Oh red shoes. Byzantines and red shoes. Wear ALL the red shoes, but…should we be wearing the red shoes?
In the SCA, we’re all playing nobility, but we still have a hierarchy. Granted, it’s nothing like a true feudal system, but we still have ranks and titles that come with it certain privileges in dress. A knight or master of arms is a fine example with their right to wear a white belt or baldric. In the case of the Eastern Romans, shoes played a huge part in who you were and what job you did.
Red shoes are imperial in nature. Done. Story over.
This started because I was pondering joining the Red Shoe Club under the urgings of a duchess friend from Artemisia. Prompted for documentation that women wore them, I turned to my favorite, expensive source on the matter: Reconstructing the Reality of Images by Maria Parani. (Best $300 I ever spent on one book.) I seriously refer to it as my Book of Armaments.
Parani pulls no punches in that she states that documentation for women wearing the red shoes is scarce (pg. 30.). I have yet to follow up her footnotes, but she cites Michael Psellos on the fact that the Empresses did wear the red shoes, and then Anna Komnene on that women wearing them in the absence of a male heir was rare. Veering away from shoes momentarily, this is something I’m noticing a lot in the ways of court dress and titles: the women often wore what their husband were wearing. They took their titles, and they took their clothing privileges. So in the case of a solitary female ruler, she may not wear the red shoes in the lack of a male consort. We look at this now as incredibly misogynistic, but this is how the world worked for centuries.
In period, I would have a husband, and he would be the hypatos (consul), therefore, as hypatissa, I would be allowed to mimic his clothing and regalia for court functions. In the SCA, my husband is not a baron, so I stand alone as a baroness. This is common in the game we play. So this is when you need to think with your persona, versus thinking as a SCAdian. Of course, if I really thought as my persona, I wouldn’t be in Byzantine dress most of the time anyway, I would be in Norman dress. Gross. But I digress.
So, if red shoes aren’t an option unless you’re on the throne (and consequently, a royal peer having already been ON the throne and have in excess a wardrobe of royal lovelies) what choices do you have?
Parani herself seems to uncover several color options. In addition to the Imperial red, there’s yellow, blue, and green. Like all things Byzantine, these change over the course of history depending on what the emperor ate for lunch. There is one citation she gives in which in a manuscript dated to the 10th Century, Pontius Pilate is seen wearing red shoes. (pg 82.) Is this evidence that non-imperials were wearing red? Hard to say. Personally as somebody who’s been reading up on iconography, such things could be used as symbolism. Perhaps to this artist, Pilate had feigned imperial power?
The general information I can compile (without just regurgitating Parani’s words, which is uncool anyway) at least for the re-enactor/re-creators looking for shoe ideas, is the following:
Yellow: Prefects, and then later the panhypersebastos (patrikoi within high favor of the Imperial Family) (pg. 71-72, 82.)
Blue: The Kaisar and Sebastokrator, usually immediate family members to the Emperor and maybe in line for the throne. In the Palailogos Dynasty, the Sebastokrator would have eagles embroidered on them. (pg. 71-72)
Green:Protovestiarios, the head eunuch in charge of finances. (pg. 71-72)
Red and White with eagle embroideries: The Despotes, title of the heir-apparent during the Palailogos Dynasty. (pg. 72)
One red, one black: Chronicled by Arab geographer Ibn Hauqal as being worn by the Prefect in the 10th Century. (pg. 71 n. 83.)
That doesn’t leave a lot of options for SCAdians looking to stay in their persona. It would make sense for the Prince and Princess to wear blue, and I don’t know many eunuchs (not that they’d tell me anyway.)
So this really narrows it down to well, yellow. But who would wear it? Well, in some definitions, prefects were regional governors. In Greek the term is Eparch. From what I can gather, an eparchy was more of a district than the themata, which were ruled by the anthypatoi, or proconsuls.
But in the SCA, who would we place in these positions? My previous post discussed the equivalence of the anthypatoi with landed baronage, and hypatoi with court baronage. A barony is still an administrative area that was governed. But is this something that should be limited to just the SCA baronage? Ehhhh…maybe? I think this is going to be one of those “let your persona do the walking” things. I have yet to see a kingdom in our game that has sumptuary laws on shoes. Your best bet would be to study your own period and come up with who you want to be. Nobody is going to stop you as a lord or lady from wearing red shoes, but do you personally want to feign claim to the throne? Impostors got blinded in period. That doesn’t sound like much fun. And as far as the panhypersebastoi are concerned, that was any family that was in high favor of the Imperials in the mid 12th Century. So if you’re a later persona, that’s an option, especially if you’re in a kingdom where populace swearing fealty is common. If you’re in an office that swears fealty, absolutely.
