We’re always so quick to forget that fashion has been a phenomenon for thousands of years. Women just didn’t wear one or two style dresses. They wore what was in style, they wore what was popular in other places and made it work for them. I’m a firm believer that the clothing of Roman women was pretty limitless. They were essentially the original divas.
This is a public gallery on Facebook by Ratna Drost, who is a researcher and reenactor at the Archeon museum in the Netherlands. It’s a collection of her interpretation of provincial (Think Gaul and Belgica) clothing, with some great cold weather options for those of us who live in the Frozen Tundra. I’ve been pretty good about sticking with my Byzantine lately, but some of these looks are totally inspiring.
I hope these images help those looking for alternatives to the traditional peplos and chiton looks. I would recommend sending questions to Ms. Drost herself. This is not my work, I just wanted to share this great collection!
As I mentioned in my previous post, the Twelfth Night event in the Barony of Smoking Rocks (Southeastern Massachusetts) often has an early period theme. Typically 11th-12th Century. This year’s period was 1066, pre-conquest, so we went as my husband’s parents, Robert and Adelize de Tosny, looking to check out real estate on a plain called Hastings.
For the curious, the site is the Unitarian Universalist Society in Fairhaven, MA. Here’s some additional pictures of the site and event.
There’s a great deal that I could say about what goes on behind the scenes at events. I’m unsure how in-depth other kingdoms go, but here in the East, we like to be rather grandiose with coronations. I’ve autocratted royal progress events before, but I’ve never really been apart of the research and development strike team, so to speak, so this is a summarized post of my experience working on the spring coronation here in the East Kingdom.
Several months ago, I was approached by Master Steffan ap Kennydd about aiding him in designing a unique coronation ordo for the incoming heirs. It was going to be wildly anachronistic, as we were replacing 7th Century Saxons with 1st Century Romano-Hibernians, and I agreed, knowing that this could be a lot of fun.
I’m not too well-versed in early Irish culture, in fact, the Romans did not really interact with the Hibernians that often, and described them as basically crazy, so I knew that this was going to be tricky. Initially, I was brought in to help Steffan with the Latin, and things ballooned from there. We needed a story, we needed a good reason for Kenric II to abdicate, because court schtick is the best schtick. This involved a secret Facebook group, a Google document, and a conference call. Lots of discussion was had to be able to pull this together between about 8 people. @_@
Since Kenric II is the cousin of the martyred Kenric I, who was killed mysteriously by an archer bearing black arrows, visions of this sainted king have been plaguing his cousin. We had the benefit of working with 3 very superstitious cultures, so this was going to work. It would be far-fetched and as anachronistic as we could muster transitioning smoothly between time periods without a TARDIS, but this was going to rock.
Mistress Aife was brought in to help with the Irish, and I focused on the Roman. What else could we do to make this work? Steffan came up with the idea of taking it a dark route, and bringing in seers to proclaim Kenric’s doom during court. Aife wrote up a doom as follows, that we translated into Gaelic and Latin:
“King of the East! I speak your wyrd.
I see it in the flight of birds,
in the rising smoke, in the curling clouds.
King of the East, I speak your wyrd.
The wolf is coming, cloaked in splendor.
The eagles scream above his stride.
King of the East, I speak your wyrd.
The pale horse falls from the high place,
the victorious wolf hard at his heels.
King of the East, I speak your wyrd.
The three pale moons crowned by courage
are swallowed by the shadow of the wolf bearing the eagle.
King of the East, your wyrd is spoken.”
“Wyrd” from what I understand, is a very Anglo-Saxon concept, so is the white horse. The Irish revered wolves, while the Saxons found them to be bad omens. In this case, the wolf is also in Brennan’s arms, so it worked. The Eagle of course, is Rome. So Brennan essentially became, “The wolf bearing the eagle.” The “three pale moons” are Kenric’s arms. It’s vague, it’s spooky, and it was perfect.
Steffan and I translated it into Latin, and this was the result:
“Rex Orientis, fatum tuum dico.
