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.
I’m using the generic term “himation” ( just “garment”) here for the overgarment shown in my source fresco. At the time, a delmatikion would have had the long exaggerated sleeves you see in my court garments. This appears to be a lesser gown. “Chiton” could also work, being a generic term for “tunic”, heck, it could also be “kamision”, but for the sake of ease, it’s himation for this one.
I basically copied what I saw, only using a different pattern than my usual to achieve the effects seen.
I mostly cut my garments simply, to allow for as much fabric as possible with minimal effort, basically, conspicuous consumption at its best. But for the common Byzantine folk, that would not have been cost effective. Fabric was woven narrowly, and garments were usually pieced much more than I do. So I went with that in mind, and cut narrow body panels, with sleeves and full side panel gores to allow for the width I needed for comfort. The connecting seam results in a nice guide for potamioi, should I be applying them. Tim Dawson has this pattern in his “By the Emperor’s Hand” book, and it’s also seen in contemporary Persian styles.
And to add to my misery (and authenticity), more Byzantine whipstitchings for all of the contrast work.
But the combo really looks sharp. And SOOOO much better belted because of the blockier shape from the seam placements. I really do not personally enjoy the aesthetic of the elongated sides because of the straight grain, but the fresco and other sources show this as a common feature, so I replicated that. This can be avoided by cutting gores on the bias. The seam placements look sharp, though, and it is so much easier than inserting a gusset, but definitely not as easy as a rounded underarm as I normally cut.
I belted it using my hand-tooled leather apprentice belt with my Syrian buckle. After hiking with it (forthcoming post), I think one of my normal cloth or woven belts would be more comfortable. Of course, I had to test the sleeves.
And voila, the clothing was done.
And here’s the source fresco again as a refresher.
We have an event here in Calafia called Winter Arts. Being that it’s one of the few events in the barony where you’re indoors, typically, you want some fancy duds. Back in September, a group of us decided that we would tackle something different, and something different being Burgundian.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure 99.9% of the women and those identifying as such, who grew up with Sleeping Beauty, wanted a dress with a hennin and to be a princess and spin in circles and look pretty all the time when they were little.
…The 1% was me, who wanted to be Maleficent, but anyway, I digress. Burgundian is that clothing style that invokes the memory of a romantic High Middle Ages of pointy hatted damsels and dramatic gowns of fur and fancy fabrics. So, why the hell NOT do it?
Being that I was moving soon (note that past tense for the moment), I set limits for myself on what I could and could not use when drafting this project.
1: All fabric needed to come from my stash, or have minimal cost.
2: If I finished my gown, Gieffrei would get his, but not vice versa.
3: I would make the ridiculous hat and be fabulous. 4: I would absolutely not use that fuchsia linen and be Maleficent.
Being that my fabric is mostly Byzantine, as a result, so was my Burgundian. I had a ton of black ecclesiastical stuff I picked up at a yard sale last year, and I decided that would be my gown, because nothing says high gothic garb like being…gothic. The kirtle I would totally do the right way with front lacing and make it fitted and supportive. By myself. Okay, sure, Anna. The fur I got from a friend who has bags and bags of the stuff because she does viking living history and random people just give it to her. So, I got the real mink. I don’t mind using real fur, especially if the animals had been dead long before I was born. Or in this case, my grandmother was born. We’re talking some seriously old vintage sleeves.
For the patterns, I used a combination of Reconstructing History, and the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant. I probably didn’t NEED the paper patterns, but sometimes I need a bit more of a visual in order to grasp a new concept, after that, I usually “get” it. Kass’ patterns are usually pretty simple blocks that give me a lot of leeway for customization and fitting, anyway.
These were my stages of madness:
First garment: The front laced kirtle. Second garment: The v-necked gown. Third garment: Gieffrei’s houppelande. Fourth garment: Gieffrei’s chaperon. Fifth garment: My double hennin. INTERMISSION: The epic meltdown. Sixth garment: Replacement Caid-friendly kirtle. Finishing touches.
First garment: The front laced kirtle.