On that note, I’m going yellow shoe shopping.
Friendly note: Historians love to argue, and this is information from ONE source. Although Doctor Parani’s work is very thorough and well cited, there are possibly other historians that disagree with her and have their own evidence. Don’t take this as the gospel truth, and feel free to explore other resources.
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.
***NOTE: AS OF JANUARY 2016, THE TUNIC IS NO LONGER IN THE GALLERY. THEY HAVE ANOTHER EXHIBIT ON PAINTED LINEN WHICH IS VERY COOL AND YOU SHOULD GO SEE ANYWAY.***
***OH LOOK, ANOTHER NOTE: AS OF FEBRUARY 2016, THE PATTERN I MADE IS INCORRECT AND WILL BE UPDATED THANKS TO SOME KEEN OBSERVATIONS BY SOUTH-RUS.ORG, WHO HAVE BEEN NICE ENOUGH TO SHARE THEIR VIEWS WITH ME. THIS IS STILL A PLAUSIBLY CORRECT PATTERN THAT MAY WORK BETTER WITH MODERN FABRIC WIDTHS ANYWAY, SO DON’T THROW OUT ANYTHING YOU’VE MADE SO FAR! JUST GET READY FOR THE NEXT VERSION. 🙂 ***
This is a class I’m teaching this weekend at East Kingdom University, and will also be giving at Pennsic. So if none of this stuff makes sense, find me in the meatspace at these locations, and I can explain a method to my madness. ❤
[All photos on this page were taken by me on my last trip to the Met in 2012, except otherwise noted.]
This tunic is a part of the permanent exhibit in the small Byzantine gallery in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is, as the title of this class details, directly beneath the Grand Staircase of the museum, and sort of nestled in its own special world of Coptic shinies. It is dated to 7th Century Egypt, and boasts a unique method of tailoring brought to the West via the Sassanian Persian Empire. This particular style of “fit and flare” tunic may have been what influenced later examples in Medieval Europe.
The first thing I’m going to invite everyone to take a look at is the overall construction. It’s not too dissimilar from what we’ve come to know as a Birka tunic in the SCA, sans the underarm gussets that are commonplace in that design. There are side gores to widen the bottom for ease of movement, and the sleeves taper gently toward the wrist. The neckline is heavily influenced by Asiatic designs, and boasts keyhole design that fastens on the shoulder. The neckline and sleeves are finished with a blue and cream patterned silk tape, and the garment’s primary embellishments follow the traditional Roman-influenced patterns of the time. The roundels and clavii (vertical stripes) are woven from red colored wool, and appliqued onto the white linen tunic.
First: Some terms!
Clavii (Singular: Clavus. Greek: Potamion/a.) The vertical stripes that are seen on late Roman/early Byzantine tunics. Originally denoting rank, but later becoming simply decorative.
Coptic: The Copts were and still are native Christians to Egypt. Some believe it to be the Church of Mark the Evangelist. (Catholic is Peter, Orthodox is Paul.) We use the term “Coptic” to denote anything coming out of the Byzantine-occupied Egypt and parts of Ethiopian prior to the Fatimid Muslims taking over in the 8th Century. It’s really kind of a misnomer to use it for clothing, since a lot of the styles involved heavy influences of Hellenistic Greece, including pagan imagery.
Roundel: A round applique or embroidered design on a garment.
Sassanian Persia: The last Persian Empire prior to the spread of Islam by the Seljuk Turks. 224CE-651CE. Were a huge influence culturally on the Roman Empire.
Now let’s break it down…
Check out that curved underarm!
A term you’ll probably hear me use a lot during this class is “conspicuous consumption.” Nothing in this pattern shows attention to conserve fabric. The underarms are deliberately cut in an arc to make it more comfortable and reduce bunching, versus inserting a gusset. This provides a smoother fit but does not really conserve material, as the body needs to be cut to accommodate this. A teardrop shape is cut out of the rectangle to create the curvature of the underarm and slight flare at the bottom.
The sleeve is attached around mid-upper arm, and it tapers toward the wrist. There is trim covering this joint, and some additional embellishment at the lower arm closer to the wrist. There is also a roundel on the shoulder between the clavus and this joint.
Those tiny side gores!
I was thrilled to discover a Byzantine-period tunic with gores than really worrying about the size of them in question, as such things can be easily adjusted. This garment was tailored for somebody much smaller than the average person today. In fact, even my 5’2” size 0 jeans sister could not fit in this. But it’s not much of a secret that people 1500 years ago were smaller than we are today. I still like this though, because it shows that a wider flare for movement was still necessary, and it eliminated the bunching of the traditional rectangle tunic for wearing under layers. Unlike a solid gore that we see in some tunic patterns, this one is actually two small right triangles, individually sewn to the bottom already-flared skirt portion of the garment, and then connected via the side seam. The gores are set in lower on the hip, than rather on the waist.
