Note that this is only a plausibly period approach with modern liberties. This is just a way to make good-looking, passable Byzantine garb on a budget for themed events, allow newcomers to try out a different style or persona, or make a low-cost “casual” wardrobe for when wearing fancier clothing is not appropriate (outdoor/warm weather events, wars, etc.)
This is a beginner/intermediate pattern. You will need to know how to do facings and have a basic idea of rectangular construction. You will still need a long sleeved undertunic, as well.
Pay no mind to my lack of makeup and phone acrobatics.
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:
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.
~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.
~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!)
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.
Here’s a bad picture of the medallion on my chest, just above my Eastern Maunche, which carries the same precedence.
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.
Over the last few weeks, I completed a new court outfit based on the Eisiterion of Agnes of France, dated to the 1180s. It’s later period for my persona, but I was intrigued by the differences between the 11th and 12th Century as far as shape and embellishment went, so I gave it a try.
Now, this is an outfit that is not for every day, or even minor courts, this is specific to very formal events, and comes from a manuscript in which the 9 year old princess from France is brought into Constantinople and converted to fabulous by 70 (!) women wearing these outfits. I don’t know about you guys, but if I was a little girl, and I had suddenly gotten surrounded by weirdos looking like this and speaking a foreign language, I’d probably be pretty intimidated. Pictures will enlarge to show better detail. Courtesy of the Vatican Archives and their epic digitization project.
The propoloma is more “shovel” shaped than my other one, and I embellished it to make a coronet. Same procedure as the other one: 2 layers of wool felt and it’s self-supporting. Embellishment is shot silk, mother of pearl cabochons set in fine silver cups because I hate money, but I don’t hate it too much, since the bezants are gold-plated brass. Silver is one thing, gold is another, and I can only get my husband to cave so much.
Curves are very difficult to deal with. I tried the tube method, and the seams were unruly the whole time. I opted for the more tedious clipped and pressing method, and despite unevenness that I can see, it came out fine. The kharzanion (trinity temple ornaments) are wrong, and temporary. Konstantia is making me a proper set, but we ran out of time. So, I opted for a pair of really ugly earrings my dad gave me as a, “Here, you do crafty things, find something to do with these.” And I did. They’re gaudy, but the whole outfit is pretty gaudy.
I made the delmatikion before the kamision. I wasn’t concerned about either, but I wanted to give it the time it deserved. The fabric is from Sartor.cz (Gird your wallets) and they called it the Oseberg textile. This is incorrect. It is a Persian textile that would have been available in period to Byzantium, but it is currently in a Japanese collection. Unfortunately, they only ran it in polyester, but as it’s in my heraldic colors, I couldn’t resist. The poly is super high quality, seriously, I never thought I would use “long staple polyester” in a sentence before, but I did. Aside from the expected fraying and nightmares associated iwth poly brocades, it sewed up really smoothly.
The Orange arm bars and neckline are made from the orange silk I purchased for my thesis project, which will be a post incoming upon completion. the arm bars were enhanced by some orange sari trim I had in my stash, and couched down faux pearls. The pearls on the neckline help hide the imperfections that probably only really bother me, but a Byzantine lady cannot have enough pearls. There’s no such thing, and, faux pearls are in fact, period.
The neckline itself is the side-keyhole design that pops up on some extant pieces. It closes with a shank button and loop. Here it is to the point of hanging up pre-hemming. The sleeves have a 36″ drop. THREE. FOOT. SLEEVES. Oh, and they’re lined in a very light gold dupioni. The manuscript shows a white visible lining, but I couldn’t go with just white.
The kamision I wanted to double as a basic dress for when I’m not wearing a delmatikion for court, but still have enough pizazz for nice indoor events. More fake pearls on the neck to simulate a superhumeral, and more fancy sari trim. The neck and cuffs are faced with a green and red shot dupioni. The body is Pompeiian Red linen. This was my climate control once I got to the event site, because over 600 people plus polyester is no good.
The sari trim on this MAKES the garment, because it’s not a difficult pattern, and I know it like the back of my hand. I made adjustments for the sleeves since I was using a different bolt width, but that’s it. This is one of those demonstrations where embellishment can change everything. It elevated a simple tunic dress from “okay” to “WOW”, while creating no more labor for me had I used a commercially available trim. Work smarter, not harder. Though, one day, I’ll learn to embroider this well. I really want to learn, but time is not on my side at the moment.