I’ve wanted to be fitted for a cotehardie for a while, now. Despite all the crap I give my friends in the 14th Century Mafia (who all rightly deserve it,) I’m intrigued at the idea of having a supportive garment that is comfortable for all-day wear at an event. The short-sleeved type I attempted is more fashionable in the 15th Century, and often seen with contrasting, decorative sleeves. Using the basic bodice block that came in the RH pattern, I extended the skirt from it, versus attaching one at the waist seam (this is also seen in some period artwork I came across.) The real bitch was fitting it. You cannot do this by yourself. It was Thanksgiving night in my house, I was upstairs getting my chest jacked up by a friend who had come over for dinner. It’s what SCAdians do on holidays.
I need tweaks, but I did end up with a supportive gown. The material is a light wool coating, and it will work great as an undergarment, or a standalone dress. I figure once I get a proper fitting and pattern made for -me-, I’ll be way more successful, but as my first attempt at any form of the Gothic Fitted Dress, I can’t complain. I am soooooo not used to the wider neckline, though. I feel like it’s staying up by some sort of magic, and I pretty much feel naked, even though that is the style. (I also look pregnant, which is also, an unfortunate piece of historical accuracy that modern sensibilities need to get over.)
…Then I checked the weather. San Diego wasn’t going to get cooler than the 70s-80s for the event. Wool under brocade, even indoors, could be a death sentence. Did I have time to make another fitted one from linen? No. I would have to improvise, so I set this aside for another day. It’s currently hanging up on my closet door, needing more eyelets and a hem, and body linen, because wool against the skin is awful. I will be returning to this project.
Second garment: The v-necked gown.
This was way easier than I thought it would be. Rectangular construction on the body, fitting your figure on the side seams above the gore, and inset sleeves. I finished the bulk of the gown itself in a matter of 2 hours on my machine. The hard part would be the fur, but that was being saved for later. I skipped the train, because I don’t like people stepping on my garb. Fortunately, there was plenty of fullness without it. The v-neck is simply shaped out of the front seam.
Third and Fourth Garments: Gieffrei’s houppelande and chaperon.
Jeff was super reluctant to do this, SUPER reluctant. Not all men are into the idea of fancy later period, so it took some coercing. I would make the garments in the larger, less fitted style versus the short, pleated doublets of younger men seen in period artwork. This also eliminated my need to fit my husband for joined hose, and he could get away with wearing a set of braies and chausses. I had a nice herringbone linen tunic he could wear as his undershirt, and we would just fluff him up with accessories to give the period look.
I was short on fabric for the houppelande, but I did what I could. He basically had no gores to add any sort of fullness, so I had to work with the width of the brocade. This resulted it things getting off center and making me want to cry.
In the end, it came out passable. AND FAKE FUR IS AWFUL TO WORK WITH.
I also knocked out his chaperon/dagged hood in about a half hour. I did this the traditional way, just cutting the hood out of the wool and sewing 2 seams. Then you roll the face opening of the hood up and plop it on top of your head so you look like a weirdo. Bam! Instant hoodlum. (This is where the term comes from!)
Fifth garment: My double hennin.
We had a hat day that included brunch and mimosas. If you don’t craft with mimosas and brunch, I highly recommend you try it, it seriously helps.
I’m not a hat maker, I’m pretty awful at it, so I was expecting to make a regular truncated hennin and lappet, and call it a day.
But no, Anna can’t do anything basic.
Adelwyn made the pattern for the double hennin from The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant, and my brain went full on Sleeping Beauty evil fairy queen at the sight of it, and the rest was history. We shared the pattern, and I got to fight with buckram.
And that’s when Maleficent was born. I decided that I would cover the hennin in the same black fabric as my gown, and I would make the replacement kirtle out of this fuchsia linen I had just laying around in my stash. It wouldn’t be exact, as Maleficent is clearly wearing a houppelande and not a fitted gown, but I would make it work.
INTERMISSION: The epic meltdown.
There is one thing worse than real life punching your SCA, and that’s real life punching your EVERYTHING. Without warning or explanation, Gieffrei’s orders back to the East Kingdom were cancelled, nine days out from turnover and twelve days from our scheduled move. He was being rerouted to an unincorporated corner of Meridies on the Trimaris border in February.
This sucked the life out of me. Right. Out. I already suffer from depression and anxiety, and I will be making a post about this next, but this was like taking a baseball bat to the chest. What about our house? What about my job? What about my life? Everything we had planned to do when we got back to New England was ripped out from underneath us like a carpet in a cartoon, and it hurt just as much.
In one final blow, his current position ordered him to work during the event, after I had done all of this sewing for the both of us.