Let’s talk the pretty parts (or what’s left of them, anyway.):
As previously mentioned, the embellishments on this are pretty standard for the Roman influence left in Egypt at the time. First we’ll take a look at the silk tape. Here’s another instance of conspicuous consumption, where the wearer is affluent enough to have a touch of Chinese silk on the hems and collar of their garment. Although silk is more comfy against the skin than wool, these are also the parts of the tunic that will see the most wear and tear. The maker of this probably knew that silk, although more expensive, was arguably more durable, but at the same time, more difficult to launder. The only think I really noted on this was how it was attached to the garment.
It is not a folded bias tape that goes over and protects the raw edge, but a trim added as a facing on the outside of the garment, The hem was created from whip-stitching the top of the tape to the raw garment edge, which was folded in toward the inside of the tape. The bottom of the silk is attached with a running stitch. There are some visible larger whip-stitches in a white thread on the outside, but my guess is that this was a later repair work to keep the silk tacked down where the original stitches may have disintegrated. It does not run the entire neckline. The sleeve treatment is the same method.
As far as the neckline closure goes, there is nothing remaining that suggests what type of fastener was used. It could have been a simple toggle and loop or a tie mechanism that was ripped off ages ago. Some modern Orthodox Christian ecclesiastical garments do still have ties on the shoulder, but the Chinese-style toggle or button being in use is just as plausible, considering the Persian origin of the garment.
Unlike the silk tape, the roundels and clavii appear to be tacked down using JUST a whip-stitch.
The seam treatments used on the overall construction of the garment appear to be a mystery. I saw no evidence of flat felling or thickness that would indicate a French seam. The conservators at the museum appeared to have pressed the seams flat, at least the ones joining the side gores, but that’s all I could really notice. There is a seam repair on the bottom of the right sleeve (photo left) that shows the same chunky whip-stitches present on the neckline, so my guess is that it is also later repair work. Seam finishes weren’t always used in period, so it’s okay to assume that it could be raw linen edges. I do not suggest leaving a modern interpretation this way, our fabrics are made differently, and mainly because a washing machine will rip it to shreds.
So, what does this tunic mean?
My overall interpretation is that this tunic is a transitional garment. It deviates enough from the blocky earlier Roman design into a more tailored fit. This would eventually make its way into the European continent and evolve into the “standard” for hundreds of years. Compare this other style tunic, contemporary to the one above. I definitely prefer a more tailored fit than wanting to deal with the bulk and folds that this rectangular cut would create.
We’re always so quick to forget that fashion has been a phenomenon for thousands of years. Women just didn’t wear one or two style dresses. They wore what was in style, they wore what was popular in other places and made it work for them. I’m a firm believer that the clothing of Roman women was pretty limitless. They were essentially the original divas.
This is a public gallery on Facebook by Ratna Drost, who is a researcher and reenactor at the Archeon museum in the Netherlands. It’s a collection of her interpretation of provincial (Think Gaul and Belgica) clothing, with some great cold weather options for those of us who live in the Frozen Tundra. I’ve been pretty good about sticking with my Byzantine lately, but some of these looks are totally inspiring.
I hope these images help those looking for alternatives to the traditional peplos and chiton looks. I would recommend sending questions to Ms. Drost herself. This is not my work, I just wanted to share this great collection!
I know it’s not like me to not post for a month, so here’s a little recap.
Last weekend my Lord Geoffrey and I competed at King’s and Queen’s Arts and Sciences in Montreal, Quebec. It’s always a treat to visit Canada, as the Principality of Tir Mara here in the East always knows how to put on a good event. Plus, poutine and beer. If you haven’t eaten your way across Montreal, I recommend it. I mean, there’s way more than poutine and smoked meat, but you at least get poutine, and smoked meat, or both at the same time. Like I did. For those that don’t live anywhere near Canada, poutine is a comfort food that basically consists of French fries smothered in a specific type of brown gravy and fresh cheese curds. It’s any dieter’s nightmare, and that’s okay. It’s sort of a Quebecois staple, but I know it’s quite popular in Ontario and the Maritimes as well, and trickling down into the Northern US. No, it’s not Disco Fries, which is a Pittsburgh thing.
Oh hey, this was our collective displays. As you can see, I wrote another icon, this time of Anne and Mary, so I’ll be adding pics of that in my next post.
