Achievement of Arms are a period way to show off one’s accomplishments in the SCA, as combined with one’s heraldic device. I had the great fortune to create a conjugal coat of arms for my Byzanbestie Anna and her husband Gieffrei, and ended up also blogging the process, too.
Let’s start off with the details and definition of what a heraldic achievement of arms actually is. An ‘achievement’ is a full formal display of a coat of arms. This form of display is normally used in very formal situations, and can be used for decorative elements, banners, and of course, on scrolls. An achievement is one’s heraldic device surrounded by all the extra elements accorded to an individual by their rank in the SCA according to their kingdom’s sumptuary laws. Most of the elements, however, are optional and do not have to be displayed. Further bits of interkingdom anthropology: Ansteorra registers…
It’s always a fun occasion when you find out a good friend is getting an award that means a lot. In this case, a good friend, Count Ioannes Aurelius Serpentius, was being awarded the Silver Rapier in the East Kingdom for prowess on the fencing list field.
Being that mean sneaky friend that I am, I offered my service as the scribe for this award, and put in the request with Tyger Clerk of the Signet. Once things got out of the holding pattern, the date for the award was moved up a bit, so I had to jump in on this a bit earlier than planned. Dropping my list of silk banner commissions and other projects to the wayside, I allowed the scroll assignment to take the wheel.
I ordered a finished panel from Pandora at a size a bit smaller than I usually go, 9.5×12.5″ versus 11×14″. It wouldn’t change the size of the cartoon I would have to make from the original, but make it a bit easier to ship from Trimaris to the East in a flat rate box. I would just have to get a bit creative with the scroll text.
I went ahead and did that first while I waited for my order to come in. Knowing it would have to be short and sweet, I went through a selection of Byzantine kontakia to find one that I could rework into an award for martial prowess. Of all things, I landed on the Kontakion of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos, dating from as early as the 6th Century: (Theotokos translates as Mother of God. This is a hymn to the Virgin Mary.)
To thee, the Champion Leader, we thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos; but as thou art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do thou deliver us, that we may cry to thee: Rejoice, thou Bride Unwedded.
And then my reworking into a secular scroll:
Kontakion of the Awarding of the Silver Rapier to Count Ioannes Aurelius Serpentius:
To thee, Ioannes, we, Wilhelm and Vienna, King and Queen of the East dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving. O Ioannes, but as that art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do thou deliver us, that we may bestow upon thee: A Companion of the Order of the Silver Rapier. On this day, November 17th, at our One Hundred Minutes War, Anno Societatis LIII.
There is a bit of fun irony here. The first being that the award was being given out just a few days prior to American Thanksgiving, and two, it was Ioannes’ birthday. So for his birthday, the royals dedicated a feast of victory and thanksgiving, which would be a very period thing to do to for a peer being bestowed an accolade of some type. In the Byzantine tradition, commemorations of an individual would be held on birthdays, and anniversaries of death. The document that was involved with my thesis/Compleat Anachronist, includes Kale Pakouriane authorizing a bequest of icons to the monks of Iviron to be used in the commemorative feasts for her husband, Symbatios, who was buried at the monastery. I have yet to pinpoint if icons were used for awards for living individuals, but I admit I haven’t chipped away at that research as much as I should be.
Finding the right icon to pattern turned out to be harder. The East Kingdom loves giving out “alterative” scrolls to the traditional ink and pergamenata creations by extremely talented scribes and artisans, so I knew I was throwing my hat into the pro ring. I decided it was going to be Michael the Archangel, since he is the patron of basically all things martial including fencing. Archangels are also not inherently symbolic of any one faith, as they exist in all three of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), Zoroastrianism, and I believe also in the modern religion of Baha’i. They have considerably ancient roots and were prevalent during the classical through medieval periods in three continents, thus making them generally a safe choice to be enjoyed by all.
But I needed to find a badass Michael. Most period icons are of him standing in splendor or just a bust. These are lovely pieces, but I needed more pizazz. I found it in this considerably late Russian piece that is inching out of period, though some Cavalier fencers would say not, so this is my nod to those folks who bend the rules in one direction, just as I bend them in the other.
Of course I couldn’t find something simple. The palette was dark, probably from the aging of the pigments used, it was probably made on a much larger scale that I was about to try with, so some details were going to be skipped. I decided that I would leave the earth, the devil under Michael’s feet, and the figures to the right (our left) of Michael, who I would attempt to transform into Count Ioannes and Countess Honig. The orb would be used for the order’s heraldry.
