Sorry about the delay in getting this last piece up. I relocated from Trimaris to Atlantia for yet another military PCS, and we’re still trying to decompress having done this just before the Holidays.
The morning of my elevation, still weary from my vigil, I got up relatively early with a plan. As my area of SCA focus isn’t just Byzantium, I felt the need to go back a thousand years and change to pay homage to the old gods in a way that would best suit them, and myself.
I chose October 17th for a reason, it is the Festival of the Khalkeia in the Hellenic faith. It honored both Athena and Hephastus as gods of art and crafts, so it seemed fitting to pour a libation to both of them. But, because of the nature of my husband’s very mobile career choice and our upcoming move from Trimaris to Atlantia, I new better than to make Poseidon jealous.
So I got dressed in one of my archaic chitons I wasn’t afraid to get a little salty, put on the Roman glass necklace I had made a few days before, a reproduction Hellenistic bracelet with dolphins, and a Greek perfume made by Lady Dugu in Northshield. I poured off the last of my hibiscus mead, a fan favorite, into a terracotta amphora, and made Jeff drive me to the beach on base at Mayport where I knew it would be less crowded than a public beach a few blocks south.
It was cool, and windy, and the people there didn’t seem to care that a crazy lady wearing a Greek dress showed up on the sand. Children were playing with their dogs in the surf as the parents watched them cautiously from the shoreline with their morning coffee. We picked a spot close enough to the mouth of the St. Johns River and the major waterway in/off base and Jacksonville as a whole, so that the surfers weren’t nearby. It was quiet for the most part, save the giggles of children and the roar of the waves.
So I dropped my shawl, took my hair down, grabbed the amphora, and walked right into the Atlantic Ocean up to my calves. It was there that I poured my offering to the ancient gods of art, crafts, war, and the sea.
I did get a bit photobombed by a large shipper coming out of the channel, but Jeff did what he could to avoid it for the most part. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better setting to pull this off.
This entire year has been rough on all of us, and the lack of in-person SCA events has definitely taken a toll on the organization in many ways. No, virtual events are not the same, and likewise, a virtual elevation to a bestowed peerage won’t be either. I’d like to think I did the best I could considering the circumstances, but I also admit that I was considerably comprehensive in having a solid ‘In Case of Peerage’ plan. (I will be making a post about that concept separately.)
This series of posts talks the method behind my madness of my 3 weeks from announcement, to vigil, to virtual elevation, and how my small bubble here in Castlemere pulled everything off in record speed.
And also, how everything that could explode, DID explode, and did so colorfully in only a way that I could manage.
After the shock wore off, I realized I had a lot of work to do. The original plan was that it would be me in my wedge tent with the computer, sitting outside of our townhouse for vigil, and figuring something out for elevation. Thankfully, the Castlemere Bubble came to the aid, and decided this would not do. It was coordinated to be in a member’s backyard where there was space for everybody to social distance, but allowed for an actual proper looking site with a tent, hors d’oeuvres table, and likewise space for an outdoor elevation the following day as long as weather cooperated. It was short notice, but it was going to be now, or at a time when I could fly back to Florida from Virginia safely. Master Herman had already coordinated ethereal courts, so it seemed like a good crew to work through the elevation protocol. Their Majesties Trimaris were super flexible with whatever we needed, which was also super helpful.
Fortunately, I had a solid plan of what ceremony I wanted from De Cerimoniis (The investiture of a girded lady patrician/zoste patrikia) and the approach I wanted to take as far as regalia and appearance went, so that saved me a lot of grief. An additional post on the ceremony will follow this one.
This post is about the Garb!
I started my elevation planning shortly after I received my Eastern Maunche in 2014. When I started to see fabrics and trim I wanted to incorporate into an eventual ceremony, I bought it and squirreled it away. This saved my butt, because we decided to turn around a fast elevation from announcement since our next military permanent change of station is imminent. While it would have been nicer to have had the time to devote to rich embellishments and friends pitching in for the full shebang, Etsy has a treasure trove of sellers from India who work exclusively in recycled sari borders and materials for crafters around the world. Leaf motifs are very common in Indian designs, and it’s relatively easy to find something extremely passable for Byzantine bling, which is why I support the use of recycled saris for simple beginner or camp-grade SCA Byzantine. This is one of those cases where working smarter and not harder pays off.
Plus! It is SUPER PERIOD to procure materials via import and varied guilds for a Byzantine, . Please do not murder yourself, your household, and your friends making insanely embellished clothing when buying materials is more authentic!
For my vigil, I actually just wore the chiton I made for my Vestal Virgin. It saved me time, and seemed oddly fitting.
Since I had the materials set aside regardless of geographic location, I decided to go forward with my plan for a full 3-layer ensemble that consisted of the body linen (esophorion), underdress (kamision), and dalmatic (delmatikion). Fortunately, I got lucky with highs in the 70s, so I didn’t feel totally melty.