Other than that hullabaloo, my semester is focusing on the material culture of Early New England, so I haven’t really had too much time to stay in Byzantium as much as I wanted. I’m interning at a historic house here in my town, and planning to dig this summer at an American site, so my overall material culture focus has completely shifted right now to a period I don’t particular know a lot about, so as I’m focusing on that, a lot of my SCA stuff is getting pushed aside. As it should, because GPA before SCA.
My thesis, however, has been preliminarily approved by my advisor, and will have to do with Byzantium, as it should, because I should play my strengths, not my weaknesses. Once I get that in full swing, I can discuss more about it, but do to the nature of academic research for a grade versus research for the betterment of a re-creation group, I can’t really share too many details just yet. But it will have me developing patterns and sewing through the summer and fall.
I’m not giving up completely, though, I do have my CLASSES SCHEDULED for East Kingdom University and Pennsic War.
At EKU, I will be giving my primary source class, as well as a class on how I broke down the Tunic Under the Stairs (another post coming, probably this week while I’m in Florida on spring break) to get my pattern that I use for my garb. For Pennsic, I will be giving that tunic class again, as well as one on Persian influences in Byzantine Dress. I am only teaching those 2 classes at war this year, since 4 really takes a lot out of me, and neither of them are 2 hours long (my poor voice last war!) So this will leave me plenty of time to do other things. Especially if I don’t sprain my ankle this time.
With that said, I’m on my way to Florida. I need to see some [effective] sun after this crappy winter we’ve had in New England.
I mean, I have one, it’s a basic generic black wool with a lined hood and shoulder seams. I made it about 10 years ago and it’s still going strong. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s also not any particular period. Since I’ve been digging into Byzantine outerwear, I’m trying to discover what my persona would have worn, as well as other options in cloaking and coating for both men and women. It does snow in Constantinople, not a lot, but it does, as seen in this modern photograph of the Hagia Sophia from Wikipedia:
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire:
Outerwear is important, just as much then as it was now. I plan on keeping my first cloak for outside use when the weather is exceptionally foul, but to have one for nicer occasions outside in the cold or inside cold venues will help complete my look as a properly dressed 11th Century Eastern Roman woman.
This post serves as a cautionary tale into how looking for a simple garment can turn into a whirlwind of research that you didn’t expect. This is the method to my madness.
First I picked up the Byzantine cloak clasp offered by Raymond’s Quiet Press, you can buy your own by clicking on the pic.
In addition to some wool and trim, I had the materials necessary to get started.
I never intended on this to become any sort of research project, I just wanted a cloak. So a fast search on the internet came up first with what I always refer to as the paludamentum in Latin, or a chlamys in Greek, a male cloak fastened at one shoulder, such as in the mosaic of Justinian and his entourage at Ravenna, but the women in Theodora’s mosaic are wearing wrapped shawls, EXCEPT for the Empress herself, who is also in a chlamys. I haven’t seen too many images from the 11th Century in which these are worn by anybody other than the imperials. It seemed to have evolved from daily wear of even lower office holders (for men!) into ceremonial dress for high court functions. This theory is supported by Maria Parani in Reconstructing the Reality of Images: Byzantine Material Culture and Religious Iconography 11th-15th Centuries, which I was able to snag on interlibrary loan to begin preliminary research on my Master’s Thesis.
Parani discusses briefly in her chapter on the Imperial Costume that the empress was invested in the chlamys, but probably did not wear it otherwise. So as tempting and shiny as the garment is, unless you are the queen of your SCA kingdom and it’s your coronation, or some extremely important court event, you probably should avoid wearing this garment. Even for men, if you’re middle period (10-12th century) Byzantine and not a king, I’d skip this. It’s just too presumptuous.
Moving away from this idea, there’s the paenula, which is the traditional Roman hooded cloak that dates from antiquity.
The only time you see this worn by a woman in any art is by the Virgin Mary and other ecclesiastical women in icons. Avoid this one too. Not only was it out of style pretty early on for both genders, and you wouldn’t want to commit the sin of wearing such an outdated fashion, but the Romans had a very high regard for their iconographic imagery, and this is another one of those things you should just avoid wearing.
Timothy Dawson argues that the practicality of such a garment would be useful, but evidence of its wear in period in scarce. I agree with him here, though I assert that the reason for such scarcity would be the connection to the Virgin, and therefore making the garment a symbol of her own connection to the past. For women who wish to cover their heads in a simple, demure fashion both indoors and out, a veil or wrapped shawl/palla works just fine.
Moving away from the chlamys and paenula, the other option would be the half-circle cloak.
The same images on Dawson’s website over at Levantia.com.au are also in his article within the Varieties of Experience book cited above. So went to myself, “Oh look, there’s a cloak. Sold.”