Sure. No problem. I had weeks still.
First, I had to revisit the hell that is gilding in Florida. It was suggested that I use a mixture of gum arabic and honey to make an adhesive for the gold. And that is what I did. What I didn’t do, though, was give it enough time to dry. This resulted it some of it squeezing out from under the leaf, and taking some gold with it. Because of this, it took me some time to get smooth, even coverage, and I ended up using 2 full leaves of double ducate 23k gold on that small halo. I decided that panicking over the smeared gold was going to be useless, so I sanded it with my agate burnisher once the gold was set, which took 48 hours, despite us having a cold front at the time. I got an okay burnish, but since I had a nice thick layer of gold in addition to the bole beneath it, I pressed designs into the halo to make it look textured, and hide my flaws.
Then the protoplasm went down a day later. I wanted that gold as set as possible to avoid any more mistakes….except…that…wow, that sankir (skin color base) was wicked dark. I had overestimated the deep palette a wee bit, and understimated the richness of my blend with the egg medium. It was just Antica green earth and Roman black, and I have had it go on more translucent before, so the only person to blame was myself for not testing the color first. I also bit down and did the cloak in real vermilion (mercury sulfide, for those playing at home), because it is the accurate color, and nothing paints as nicely as it does. This put it immediately into the “DO NOT LICK” category of SCA art. Pretty much everything else is an ocher pigment, including the ultramarine blue and the crimson red used on his leggings. You can see how the vermilion looks a bit more orange against the crimson, which is what I saw looking at the original.
So on my first day of brush-on-board, I created a super dark, toxic ethereal being.
The next day, I basically had to sand off the sankir on Michael’s face, and hand-draw in the facial features so I could actually do any highlighting. The end result was a bit creepy, if not demonic. It gave me the jim jams.
So now, Michael was super dark, toxic, and demonic. Where was this going?!?!
But I recovered after a night of crabbing to Gieffrei, who reminded me that Ioannes would be happy with a stick figure as long as I drew it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t happy, but I was determined.
The first workover of highlights gave him a grumpy old “can’t even” look. Angels are androgynous and youthful. So that wouldn’t do, and would need another pass. I was pleased with the way the delicate florals came out on the cuirass and leggings. I put in an evil eye amulet for luck. You should be able to see it dead center.
I devoted an entire Sunday to getting the highlights down in two sessions. It’s not always a good idea to go over tempera layers a lot in the same day because it can pull up the paint and expose the panel. You have to let it set and harden overnight for best results, but I bent the rules. I put in what I think was two 4-hour sessions that day. Break time was spent grocery shopping and eating dinner, despite insisting that I needed no sustenance. My husband thought I was going insane, but I couldn’t pull myself way, and the time was well worth it.
And then the gold happened. This is watercolor, not shell gold, but the set I have is great. Archangels are divine, and as such, can be slathered (tastefully) in gold. And that’s what I did.
I gave myself a couple of days to allow for the paint to cure and harden, as I mulled over how I was going to do the border and words. I needed a contrast, and the only color I could think of would be Venetian red. It’s not my favorite pigment to work with since it tends to stay grainy and fight back against the medium by not absorbing it well for some reason, but it did come out the way I wanted it to after two coats. I also got the inscription down in my nice watercolor gold, and the border.
The text would need to be white to pop, but I also need to give that tempera a solid 24 hours of curing time before I attempted to write on it. Once that day passed, I went in there with a ruler and white colored pencil, and gently laid out the text. I decided that the words “Order of the Silver Rapier” would be done with the white gold in the palette to emulate silver, and to give a subtle sparkle. Gold was used as the spacers. I am not a calligrapher, and painting with a brush is hard, but I got it cleaner than I expected to.
And the finished wording:
Some cleanup work with the Venetian red, and VOILA! DING! Scroll is done!
Comparison with the original. Naturally, there was no way I could make an exact copy, but I think I did the piece justice in my own style:
And then the attempts to take as many artsy shots as possible on a solid background under my desk lamp to show lumanescence. Tempera is naturally shiny, so gold leaf and metallic paints just add more shiny, and this wasn’t as easy to photograph as say, a more flat painting would be, hence the varied angles to get different results.