I rarely wear the standing collar esophorion, but I figured that for what was such a high court event, I needed to suck it up, comfort be damned. My body linen was constructed out of linen gauze — This sounds more romantic and lovely than it sounds. The fabric is beautiful, but it is hell to work with. Even the parts where I would normally hand sew entirely on the collar construction, I resigned to use machine, because my stitches were just not working the way I needed them too. The fabric pulled, warped, and did whatever it could despite careful cutting, frequent ironing, cursing, and candle lightings. I have no pictures of me wearing JUST it, because of the sheerness and my own modesty. the collar ended up being too big, so I pulled the placket over more to get a better fit. I think next time: NO gauze, and eliminating the Manazan collar construction for a shoulder seam split, and see if I can achieve a closer fit. Length is to my calves, and the gores go into the arms in the Manazan exemplar.
This was a simple tunic dress construction based on my preferred pattern with side gores and a rounded underarm from the “Persian Style Tunic” at the Met. The fabric is an orange linen twill from Sartor, and the trim was cut from a brocade I have in my stash. Collar is self-faced and tacked down with a blind hem stitch, and the cuffs and hem were whipstitched into place. Main seams were all machine for time crunch reasons. I had to wear something orange, of course, even if you can’t see it at all under the delmatikion.
I decided to use a different construction on the delmatikion than I normally would, in an attempt to stretch the fabric a bit more for a wider garment. It really didn’t work, and caused more frustration in application of the faux-tiraz bands on the sleeves. This is what I get for trying something -new- for the sake of authenticity, rather than going with my preferred fit. There’s more than one way to cut a garment, I just wanted to drive myself batty, I guess. Rather than having triangle gores from the waist, I have trapezoidal ones that come down from the sleeves as I did with my pilgrimage garment. This actually creates a great vertical seam that would work for potamioi embellishment, but that is out of period for my impression. This style DOES allow for keeping the hems very even, if you’re like me and end up with random excess length in places as a result of bad math. Fortunately, the collar neckline with the shoulder seam keyhole is something I’ve done a few times at this point. It creates a nice clean line at the neck when embellishment is elsewhere.
I constructed the sleeves first, as they would be the most time consuming with the lining, followed by the neckline, and the hem facing. After that, it was basically putting puzzle pieces together and closing the side seams into a finished garment. The neckline, trim, and hem were all hand-finished.
The main fabric is a silk brocade from PureSilks.us that has ridiculously long weft floats on the backside. This made it uncomfortable to sew by either machine or hand. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to line an entire garment. I just lined the sleeves, and I still have floats that wanted to come out. The hem where the roundel silks are turned up? Oh boy. It looks like it’s FRAYING. I will have to apply some kind of fall or facing on the inside in order to control it for future wear, I just didn’t think this through, and you know, you’d THINK with LAUREL ELEVATION GARB, I would have paid more attention, but nooooooo. Murphy was well and truly sewing with me the whole time.
The roundel silk is a samite from Sartor. I only had two yards of it, so I knew that it had to be trim, plus, that many roundels on purple would be well and truly presumptuous to the throne, and while wearing purple when being invested into a high office was fine, there were still limits on the types of fabrics one could get away with.
Sleeves are bag lined in a lavender-white shot silk dupioni.
The trim was a lucky find on Etsy from a sari shredder in India. I was able to get 9 yards of it shipped via DHL quickly, so I had it on hand when I got to this part. They did have green leaves, but when I saw the orange, there was no turning back
Maphorion and Zonarion:
Nothing special to see here, but I needed a plain white maphorion, or hooded/semicircular veil, and a new belt, since, well, all of my belts are green! The maphorion should be stiff, so I used pure white silk taffeta versus linen or dupioni as my previous attempts. It ended up wrinkling too easily, so I wonder if adding the eventual fillet for the kharzanion will help it stay in place better.
I’ll go more into this with the following post on ceremony, but I chose to mimic the investiture of a Zoste Patrikia because of the extra bling involved, because WHY NOT? The Zoste was the only woman permitted to wear the loros aside from the empress. Plus, it just made sense to be invested as a “mistress of the robes” when elevated as a costume and material culture laurel.
I outsourced the construction of all of these pieces to very caring friends and the husband who were happy to take the burden off of me while I screamed at my silks.
The loros was constructed by Lady Margaret. We were able to come up with a simple pattern on graph paper to aid her in getting the measurements right. It’s a golden silk taffeta, with more amazing sari trim from the same dealer as the orange leaves. It is deliberately longer in the back than the front which allows me to hold it, or pin it to the front of my garments. This served as my “robe”.
The medallion is in the form of a thorakion, or body chain. This typically signifies the holder of an office. After checking out some extant chains full of fancy openwork, The Norman Husband cast the chain links in pewter using a 3D printed original that was used to form a silicone mold. The results were unreal. 60 links total were made that portrayed my heraldic dolphin, initials in Greek letters, and the laurel wreath. As a consolation prize, he also made me a cookie press from the same rendering.
