Anna goes on Pilgrimage, Part 2: The Himation

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.

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My cutting layout. Note that the body panels are folded lengthwise, and the sleeves are folded along the top.

And to add to my misery (and authenticity), more Byzantine whipstitchings for all of the contrast work.

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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.

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And here’s the source fresco again as a refresher.

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Next post: BAGS AND FOOD.

Once Upon a Dream: A Foray into the 15th Century

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.)

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“Okay Norton, try it on.”
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They’re staying up!
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Belt helps break up my figure better.

…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.

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Admit it, the teal elastic belt really sets off that Byzantine ecclesiastical fabric.
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No train needed. There are side gores, as well as shaped panels to add fullness.
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Placing the mink to determine how I was going to cut it.

 


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.

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Don’t look at the seam, DON’T LOOK AT THE SEAM. Ahhhh!

In the end, it came out passable. AND FAKE FUR IS AWFUL TO WORK WITH.

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Costarring my dirty laundry and an unmade bed.

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!)

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“You like dags? You know, dags!”
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He loved it!

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.

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“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dreaaaaaam…”

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.

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The beautiful work Jeff did cutting the seams on the vintage mink.

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.

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CAFFEINE PLUS FUCHSIA LINEN EQUALS FLYING

Finishing Touches

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.

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Just keep sewing. Sewing means you don’t have time to cry.

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Nailed it.

 
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.

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TONIGHT: Playing the role of THL Gieffrei de Toesni, is Isolde de Featherstan.

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.

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It just screams evil queen of luxury.

Pictures!

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.

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I definitely like the veil over the hennin better.

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Awkward prom with my “husband.”
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It was breezy!
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We tried to emulate some poses we saw in paintings. Such as stabbing yourself, vomiting, and looking on in disdain. 
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“Behold, our barren field of…”

I had to throw in this last finishing touch. Maleficent leggings to give the stealth cosplay a bit more fluff.

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Gee wiz, I crack myself up.
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Price of Lularoe Disney Leggings: JUSTIFIED.

 

Women in the Middle Ages were badass, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

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.

The higher the hair, the closer to Odin?

“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.

Life goals. Even if it means getting locked in a tower til the king kicks it.

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.)

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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.

The First Round of “Ask Me Anything” Answers!

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.

 You’re actually in luck, because Maria Parani has written a great article on this, and it’s available for free on Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/578063/_Byzantine_Bridal_Costume_in_%CE%94%CF%8E%CF%81%CE%B7%CE%BC%CE%B1._A_Tribute_to_the_A._G._Leventis_Foundation_on_the_Occasion_of_Its_20th_Anniversary_Nicosia_2000_185-216  

Hopefully this gives you the answer you’re looking for. I could cite it, but having the whole article in your face is probably better than whatever I could blab. Good luck with your novel!

Ask me anything!

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.

Got a question for me?

Hit me up at syrakousina at gmail.com.

Yes, it is OK to have fun with garb!

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.

 

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Ah, me precious….
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I shall hug it and squeeze it and call it George!

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?

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Anna, that doesn’t look so bad, what’s the big deal?
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Wait…THOSE ARE FLAMINGOS!

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.

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Something tells me my yard won’t look like this in Caid.

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.

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Good ol’ Theodora and her ladies.

Let’s take a closer look:

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I see some fowl dresses in there!

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?

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Image Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image links to museum listing.

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.

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Taken by me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, January 2016.

I’ve also seen this one in person, and it pretty much made me squeal in the gallery. You can read more about it here: http://metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/448647

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.

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It looks pretty cute on its own, but sari cotton is super sheer.
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This is me being serious at Leodamas of Thebes here in Calafia. As you can see, I stitched some dolphin bezants on the straps for my own personal touch. I really liked this color combo.

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.

 

A very merry Anachronistic and Impulsive Arts and Crafts Weekend at Anna’s Rome!

This is what happens when I catch a cold, miss an event, and decide to not do homework. When I’m sick, I get bored, and when I’m bored and hopped up on cold medicine, well…I needed to tinker.

Edited on 9-28-2015 to add finished pictures.

PROJECT ONE: WEAVING THINGS.

Well, I started by warping up the inkle loom and making the Norman husband a pair of leg wrappings in his heraldic colors. They’re pretty crappy in some places, and hence, leg wrappings, rather than trim.  This is the first full 6 yard band I’ve ever made!  Material is acrylic yarn, because I wanted them thick,washable, and low-cost in case of it turning into a cat toy. I did okay though, so now I’m more confident in trying wool yarns for the next batch. I finished this in a day. I warped it Saturday night and by Sunday night the band was complete. I was a MACHINE.

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The pattern when I hit my stride.

 

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FULL LOOM! And a coffee table full of craft supplies.

 

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BOOM! A pair of leg wraps at 3 yards each, about 2.5″ wide.

 

PROJECT TWO:  SHINY THINGS.

