorry, and an unexpected surprise!

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Caid has been velociraptor-free for zero days.

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

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

Ask me anything!

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.

Got a question for me?

Hit me up at syrakousina at gmail.com.

Yes, it is OK to have fun with garb!

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.

 

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Ah, me precious….
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I shall hug it and squeeze it and call it George!

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?

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Anna, that doesn’t look so bad, what’s the big deal?
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Wait…THOSE ARE FLAMINGOS!

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.

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Something tells me my yard won’t look like this in Caid.

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.

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Good ol’ Theodora and her ladies.

Let’s take a closer look:

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I see some fowl dresses in there!

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?

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Image Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image links to museum listing.

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.

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Taken by me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, January 2016.

I’ve also seen this one in person, and it pretty much made me squeal in the gallery. You can read more about it here: http://metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/448647

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.

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It looks pretty cute on its own, but sari cotton is super sheer.
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This is me being serious at Leodamas of Thebes here in Calafia. As you can see, I stitched some dolphin bezants on the straps for my own personal touch. I really liked this color combo.

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.

 

Hello, Caid.

I have successfully transferred my domicile from the East Kingdom and the balmy tropics of New England, to the sunny and never-changing perfection that is Southern California.

I do have updates I need to get done, but I’m also planning for San Diego Comic-Con, and Pennsic AT THE SAME TIME. Yes, that’s right, I’m flying to Pennsic, which should be an interesting experience because I’m a lunatic and think this is  good idea. I will also be teaching ONE class, due to streamlining my packing. (Help!)

That one class is entitled, “An 11th Century Byzantine Noblewoman’s Closet.” It’s a snippet of my research for my master’s thesis, and I look forward to sharing my knowledge. It is currently scheduled for August 6th at 1pm in A&S 8. I plan to have the handout posted within the next couple of weeks.

I hope everybody has a great war season, and I look forward to seeing many faces at Pennsic War. 🙂