The medallion itself was also 3D printed using our resin printer to emulate intaglio carnelian. Unfortunately, he ran out of time to make the silver setting for it, and the aluminum wire bezel failed. (Watch for this blooper during the ceremony in the next post.) C’est la vie when you only have three weeks to pull it off. While Gieffrei is learning the intricacies of openwork and lapidary, it will be after his retirement from the Navy before he can devote significant time in working in these techniques. Until then, I think the use of modern technology to pump out affordable, good looking jewelry is a great option, especially for newcomers who are daunted by more advanced hand techniques, or for people who can’t afford more authentic pieces from our amazing artisans (who are worth their prices!).
Propoloma and kharzanion:
Mistress Christine was kind enough to take on the burden of my propoloma, which was trimmed in fancy, but heavy, beaded leaf trim that was another killer Etsy find, and set amethyst cabochons for baronial coronet “pearls”. This is a more 12th Century than 11th Century style, but the single stripe of leaves from corner to corner didn’t have the same aesthetic.
The kharzanion, which is a specific type of praipendoulia worn between the veil and propoloma, were put together by Gieffrei, and are constructed of pearls, chrysoprase, and amethyst, with glass leaves. For the elevation, I attached them to the hat to eliminate a step, but they should be hung from a fillet that keeps the veil in place. If they didn’t have leaves on them, I probably could have worn them on a band, but hindsight et al.
The earrings in my first whole were made for my by Maestrina Chiaretta di Fiore as an elevation gift, based on Byzantine examples. She even used a thicker wire to make them more comfortable in my stretched holes. My second holes had museum replicas from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The fillet I did wear was in place to pin my veil. Since it already had leaves on it, I didn’t want it to be presumptuous of a wreath so it was hidden. The band itself was cut from the longer bands worn by Mistress Ellisif for her virtual elevation earlier in the year, another event that took place because of an impending military PCS, since she didn’t have the time to make me a new one after her OCONUS move to Drachenwald. We’ve decided that this could become a tradition, and the next poor soul who is dragged from post to post and elevated to the Laurel will also get a piece, and so forth, and so on.
I wore one necklace, a replica enkolpion, or reliquary cross. Rather than show the crucifix, it portrays the Virgin Mary, and possible an artifact of the Marian Cult, which was huge in Constantinople as it was the home to her relics. As my persona is very superstitious, and believes in the power of Mary versus Jesus (this is a heresy, btw, but a common one), this was a solid choice for low-key authenticity points.
Some pictures of me during the test wear, and from my elevation!
Next in the series: How we broke the internet during a virtual vigil!
Or something to that effect. Edit 7/12/2019: It’s called a diplax, not himation. Derp.
Being that it will be no less than the temperature of the surface of the sun, plus 3000% humidity this weekend at Trimaris Coronation, I decided that less was more, and I would go in that killer yellow chiton from my previous post.
But then I decided to add more.
As mentioned, the Chios Kore is probably my favorite all-time Archaic statue. And the polychromatic replicas just make my gaudy heart sing. Plus that perfect example of the archaic smile. What does she know?
Here are the photos again, for a refresher:
508907 Kore 675, 510-520 BC, attributed to Archermos from Chios, marble sculpture of archaic age from Chios, Acropolis in Athens Greek Civilization, 6th Century BC; (add.info.: Kore 675, 510-520 BC, attributed to Archermos from Chios, marble sculpture of the archaic age from Chios, the Acropolis in Athens (Greece). Greek Civilization, 6th Century BC. Artwork-location: Athens, Moussío (Acropolis Museum, Archaeological Museum)); De Agostini Picture Library / G. Nimatallah; it is possible that some works by this artist may be protected by third party rights in some territories.
Take a look at her himation, the over-garment that would evolve into the Roman palla and toga. You see this style on multiple statues, such as the ones in the header on this great page that discusses polychromy and its recreation a bit more in detail:
It’s not really a “himation” at all, but more of a peplos that is pinned as a chiton on one shoulder only. I figured this was easy enough to do, and would help complete my look for this weekend. This project was done entirely by machine in less than 2 hours. I think the longest part was just getting the trim down.
I went with the same orientation of the linen as the chiton: using the long weft length instead of the warp. I figured this would give me a comparable drape, and continue on this archaic project being a fabric-conserving venture. In hindsight, it probably could have been longer, but at least it won’t be dragging on the ground.
I started with a length of 2 yards and 10 inches (82″ total) of lightweight blue linen, and finished the two raw edges first. I maintained the finished selvedges as the hems.
After that, I went and started making my peplos, using a 16″ peplum, and ironing the snot out of it to get a nice sharp crease.
I applied a nice contrasting band of meander trim along this crease. In period, it would probably have not tacked the fold down, but rather have been a horizontal stripe along the fabric, and the fold actually being free to open back up. This would have allowed the garment to be worn multiple ways. For the sake of this test project and ease of wearing at an SCA event, I just stitched it down. The next one I try will be more accurate, so I can re-work it into a chiton or peplos or himation as I choose.