Winter Arts stopped mattering. I was ready to toss the project aside, curl into a ball and cry while I mourned the next 3 years of my life. Jeff was having none of this. I got dragged upstairs back to my studio, and told to finish it for him. He stood and watched as I cut the covers for my hennin, and he gently cut the seams on the vintage mink for me while I sat at the sewing machine spewing vicious epithets at the US Navy (which didn’t hear me). The project was now a rage sew, versus a fun new thing.
Sixth garment: Replacement Caid-friendly kirtle.
Nothing special about this, just making the wider neckline out of a typical tunic dress. Fighting my depression, I threw this together in 2 hours of absolute rage including industrial music at full blast and yerba mate tea. I wasn’t sleeping anyway, so it no longer mattered. I think it was like 10pm when I took this picture.
I was down to the wire. The hennin needed to be covered, attached, and veiled. After I covered the buckram, I made the fillet out of black velvet, and put it on over my gold snood. This provided a base for the pins, and created friction to keep the hat on. Normal hennins that encompass the entire head will sit on your head without pins as long as this band or lappet is in place. It’s a neat trick. I dug out one of my favorite dirty pilgrim badges as a piece of flare.
The night before, I was working on the belt and Adelwyn came over, and I helped her figure out the last pieces of her puzzle. Isolde also showed up, and offered to attend the event as Gieffrei so the garb would get worn.
I still had to attach the fur and the sleeves to my gown. There are no pictures of this. It’s me, on the couch, sneezing a lot from handling old fur, and tacking it down onto my dress in a manner that I could remove it.
Around 9pm, I finished.
I have to admit, I totally felt like a damn princess. Not in the SCA sense, but in the little girl fairy tale sense. Pointy hats, full dresses, this is the Middle Ages we all know as a little kid. The best part, is that everybody in the group did different variations of the houppelande or fitted v-neck gown, so we really looked like the amalgamation of color and hats that is seen in the period paintings. Totally worth the stress.
I had to throw in this last finishing touch. Maleficent leggings to give the stealth cosplay a bit more fluff.
Yet another find of women’s bones in a Norse gravesite, and the media blows up that she was a a fierce, Viking warrior before the archaeologists get her in the lab.
It seems like modern men and women, dazzled by the success of Vikings, really want to grasp at anything that comes across questionable websites as truth, that they forget that there’s plenty of evidence of women engaging in combat and more, aside from the legendary Norse shieldmaidens, who were, very much a real thing. Fauxhawks and Game of Thrones costume cast offs not required.
“Yeah, but did women really fight?”
I get this one a lot, being a medievalist and a SCAdian. Women absolute fight in the SCA, we have female knights and masters-of-arms. We’ve had Princesses and Queens that fought and won Coronet and Crown Tournaments in their own right. It definitely is a dream come true for many a girl and those identifying as such. It was, after all, drilled in through their childhood that women were nothing more than damsels in distress locked in towers, as their brave knightly husbands went off to fight the evil baron next fiefdom over.
Yeah, that’s utter crap, based on Victorian subjugation, leading to ideas of women should be seen and not heard. The romanticism of the Pre-Raphaelites fueled the fire of an idealized Middle Ages consisting of pointy hats and flowing gowns that fit perfectly over the hourglass corset that they clearly all wore. *eyeroll*
“Wait, are you saying that women went off to battle?”
You bet your bezants they did.
I mean, we all know about Eleanor of Aquitaine, right? Eleanor, the richest woman in Western Europe, married Louis VII of France, and went off on the Second Crusade with a parade of her ladies in waiting. Whether or not she actually rode in bare-breasted like an Amazon, of course, is disputed, but a fun legend, nonetheless. She came home, annulled Louie because she had the balls to leave him for Henry II, and ended up outliving all but one of her children.
Niketas Choniates, in his O City of Byzantium, did compare her to the mythical Queen of the Amazons and had many nice things to say about her. What he said about other Frankish and German women coming in on horseback, fully armored, left little to be desired:
“…But while the emperor governed the empire in this fashion, a cloud of enemies, a dreadful and death-dealing pestilence, fell upon the Roman borders: I speak of the campaign of the Germans, joined by other kindred nations. Females were numbered among them, riding horseback in the manner of men, not on coverlets sidesaddle but unashamedly astride, and bearing lances and weapons and men do; dressed in masculine garb, they conveyed a wholly martial appearance, more mannish than the Amazons. One stood out from the rest as another Penthesilea, and from the embroidered gold with ran around the hem and fringes of her garment was called Goldfoot.” (Choniates, p35.)