All together on the dress form:
I made a fast maforion (veil) out of a semi-oval piece of the same silk I used on the propoloma. Some women in the manuscript have bands of color on them, some don’t, and it doesn’t seem consistent with the bands on the hat, so I left it plain for now. It took some creative pinning on my snood, but it worked. I’ll probably take a series of photos showing how I did it eventually, but I am so overwhelmed with schoolwork right now, updating my blog is not top priority, and I apologize.
Here’s the requisite goofy pics at Coronation. My sleeves were unevenly draped, which is killing my OCD, but the silhouette was there. Lord Brenden Crane took the professional shots in our populace “photo booth”.
12th Century High Court
12th Century High Court
12th Century High Court
Oh, that side-eye pic was intentional. Byzantine side-eye is period. Here’s a shot from the same manuscript. The empress does not seem pleased at the emperor and his new friend.
As frequent readers may recall, I have a post here entitled, “The Illusive Dover Dress Debunked.” Wherein I was determined to set the record straight from badly interpreted secondary source material using the primary source. I have created what I think is the look portrayed in the silk fragment. At least the start, anyway. Let’s review.
Here’s the look most often emulated in the SCA:
Which was taken from this interpretational sketch from the 1980’s:
Here’s the actual source:
Here’s the Anna, zoning off as Queen’s Guard (hence rose baldric) at Crown Tourney (I was so tired.):
Yes, it’s a very simple style to emulate. I often wonder if Elizabethan personae come to my page and sneer at my untailored, baggy linen glory. 😉 However, lets see if we can break this down and determine what we’re looking at, and how I did.
First, the women portrayed in the tapestry are both Tyche, the goddess of fortune and prosperity, taking on the shape of the Blue and Green Demoi, the two main political associations in the Eastern Roman Empire. They are supporting a figure that seems to be Emperor John I Tzimiskes on his triumph over Bulgaria in the late 10th Century.
The women are first and foremost, deities. Even though the Byzantines were extremely pious Orthodox Christians, they were proud of their Hellenistic and Roman roots, and often displayed images from classical mythology and literature as part of their way to connect themselves to the splendor of the ancient empires.
The dead giveaway on the divinity of the subject is that they are barefoot. In the Greco-Roman culture, only the divine could be portrayed as barefoot. That does not mean that people could not and did not go barefoot in real life, but as far as artistic record goes, this was reserved for the gods. I am not barefoot for a few reasons. 1: I am a high lady of the court. Barefoot would mean I couldn’t afford shoes. 2: It was Crown Tourney, ew, gross. I am actually wear a pair of red China flats, since red shoes were all the rage for women during the period. One day, I will make nice, period shoes, but I digress…
Another odd observation is that they have bare arms and appear to be wearing cuffs of some sort. This boggles me. The Blue is wearing a tunica that appears to be almost-flesh colored, but the Green, in her minty green tunica, definitely has bare arms. What I have determined off the cuff (*rimshot*) is that this is another classical throwback, or, the weaver really screwed up. Screwing up is period, we see it all the time, which would make some sense. I don’t understand the placement of the cuffs on the arm when they look like trim that matches the garments. If you’ve ever worn a wide cuff on the upper arm, you know how uncomfortable they can be. However, to me, the dead giveaway that this was an error is if you look at the woven pattern on the wrists of both demoi, you see that the trim matches that of their tunicae. Jewelry wouldn’t match embroidery, and their headwear doesn’t match their dresses, and they’re both different. I suppose the only way to really tell is to see the textile in person, which will probably never happen unless I get to go frolic about cathedrals in Germany sometime soon.
EDIT 5-21-14: I did find this small scan of a book about the textile, and it looks like there may be a touch of green left on her shoulder, so fading could also be a culprit.
Of course, if this WAS intentional, my guess would be that the artist was trying to emulate the sleeveless fashions of the classical period.
Or, they could be dancers. I’ve seen a great deal of sleeveless “Byzantine Dancer” interpretations in the SCA and other re-creation groups around on the web, but I did find this image from the Paris Psalter very quickly on Wikipedia with a fast search. This also dates to the 10th Century and has connections to Basil II/John I Tzimiskes period as the textile.
These women are definitely dancers, and the painted style of this is most interesting in the layering of the colors. They are definitely wearing what could be considered the classical stola on it’s own, and the men are wearing the clothing of Late Antiquity and do look more Western Roman rather than Byzantine. This is a curious piece to work from as far as clothing styles go. However, looking directly at the women, you can tell the dresses are one piece and woven or dyed into different colors, and the actively dancing woman is still wearing some sort of sandal on her feet, so she’s not totally barefoot like the demoi are. However, the sleeveless style is there for a dancer. This link that shows a modern woman reenactor gives a source as being in the Biblioteca Marciana, or the Library of St. Mark’s in Venice. I went to check it out on the Biblioteca Marciana digital library, but the back-end of their Java encoding is broken, and couldn’t view their manuscripts, not to mention the reference given is so vague, I’m unsure of which manuscript it’s actually in.