Finally, a design that was easy and period, and above all, not being presumptuous in rank, all I really need. It’s not like I wanted to put in more research that I really needed for a cloak, but I do like to check the primary sources to get ideas for embellishments and the like. So Plate 10 in “Woman’s Dress in Byzantium” matches the same that he has on the page for “A Typical Middle Byzantine Outfit” here: http://www.levantia.com.au/clothing/reddress.html. This is where my confusion set in. On his page, Dawson refers to this as a mantion, and cites a page from the 1839 edition of De Ceremoniis for the source on this. Fair enough.
I dig up the ebook on Google Books, and begin translating the ecclesiastical Latin of Reiske’s commentary on the page cited, and found that there was nothing of the sort there, in fact, it’s about pyrotechnics, Persians, and contains a great deal of commentary on a primary source in Arabic. It is unclear from Dawson’s footnote if this is volume one or two, and since two is the only one I can ever find copies of, I went with that. Just to be sure, I searched the document on Google Books for the Greek spelling of mantion, μάντιον, as Dawson suggested on his page, and found nothing. So then turned back to “Women’s Dress in Byzantium” and found that his research was inconsistent in the section where he discussed cloaks and mantles on page 48. In the actual printed article, the word “mantion” isn’t even mentioned, and instead he uses “mandyas,” and supports this through several citations of manuscripts. The book may be a few years older than the webpage, which was last modified in November 2013 according to the page info, but I’m still not 100% sure on why Dawson changed the name between publications. If I can locate the correct supporting evidence in De Ceremoniis, I will know for sure. Until then, I’m chalking it up to a simple error in the footnote that is leaving the source vague. Parani supports the use of mandyas as the correct term.
Now, a mandyas I know is the modern ecclesiastical cloak of the same cut. It’s basically a half circle ornamented in a variety of ways, draped over the shoulder and pinned in front. That’s it. The design is frankly, timeless.
I did some searching for Dawson’s cited manuscripts and couldn’t locate most of them online. This is a common hurdle, as not all libraries have been digitized yet, but fortunately for all of us in the future, they will be. Even the Vatican is digitizing their manuscript library. Even though my initial searches were fruitless, I did find some neat sources for future perusing. I did have some luck with the Menologion of Basil II, which does have its own Wikipedia page for those seeking instant gratification, and found a couple of images, including the empress in a chlamys and a sainted nun in a paenula. What I needed though was evidence of women of aristocratic status wearing it, and folio 98 delivered. Both Dawson and Parani cited this image, and Parani included it in her book.
This image above shows both a saint and a laywoman. The haloed saint Palagia wears the hooded paenula, while the woman in the middle, whom I’m assuming is Palagia repenting her sins before converting and devoting her life to God, is secular dress, and, tada! Wearing a mandyas.
Another image that supports the wearing of this style of mantle is one that I’ve previously shown during my research of the propoloma are the donor frescoes of Irene Gabras, and Anna Radene in its full form. The one of Radene shows the traditional thick trim outside, as well as an elaborate lining behind the magnificently large sleeves of her red 12th Century delmatikion.
These three sources span the period from 1000-1180, so it’s safe to say that this garment was very much in style for probably a fair portion of the 10th Century, the duration of the entire 11th Century and into the 12th. All three are featured within Parani’s book. Since my persona is a woman who could have served as a zoste patrikia such as the likes of Radene, it is safe to assume that wearing the mandyas in her style would not be presumptuous, and therefore the route I should take.
Now, I have already been asked, “What makes a mandyas different from a chlamys?”
This is a good question.
Both historians I have cited, primarily Parani as she has focused on the differences in both imperial and aristocratic dress, agree that the chlamys is absolutely imperial only. Descriptions lead me to believe that the broaching at the right shoulder, as well as the addition of the traditional ornamented panel, the tablion, are the single most important things one needs to pay attention to when making cloaks for themselves. It was extremely ornate, and not practical in any sense of the word for wearing outside of high court ceremonies. So in theory, this thing was probably so heavily laden down with jewels and metals that not only was it out of the price range of anything but the imperial family, but also its sheer weight was probably enough to keep the wearers indoors. I also believe that since the Roman paludamentum, which is essentially the same garment as the Byzantine chlamys, was trapezoidal (think rectangle with the two bottom corners cut off) and not semi-circular, that the imperials would have preferred to maintain the ancient shape, versus the easier to cut and trim half-circle counterpart.
Note: If you see an icon of an angel or saint wearing a chlamys, remember that these figures are often in imperial ceremonial dress, as that is to be expected of all divine beings.