So, while Eleanor paraded in like a queen, it seems that her ladies, or rather actual women soldiers, weren’t worthy of the title of Amazon. Ouch. It certainly sounds like there were an impressive amount of women outside of Eleanor’s retinue, as he seems to focus on the Germans, versus Franks. There was enough dealings between both the Germanic Holy Roman Empire, and France, to know they were separate kingdoms.
Of course, this is just the opinion of one man, who was an ecclesiastic, so conservatism was his middle name.
On the other hand, Anna Komnene seems to admire the feats of Sichelgaita, wife of Robert Guiscard, during the Battle of Dyrrhachium as she wrote in The Alexiad. So much, as a matter of fact, she compared her to Athena. (Alexiad, IV.6, page 121 in the Penguin edition.)
Timothy Dawson, in By the Emperors Hand, provides a brief description of women being involved in the defense of the Byzantine Empire in the 12th Century, including a female spy, as written by Theofanes, and archers and stonethrowers who garbed themselves as men, as written by Bishop Evstathios. (Dawson, Plate 8.)
And those are just Byzantine sources, and not even all of them.
According to Ramon Muntaner in his memoirs as part of the Catalan Grand Chronicles, a well-built Spanish woman donned armor to go fetch herbs outside of the walls of Perelada, when it was under Frankish control during the years of the Spanish March. She was attacked by a French knight on horseback. She unhorsed him with a lance, and forced him to yield. You can find his whole chronicle here: http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/muntaner_goodenough.pdf
Speaking of the Spanish, let’s not forget the Order of the Hatchet, an actual chivalric order for women from the town of Tortosa in Catalonia dated to 1149. Unfortunately there is not a lot on it, as it seems after the initial wave, no further members were added, and the order died with its members. The basis appears to be that women of the town donned men’s armor, and weapons, including hatchets, and basically went to town against the Moorish occupants. The Count of Barcelona was so impressed, he created the Order for the women that fought.
According to this site, the Order of the Garter’s bylaws from as early as the 17th Century, include the origin of the Order of the Hatchet. Velde also lists several other medieval orders for women, including The Order of the Glorious Saint Mary from 13th Century Italy. Martial prowess is not mentioned.
Badassery didn’t stop at just being able to fight, as being able to lead or even wield a pen was just as potent. So if you’re not a fighter, that doesn’t mean you can’t be fierce.
Yeah, we know Anna Komnene wrote her father’s biography (and frankly, she’s my Byzantine spirit animal), but have you heard of Christine de Pizan? Most medieval enthusiasts have, and I know that some students in AP European History had to read her, but if you haven’t, you should. She was well trained in writing and rhetoric, and served as a court writer for several French dukes.
She did no harm, but took no shit.
And I mean none.
In between writing for dukes, composing poetry and political treatises, she completed her magnum opus The Book of the City of Ladies, and its sequel, The Treasure of the City of Ladies. I haven’t read the latter, but the former is pretty well known.
Sure, I could go on and discuss the fabulous things that Christine talks about regarding an allegorical city of the greatest women in history, both real and mythological, but in actuality, The Book of the City of Ladies was written as a direct slap in the face to the men that opposed her, and the idea of women being educated in general.
“Not all men (and especially the wisest) share the opinion that it is bad for women to be educated. But it is very true that many foolish men have claimed this because it displeased them that women knew more than they did.”
I love that line. Because she makes it perfectly clear that she’s not mad at men. In fact, the overarching theme of the book is intellectual equality based on the practice of virtues, rather than feats of strength, and that the wisest men agree with her. Rather, she flat out attacks that its the fools, the uneducated men, that hate the idea of seeing women actually know things. Its as if nothing has changed since the 15th Century. (Yeah, I went there.)
And for those that though Christine wrote just a bunch of feminist drivel (which it isn’t), she was also an authority on arms and warfare! (which you can find on Amazon, of course.)
And this is me just scratching the surface of the more well-known figures. I didn’t even get into the Renaissance yet, with Elizabeth I, Veronica Franco, Sofonisba Anguissola, etc.
You don’t have to wait for archaeological finds for proof. The information you need is already well documented. And while one day we will hit that gravesite or reliquary jackpot, we don’t have to sit on our hands until we do.