This entire icon was painted almost entirely with a 3/0 brush. After completing it, I went out and purchased a 12/0 and 20/0 for even finer detail now that my skills are being honed.
I’ve been waiting for weeks to post about this. Secrets are so hard to keep when you’re excelling at something. I’m sad it had to depart to its new owner, but I know his face, and the face of those assembled at court will make it worth it.
I was super nervous shipping it north, even though we had time, the weather was starting to turn in New England, I was hoping it wouldn’t get stuck out in the snow or get soaked in a Nor’easter downpour. There was a massive sigh of relief once I heard it was received safely.
…Of course, I still need to oil varnish it. But that can’t be done until their Majesties provide their John Hancocks. 😉
You know, that head roll that SCAdians think is so Byzantine? You can buy them at Ren Fairs, they show up in commercial paper patterns. It basically looks like something you get at a medical supply store for bum cushioning.
I know this sounds mean, but there is -zero- evidence that such a thing existed. Artwork from the early Byzantine period (300-899) shows -something-, and that something is called a fakiolion. It’s a turban, and it continues to be worn through the middle period, when art becomes more refined post-iconoclasm.
I’m far from innocent, of course. Here I am, 10 years ago and 50lbs lighter, wearing my hair donut in a photoshoot. This was my first attempt at Byzantine garb, which over all wasn’t bad, but if I could go back and beat myself with a hammer for the donut, I would. It was a waste of fabric and pillow fill that makes zero sense in the case of medieval construction.
Here is the cut from Theodora’s procession at San Vitale. I know you see the stripes, and think that it has to be ribbons and spangles and fancy things wrapped around a roll to get that effect. The fact is, that the same effect can be made with a turban with the right designs on it.
Then of course, there is the bust of the Byzantine Woman from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, believed to be Julia Amicia, Theodora’s zoste patrikia, shown as the third woman from the left above, you know, the one actually looking at us with her elegantly draped palla over her fakiolion. The front of this sure makes it confusing. Even I haven’t been able to completely figure out what that pucker is, but, thanks to my skills at museum yoga, I was able to get pictures of behind her head. As you can see, it’s definitely not a donut. It almost reminds me of how a St. Birgitte’s Cap gathers in the back of the head. I wonder if this piece was polychromatic at one point, and, if the Met plans on having it investigated for color residue. I feel any trace of color on the hairpiece would probably make it easier to interpret.
The use of a turban rather than a head roll provides multiple benefits. One, it doesn’t use up fabric and filling that could have been better served in other capacities. Two, it keeps the hair out of the face, and most importantly, CLEAN. The use of silk on the hair also helps protect set styles, and women still use silk wraps today to wear over their rollers and other curling implements to bed in order to control frizz and damage. It was not uncommon for a Byzantine woman to leave her hair uncovered, even as a married woman, and noblewomen would have had the option of affording hair services such as ornate braids and temporary “perms” made with gum arabic. The fakiolion would have helped keep these styles in place and relatively clean, versus having to constantly re-set the hair on a daily basis. A head roll would have been useless in any of these applications. While Byzantines were known for conspicuous consumption, even that seems off the mark.
Here is my Byzan-bestie, Konstantia, showing her interpretation from the same period. Note that the stripes in scarf used to create the turban gives the same effect as you see above from the mosaic. It looks so much more elegant than the donut, don’t you think? You can read her blog post pertaining to Byzantine headwear, here: https://kaloethina.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/headgear/
The trick, is to make sure that your fakiolion has the right grammata on it, or geometric designs. The Last Will and Testament of Kale Pakouriane describes these designs as being done in goldwork, and some scholars believe that grammata had pseudo-kufic script embroidered in, which was a popular design feature. Typically, you want the design to run parallel along the edges of the length of your turban fabric. Both Konstantia and I have found that commercially available hijabs do this nicely. And, since they’re designed to be worn on the head, they tend to not be stifling materials, and stay put.
Here’s a similar scarf to what Konstantia is wearing above, only worn by me, in the most flattering selfie imaginable, that just happens to have the best shot of my turban style. It also gives a nice railing for coronets to perch without the pinching or headaches associated with some heavy head jewelry. Konstantia rocks the look complete with a maforion, or veil over top of it, which was common for the early period, versus the middle period, when I’m supposed to be living. She used a pashima here, for added thickness and warmth.