Here are patterns I just cooked up to give a better understanding:
As for how these can be embellished, if Anna Radene is any indication, the aristocracy did not slouch when it came to blinging their accoutrements. In Dawson’s article, he discusses the will of an aristocratic lady by the name of Kale Pakouriane in which she discusses her clothing items, including heavily embellished mandyai with silk, pearls, and gold bands. Parani brings up this same document for different reasons, so now it’s on my “MUST FIND” list, so that I too, can get a glimpse into the belongings of a high ranking lady of this period.
Anyways, I’m cooked. This just goes to show you how much you can find about one garment in just 2 monographs and an afternoon to kill looking for images and writing a blog post. I will be planning and making my own mandyas this week.
….all I wanted was a cloak. Seriously.
But at least I didn’t want a Pepsi.
Bibliography (image sources cited within text):
Constantine Porphyrogénnētos, De Cerimoniis aulae Byzantinae libri duo. London: Oxford. 1830.
Dawson, Timothy. “Propriety, Practicality, and Pleasure: The Parameters of Women’s Dress in Byzantium, A. D. 1000-1200.” In Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience AD 800-1200, edited by Lynda Garland. Hampshire; Burlington: Ashgate, 2006.
Goldman, Norma. “Reconstructing Roman Clothing.” in The World of Roman Costume. Edited by. Judith Lynn Sebesta and Larissa Bonfante. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.
Parani, Maria. Reconstructing the Reality of Images: Byzantine Material Culture and Religious Iconography 11th-15th Centuries. Leiden;Boston: Brill, 2003.
 Maria Parani, Reconstructing the Reality of Images: Byzantine Material Culture and Religious Iconography 11th-15th Centuries, (Leiden;Boston: Brill, 2003.) 17-18.
 Timothy Dawson, “Propriety, Practicality, and Pleasure: The Parameters of Women’s Dress in Byzantium, A. D. 1000-1200.” In Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience AD 800-1200, ed. Lynda Garland, (Hampshire; Burlington: Ashgate, 2006.) 48.
 Parani, 73. Here she’s citing the will of Kale Pakouriane, a lady of the middle Byzantine period who discusses clothing in her will. She also discusses it as being an alternative garment worn by the Emperor on pages 16 and 17.
 Parani, plate 80. Vat. Gr. 1613, f. 98 depicting St. Pelagia the Harlot
It’s not a challenge unless you’re actually challenged.
Her Majesty Thyra called for a “celestial” theme for the Birka garb challenge for this year, leaving it fully open to the interpretation of the artistes.
When I think of “celestial,” two things come to mind: the zodiac and tea. As funny as it could have been to dress up as an interpretation of Celestial Seasonings (that idea is totally attributed to my Laurel’s husband) I figured that the zodiac would be more cool. After all, Leo is by far the most superior sign in the entire sky, and with 1/12th of the world’s population, we should really be ruling it. Those other guys? Peons. Meh.
I’ve been toying with the idea of the Earliest Period for a while. There’s just not much to work with but an interesting artistic record and old books on the subject. Plus, the majority of what’s been done is for religious plays, so sources are more theatrical, rather than historical. In the end, I ended up getting a pleasant mix. Let’s get started.
The Babylonians and their sister Mesopotamian cultures (Sumerians, Assyrians, Ugarites, etc.) invented the origins of what we consider as our Western Zodiac and modern astrology. So they’re responsible for your bad hair days during Mercury Retrograde, and your incompatibility with Libra. They also didn’t wear much, and left behind just enough for us to get the gist. As for sources, I was only able to get my paws on a couple:
Jenkins, David. The Cambridge History of Western Textiles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2003.
Houston, Mary G. Ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Persian Costume. Mineola: Dover. 2002. Reprint by Dover of a 1920 edition.
What they DID leave us, is jewelry. Holy smokes.
It was actually my husband Geoffrey that alerted me to this. I was going to make some sort of turban or hat. In fact, I came up with this bright idea while he was away on deployment during the Fall. So he had no idea how I planned to torture him until he got home. At first, he looked at me like I had six heads. Then I told him that he didn’t have to play, and he could just help me with some projects. Then I didn’t see him for weeks once the brass came in.
Anna’s job: Design the costumes and do all the soft parts.
Geoffrey’s job: Execute the metalwork and jewelry designs.
Before Geoff was even home, I got the fabric ordered. My plan of attack? Vintage sarees. Did the Babylonians wear sarees? Well, no. And certainly not ones out of cotton, silk, and polyester. They wore a lot of wool actually, and from what I gathered, sheep fleece made into fringe. However, they did wear spiral wraps, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they did have influence on the fashion of the Indian subcontinent. In their existing artwork, you see tons of interesting motifs, including palms, various vines, and geometrics. Sometimes the wraps were over tunics, sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes they were nakey, but that wouldn’t fly for January in New Hampshire. So I had to play around with what we could do. First: Color.