Now, go out and be badass, Ladies of the SCA. It’s period.
Sorry this took a bit, I was hoping to get a few more, but this is a good start.
I think I did myself, and everybody, a great disservice by saying I would help with general medieval information. I sat here and derped pretty hard, so, for future questions, please keep them limited to Roman/Byzantine only for my own sanity, and for the sake of the querents getting a decent answer. Questions can be sent to syrakousina -at- gmail.com. (remember to remove -at- and replace with @, no spaces.)
Libby: Do you know of a survey of band weaving finds from 13th century and earlier?
I’m afraid I do not. Since I don’t weave more than an inkle band here and there, it’s just not something I look for. If somebody else sees this, hopefully they can chime in down in the comments to get you where you need to go. You honestly will have better luck in a weaving group on Facebook than I can find you in 3 minutes of google searching.
Nicola: I am a fan of your blog and enjoy seeing your research and the work you do for your SCA persona and the community as a whole. I’m a LARPer over in the UK and was wondering how you keep the veils and layers of headdresses in place. The persona I’m currently playing is from medieval times but practical hints and tips would be very interesting to read about, if you’re willing to write about something a little more off topic.
You need to use bands, and pin the veil to the band. This is a period method, and you can really impress your LARPer friends. I’ve used this guide now for years: http://www.virtue.to/articles/veils.html Now, I’ve made some adjustment since my hair was so short for years, but now I’m growing it out. I’ve found that in a pinch when my hair was in a pixie cut, white cotton headbands you can buy at the drugstore do the job since they really aren’t going to slide anywhere. Now that I have shoulder-length hair, I cap it up first. You can see it a bit here with my 11th Century veil. The cap beneath my veil holds back all of my hair, and then the silk veil is pinned over it, allowing my coronet to just sit on top and not have to be shoved onto my head, or cause more weight. The gentlewoman to my right in the veil is also wearing a cap beneath hers, and you can see the pins better.
Dyonisia: So I have been fascinated with hoods for a while now. I make them and end up giving them away. But i also want to get research information on them. My focus is from 1000-1600. I also am looking for any embroidery that are on those hoods. Any help would be wonderful.
I am also interested in shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. Looking at what was shipped and where they were going. I am looking at 1200-1600. Any resources ect. would help.
This is a really really REALLY broad topic that I feel could benefit from narrowing down into a specific time and place so you aren’t overwhelmed. Fashion changes a lot over the span of 500 years, and since you did not give a location, I’m going to tell you what I know regarding my area of expertise. I recommend breaking down your project and focusing on one hood from one place at a time, otherwise, you’re going to be overwhelmed and find nothing.
Disclaimer: I’m not an embroiderer, and as far as my personal scope of research goes, you won’t find much at least in the Byzantine area. They were more into woven designs that were appliqued on. As far as if this applied to hoods, I’m not sure. The Byzantines were not “hood wearers” like you see in the western part of the continent. The one hooded garment that you see commonly is called a “paenula”, a very simple hooded poncho that goes back to Roman times. After the 6th Century, you don’t see it too much outside of iconographic interpretation, which makes me think that maybe it fell out of style in the cosmopolitan areas during the early centuries, but maintained part of the traditional imagery we still have today. The climate in the Eastern Mediterranean is different than say, France, so hooded garments seemed to be pushed to the wayside for turbans, veils, and other headwear. Seeing gold work on turbans was common. The type of design is referred to as “grammata” in the original Greek, so basically golden letters, possibly pseudo-Kufic script. Of course, paenulae may have still been used in the countryside as a functional garment, but most depictions of working class Byzantines show little to no embellishment. Who the heck wants to clean mud off of expensive, time-consuming embroidery?
On the subject of your interest in shipping, again, you need to narrow this down. You have a 400-year timespan, and no specific culture or ports in mind. From 1200-1400, the crusades dominated the Eastern Mediterranean as well, with the Fourth Crusade wrecking the commerce of the Byzantine Empire for the remainder of its existence.
I do love your enthusiasm, but let me give you some helpful research tips to make your massive interests work a bit smoother in your favor. I feel like you really don’t know where to start, which is why you’ve asked me such broad questions, and that’s okay, we all have humble beginnings.
