This is more of a cautionary tale than an actual report of what went down.
Long story short: when you’re a very popular person in the SCA, there’s a good chance that not everybody who wants to get into your vigil tent is going to get in. This is at least thwarted with the usual in-person festivities of a party-like setting with snacks and drinks to sate visitors while they wait.
You get no such thing when your vigil is online. This can make some people a bit cranky that they have to sit around in a Zoom waiting room. I received no major complaints in my direction, other than Facebook messages of, “I fell asleep/I waited too long/I wanted to get dinner/I didn’t want to sit in garb all night/etc.” But that didn’t stop me from feeling bad about it. We did the best we can under the circumstances of hinky tech and overloading rooms. Please keep this in mind as the society as a whole continues to navigate this time of weird should you end up in another digi-vigil.
This is how it went down:
Originally, I was to sit in a tent in a friend’s backyard, at least, to emulate the idea of a larger in-person vigil. There was a nice selection of snacks and drinks for the local crew, and the incense and candles I purchased from an Orthodox Monastery here in the states as part of my almsgiving plan (see forthcoming post about ceremony.) I had my icon of St. Michael the Archangel, a 3D printed bust of Empress Ariadne from the Louvre, and my Tampa Bay Rays ball cap (hey, it was the playoffs and I was missing the game!) with incense and candles as a table nearby. I had printed fabric of Empress Irene from the Hagia Sophia as my backdrop. It was going to be -pretty- and -medieval-.
Except that no matter what we did, the internet refused to comply with me being outside. So, as the waiting room filled up, I couldn’t let anybody in. We hastily relocated me inside to the dining room. The ballcap was lost in the shuffle, and by the time it was found in the dirt outside, the Rays were losing that game to the Astros.
Once we finally got going, I only got a few visitors in before the first major crash happened. It took a bit to rebuild the queue, and Master Herman had to stick around as a tech support presence in the vigil room the entire night to stop subsequent crashes, of which there were two more. But as long as he was “in” there, the room stayed open and we didn’t have to start a new one. In order to help, Mistress Maol created a breakout room for guests to be able to chat in, and other rooms formed as well from what I heard. All I know is that I sat on a wooden chair from 7:30pm to 12am and my legs were none-too-happy about it. Something else to think about. The plus side to having control over who was coming in and out of my room was that I could run to the facilities as needed and get a leg stretch when I could. Something that would have been a bit harder in-person if there was a massive line building.
The other option we employed was the digital vigil book, which can still be found at www.annasvigil.northernarmy.org. As of this point, 2 weeks after the fact, I still haven’t read it because I’ve been so busy working on our next military move to Virginia, so all SCA is in the backseat until I know our lives aren’t going to shatter along with our TVs again. I’ll get there when I get there. My online presence was coordinated by Master Richard leHawke from the East Kingdom, since it didn’t require anything local.
Here’s my list of Digi-Vigil Pros and Cons:
-Easier to sneak away for breaks.
-Being able to see friends from all around the world, and not just who’s at the event. I had several from Lochac (Australia), who were sharing their morning cup of coffee with me.
-You can record it and keep it forever.
-Except for your local crew, nobody gets snacks.
-Tech can, and will, go down.
-It definitely pulls you out of the medieval experience.
To conclude, here are some tips to help those that are leading up to their own virtual events that I can only give because things broke on my end. Hahahaha, er…
1: TEST YOUR TECHNOLOGY. Do a tech week in advance. When we did our tech week, we thought a different router would help. NOPE. Get this worked out before you sit down.
2: MAKE SOCIAL MEDIA EVENTS FOR THIS. We referred everyone to the Trimaris Populace Facebook page. Bad idea. A Facebook event would have been better, and we ended up doing that the next day for the actual elevation.
3: BE PATIENT. Jeff kept going, “Semper Gumby” to me, over and over. But when your husband is used to nothing going right in the Navy, and you have generalized anxiety disorder, maybe consider medicating instead. >.<
4: REMEMBER TO EAT AND REST AS NEEDED. You are not strapped to the chair. Scream for snacks, and actually don’t take a visitor for a few minutes so that you can consume said snackery. I did not. I was HUNGRY when we left, even with a plate of food there. I did eat it, mind you, but probably not as much as I should have.
5: MAY I SUGGEST A NAP BEFORE SITTING UP ALL NIGHT? Oof.
Next post: A Peerage in the Time of Plague, Part 3: “Hey, remember I’m still a classicist!” Pouring a Libation to Poseidon.
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!