Video in volatum avum, in fumo oriente, in nubibus volventibus.
Rex Orientis, fatum tuum dico.
Lupus venit, palliatus fulgore. Aquilae clangunt super passibus suis.
Rex Orientis, fatum tuum dico.
Equus albus descendit de loco alto, lupo victorioso vincendo.
Rex Orientis, fatum tuum dico.
Tres lunae pallidae virtute coronatae umbra lupi aquilam ferentis voratae sunt.
Rex Orientis, fatum tuum dictum est!”
This was more of a geek-fest for us rather than everyone else, but we enjoyed it.
Next came the performance aspect. Aife and myself were conscripted into duty as the seeresses, and I took on the role of a Vestal Virgin, the most well-known and recognizable Roman priestess. I’m hardly virginal material *cough* but for the day, it would be well worth the project.
Vestal garb is relatively simple, with some twists. I reached out to Maestra Julia Sempronia of An Tir, who had recently received her Laurel while donning the robes of the Vestal, and she was a great source of help, as well as others from the Romans of the SCA Facebook page.
In addition to wearing all white, the most important part of the Vestal was the headwear, the infula (fillet) and suffibulum (veil.) Other than that, I needed white sandals, a white chiton, and a white palla. Those pretty much took care of themselves. However, I need to proudly display my sandals for a bit, because even though they’re modern, I found a pair that had a trinity knot as part of the design. So not only was I Roman, I was wearing what could be considered a rather Irish symbol, that could easily stand for all three cultures represented in the ceremony: Saxon, Irish, and Roman. Gods, I’m a NERD.
Back to the headwear. The infula was going to be the worst part. I needed to make funky round bands of funkiness in red, long enough to wrap around my head 5 times and have 2 loops over my shoulders. What I did on Maestra Julia’s suggestion was purchase cotton cording used to edge pillows, and dyed it red. It took me two dye baths to get it the right shade, and the dying process did leave the cotton looking a bit weathered and raggy, almost like felted wool. So I got the right look. It even faded just a bit like period red dyes do.
The final result:
I was still missing pieces to the puzzle. The infula slipped off of my short hair very easily, so I was reminded that I needed a vitta, or a plain white fillet to keep it in place. I simply cut and hemmed a small rectangle of white linen, and that did the job. Next was the suffibulum, or veil. This took a bit more troubleshooting than I thought it would. I needed to get the right shape to have it drape across my shoulders evenly. I tried a few rectangles, and then had a moment of pure “derp” when it was suggested by Domina Vestia on the Romans of the SCA page that it should be semi-circular. That did the trick. I trimmed it in deep reddish-purple bias tape, and made a brooch out of a huge shank button I found at Joann’s, and the headwear problem was solved.
I put together the whole kit, scared Lord Geoffrey, and made him take pictures:
Of course, that was just the beginning, now the fun began. We had the words, we had the garb. I couldn’t memorize the lines entirely, so I cheated and taped them into my wax tablet. It did the job. Let’s spook the Eastern Populace.
But wait, there’s more!
You can’t have a victorious emperor of Rome come into court without showing off! It was my idea that Brennan and Caoilfhionn have a Triumph to begin their First Court. And although I couldn’t convince his Imperial Majesty to paint his face red, what resulted was an epic, and I do mean EPIC parade of regalia and pomp into court unlike anything I think the East has ever seen. Brennan paraded in after the kingdom champions, and I stood behind him, holding one of the Eastern crowns over his head, and chanting, “Respice post te, hominem te memento.” This translates to, “Look behind you and remember that you are but a man.” This was done typically by a slave with a laurel wreath, on the triumphator’s quadriga (4 horse chariot.) It reminded the emperor or general that they were still mortal, and not a god, and to control their hubris and pride. I have several reports that I gave members of the populace chills by doing this.
Her Imperial Majesty Caoilfhionn was carried in on a lectica, surrounded by the artifacts and relics of the East Kingdom, as well as amazing displays of heraldry as Roman vexillae. I missed the second half of the show because as soon as I got to the dais, I bolted to the royal room to change into less…conspicuous clothing so that I could enjoy court and be called upon as a member of the Queen’s Guard.