And here I am in some 11th Century, emulating looks from The Menologion of Basil II as seen in my master’s thesis and Compleat Anachronist.
It was requested that I do a video tutorial of my preferred turban wrapping, so, here it is:
I know the phrase goes, “All good things must come to an end”, but in short, that head roll was never good. It’s an early Faire/SCAbomination of garb based on Italian and Spanish Renaissance fashions that don’t fit in this culture, has seen its day, and needs to be retired for a more accurate solution. Consider the fakiolion for your next event, and put your donut out to garb pasture for good.
This isn’t always the smartest idea. Especially when that particular garb is 16th Century and you literally haven’t sewed a fitted bodice on anything in about 5 years. But I was determined, and challenged by a certain Countess in Meridies who just received her Laurel in 16th Century German clothing to get it done. She even made me the wulsthaube as incentive.
I looked at a lot of pictures, and broke down the ensemble: shirt, dress with fitted bodice and full pleated skirt. Easy enough. Really. I could do this! Granted, I’m currently unemployed. Your mileage may vary.
It went as follows:
Sunday – Shirt.
Monday – Didn’t sew for some reason.
Tuesday – Skirt panels.
Wednesday – Fit the bodice.
Thursday – Sewed the bodice.
Friday – Constructed the dress.
So, first was the shirt. Kissa pointed me in the direction of a simple pattern, and I used some of my super soft Signature Finish linen from everybody’s favorite online linen store, Fabrics-Store.com. The shirt is pretty standard for a 16th century smock: sleeves are gathered into cuffs, and the collar has a slit, and is also gathered into a band. The Germans were extremely fond of pleatwork, or smocking, and that is really far out of my wheelhouse, so I opted for simple knife pleats, which also appears to be a period method. I made this is an afternoon, including hand-finishing the cuffs and collar. I initially left a slit in the cuffs, and then for some reason, closed it. I should have left them open, because it would have been easier to roll the sleeves.
Pleating in the neckline.
Finishing the cuffs.
Finished collar band.
I put a slit into the cuff, and then ended up closing it back up. I should have left it open.
Now I had to construct the dress. The bodice needed to be fitted, so I had to wait for a friend of mine to find time to come over for a fitting. So I focused on the skirt pieces. At first, I was going to do basic black guards, and then I had a visit from the Scope Creep Imp in my sleep, and decided that big, funky checkers were going to be the answer. Because, I can’t do anything that doesn’t make me look like a traffic cone. This was another full day’s worth of work.
I had to get that bodice done come hell or high water, though. I started the project on a Sunday, it was now Wednesday. I don’t have any pictures of the fitting process, but I do have pictures of the aftermath. Linen is not really the best fiber for this. I know there’s ways to “hack”, and get it to work, but being that I was short on time, I had to make it work.
I attempted a thick interfacing as the interlining, and it made all kinds of interesting geometric protrusions that were not okay. So, I stripped it out and conceded to just two layers of linen. I should have included a canvas interlining instead, but my brain went, “It’ll be fiiiiine”, and continued. I hand-closed the arms, and then attached the rings for lacing. It took me almost the entire film Dangerous Beauty to complete the rings.
And a fitting…over a T-shirt. We have bunching and not much support. Uh-oh. I just assume that adding the guards and the skirt would fix the fit. I wasn’t too off in the long run.
It was suggested that I hand-sew the guards down. I’m still not sure if this was the best option for me, but I did it anyway. It took the entirety of Dodgeball and almost all of A Knight’s Tale to get them down.
And then finished at 11am on Friday morning!
But it was far from over. I still had to actually get the dress together!
I sewed the skirt panels up the side seams, and started the super fun pleating into the waist of the bodice. I actually like pleating, so this part wasn’t so bad. I was having fun with it. And of course, more handsewing: the lining needs to cover the raw edges of the skirts! (Yes, I doubled my thread. I have a bad habit of doing it because I tend to get more tangled and become unthreaded when I don’t. Technically, you should only do this for buttons, because it’s kind of lazy, but whatever. I said it was a bad habit.)
Almost…there… I took a break for dinner before hemming.
Welp, I did a ton of handwork already, may as well hand-finish the hem, as well. I love blind hems. They’re quick, but I use them mostly on collar facings than actual hems. This is the first hand-hem I’ve done on a dress in a while.
