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.

 

Painted linen wall hangings

I managed to get back to the Met last month, and spend a whopping six hours there, never getting off the first floor. Again. Well, except for the Roman study rooms, but I digress. They have a really neat exhibit right now under the stairs in the Jaharis vault (where my favorite tunic was) that shows off some very cool painted liturgical linens from the late Roman/early Byzantine Egyptian period.

I’m going to start trying the technique, as it doesn’t look too daunting, it’s just egg tempera on linen, either pure white or dyed indigo. I figure if I can frame the fabric in an embroidery apparatus, it should work. As far as I know, the fabric wasn’t sized or gessoed prior to painting, at least it didn’t seem that way, so this could turn into a big mess. Should I succeed, I see a very nifty, period way to display heraldry indoors.

Here are the photos that I took, but if you can, definitely get to the Met and see them in person. The exhibit link is here: http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2015/new-discoveries

 

And for my next trick…

So I totally lied about doing updates over winter break. I am working on some sewing, but for the most part, I wanted to give my poor burned out brain some time to unwind after a particularly difficult semester.

Here’s a few important and interesting updates:

In June I will be relocating from the East Kingdom to the Kingdom of Caid. This will be a short-term relocation with an inevitable return to the East due to my husband’s naval career, but it will definitely affect my attendance at events to teach. I am planning on Pennsic this coming summer by flying into Pittsburgh, but I will NOT be at 50 Year. As much as I’d love to go, the timing with the move is making it impossible, and there is no way around this, as mundane life comes first.  However, I am looking forward to infiltrating, I mean, attending, new events on the West Coast for the short period of time we will be out there. I will know more about schedules and such after the move and once my own employment is sorted out. Right now the ultimate goal is to secure temporary work as adjunct faculty within the San Diego Community College District, but there is no guarantee I will be offered a teaching appointment. But this blog isn’t about mundane stuffs…

The cool news is that this is the semester of The Thesis:

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For my final project of my master’s degree, I am exploring the material culture of the Last Will and Testament of Kale Pakouriane, an 11th Century patrikia who entered a convent upon being widowed. I will be making a selection of her things.

MAKING THINGS. BYZANTINE THINGS. FOR THE SCHOOL LEARNIN’S.

I have not settled on which things yet, her inventory was impressive and I have three months. The primary goal of the project, in addition to making things, is actually attempting a reconstruction of her life from this inventory. This obviously includes her wealth, but also tangible goods, why she made the bequests that she did, and how class structure affected her decisions to leave lower household members with significant inheritances from her estate. I’m very excited about this project, and the bulk of my upcoming posts will be regarding this. I’m considering making a mundane blog for it, but I need to go over requirements with my academic committee first to see what they recommend. Either way, anything posted on a separate page will be mirrored here for the benefit of the SCA. Once completed, I’m going to submit it for publication in the form of a Compleat Anachronist.

I also have a short research paper on the Perception of Women during the Ancient Greek periods that will be published on the East Kingdom Gazette this week. Once that goes live, I will re-press it here.

I hope everybody is having a splendid New Year so far, and I look forward to sharing my progress on this epic project!

 

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.

Pennsic class materials posted.

As always, I have posted my class materials on Google Drive. Don’t forget to visit my Classes tab to access handouts and modules from previous classes.

The Orient Express: Did the Byzantines wear Persian?: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4jf5ZhBMl5xY3phVU5FSFlyVlk/view?usp=sharing

Deconstructing the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Tunic Under the Stairs”: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B4jf5ZhBMl5xWGVQSVNoWDBSejg

Color images: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4jf5ZhBMl5xazJuSHZDY0gwdUE/view?usp=sharing

 

If you would like a high (or higher) res image from the handouts, shoot me an email. 🙂