Oh yeah, see that coronet on the table? I made that too. Norman Husband challenged me to make a coronet with him out playing Navy. Him not around left with me NO METALWORKING SUPPLIES. So, I had to play, and go buy a new beading pliers set. And JB Weld. I could NOT have done this without clear 2-part epoxy. G-S Hypo Cement did not cut it except for gluing the band itself together and the cabochons onto the settings. It did not hold the settings onto the band. I’m still not 100% finished with it, when I am I’ll post finished pics.

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I set up a “coronet bar” on my kitchen counter, because it’s high enough for me to not hunch, and I have great lighting. Findings are just some vintage brass lamp banding and shiny bits from Fire Mountain. Stones are real carnelian and onyx, and pearls. Lots and lots of freshwater pearls. Not only very period, but also my heraldic colors.

 

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Epoxying the cabs on the band.

 

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It didn’t look so bad the way it was, but you know, Byzantine…

 

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Lotsa Byzantine. I’m just attaching the pearls by weaving wire through openings in the brass.

 

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I marathoned the original Star Wars Trilogy while I worked on this. It gives you an idea of how long it took. Here it is almost done with some Darth Vader.

 

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Here it is on my head. I think the top pearls make it look too Western (boo hiss), so I’m going to cut them off, and replace them with round pearls. I could have gone WAY OVER THE TOP with this, and wanted to, but I was talked out of it, and I’m glad.

 

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I added rings on each side near my temples for a pair of pendilla to hang from. I don’t have the pendilla made yet, and I don’t ALWAYS have to wear them.

Finished coronet as of one week after I made it, after removing the top pearls, replacing them with smaller ones, and lining it with orange velvet:

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Notes after wearing for an event: Too much padding, it didn’t want to stay put. I know coronets are jewelry and not a headband, but still. I’m going to try a different method before I wear it next. Also,  I got a lot of compliments on my veil. All it is, is a green/yellow/red ombre dyed Indian dupatta. It still smells like batik. I wrapped it and tucked it into my belt in the front based on some icons and manuscripts I’ve seen.

No, using vintage lamp brass and epoxy aren’t exactly period techniques, but it creates the illusion for now until Norman Husband completes the Hagia Sophia of Coronets he’s promising me. Plus, this is dainty and clocking in at 1 3/4″ at the tallest, so it works for periods I wear that AREN’T Byzantine.  I’m not a jeweler, and especially not a hat maker, so even three days later my hands are KILLING ME.

Here’s a couple of Byzantine crowns that I pulled some [vague] inspiration from. They didn’t always wear votive crowns and massive tall hinged plaque things of doom.

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PROJECT THREE: MODIFYING THINGS.

And last but not least, OMG SHOES.

If you read my previous post, I made a blurb about what color shoes are appropriate for a Byzantine persona. As a court baroness, I could get away with yellow, so, I wanted to see if I could invest in a pair of proper Eastern looking shoes. Unfortunately, most medieval cordwainers don’t make Byzantine or Middle Eastern shoes (that’s a hint, folks) so I had to improvise. I hate HATE HATE wearing Pakistani/Indian Khussa, because they eat my feet alive. Even if I shower with them on, or wet my feet, they just never break in, and rip me up. That’s no fun. So some searches yielded Moroccan Babouches. These are actually pretty perfect, except that they’re  backless. Now, extant mules have been found, and are still worn in Turkey today, but I hate backless shoes, mostly because as you can see in these pics, my feet and ankles are very narrow. It makes mundane boot shopping a crappy experience when the material just pools around my ankles.

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I found these super awesome embroidered babouches on Etsy. They look very…Calontir.

 

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I ripped the backs up to find that they’re designed in a way that you cannot fit your foot in comfortably, so, I split them down the back.

 

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Cut holes with scissors on cutting board, because husband brought leather tools with him while playing Navy. Find random leather strap in his leftover stuff, and lace.

 

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Experiment with lacing.

 

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Walk around and immediately get blister.

 

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Tie them in the front. Ah, that’s better.

 

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Side view, they don’t look horrible. However, taking pics of your own feet is kind of tricky.

Shoes with better lacing and my red stockings:

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I just felt so damn sassy.

Period shoes that gave me this horrible idea:

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We called these the “Byzantine Chuck Taylors” on Facebook. No, the backs aren’t open. I know. I know. I IMPROVISED, OKAY?

 

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A pair of Byzantine Mules dated to 300-700 from Panopolis. Here’s that backless option for those that aren’t afraid of flat tires and don’t have feet that fall out of everything like I do.

 

The ones I made are clearly going to be “inside event” shoes. I’ll wear them with stockings in hopes to combat some of that extra width while the lacing will stop my feet from falling out. The best part that is if I want to, I can pull the lacing out of my shoes and flatten the backs again into mules.

Again, like the coronet, I’m creating an illusion from modern materials. Once I’m done with my master’s degree and move across the country, I’ll have time to work on making an actual pair of period leather shoes with gold leafing that WON’T be too wide for my feet and involve kitchen surgery. And maybe I’ll learn some metalworking so I can help my husband in making a proper hinged 11th Century coronet, but until then, it doesn’t hurt to use your imagination in the little game we play.