EDIT 5-21-2014: somebody on the SCA Garb Page on Facebook has found it for me, HURRAY!
Those dancers may be similar, but the lack of ornamentation, and the weird flounces at the bottom of the skirt don’t mesh with the Tyches in the tapestry.
My big red X over this hypothesis is that the job of a dancer in the Byzantine Empire was THE LOWEST OF THE LOW. They did have court dances, and ritual dances, but for entertainment purposes, especially the showing of the arms and legs? You’re a harlot. Plain and simple. This is seem all too well in the opinion Procopius had of the Empress Theodora in his “Secret History.” Granted, he was a bit of a gossiper, but she was portrayed as the absolute dregs of society before she was married to Justinian. This was not a wanted profession. Why would 2 images of a divine person be dressed as dancers? That sounds insulting to the goddess Tyche. It would be almost satirical in nature for the demoi (remember, political parties) to be dressed as such, but not in the way that the silk is portrayed. They’re supporting figures for a conquering emperor, and not there as jokes.
For now, I will stick with the idea that the sleeveless-appearing Green Tyche was done in error on the weaver’s part, considering the Blue Tyche has the cream colored tunica. If it is an attempt at classical Roman revival, the stola should be to the floor, as the two layer look is strictly a Byzantine fashion style. The weaver was emulating Byzantine fashion, not Roman.
Moving onto discussing my interpretation, I created the stola from about 3 yards of red-orange linen. As shown in my previous post on this style, the Byzantine woman’s stola would have looked similar to the Roman stola (see my Ancient Roman costuming page for more info on that) but closer in cut to the men’s Roman tunica, as seen in this Coptic example:
I opted to play with this idea with the “pinching” method of the Roman stola, that is, bringing in the top seam a bit to achieve straps, and provide a more comfortable neckline. The textile shows the women wearing a relatively high neck, as opposed to the deep V-necked style of antiquity. Easy enough. The trick of course is to fit the neck to yourself over and over again with pins to get the look you want. Here is the illustration of mine:
Here’s some pictures of the finished product to help give a better understanding, you can see how I already finished the neck and shoulders before I attached the straps. The embroidery is done by machine and I’m just a fan of that aesthetic. Similar bands are shown in some artwork, but I just wanted a little bling. Also, pardon the icky bathroom mirror:
And here’s an action shot of me receiving my Maunche, which I was actually happy to see so I could see how the sleeve openings looked, and they look comparatively well against the original source material. There is no large gap as shown in the Dover artwork at the top, and the draping against my shoulders looks fantastic and flattering. If I would have left the fabric any wider, it would have been frumpy, and any smaller it would have been too tight. So 40″ wide is the magic number for me and stolas. Your mileage will vary depending on the person.
I guess the next thing on my list is to make a tunica with the solid stripe in the front as opposed to the clavii, and take pictures with my turret hat and a palla in such a way that mimics Tyche. I still love my overdramatic dalmatica style of the 11th Century, but this is a comfortable option for warmer events, and it was relatively warm indoors. Hence the lack of hat and palla. I did have it with me, but they made me toasty. It’s also hard to guard thy queen while being immobilized by your garb. 😉
It’s pretty much safe to say that this particular short stola was worn from the period of Justinian and Theodora in the 6th Century as seen in the Ravenna mosaics, and through the 10th Century as seen in the Bamberger Gunthertuch.
I hope this little simple project of mine helped those who were scratching their heads over the Dover illustrations. I feel that this is the correct form of the garment worn, and that more women will be interested in trying this unique style of the Byzantines. 🙂
They aren’t scanned fabulously, but heck, you get how they work. These WILL be posted on my Eastern Roman Garb page as well, but I wanted to get these on a blog page and tagged for searchability as I plan a better layout for the current page, but this is a huge step in the content direction.
Also, let’s try to start using the Greek terms, Kamision and Delmatikion, for Tunica and Dalmatica respectively to help disseminate Greek over Latin.
These patterns are pretty self-explanatory for folks that are used to basic medieval clothing. Byzantine garb is basically all t-tunics, with only a few minor twists. The biggest issue is really the width of your fabric allowing for the nice curved underarm seam, that’s about it. These blocks are not the be-all-end-all ways to make these garments, but rather one interpretation to show you the pieces needed. Once you get a handle on the basic construction, all that’s left is embellishment and sleeve variations.