I then put bands of trim on the base of the peplum, and at the hem. Mixing them up a bit like on the original artwork. I did not have enough of either to do the vertical stripe down the front, or anything that looked “Grecian” enough to really match this go around. I’ll have to do some hardcore trim shopping and see what’s out there for my next attempt.
Here’s some pictures of my trim layout, complete with cat assist. I pulled up the top trim in the last photo to show my cheater stitches along the fold.
Next was draping. I threw it on the dressform, and formed the peplos. It is short, but look at how nice it fits the body, like the Peplos Kore variants, versus the more draped later styles. Once again, this is a 16″ peplum, and it fits nicely from my shoulder to natural waistline.
While on the dressform, I just started measuring like I would for a typical classical dress: found the center points, measured out my neckline, and then formed my sleeves from there. The Chios Kore shows 7 disc pins, I used 6 round buttons. I’ll probably use one of my smaller fibulae to keep it attached to my chiton, and stop it from slipping down my arm. It really does miss that vertical stripe, so I may have to go back and add one once I find a suitable trim for it.
And just like that, it was done!
Here are belting variations:
And the side views. The open side makes for a more accurate garment, but if one were to make this into a functional full peplos or chiton, it would have to be wide enough to wrap around the body, or a nice breeze may reveal quite a bit.
I’m exceptionally pleased at the color palette, since the primaries were all over the archaic statues. While they were common tempera shades, I do admit I’m not 100% sure on if those colors could be achieved by dyes so early. I’ll have to touch base with my dyer friends to see what they think.
Now, if only I could put my hair in multiple braids to complete this look!
I live in Trimaris. It is summer. This post is a little punchy.
I swear, when I lived here 15 years ago, it wasn’t as hot. Granted, I was younger, I had grown up here, and I endured the summers because we were thrown out of the house over school break lest my parents go insane. Jumping Jeebus, it’s hot out right now. I know the Jacksonville area, where I am, can get hotter than the Tampa Bay area, where I grew up, because of the way the breeze crosses the state, BUT STILL!
Don’t get me wrong, Caid was hot. But most events weren’t awful. You could catch a breeze in the shade, and, of course, Southern California is a dry heat. Not that a good Santa Ana Wind didn’t turn you into a raisin, or anything, but your sweat served its purpose and evaporated. There is no such thing as a dry anything ever in Florida. Be it a heat, or a cold. Swamp-ass is the state’s actual unofficial pastime, not to be confused with bad news stories being released on the internet because of the state’s freedom of information act. Moist. Moist is the vocabulary word of this Uncle, Lord Samuel’s Naval Tour Post, and there is no way in heaven or hell that any of my Sartor silks or full on Byzantine anything ever is going outdoors into that schweaty abyss.
So, I have Roman. Roman is good. I only have a full bulbous Roman linen outfits after a recent garb purge, and decided I wanted to be pretty, and converted a lot to the cotton sari trend, which was great in non-schweaty Caid. I wore an ultralight set, composed of two thin cotton saris, one day at Pennsic 2 weeks ago (we had an exceptionally…swamp-assy war) and it stuck to every…crevice…on…my…body…that…could…pool…moisture. YUCK!!! Oh cotton, no! The elegance of the drape was lost when it just adhered itself to my bits. That got pulled off of my body in a hurry and replaced with one of my linen “war tubes” as I call them. Literally, just a one seam tube that I made at war one year that I can pin once on each shoulder for a Bronze Age look. These are often called bog dresses.
Somehow, my brain knew it was going to be a hot war, and decided weeks in advance that I was going to sew up slimmer-fitting chitons in more of an Archaic Greek look, versus the draped fullness you see in later artwork. I kept the embellishment simple, and even sewed most of the tops closed for ease of wear. I don’t think I really want to wear my full Roman dresses ever again.
“Archaic Greek?” You may ask, unsure of what I mean.
So, true story, most of my formal education is in Ancient Greek and Roman History and the Classics, versus Medieval History. We didn’t have any real Byzantine History classes, so I had to sort of do my own independent work in that regard in connection to other courses. Understanding Greek and Roman history is vital to Byzantium anyway, and the Middle Ages for that matter, but yeah, there’s my big secret, I’m not much of a Medievalist at all, I’m a Classicist. You may now ring the shame bell.
So, back to Greece. There are multiple periods of Ancient History, just as we have multiple periods anywhere else. For Greece, it was the Bronze Age, Dark Age/Geometric, Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods.
The Archaic Age (pretty much the 7th-6th-5th centuries BC) is basically when a lot of what we know of as “Ancient Greece” begins to take shape. This is when Homer composed the Iliad and the Odyssey, when Sappho lived, and when sculpture started to make an appearance.
And now, a crash course in art history!
The pivotal sculpture forms of the Archaic Age are the Kouros and Kore statues, or “young man” and “young woman” respectively. There is some speculation on who they represent, but the general idea seems to be Apollo or Dionysus for the Kouros, and Persephone for the Kore. Or, nobody in particular after all. Kouros is almost always stark nekkid, while Kore has been draped with a variety of garments. The style was pretty much lifted directly from Egypt, and predated the more common contraposto-style statues you see from the late Classical period.