There’s a variety of options out there for saris, but the zodiac has their own colors assigned to them. Most of my research (See also: Fast Google Search) returned that Leo was yellow, and Aries was red. Easy enough. Geoff can wear red. I can wear anything because I’m fabulous. I’m also a fan of orange, previously established last year, so I had to include it again. Some charts said Leo could wear orange, so…let’s do this. I decided on flame colors for Leo: Yellow, orange, and gold. And decadent shades of red and gold for Aries. Both signs are fire signs, so the gold needed to get in there. Other details I discovered was that Leo is ruled by the Sun, while Aries is ruled by Mars. We were also both Rising Capricorn, whatever that means, which involves purple and silver. So, I thought of throwing a stripe in there somewhere, and then decided not to.
I found a variety of sarees to work from in the eBay store of a seller in India. I bought so many that they sent it via FedEx for free, and I had a package from India in less than a week. I love the internet.
Once I had supplies in hand, I started the design process. Surprisingly enough, men seemed to have more convoluted options than women, so I started with myself first.
Women were usually depicted wearing the spiral over the left shoulder. Sometimes with a tunic underneath, but usually not. I decided to go FOR the tunic, as the materials I got were rather sheer, and well, January.
I decided that the yellow saree would be the tunic, and the orange and pink one I got would make a nice spiral. This would give me a flame-like appearance. I got a new dressform for Christmas, so I got to play. \m/
First, I played with the spiral.
Once I got in the 20yds of fringe, I trimmed it. I got asked by my apartment manager why I needed 20 yards of fringe when it came in. (I’ll cover the jewelry in a bit.)
Tunic time. This took some thought. How would I cut the sari to best accommodate the ornamentation of the fabric. I ended up going with my simple dalmatica pattern, which would probably be the most reasonable way the Babylonians may have sewn something without tailoring.
It was very sheer and oversized.
And I got to use scraps as a headband like a rockstar.
I recycled the fall from the bottom edge of the saree as the belt. So sheeeeeer.
So I went ahead and wrapped the spiral up, folding down some layers to be able to build the dress, and voila. Finished garb.
Onto Geoffrey as Aries. This is where it got tricky. The tunic would be a given, but there’s a fairly large amount of fantasy Babylonian out there because of religious plays, and some old, old plates from Victorian costume books. I needed to do what I could to make it less theatrical and more historical, despite the gaudy sarees.
His tunic was the same pattern, then I took the trim from the edges of the saree and added an accent to the sleeves and collar, which is actually pretty Roman-looking. Aries is more decadent than Leo, so I decided to give him more metallics than myself. I would have enough bling with my jewelry.
I cut the pallu off of another saree, and trimmed the bottom of this tunic to make it longer and to mimic some palm designs I’ve seen in artistic record.
Now for his spirally goodness. I used the saree that I had cut the pallu from for his wrap, added the fringe, and looked at some art. This one has men dressed in several types of wrapping, so it’s clear that there was no set method.
So I kept it basic for the drape test.
And then I had the prettiest mannequins in Portsmouth. My work was pretty much done.
I had to make him a hat. We debated for a while on which shape was best, but I ended up going with the “fez” shape, as it seemed the most reasonable for the application of his horns and wireform Aries symbols. Easy enough. 2 layers of felt and extra saree trim. It was still a bit squishy, but workable.
….And then we had the jewelry.
By the time I was on the website for Fire Mountain Gems, Geoffrey said we were going big, or going home. In that case, we were going to spend the money for actual semi-precious stones, rather than glass or lower-quality rocks. So, yes, our necklaces are all reallapis lazuli and carnelian. Fortunately, a friend of ours went in on the Fire Mountain order and saved us over $100. The gold tone beads are plated brass, as there’s no way we could afford that much real gold. We based most of the necklaces off of pictures from this page that was wonderful for reference shots. http://sumerianshakespeare.com/117701/118101.html
They were just simply threaded on monofilament. We couldn’t find a hemp or linen cord thin enough for our use, plus, we are planning on taking these apart and re-using them for other projects or selling them. So for temp stringing, the fishing line would do just fine.
I could string beads, the rest was up to Geoffrey.
Geoff has been exploring the intricate world of jewelry a bit. He’s the only active coinmaker in the East (as far as we know) and he’s been doing great work with pewter casting. These pieces couldn’t be cast, so he finally got to dust off the pitch plate he purchased at Pennsic (nice alliteration there) and enter the wiley whimsical world of chase and repousse embossing. (He has his own blog and you should follow it at www.jeffthemoneyer.wordpress.com. I do maintain the page, he’s not very websavvy.)