A good rule of thumb is: if your Google search isn’t coming back with anything, narrow it down until it does. “Medieval hoods 1000-1600” is going to probably give you a Pinterest, while “extant medieval hood” is going to give you images of stuff that is still around from museum databases. “Hoods worn in medieval France” is going to give you better answers. Head right to the Met or British Museum websites and look up their collections, they’re here to help! Same with your interest in shipping. This is where getting into the fun journal databases will be a huge advantage. You can even pop over to JSTOR and put in some search terms. I found this article first shot just typing in “medieval Mediterranean shipping”: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt1kgqt6m Chances are, you have friends with JSTOR or library access that can help you get the material. If this is something you really want to focus on, it may be worthwhile to invest in an account. Who knows, you could end up getting enough material to write your own Compleat Anachronist! Good luck!
Marc: I found your blog via a search on Byzantine costuming – and noted that you’re up to answering questions about same.
Well, I have a perhaps atypical one: I’m finishing in the details of a story set in early 14th Century Trebizond, and I haven’t been able to put together visually a wedding dress for one of the legendary Trapezuntine princesses. I have some vague piecemeal ideas, shoulder panels covered with pearls, etc. and I can draw a little from Pisanello’s St. George and the Princess of Trebizond, but I really can’t imagine what a wedding gown at that level of Byzantine society would look like – particularly the colors.
So, while I’m taking a short break from heavy SCA sewing and research, I want everybody to help me keep my brain ticking.
Every week, or however often I get questions, I’m going to have a question/answer column here on my blog. Feel free to ask me anything about Roman and Byzantine history, textiles, clothing, etc, and I’ll give you a complete answer, or as complete as I can, with citations to send you on your way. General ancient and medieval history questions can also be fielded if you’re looking for something more broad.
If this gets busy, I don’t know how many questions I’ll be able to answer, but I’ll do my best to make sure that everybody is covered.
We always see them: the funky printed cottons in the stores. Sometimes we can’t resist, and then we wonder why the heck we bought it in the first place. Clearly, you can’t make garb out of silly prints!
Or can you?
This summer, I had a weird awakening. It’s no secret to my readers and friends that I’ve pretty much busted my rump this last year on research in Byzantine dress. From investing the money in Sartor fabrics to finding some of the best linens and trims I could to make a splash dropping my 12th Century side-eye skills, and spending 4 months on a master’s thesis where I dug into an 11th century will, I sort of put on a display this year like some swaggering Byzantine peacock (Byzancock? Argh, no, bad term, there.) It worked, and I’m exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of new exciting things out there waiting for me to sew, like my upcoming foray into Sassanian Persian for my husband and I, only because I hate money and I dropped it like it was on fire at Sartor while at Pennsic.
I am no longer in school, and working freelance back in the graphic novel industry, so yeah, I have the time to play with sewing again. Sassanian will be fun, it’s something I’ve wanted to examine for a while as a predecessor to my period’s Silk Road fashion. Plus, I think there are cool hats involved.
I digress, we came here to talk about fun garb, not Anna and Gieffrei’s soon-to-exist “you spent HOW MUCH on that silk?” Sassanian Persian with dorfy hats. Fun garb. How’s this?
Yes. I did.
Go ahead, clutch your pearls, get a shot of bourbon, whatever it takes. I made this garb. And I wore it too. At Pennsic for a party. Yep.
A lot of my friends think that I have this over-the-top obsession with flamingos. In fact, I really don’t. I just love tacky lawn flamingos. Now, Mistress Vibeke Steensdottir back in the East Kingdom? Now SHE’S the awesome flamingo maven, complete with flamingo wing heraldry. She was the first person I know to document flamingos in period, so really if anybody deserves the credit for flamingo adoration, it’s her, not me.
I own pink lawn flamingos because I bought them for holiday decorations. I got mad at my former apartment complex for having stingy rules about decor and “religious” exemptions, and went a little nuts. They also look hilarious in snowbanks.
But anyways, yes. The short story is that the flamingo fabric magically appeared in my shopping cart at Joann’s during a sale event on red tag materials and then it came home with me. My initial intent was not garb, even though I joked about it online. It was going to be curtains or a sundress, or something festive to add to my Flamingomas decor. I mean, it’s a printed cotton twill. It would make crappy garb, and probably get me some sneers if I did it anyway.
Fast forward, I graduate, I move across the country, I’m unpacking my fabric onto my shelves, and I see those flamingos staring right back up at me. And that’s when I remembered something.