Thanks to the miracles of modern science, we’ve been able to really get an idea of what colors the statues were painted, and boy oh boy, are they a treat to the eyes.
When I was still out in California, The Norman and I went to San Francisco for a weekend, and I was able to catch the “Gods in Color” exhibition at the Legion of Honor. The exhibition, which started in Germany, I think, is a collection of reproduction Greek and Roman statues that have been painted to match their original, or experimental, colors. I may have cried a little (out of joy, mind you, again, this is my area of study), and took pictures of every single object in the show, while poor Jeff followed me around with raised eyebrows and bewilderment at why the Persians were wearing what appeared to be Lularoe leggings. (All photos from the exhibition are my own.)
Or why this Kouros had some circa 1999 nipple tats going on. It’s like he listened to Godsmack in high school and made a bad life choice. (I swear, I am actually an adult, and not 12. It’s probably an interpretation of Apollo. Really. Now you know archaic nipple tats are a thing. In actuality, it has to do with the concept of ephebeia, or the adolescent male, in Greek society, but I’m keeping that off of my blog for my own sanity. Anybody interested in it as a scholarly discussion is welcome to contact me by email.)
But what I was really there for were the interpretations of Peplos Kore, and the colored version of Chios Kore. Happy nerd girl tears, again. I threw in images of the Phrasikleia Kore in here for added dweebery and inspiration.
The colors! The trim! Sure, most of it is allegorical to the goddess or person they are portraying and not actually indicative of patterns worn by actual people, but, the options for fun for hot weather garb! I would avoid wearing all of the lotuses that Phrasikleia Kore has on her, only because it’s a funeral stele and they’re symbolic of the afterlife, but the fit of her chiton got me thinking that there is no need to be swimming in fabric. Contrast her to the draped layers on the Chios Kore, means that there were possibly options, and not just limited to the skill of the sculptor, noted by the folds at the bottom of Phrasikleia Kore’s chiton.
Inspired by this fit, and bored with a stack of fabric at my parents’ house when house-sitting back in June. I decided to make a slimmer fitting chiton by taking 2 yards of 58″ wide linen, folded the short way. I determined that I could do this with less than 2 yards for my figure at this width. I know that not all women are created equal, so I apologize if this particular hack doesn’t work for you, but the style is still doable. For me, I found that I could go about 32″ per front and back panel and still have plenty of ease with my 42″ bust and even wider hips. This is a heck of a lot cheaper and less cumbersome than one of my 4-yard Roman style chitoi/tunicae interior.
I threw some trim on the top and bottom, and added a slit to one side seam for walking ease, and thus, my “archaic” chiton was born. Half the fabric as a Roman one, and still a flattering fit.
I sewed the top of the first one, instead of adding buttons or pins, and this allowed me to wear a real bra at Pennsic, instead of a tube bra, which relieved some of the uncomfortable under-the-boob sweat that women are subjected to. I lived in this thing at war.
So I made more! The black was inspired by some Romano-Egypt fayum portraits with the addition of the clavii (note that Romano-Egyptian garments were MUCH wider), and the yellow was straight out of the yellow Peplos Kore above. The trim is vintage sari trim I got from Ebay. Perfect! (The black has alligators. Because!)
The yellow I had some fit issues with. The trim made it stiff, and it wasn’t as flattering, even with my parents’ cat Mary Jane lending her assistance. So when I got back to my house, I added heavy brass buttons to the sleeves, and BOOM! A completed look and a smoother fit. I wore this one with a red himation/palla to the Courtesan Bacchanal at Pennsic.
For the finale, I ended up making one out of wool I had just laying around. Check out this draping! It looks SO PERIOD in contrast to linen! (I don’t have a full length mirror in my current apartment. So you get the Soviet selection of my propaganda collection instead and some curing silk banners.) I did try wearing it at Pennsic. Once. While it breathed well, and totally wicked the moisture off of my skin, the sun hitting it was too much for my modern sensibilities, so I went back to the linen. I do need to wear linen against my skin UNDER the wool next time (this is a nice basketweave that doesn’t itch or scratch) for a more accurate interpretation and perhaps less of a chance of being baked alive.
So, before you all run off to try this, I want to make a disclaimer, while I called this my Archaic Chiton, I’m only doing so because of the slimmer fit. In Greece, they sewed no seams. Everything was wrapped, pinned, and belted. I do not, and never will, have the huevos to pull that off.
Here is a drawing of my measurements, and basically how I did it, for those that want to try the slimmer look, as well.
For my next trick, I may actually attempt a full archaic look with those crazy colors and embellishment. Let’s see if I actually get around to it.
So, while I’m taking a short break from heavy SCA sewing and research, I want everybody to help me keep my brain ticking.
Every week, or however often I get questions, I’m going to have a question/answer column here on my blog. Feel free to ask me anything about Roman and Byzantine history, textiles, clothing, etc, and I’ll give you a complete answer, or as complete as I can, with citations to send you on your way. General ancient and medieval history questions can also be fielded if you’re looking for something more broad.