Look! I used a single thread this time!
But what about the Wulsthaube?! I got in the hat from Kissa on Monday (it was now Friday), but all it needed was a cover. Easy enough. I braided my hair for maximum effort, and picked a striped linen remnant I had in the closet. I machine finished the raw edges, and bam.
Das ist meine Wulsthaube. It Haubes Wulsts!
Then I had to try it on…oh no! It didn’t have ANY support! *expletives* But nothing I can’t fix with a pushup bra for the sake of the event. This upset me,but it goes back to the not having an interlining + sagging linen + Florida humidity making it extra saggy.
Without a bra on the left, and with on the right. So annoyed that it wasn’t self-supporting, but the lift was necessary. For someone with a big butt like me, you’d think I have the top to match? Noooo, I live in pushup bras. 😦 Thankfully, most of them are t-shirt bras, so they don’t show, especially through 3 layers of linen. This allowed me to have the support and shape I needed to fill the dress, without showing modern intervention to pull it off.
Naturally, the best thing to do at this point was to put the whole thing on, run downstairs, and terrify my husband.
Gieffrei was…not pleased. He looked at me and went, “That’s so not you. You don’t look normal and I don’t like it.” Gee, thanks, Jeff. But, he obliged in taking pictures of me in our messy library, anyway, as he was covered in sawdust from making a new chair out in the garage.
Voila. A Trimaris-friendly Trossfrau in 5 days.
Well, maybe not THAT Trimaris-Friendly. The stockings and clogs ended up staying home. The high at Hausmaerchen was near 90 and humid. So I opted for cloth Mary Janes, since I don’t have duckbill shoes. I was a hot sweaty mess, and the linen sagged EVEN MORE, but it gave a sense of authenticity of following the Landsknecht tross on campaign, I guess. I also got bit the hell up by fire ants. Womp womp.
I topped off my wulsthaube with a pin of a harpy. The theme was “the Lorelei”, but as I had no mermaid, another man-eating lady monster would fit the bill.
So, why did I do this to myself, again? The bodice will have to be dissected and re-fitted before I wear it again, that’s for sure. And this was a lot of work for less than a week. This did, however, distract me from my regularly scheduled unemployment. Instead of sitting on the couch and surfing Facebook, or planning my next Byzantine attack, I had to go outside of my comfort zone (despite formerly having a 16th Century persona, hence the understanding of this basic pattern) and knock it out of the park in just a few days. It took my mind off of real life for a bit, and gave me a reset button to push. A new focus. Sometimes, we need that reset button. We need that challenge outside of our normal routine to wake the brainmeats up. The SCA gives us the fluidity to explore other cultures in that regard, which is nice. Otherwise, I probably would have just gone in a sloppy chiton to a German event if I didn’t give myself this chance to prove otherwise.
I’m going to try to give myself something new every year, now. Last year was the Burgundian, this year the Trossfrau. I wonder what’s next?
Back in the day, which is always a Wednesday, before we began our Knowne World Tour, it was arranged for Jeff to get his Silver Crescent at the same event as his Maunche because he was leaving Portsmouth for San Diego. Because of this, scroll requests got backed up. I wrote the words for his Crescent that was read in court, but he had no scroll. I promised him I would write an icon for him. THEN-
He left for Caid.
I got assigned Konstantia’s Herald Extraordinary scroll.
I wrote my thesis.
I moved to Caid.
I got the gilding down on this.
His backlog scroll came in from the East, and it’s lovely and I gave up.
He came back.
I did things other than paint.
We moved to Trimaris.
I was like, “Oh I still have this.”
And he was like, “So where is it?”
Here it is. 3 years later.
Panel is one of my handmade ones on a birch art panel with my own gesso. It is a hot mess and was not easy to paint on. I noticed the places where I didn’t sand as well, or touched a lot during demos and displays were prone to pitting and bad adhesion of the tempera. On the bright side, a lot of the flaws I had were the same flaws I saw on very old post-period/in-period panels. So there’s that, I guess. If anyone can take my experimental art and actually like it, it would be Gieffrei, anyway.
Saint: Nicholas of Myra, known to most of us as Santa Claus, but also the patron saint of sailors, and, of course, heretic puncher supreme. The reason I chose him should be evident. (Hint: Nothing to do with punching heretics.) The pattern is modern. Most period icons of St. Nicholas are rather boring and rarely show him with a boat/in a boat. Those are all post-period.