On Saturday, September 26th during the Ethereal Court of their Majesties Trimaris at Village Plague, I was sent forward to contemplate my elevation to the esteemed Order of the Laurel.
My vigil will take place on the evening of the 16th of October, and my elevation the following day, on the 17th, which also marks the Hellenic Festival of the Khalkeia, which celebrates craftsmen under the patronage of Athena and Hephaestus. (The 18th is the anniversary of the Battle of Dyrrhachium, but we aren’t going to talk about that.)
This will be a virtual event, with only a small team present here in Castlemere to make this safe and socially distant. More information will be posted as I receive it.
This is definitely more of an aristocratic tradition than a lower class tradition, though I assume that well-to-do merchant class Byzantines may have had a tiered wardrobe.
While doing research, you may find annotations or information for clothing known as “undress”, or “court undress”. Before you think you need to get nekkid, look at the context. It’s somewhat antiquated, but the concept of “undress” is the lowest level of acceptable dress. Not really your pajamas, but something you could be comfortable being seen in, while out for a meal in the palace with friends, or maybe the emperor if the occasion is not a state one.
Basically, court undress is your business casual, while full court dress is your best of the best ceremonial-grade garments. In between could be half-dress, your “cocktail hour” attire, or something you would wear to a weekly liturgy at your local basilica, a gathering at the palace, or a less formal court. Coronation? Easter? Christmas? A marriage? Get your good stuff on, non-optional.
It’s no secret that I love garb. I sew a lot, and probably own way more than I actually need to. My reasoning, or at least, what I tell people, is that you really can only get better and learn to understand new patterns and shaping if actually get the needle out. Another reason, is that stratifying my Byzantine collection is important. I’m still working on it, and developing more “undress” for myself as an aristocratic woman.
For example, my 12th Century outfit? This is not for everyday wear. This only gets trotted out for special occasions, namely coronations, and fashion shows because it’s just so extra. This is court dress. The propoloma elevates it.
But then, you have my 11th Century set which I made for my thesis. Is this court dress? Well, the mantle certainly kicks it up. But it’s not the highest ceremonial dress. Why? I’m not wearing a propoloma, I’m in a fakiolion instead. Could I wear this to court? Yes. Probably not for a coronation, or for Easter/Pascha ceremonies. But this would be acceptable for an event where fine dress is required. It could even be undress if I lost the mantle. That is more or less adding an air of piety to cover my shoulders for the divine liturgy. If I added a propoloma to this, it would be court dress without question. This is a good example of half-dress.
True undress? Probably more along the lines of this look. I’m in a minimally decorated wool delmatikion, with a plain white veil. I still have jewelry on, as I am aristocratic and need to wear some wealth, but this was Festival of the Rose out in Caid in February of 2017, and not a major event like Coronation or Crown Tournament. I was comfortable and completely dressed, I just don’t have a full body picture.
A good source for a woman in aristocratic undress would probably be the Theodore Psalter, which Tim Dawson references for similar reasons in “By the Emperor’s Hand”. Here, the woman pictured in well dressed, but not weighed down by ceremonial accouterments. This is something more along the lines of what I should be wearing regularly (when it’s not as hot as the surface of the sun outdoors.)
I do have a couple older linen delmatikioi I should try wearing more beyond Pennsic when I’m not melting down here.
Another level, though I am unsure if this is truly an aristocratic woman or not, is from this miniature in the Menologion of Basil II. I like this because it doesn’t have the long angel sleeves, and clearly has a short-sleeved esoforion beneath it. However, I’m not sure, exactly, who she is. Is this the empress in her “casual” wear because of the red boots? Is this a middle class woman? Either way, it’s another form of undress. My guess if she is aristocratic, or the empress, it’s very much of a “It’s warm out, and I’m keeping to myself” type of clothing. It’s still pretty ornamented, and red is not a cheap color. Of note is the fact that it is clearly an emergency situation with the “bad omen” in the sky, and her head is uncovered outdoors. Lots of questions!
Anyways, I hope this post helps people think a bit more about building a tiered wardrobe. It’s definitely something I need to put more thought into working on for myself.
Probably the crappiest attempt at 17th C. Imperial Russian you’ll ever see, but it was coated in bling so it doesn’t matter.
This story begins, as so many do, with the quintessential opening of, “So no sh*t, there I was…” It was February of 2016. I was at a tiny pop culture convention at UConn with some friends who I’ve known in the comic artist circuit for no less than googlety years.
…Yes, I draw, by the way. My first degree is in art, and I’ve been working on and off in the pop culture industry now since 2002. The latest thing I churned out was this Master Chief for my brother-in law. This is not relevant to my post. I just wanted to show it off because I slayed that bristol board.