He purchased the sheets of brass from onlinemetals.com. We originally wanted bronze, but the price was a bit higher than what we wanted to pay because the cost of tin is up, and they didn’t have a good thickness anyway. He used brass sheets that were probably still too thick at 24 gauge.
The original circlets from this period had leaves. They’re absolutely stunning. However, in order to not appear presumptuous and pay honor to the Order of the Laurel which I am not apart of, we decided to go with round medallions instead of leaves. Each of the large medallions he hand cut, repoussed, soldered, and wheel polished. This took days. DAYS. It took so long that we had to cut the process short for the other circlet, and just go with smaller medallions he could use punches with.
The large medallions have the Leo symbol, and a Babylonian sun motif that is connected to the sun god, Shamash.
He did the same thing for the smaller medallions, only with one row of beads instead of two. And polished up a hammered brass circlet he had made me previously. Combined with the necklaces, and brass earrings from Thailand, I had my first full costume fitting:
Next, we moved onto Aries. He hammered the “horns” for the traditional hat right out of cut pieces of brass.
And I made 2 dozen wire formed Aries symbols for dongles to sew onto the top of his hat in place of the feathers, and some ornamentation on his sleeves. This sucked. Anna is not a jeweler. Anna LIKES having skin on her fingers and not smashing her hand with a hammer. I also made Leo symbols that I ended up not using. C’est la vie.
Those got attached to his hat by hand. Sewing the upside down fish hooks on was enough of a challenge for me. He had to rivet on the horns with pieces of brass wire he soldered on. This made the hat uncomfortable. The horns also made it a bit snug since he didn’t form them to his head enough. He was going to be in some pain when this was done.
They say props are everything:
I made two cuneiform tablets out of terracotta Sculpey, with a stylus Geoffrey formed for me out of a brass dowel.
The tablets read:
Leo: “Remember this: Leo rules and Aries drools!” (He wasn’t happy about that one.)
Aries: “If you can read this, you’re pretty damn smart.”
After all was said and done, we did our test wearings, and figured out the best ways to wrap the spirals on our bodies. You need to start at the belt like a saree, and work it up your body, carefully folding to create the tiers. For Geoffrey, we brought it up to about his sterum, and used his kidney belt to secure it. Mine was safety pinned in the back to hold the drape in place.
Over all, this was an exercise in experimental archaeology and making fancy kinda-accurate showy garb. If anyone is serious about looking into the persona of the Earliest Period, I recommend you actually attempt dreadlocking your own sheep fleece for the fringe. 😉 Other than that, I don’t have much to say on the subject of garb from this period. What you see is what you get until more artifacts are found.
As for women, if you’re curvy like I am, this may not be the best option. I’m not sure how Mesopotamian women were shaped, but this garment is not figure flattering. It fits to the widest part of your body, and stays there. SO for me, it was my hips. I lost my waist entirely in the wrap, so the pictures coming in are mortifying.
I couldn’t get Geoffrey to wear a wig and beard, or even kohl on his eyes, but in the end, wigs and a fake beard would have no re-wear for us. So it would have been a waste of money. At least for the garments and the jewelry, most can be reconstituted into different pieces. His tunic is going to become a Byzantine kamision for him, and I will be taking the wraps and making loroi/pallae, and maybe a delmatikion. My yellow tunic can work under a Roman dress for a splash of sheer color. So everything can be re-worn as something else. This way the money and time we put into this won’t be for nothing.
But, we DID win Best Garb in the Early Period category for the Fashion Show! We didn’t win the overall Celestial Challenge, that went to a woman who made an AMAZING cloak with the planets from a 14th Century Manuscript.
Here’s some pictures of us in action at Birka, enjoy!
I’ve created a page for this site, and to allow folks who aren’t friends with me on Facebook to connect. I have a lot of friends on my mundane page, and this will simply streamline the process for those that wish to contact me and get updates about what I’m working on.
All of my work, articles, patterns, and handouts will remain HERE, but I can have all updates to my blog posted to Facebook for more social interaction.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the Twelfth Night event in the Barony of Smoking Rocks (Southeastern Massachusetts) often has an early period theme. Typically 11th-12th Century. This year’s period was 1066, pre-conquest, so we went as my husband’s parents, Robert and Adelize de Tosny, looking to check out real estate on a plain called Hastings.
For the curious, the site is the Unitarian Universalist Society in Fairhaven, MA. Here’s some additional pictures of the site and event.