Green sky/blue water = Jeff’s arms, sans martlets, though in retrospect, I could have drawn one in. Green is also his favorite color.
Silver Crescent is on the boat, not only because service to his kingdom, but also to his country.
Inscription around the border: Γοδεφρείδος, Αργυρά Ημισέληνος της Ανατολής. “Gieffrei (Godefredus in Latin and Greek), Silver Crescent of the East.”
Main inscription just says Saint Nikolas.
After it cures for a couple of weeks, I will oil it, let it sit for a month, and then it can join the gallery on the staircase as an actual scroll.
Or something to that effect. Edit 7/12/2019: It’s called a diplax, not himation. Derp.
Being that it will be no less than the temperature of the surface of the sun, plus 3000% humidity this weekend at Trimaris Coronation, I decided that less was more, and I would go in that killer yellow chiton from my previous post.
But then I decided to add more.
As mentioned, the Chios Kore is probably my favorite all-time Archaic statue. And the polychromatic replicas just make my gaudy heart sing. Plus that perfect example of the archaic smile. What does she know?
Here are the photos again, for a refresher:
508907 Kore 675, 510-520 BC, attributed to Archermos from Chios, marble sculpture of archaic age from Chios, Acropolis in Athens Greek Civilization, 6th Century BC; (add.info.: Kore 675, 510-520 BC, attributed to Archermos from Chios, marble sculpture of the archaic age from Chios, the Acropolis in Athens (Greece). Greek Civilization, 6th Century BC. Artwork-location: Athens, Moussío (Acropolis Museum, Archaeological Museum)); De Agostini Picture Library / G. Nimatallah; it is possible that some works by this artist may be protected by third party rights in some territories.
Take a look at her himation, the over-garment that would evolve into the Roman palla and toga. You see this style on multiple statues, such as the ones in the header on this great page that discusses polychromy and its recreation a bit more in detail:
It’s not really a “himation” at all, but more of a peplos that is pinned as a chiton on one shoulder only. I figured this was easy enough to do, and would help complete my look for this weekend. This project was done entirely by machine in less than 2 hours. I think the longest part was just getting the trim down.
I went with the same orientation of the linen as the chiton: using the long weft length instead of the warp. I figured this would give me a comparable drape, and continue on this archaic project being a fabric-conserving venture. In hindsight, it probably could have been longer, but at least it won’t be dragging on the ground.
I started with a length of 2 yards and 10 inches (82″ total) of lightweight blue linen, and finished the two raw edges first. I maintained the finished selvedges as the hems.
After that, I went and started making my peplos, using a 16″ peplum, and ironing the snot out of it to get a nice sharp crease.
I applied a nice contrasting band of meander trim along this crease. In period, it would probably have not tacked the fold down, but rather have been a horizontal stripe along the fabric, and the fold actually being free to open back up. This would have allowed the garment to be worn multiple ways. For the sake of this test project and ease of wearing at an SCA event, I just stitched it down. The next one I try will be more accurate, so I can re-work it into a chiton or peplos or himation as I choose.
I then put bands of trim on the base of the peplum, and at the hem. Mixing them up a bit like on the original artwork. I did not have enough of either to do the vertical stripe down the front, or anything that looked “Grecian” enough to really match this go around. I’ll have to do some hardcore trim shopping and see what’s out there for my next attempt.
Here’s some pictures of my trim layout, complete with cat assist. I pulled up the top trim in the last photo to show my cheater stitches along the fold.
Next was draping. I threw it on the dressform, and formed the peplos. It is short, but look at how nice it fits the body, like the Peplos Kore variants, versus the more draped later styles. Once again, this is a 16″ peplum, and it fits nicely from my shoulder to natural waistline.
While on the dressform, I just started measuring like I would for a typical classical dress: found the center points, measured out my neckline, and then formed my sleeves from there. The Chios Kore shows 7 disc pins, I used 6 round buttons. I’ll probably use one of my smaller fibulae to keep it attached to my chiton, and stop it from slipping down my arm. It really does miss that vertical stripe, so I may have to go back and add one once I find a suitable trim for it.
And just like that, it was done!