If this gets busy, I don’t know how many questions I’ll be able to answer, but I’ll do my best to make sure that everybody is covered.
We always see them: the funky printed cottons in the stores. Sometimes we can’t resist, and then we wonder why the heck we bought it in the first place. Clearly, you can’t make garb out of silly prints!
Or can you?
This summer, I had a weird awakening. It’s no secret to my readers and friends that I’ve pretty much busted my rump this last year on research in Byzantine dress. From investing the money in Sartor fabrics to finding some of the best linens and trims I could to make a splash dropping my 12th Century side-eye skills, and spending 4 months on a master’s thesis where I dug into an 11th century will, I sort of put on a display this year like some swaggering Byzantine peacock (Byzancock? Argh, no, bad term, there.) It worked, and I’m exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of new exciting things out there waiting for me to sew, like my upcoming foray into Sassanian Persian for my husband and I, only because I hate money and I dropped it like it was on fire at Sartor while at Pennsic.
I am no longer in school, and working freelance back in the graphic novel industry, so yeah, I have the time to play with sewing again. Sassanian will be fun, it’s something I’ve wanted to examine for a while as a predecessor to my period’s Silk Road fashion. Plus, I think there are cool hats involved.
I digress, we came here to talk about fun garb, not Anna and Gieffrei’s soon-to-exist “you spent HOW MUCH on that silk?” Sassanian Persian with dorfy hats. Fun garb. How’s this?
Yes. I did.
Go ahead, clutch your pearls, get a shot of bourbon, whatever it takes. I made this garb. And I wore it too. At Pennsic for a party. Yep.
A lot of my friends think that I have this over-the-top obsession with flamingos. In fact, I really don’t. I just love tacky lawn flamingos. Now, Mistress Vibeke Steensdottir back in the East Kingdom? Now SHE’S the awesome flamingo maven, complete with flamingo wing heraldry. She was the first person I know to document flamingos in period, so really if anybody deserves the credit for flamingo adoration, it’s her, not me.
I own pink lawn flamingos because I bought them for holiday decorations. I got mad at my former apartment complex for having stingy rules about decor and “religious” exemptions, and went a little nuts. They also look hilarious in snowbanks.
But anyways, yes. The short story is that the flamingo fabric magically appeared in my shopping cart at Joann’s during a sale event on red tag materials and then it came home with me. My initial intent was not garb, even though I joked about it online. It was going to be curtains or a sundress, or something festive to add to my Flamingomas decor. I mean, it’s a printed cotton twill. It would make crappy garb, and probably get me some sneers if I did it anyway.
Fast forward, I graduate, I move across the country, I’m unpacking my fabric onto my shelves, and I see those flamingos staring right back up at me. And that’s when I remembered something.
Let’s take a closer look:
Two out of three women in this section are wearing gowns with some form of obvious waterfowl, probably geese or ducks, maybe even in a way for the artists to mock Theodora and her former profession, but it’s pretty clear. So yeah, waterfowl on Byzantine garb, check.
But seriously, flamingos?
Now, I’ve seen this thing in person at the Cloisters. Those birds are screaming pink. Yes, they have green ones facing them, but that pink is deliberate. Sure it says swans or herons, but you know, we all know. Who makes deliberate acid-pink birds on a chasuble and wants us to think “swan”? Okay, that’s a stretch. I know.
Want even more of a stretch? You’re probably wondering how I justified having a cotton tunic? A printed one at that. Well, recent research has let me to uncover a booming cotton industry in Anatolia, but also, that printed cotton fabrics were coming out of Persia during the Middle Ages. Like this example from the 11th Century.
So basically, what I just did was stunt document a 6th Century flamingo dalmatica by using objects from the 6th, 11th, and 15th Centuries from 3 different cultures. It’s not something that will pass an A&S competition, so please don’t try this and tell your judges I said it was okay, but it was a way for me to appease my accuracy-brain for the sake of fun. We do this for fun, and it’s still okay to have fun.
Now, don’t go making yourself a closet of these things and brag that my blog told you it was okay. Make one. Wear it to a party or to a silly garb event. See if you can document some shapes and techniques and turn it into a conversation piece, which is basically what I did with mine.
“Hey, did you know that printed cotton is period? This tunic is silly, but let me tell you about this fragment I found while doing research…” Seriously, it sparked some great interest in printed textiles, which is already a growing trend in the SCA. So, why not see what direction a goofy idea can take you for your next big project?
On another note.
Speaking of authenticity brain…
The funny thing is that why I was planning the Fowl Dalmatica (yes, that’s what I call it), a bunch of friends were checking out Duchess Aikaterine’s tutorial on Youtube on how to make a Roman stola out of a sari.