In closing, thank you everyone who came to Coronation and enjoyed our little performance. Thank you to their Majesties Brennan and Caoilfhionn, and their Graces Kenric and Avelina for playing along with our crazy idea. I’m looking forward to a nice, Roman summer. 🙂
Addendum: For those interested, here is the doom in Klingon. Generously translated by a poster on the Romans of the SCA Facebook page:
I’m sure readers are wondering why a woman, who is normally focused on the clothing of Rome and Byzantium, is now making Norman garb. Well, for one, I’ve wanted one for a long time. For twos, my persona is half-Norman. My boyfriend is Norman, and the freehold I am apart of is a Norman keep. So…it was only a matter of time before I made Norman garb for myself. My friends in the neighboring barony are being invested as baron and baroness this coming weekend, and they are Saxon. So, what could be funnier than all of their pals showing up as Normans to the party? Our area 12th Night event is also very early 12th century and traditionally a 10 foot rule event, so I needed to make something appropriate for that, also. The only hitch was that I’m 11th Century, 1090s to be exact, so I had to find evidence to support the wearing of this garment in that period. That was relatively easy, as the Bayeux Tapestry clearly shows women wearing snug dresses with droopy sleeves. Tada!
I found the spot of evidence I needed from Sarah Doyle’s Page on The Clothing of Norman Women in the Late 11th and Early 12th Centuries. She gives a wealth of sources that made it easy to get an idea of the style I wanted to make, as bliauts can vary quite a bit. I wanted to keep it relatively simple with sleeves a reasonable length such as Aelfgyva’s above, and line then to show contrast as what seemed popular during this period. The only other real issue I had was determining a neckline, and I went with the keyhole rather than the V-Neck. It will be mostly covered by my veil anyway.
The process didn’t take too long. I made an underdress out of black linen and 4 gores. I threw some trim on the neckline, cuffs and bottom hem. The main gown is made from a deep red linen, that also has 4 gores and cut-out underarms to allow for the easier attaching of the sleeves. The sleeves were really the most tedious part, but still not difficult. Linings don’t scare me, but I ran into some hiccups as far as being able to ensure the hiding of seams but still closing a side seam up after the sleeves were inserted. So I basically had to partially complete the sleeves and then leave about 5-6 inches unsewn so I could attach it to the main body of the dress. Easy enough. Under normal circumstances I would have sewn just the linen together and then finished the green silk lining over the seam by hand, but it was fighting back and some points weren’t matching as well as I planned them too, SO, the silk got machined into the seam and finished with a zig zag. This makes me worry a bit about fraying, but it was the best option given the circumstances, and that I decided to make this 3 days before wearing it. More on that later. Here’s some pictures of the sleeve process.
Once the sleeves were on, the dress came together much faster. All I had to do at this point was finish the trim on the neckline, sew on the side gores and then close the sides. The dress itself is a foot longer in the torso than a normal tunic dress, this allows for the ruching look that was desirable during the period. I opted to not lace the side of the dress. This results in some interesting shimmy shimmy shakes to take it off, since I had to take in the sides to make it tight enough.
And here’s a snapshot of my first test fitting before taking in the sides.
I pulled in the sides a bit more after this, and made the girdle out of the leftover trim I had. The only REAL mistake I did was attaching the trim on the upper arm before sewing the side seam. This sounded like a great idea at the time, but they don’t match up, which you can kind of see if you’re standing behind me. I expect to hear some crap about that this weekend. So I figure once the event is over, I can go and remove the trim, and replace it by hand so I don’t have that problem. I’m still not sure why my measurements are off.
The only other real “problem?” I’ve lost weight. 8 inches total from my hips alone to be exact from two points, so making a fitted dress earlier in the year was going to be a problem. Chances are if I keep this up, I’m going to have to not just take in more from the sides, but put in the lacings to MAKE it tight enough. This is why I had to wait until last minute to make it. 🙂