Long story short, I had secured badges for San Diego Comic-Con International, yes, the big one, and I was chatting it up with a friend in our hotel room on a freezing cold night in Storrs, CT. She randomly suggested something along the lines of, “You should totally do a historically accurate Black Widow.” And I only half heard it. So while she was talking about art, I heard “costume for Comic-Con”, and the rest was history.
The kicker was getting in a position to make it before the con. Our move from New Hampshire to California had already been scheduled, and I was in the middle of writing and sewing my thesis. So what it came down to was waiting until I actually lived in San Diego to get started. This would not have been so bad, if we didn’t wait a month for our household goods to come in. When all was said and done, I had 3 weeks to pull it together. I began ordering supplies before I had a sewing machine in my house, and basically launched this project on a Hail Mary.
Since I made this for convention cosplay, versus SCA wear, I decided to focus on the look of the costumes from the 1903 Ball at the Winter Palace, in which the theme was to wear 17th Century court dress. So it was already going to be anachronistic in addition to costumey. I chose the look of the coat of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, sister of Czar Nicholas II, and the kokoshnik from another noblewoman.
I shorted the hem of the layers to make sure I wouldn’t trip and fall in a convention center. I used every machine trick I had to save time, and collected plastic beads, rhinestones, vintage beaded trims, buttons with black widow spiders on them, and embroidered patches churned out on a friend’s embroidery machine. In the end, most of the handwork involved was just on the kokoshnik. I threw lace on the forehead instead of beads, because I don’t know how to do that type of beading and there was like zero time to try to learn. The patterns are overly simplified to facilitate speed. I’m pretty sure Russian coats were not made like t-tunics.
I was sewing up to the night I wore it, but it paid off in the end: I was awarded a hall costume blue ribbon from the Hollywood Costumer’s Guild, and got to meet Terry Dresbach, the former costume designer from “Outlander”, who immediately recognized my attempt at a historical version of Black Widow. I didn’t get my picture with her, but I did with others from their group.
Here is a full gallery of the construction and wearing of the costume at SDCC. Note the crazy nuances like my makeup, and nose ring. This was never intended for SCA wear, it’s more like a Las Vegas Imperial Russian.
And then the costume got put away in my closet, and came out again for Costume College in 2017, but I didn’t wear it.
And then the 2019 Birka Garb Challenge was announced as “Marvel and DC Superheroes and Villains”, and I was like, “Well, okay. I’m skipping this one. Unfair.” And then I got talked back into it. Originally, I was going to enter as Thanos in full crazy 12th Century Byzantine complete with chased and repoussed “armor” as a loros, and then decided I didn’t want to do that much work. So, I backed out again, in prep of doing the medieval persona hike here in Trimaris in February at Corsair’s Heart, which I figured would give me a better avenue for re-wearable garb.
…And then I got asked to trot this haute mess back out. Since nobody back in the East Kingdom actually saw it in person, I had a few people who really wanted me to bring it. I had even more people who didn’t remember, or know, that I did this, so when I posted a few pics to social media that one was coming out of the vaults, I think it really intimidated a lot of other participants. For their benefit, and my own, I decided I wouldn’t enter the fashion show, and opted in to judging it instead, which, honestly, was so much fun, I would totally do it again. I loved sitting on the panel and admiring all of the entries with the other judges, TRM East, Her Highness East, and Her Highness Atlantia. We had an absolute blast.
So yeah, if you saw this, and wondered what the frack it was, this is what it was. The ribbon hangs in my studio, underneath a ribbon I won at Arisia 2009 for my first ever Byzantine ensemble. They’re a nice reminder to stay humble. 😉
So I’m currently in the lead over at Fabrics-store.com’s Reenactment and Costume Contest, which is sort of funny, because I had to get my arm twisted to enter anyway. It’s even funnier than it’s our Norman garb, but I digress, I could use some votes to stay on top!
It’s simple! Just make an account (free!) and vote once every 24 hours for the next 2 days. The store doesn’t spam you with emails, and you can toggle that once you have an account. I would also appreciate a share or two on social media if you can spare the milliseconds and bandwidth.
If you don’t have a subscription, I will post an update as soon as the stock clerk has them available on the SCA website. I plan to also purchase additional copies aside from my author copies, and have them available at Birka.
I know I haven’t been posting as much as I used to. I do have content coming, but I was focusing on getting this off the ground, and, preparing for another fun-filled exciting cross-country move back to the East Kingdom from Caid. I was hoping they’d give us another winter in SoCal, but nooooooo. 😦