I’ve had this love/hate relationship with saris being used for Roman garb for the longest time. I love it because it looks amazing. It’s beautiful, it’s exotic, it looks decadent and exactly what a Roman woman would have loved. I hated them only because they weren’t period and refused to make one for myself. Which is kind of a stupid reason, considering I made Jeff and I’s Babylonian garb out of vintage saris, so I’m really a big fat hypocrite who got stuck in the authenticity brain pool, swimming in circles, versus letting myself have fun.
…So I did it. I regret nothing and I want to make more. Plus, her draping technique for the stola is way better than my pinched in neckline, and the front/back seams versus side seams may just make more sense.
I will say that it definitely doesn’t work as well with linen unless it’s a thin, hankie weight linen. I made one of a 5oz linen and it just didn’t…manifest at the shoulders like the cotton and the 3.5oz linen did. So keep that in mind should you try this pattern. I’m going to try again with that fine pink linen I just got in from Sartor (see above) since it’s rather sheer. It would make a lovely stola, and I do need to start dressing like I’m married more often.
The only real downside to wearing the thin sari cotton is that it’s clingy, so I’m not sure how well it would do as a chiton underneath. I picked up some more vintage saris from eBay to try, as well as a couple of real silk ones at Pennsic (by the way, if you bought the 4 for $100 silk sari deal at Pennsic, better burn test a swatch, I got 2 real silk ones, a totally poly one, which I knew and bought really only for craft purposes, and a nice art silk one that melted to the plate when I burned it, so yeah. Check your purchases.) DO NOT MAKE THIS OUT OF ART SILK. Art silk is not “real” silk, it’s short for artificial silk, and is usually a poly rayon blend. You will boil alive. Granted, in real silk you’ll boil too, so, pick your poison. I’m not sure if the Romans had access to cotton, even though it was being cultivated in Egypt and Persia pretty early, but it’s a far better option than dead dinosaur.
I’m going to be making some more lightweight Roman and Byzantine (which I’m calling the Byzanlite) for regular wear here in Caid. My garb arsenal was just not originally designed for events at 110F, but hey, for when we get a cold front in February, I guess I’m set.
So, the moral of this story is don’t be afraid to shake off the stuffiness once in a while, and remember we do this for fun.
…Not that I don’t think hours on International Medieval Bibliography and making interlibrary loan requests isn’t still fun, mind you.
I finally got a chance to go back to the MFA yesterday and see Juno with a head on. When they acquired her in 2012, she was decapitated and needed a nose job.
When I went last year in 2014, she was blocked off because of a special event. So yesterday, finally yesterday, I got to take in her entire massive splendor, which I must admit, makes you want to drop to your knees in worship just because of her sheer size. This also meant that I finally got a chance to analyze what’s going on with her layers.
All photos were taken by me with my phone at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. They can all be blown up to a larger size by clicking on them.
Before we get to the knitty gritty, here’s all the pictures I took of her. Isn’t she magnificent?
And now we get to talk about what we’re looking at. That’s a peplos over a chiton. (Remember, here at Anna’s Rome, we use the Greek terms for Roman clothing to better determine the difference between the two garments. For more information, please visit my Ancient Roman Garb page.) Now, my observation of this from 2012 apparently sent some folks into a minor tizzy on the internet, because that is what the internet is for. Clearly I meant stola, clearly I was wrong. Clearly I didn’t know what I was talking about.
THAT. IS. A. PEPLOS. OVER. A. CHITON. With the left shoulder unpinned and rolled down to reveal her breast, and the right side left unsewn to add to the really detailed open drapery the sculptor had a field day with.
The stola had its golden age in the Republic. This statue, at least the body of the statue, is dated to the 1st Century BC. (The head was a later addition in the 2nd Century AD.) So you’re looking at the early Empire. Now, some women did continue to wear the stola well into the Empire, it was popular in the Flavian court, which may have been more conservative than the Julio-Claudians. The concept of fashion and trends was just as alive then as it is today. But what this does is provide women with an alternative to the frumpy blimpy stola that allows them to maintain the modesty expected of a matron while being more mobile and less confined to layers upon layers of cumbersome material. (More info on stola can be found above in Ancient Roman Garb page.)
Now, sculpture always interprets the ideal, not the real. Gods and Goddesses will always be the ideal, no matter what, but it’s worth noting the way the material drapes against her body and allows for some clingy sexiness. This cannot be achieved with today’s linen. My assumption is that we’re looking at some really REALLY fine tropical weight wool gauze, which I HAVE seen occasionally at a premium, but that’s what was worn more often than linen. It was more colorfast and easier to weave versus the smelly process of retting and laundering flax. It also would have felt nicer against the skin than wool does today.
So let’s take a closer look, care of Photoshop and some bad transparent painting.
Now you can really see the separation of the layers from the front, which is where the sculptor would have paid the most attention to detail. The peplum (flappy bit) is clearly visible, and unlike a stola, the garment is shorter, and reveals the chiton underneath, rather than reaching to the floor and touching the wearer’s instep such as her chiton does. There is no visible sign of belting but one tassel on the side (we’ll get to that in a second.)