My pattern is based off of the 7th Century tunic in the permanent collection “Under the Stairs” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Kamision (Tunica) instructions:
Recommended fabric: linen or very light wool
Recommended yardage: 4 yards of 60” wide
First, assess your fabric, and see if you can use this pattern layout, note the positions of the folds. This pattern is not to scale, and the average sized person may not have enough extra fabric on the sides to warrant the inclusion of the gores. This is okay, as they can be cut separately.
A breakdown of the measurements you will need as laid out in the patterns, they DO NOT include seam allowance:
A: Tunica length. Measure from the nape of your neck to where you want the tunic to end.
B: 1/4th Chest measurement + ease. Typically what I do is take a chest measurement, divide it by 2, add 2 inches, and divide again by 2. That is your number.
C: Upper arm length has everything to do with the width of your fabric and not your arm. If you can fit the length of your upper arm (shoulder to elbow) here, that’s awesome, but it’s not necessary, you will want at least to the half-way point between your joints, otherwise your underarm will not fit.
D: ½ Bicep measurement. Remember your fabric is on the fold at the top for your sleeves here, so you don’t want this to be very wide against your body. Tunicae were fitted as dalmaticae were not, so you will want to adjust ease here as necessary.
E: Lower arm length is the difference from where your upper arm length ends to your wrist.
F: ½ Wrist circumference is actually ½ the measurement you get around a closed fist. You want to get your hand into your sleeve, after all.
G: Gore length is the measurement from the top of your hip to the desired hem of the tunic. Now, if you have a fine derriere, so to speak, feel free to elongate that gore to your waist, but the original tunic’s gore comes off the hip.
There’s a variety of formulas out there to make a neckline. I have a small neck at 13”, so my go-to cut is 4” from the center point on each side, with a 1” dip in the back and 3” dip in the front, but a 2” dip in the back and a 4” dip in the front should fit most people. A boatneck, or basically just a slit, is also a common style for this period. The tunica at the Met has a keyhole neckline with the opening on shoulder seam. I’ve done that before as well. I recommend finishing your neckline with bias tape or a narrow hem before moving on.
Before any piecing of the pattern takes place: GET YOUR EMBELLISHMENT DONE. There is no way to apply clavii to a tunica once those side seams are in place. Get any roundels or segmentae you want on as well. It’s just easier to handle at this point.
Follow the diagram on the piecing. If you are going with the smaller gores if you were able to cut it from the folded fabric, follow the illustration at top, if you cut gores from a separate piece, follow the bottom. Apply trim over the seams where the upper sleeve joins the lower sleeve. This is definitely something else you want to do before you sew up the side seams.
Now all that is left is to join the front to the back along the side seams, hem the sleeves and bottom, and finish trims, and you’re done!
Delmatikion (Dalmatica) instructions:
Recommended fabric: Linen, silk, damasks/brocades, light to medium weight wool
Recommended yardage: 5 yards of 60” wide
Think of the Dalmatica as an oversized tunica, but as the tunica can be worn by itself as one layer, the dalmatica is an overtunic only. This is a unisex garment, and sometimes for women you may see it referred to as a “gunna.” Either way, this is where you really get to jazz up your wardrobe. They can be floor length or short enough to show off your tunica embellishments.
Sleeves can be short, long, or extra-wide as was the style in the 11th and 12th centuries when my persona lived. The only real difference is that typically the dalmatica was cut from one piece of fabric, including the skirt width, whereas the tunica had gores. However, gores are still a perfectly period option in the event of a smaller bolt width. Follow the instructions as laid out above for the tunica, and you should be in good shape. As far as embellishments go, the best way to go about this is to follow some period examples. Clavii didn’t seem as popular on dalmaticae as the centuries progressed, and richness was displayed not so much with embroidered bands of trim but rather in the heavy silk damasks and brocades that were in fashion. My drawings including clavii to better illustrate how to embellish.
Note that I included a curve at the edge of the skirt portion in order to better facilitate trim application on the dalmatica’s hem. This is optional, especially if separate gores are chosen, but note that wide trims will require careful piecing and pleating to better conform to the hem.
Just like in the Tunica instructions, remember you NEED to add any embellishment such as clavii and other appliques BEFORE you close the side seams.
Once your garments are completely sewn, then it’s time to go in and add all the really rich goodies to your pieces, such as hundreds of pearls and other gemstones. 🙂