Let’s take a closer look:
Two out of three women in this section are wearing gowns with some form of obvious waterfowl, probably geese or ducks, maybe even in a way for the artists to mock Theodora and her former profession, but it’s pretty clear. So yeah, waterfowl on Byzantine garb, check.
But seriously, flamingos?
Now, I’ve seen this thing in person at the Cloisters. Those birds are screaming pink. Yes, they have green ones facing them, but that pink is deliberate. Sure it says swans or herons, but you know, we all know. Who makes deliberate acid-pink birds on a chasuble and wants us to think “swan”? Okay, that’s a stretch. I know.
Want even more of a stretch? You’re probably wondering how I justified having a cotton tunic? A printed one at that. Well, recent research has let me to uncover a booming cotton industry in Anatolia, but also, that printed cotton fabrics were coming out of Persia during the Middle Ages. Like this example from the 11th Century.
So basically, what I just did was stunt document a 6th Century flamingo dalmatica by using objects from the 6th, 11th, and 15th Centuries from 3 different cultures. It’s not something that will pass an A&S competition, so please don’t try this and tell your judges I said it was okay, but it was a way for me to appease my accuracy-brain for the sake of fun. We do this for fun, and it’s still okay to have fun.
Now, don’t go making yourself a closet of these things and brag that my blog told you it was okay. Make one. Wear it to a party or to a silly garb event. See if you can document some shapes and techniques and turn it into a conversation piece, which is basically what I did with mine.
“Hey, did you know that printed cotton is period? This tunic is silly, but let me tell you about this fragment I found while doing research…” Seriously, it sparked some great interest in printed textiles, which is already a growing trend in the SCA. So, why not see what direction a goofy idea can take you for your next big project?
On another note.
Speaking of authenticity brain…
The funny thing is that why I was planning the Fowl Dalmatica (yes, that’s what I call it), a bunch of friends were checking out Duchess Aikaterine’s tutorial on Youtube on how to make a Roman stola out of a sari.
I’ve had this love/hate relationship with saris being used for Roman garb for the longest time. I love it because it looks amazing. It’s beautiful, it’s exotic, it looks decadent and exactly what a Roman woman would have loved. I hated them only because they weren’t period and refused to make one for myself. Which is kind of a stupid reason, considering I made Jeff and I’s Babylonian garb out of vintage saris, so I’m really a big fat hypocrite who got stuck in the authenticity brain pool, swimming in circles, versus letting myself have fun.
…So I did it. I regret nothing and I want to make more. Plus, her draping technique for the stola is way better than my pinched in neckline, and the front/back seams versus side seams may just make more sense.
I will say that it definitely doesn’t work as well with linen unless it’s a thin, hankie weight linen. I made one of a 5oz linen and it just didn’t…manifest at the shoulders like the cotton and the 3.5oz linen did. So keep that in mind should you try this pattern. I’m going to try again with that fine pink linen I just got in from Sartor (see above) since it’s rather sheer. It would make a lovely stola, and I do need to start dressing like I’m married more often.
The only real downside to wearing the thin sari cotton is that it’s clingy, so I’m not sure how well it would do as a chiton underneath. I picked up some more vintage saris from eBay to try, as well as a couple of real silk ones at Pennsic (by the way, if you bought the 4 for $100 silk sari deal at Pennsic, better burn test a swatch, I got 2 real silk ones, a totally poly one, which I knew and bought really only for craft purposes, and a nice art silk one that melted to the plate when I burned it, so yeah. Check your purchases.) DO NOT MAKE THIS OUT OF ART SILK. Art silk is not “real” silk, it’s short for artificial silk, and is usually a poly rayon blend. You will boil alive. Granted, in real silk you’ll boil too, so, pick your poison. I’m not sure if the Romans had access to cotton, even though it was being cultivated in Egypt and Persia pretty early, but it’s a far better option than dead dinosaur.
I’m going to be making some more lightweight Roman and Byzantine (which I’m calling the Byzanlite) for regular wear here in Caid. My garb arsenal was just not originally designed for events at 110F, but hey, for when we get a cold front in February, I guess I’m set.
So, the moral of this story is don’t be afraid to shake off the stuffiness once in a while, and remember we do this for fun.
…Not that I don’t think hours on International Medieval Bibliography and making interlibrary loan requests isn’t still fun, mind you.