Here are belting variations:
And the side views. The open side makes for a more accurate garment, but if one were to make this into a functional full peplos or chiton, it would have to be wide enough to wrap around the body, or a nice breeze may reveal quite a bit.
I’m exceptionally pleased at the color palette, since the primaries were all over the archaic statues. While they were common tempera shades, I do admit I’m not 100% sure on if those colors could be achieved by dyes so early. I’ll have to touch base with my dyer friends to see what they think.
Now, if only I could put my hair in multiple braids to complete this look!
I live in Trimaris. It is summer. This post is a little punchy.
I swear, when I lived here 15 years ago, it wasn’t as hot. Granted, I was younger, I had grown up here, and I endured the summers because we were thrown out of the house over school break lest my parents go insane. Jumping Jeebus, it’s hot out right now. I know the Jacksonville area, where I am, can get hotter than the Tampa Bay area, where I grew up, because of the way the breeze crosses the state, BUT STILL!
Don’t get me wrong, Caid was hot. But most events weren’t awful. You could catch a breeze in the shade, and, of course, Southern California is a dry heat. Not that a good Santa Ana Wind didn’t turn you into a raisin, or anything, but your sweat served its purpose and evaporated. There is no such thing as a dry anything ever in Florida. Be it a heat, or a cold. Swamp-ass is the state’s actual unofficial pastime, not to be confused with bad news stories being released on the internet because of the state’s freedom of information act. Moist. Moist is the vocabulary word of this Uncle, Lord Samuel’s Naval Tour Post, and there is no way in heaven or hell that any of my Sartor silks or full on Byzantine anything ever is going outdoors into that schweaty abyss.
So, I have Roman. Roman is good. I only have a full bulbous Roman linen outfits after a recent garb purge, and decided I wanted to be pretty, and converted a lot to the cotton sari trend, which was great in non-schweaty Caid. I wore an ultralight set, composed of two thin cotton saris, one day at Pennsic 2 weeks ago (we had an exceptionally…swamp-assy war) and it stuck to every…crevice…on…my…body…that…could…pool…moisture. YUCK!!! Oh cotton, no! The elegance of the drape was lost when it just adhered itself to my bits. That got pulled off of my body in a hurry and replaced with one of my linen “war tubes” as I call them. Literally, just a one seam tube that I made at war one year that I can pin once on each shoulder for a Bronze Age look. These are often called bog dresses.
Somehow, my brain knew it was going to be a hot war, and decided weeks in advance that I was going to sew up slimmer-fitting chitons in more of an Archaic Greek look, versus the draped fullness you see in later artwork. I kept the embellishment simple, and even sewed most of the tops closed for ease of wear. I don’t think I really want to wear my full Roman dresses ever again.
“Archaic Greek?” You may ask, unsure of what I mean.
So, true story, most of my formal education is in Ancient Greek and Roman History and the Classics, versus Medieval History. We didn’t have any real Byzantine History classes, so I had to sort of do my own independent work in that regard in connection to other courses. Understanding Greek and Roman history is vital to Byzantium anyway, and the Middle Ages for that matter, but yeah, there’s my big secret, I’m not much of a Medievalist at all, I’m a Classicist. You may now ring the shame bell.
So, back to Greece. There are multiple periods of Ancient History, just as we have multiple periods anywhere else. For Greece, it was the Bronze Age, Dark Age/Geometric, Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods.
The Archaic Age (pretty much the 7th-6th-5th centuries BC) is basically when a lot of what we know of as “Ancient Greece” begins to take shape. This is when Homer composed the Iliad and the Odyssey, when Sappho lived, and when sculpture started to make an appearance.
And now, a crash course in art history!
The pivotal sculpture forms of the Archaic Age are the Kouros and Kore statues, or “young man” and “young woman” respectively. There is some speculation on who they represent, but the general idea seems to be Apollo or Dionysus for the Kouros, and Persephone for the Kore. Or, nobody in particular after all. Kouros is almost always stark nekkid, while Kore has been draped with a variety of garments. The style was pretty much lifted directly from Egypt, and predated the more common contraposto-style statues you see from the late Classical period.
Thanks to the miracles of modern science, we’ve been able to really get an idea of what colors the statues were painted, and boy oh boy, are they a treat to the eyes.