At first, I thought she was wearing a rolled palla or something over her shoulder, but now that I’ve been able to really circle the entire sculpture 17 times before my husband dragged me out of the gallery, it’s clear that it’s only pinned on her right shoulder, and that the garment is rolled down. The only idea I have regarding this is to pay attention to Juno’s sexuality. I’ve been mulling over the idea that the peplos as a sole garment with no under layer is the mark of a virgin, you see this with statuary of Athena/Minerva and Artemis/Diana. In this case, Juno (Hera) is the Queen of the Gods, she has children, and a sexual relationship with her husband, Jupiter (Zeus.) The peplos revealing the breast in such a manner could better facilitate breast feeding, but it also goes, “Hey, yeah I’m modest and married, but I’m still desireable.” As on the other side of the modesty spectrum, Aphrodite/Venus is often shown just wearing a chiton that is usually falling off, or nothing at all. So this bridges the rigid virginal appearance of some goddesses with the hypersexualized appearance of other. You have a modest, married woman, who has nursed her children, and is still revered as a mother to her worshipers. Juno herself had many, many roles as a Roman Goddess, ranging from being Queen of the Gods, a patron of Rome in the Capitoline Trio, an image of war, motherhood, childbirth, creation, etc. There’s no really good way to nail her down, so it would depend on the local cult. The provenance of this statue seemed shaky on the placard, but one could assume that in the particular shrine this sculpture was carved for, her motherhood and patron of childbirth probably took precedence, just because of the attention given to one breast, and her lack of armaments.
Here’s the side views. As you can see, little attention was given to her back, or pieces were sheered off to make way for a mounting mechanism at one point in time. I do want to pay attention to the open sides of the peplos in the first image. Traditionally, this garment was belted and overlapped to help conceal the body. Romans were more modest than Greeks in that regard, and they probably would have sewn it shut. This is left open and unbelted. There is one small tassel visible in that same image that shows the open side, which could be reference to an open girdle, or something hanging from the top. (I really couldn’t see. She’s tall!) In the case of the girdle being left open, that really lends to sexualization of the statue. The visible tassel likely belongs to the girdle of her chiton peeking out from the side of the open peplos, which would make sense, because her sleeves are nice and taut, signifying the garment being pulled against the body.
Overall, this style is pretty unique and the placard doesn’t state either way. It does pay attention to the open side of what they refer to as her mantle, *grumble*, but that’s really it. There’s only so much you can put down before people get bored at museums, anyway, unless you’re me, and you go, “BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT!” But I don’t work there. That’s what.
What I do really love though, is the amazing detail the sculptor gave to the sleeve treatments on the chiton in the last image that focuses on her left side. Those look like cloth buttons, rather than metal, and they’re a pretty good size in comparison to her dress. Which gives us reenactors and re-creators more ideas on how to embellish our garments. They also don’t go all the way to the neck, and just stay on the upper arm. Curiouser, and curiouser!
For those of us who want to emulate this look, I would advise against the one-shouldered thing. Leave that to the goddess, as that would not have been very proper for a Roman matron to wear, even in the house (unless you’re breastfeeding of course, when having functional buttons on the chiton is also a fantastic solution.) Other than that, now that we have concrete (eh, marble?) evidence of a peplos being worn in lieu of a stola for a Roman matron, the days of wearing eight yards of fabric over another four are over for women who actually like walking around events without tripping on their garb.
Because of the impending doom, er, Coronation, I’ve been getting pinged a lot here in the East on how I tie my chiton and get my Roman clothing to drape properly. So, I made this handy dandy 10 minute vid to help explain my method, as well as give a brief look at my new dark blue stola. I hope it helps.
Have you ever wanted some of my blatherings in printed form to have and to hold forever?
Well soon you CAN! I contacted Compleat Anachronist, the SCA-wide A&S publication that comes out quarterly. http://www.sca.org/ca/index.html It covers all kinds of awesome topics for SCAdians that want to up their game, and for me, the issue will be on…surprise, Roman and Byzantine clothing. I am making it as comprehensive as possible, however, so everything a SCAdian needs to know about dressing in bed sheets is covered. 😉
Oh yeah, I’ll get that stuff up soon on Byzantine dress. I swears.
One of the first pieces of Roman clothing I made was the stola, or, overdress of a matron. I was married at the time and it seemed like a good idea. I wish I could find pictures of the construction of it, because as far as a “tube dress” goes, it was a pain, being that i made it to almost-period specs, and it’s about twice my height clocking in at 8 full yards of this sassy red linen, and I still didn’t get the neckline right. I’m planning to make another one, um, eventually. With a proper institia, more on that as it comes and I can do more research on what it should look like exactly.
Here’s my first Roman garb EVUR. (I think this was 2008?) That white chiton still hasn’t softened.
And here it is as a stand-alone garment, which is how I wear it more often, however in that case, it is NOT a stola, just a form of a peplos without the peplum. I do plan on fixing the neckline eventually, because this is such lovely red linen, I’d hate for it to go to waste, especially at a whopping 8 yards in one dress. At least it fits better now that I’ve, uh…filled out.