When I was still out in California, The Norman and I went to San Francisco for a weekend, and I was able to catch the “Gods in Color” exhibition at the Legion of Honor. The exhibition, which started in Germany, I think, is a collection of reproduction Greek and Roman statues that have been painted to match their original, or experimental, colors. I may have cried a little (out of joy, mind you, again, this is my area of study), and took pictures of every single object in the show, while poor Jeff followed me around with raised eyebrows and bewilderment at why the Persians were wearing what appeared to be Lularoe leggings. (All photos from the exhibition are my own.)
Or why this Kouros had some circa 1999 nipple tats going on. It’s like he listened to Godsmack in high school and made a bad life choice. (I swear, I am actually an adult, and not 12. It’s probably an interpretation of Apollo. Really. Now you know archaic nipple tats are a thing. In actuality, it has to do with the concept of ephebeia, or the adolescent male, in Greek society, but I’m keeping that off of my blog for my own sanity. Anybody interested in it as a scholarly discussion is welcome to contact me by email.)
But what I was really there for were the interpretations of Peplos Kore, and the colored version of Chios Kore. Happy nerd girl tears, again. I threw in images of the Phrasikleia Kore in here for added dweebery and inspiration.
The colors! The trim! Sure, most of it is allegorical to the goddess or person they are portraying and not actually indicative of patterns worn by actual people, but, the options for fun for hot weather garb! I would avoid wearing all of the lotuses that Phrasikleia Kore has on her, only because it’s a funeral stele and they’re symbolic of the afterlife, but the fit of her chiton got me thinking that there is no need to be swimming in fabric. Contrast her to the draped layers on the Chios Kore, means that there were possibly options, and not just limited to the skill of the sculptor, noted by the folds at the bottom of Phrasikleia Kore’s chiton.
Inspired by this fit, and bored with a stack of fabric at my parents’ house when house-sitting back in June. I decided to make a slimmer fitting chiton by taking 2 yards of 58″ wide linen, folded the short way. I determined that I could do this with less than 2 yards for my figure at this width. I know that not all women are created equal, so I apologize if this particular hack doesn’t work for you, but the style is still doable. For me, I found that I could go about 32″ per front and back panel and still have plenty of ease with my 42″ bust and even wider hips. This is a heck of a lot cheaper and less cumbersome than one of my 4-yard Roman style chitoi/tunicae interior.
I threw some trim on the top and bottom, and added a slit to one side seam for walking ease, and thus, my “archaic” chiton was born. Half the fabric as a Roman one, and still a flattering fit.
I sewed the top of the first one, instead of adding buttons or pins, and this allowed me to wear a real bra at Pennsic, instead of a tube bra, which relieved some of the uncomfortable under-the-boob sweat that women are subjected to. I lived in this thing at war.
So I made more! The black was inspired by some Romano-Egypt fayum portraits with the addition of the clavii (note that Romano-Egyptian garments were MUCH wider), and the yellow was straight out of the yellow Peplos Kore above. The trim is vintage sari trim I got from Ebay. Perfect! (The black has alligators. Because!)
The yellow I had some fit issues with. The trim made it stiff, and it wasn’t as flattering, even with my parents’ cat Mary Jane lending her assistance. So when I got back to my house, I added heavy brass buttons to the sleeves, and BOOM! A completed look and a smoother fit. I wore this one with a red himation/palla to the Courtesan Bacchanal at Pennsic.
For the finale, I ended up making one out of wool I had just laying around. Check out this draping! It looks SO PERIOD in contrast to linen! (I don’t have a full length mirror in my current apartment. So you get the Soviet selection of my propaganda collection instead and some curing silk banners.) I did try wearing it at Pennsic. Once. While it breathed well, and totally wicked the moisture off of my skin, the sun hitting it was too much for my modern sensibilities, so I went back to the linen. I do need to wear linen against my skin UNDER the wool next time (this is a nice basketweave that doesn’t itch or scratch) for a more accurate interpretation and perhaps less of a chance of being baked alive.
So, before you all run off to try this, I want to make a disclaimer, while I called this my Archaic Chiton, I’m only doing so because of the slimmer fit. In Greece, they sewed no seams. Everything was wrapped, pinned, and belted. I do not, and never will, have the huevos to pull that off.
Here is a drawing of my measurements, and basically how I did it, for those that want to try the slimmer look, as well.
For my next trick, I may actually attempt a full archaic look with those crazy colors and embellishment. Let’s see if I actually get around to it.