Deconstructing the “Tunic Under the Stairs” at the Met.

***NOTE: AS OF JANUARY 2016, THE TUNIC IS NO LONGER IN THE GALLERY. THEY HAVE ANOTHER EXHIBIT ON PAINTED LINEN WHICH IS VERY COOL AND YOU SHOULD GO SEE ANYWAY.***

***OH LOOK, ANOTHER NOTE: AS OF FEBRUARY 2016, THE PATTERN I MADE IS INCORRECT AND WILL BE UPDATED THANKS TO SOME KEEN OBSERVATIONS BY SOUTH-RUS.ORG, WHO HAVE BEEN NICE ENOUGH TO SHARE THEIR VIEWS WITH ME. THIS IS STILL A PLAUSIBLY CORRECT PATTERN THAT MAY WORK BETTER WITH MODERN FABRIC WIDTHS ANYWAY, SO DON’T THROW OUT ANYTHING YOU’VE MADE SO FAR! JUST GET READY FOR THE NEXT VERSION. 🙂 ***

This is a class I’m teaching this weekend at East Kingdom University, and will also be giving at Pennsic.  So if none of this stuff makes sense, find me in the meatspace at these locations, and I can explain a method to my madness. ❤

IMG_1882

[All photos on this page were taken by me on my last trip to the Met in 2012, except otherwise noted.]

This tunic is a part of the permanent exhibit in the small Byzantine gallery in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is, as the title of this class details, directly beneath the Grand Staircase of the museum, and sort of nestled in its own special world of Coptic shinies. It is dated to 7th Century Egypt, and boasts a unique method of tailoring brought to the West via the Sassanian Persian Empire. This particular style of “fit and flare” tunic may have been what influenced later examples in Medieval Europe.

The first thing I’m going to invite everyone to take a look at is the overall construction. It’s not too dissimilar from what we’ve come to know as a Birka tunic in the SCA, sans the underarm gussets that are commonplace in that design. There are side gores to widen the bottom for ease of movement, and the sleeves taper gently toward the wrist. The neckline is heavily influenced by Asiatic designs, and boasts keyhole design that fastens on the shoulder. The neckline and sleeves are finished with a blue and cream patterned silk tape, and the garment’s primary embellishments follow the traditional Roman-influenced patterns of the time. The roundels and clavii (vertical stripes) are woven from red colored wool, and appliqued onto the white linen tunic.

 

First: Some terms!

Clavii (Singular: Clavus. Greek: Potamion/a.) The vertical stripes that are seen on late Roman/early Byzantine tunics. Originally denoting rank, but later becoming simply decorative.

Coptic: The Copts were and still are native Christians to Egypt. Some believe it to be the Church of Mark the Evangelist. (Catholic is Peter, Orthodox is Paul.) We use the term “Coptic” to denote anything coming out of the Byzantine-occupied Egypt and parts of Ethiopian prior to the Fatimid Muslims taking over in the 8th Century. It’s really kind of a misnomer to use it for clothing, since a lot of the styles involved heavy influences of Hellenistic Greece, including pagan imagery.

Roundel: A round applique or embroidered design on a garment.

Sassanian Persia: The last Persian Empire prior to the spread of Islam by the Seljuk Turks. 224CE-651CE. Were a huge influence culturally on the Roman Empire.

 

Now let’s break it down…

Check out that curved underarm!

A term you’ll probably hear me use a lot during this class is “conspicuous consumption.” Nothing in this pattern shows attention to conserve fabric. The underarms are deliberately cut in an arc to make it more comfortable and reduce bunching, versus inserting a gusset. This provides a smoother fit but does not really conserve material, as the body needs to be cut to accommodate this. A teardrop shape is cut out of the rectangle to create the curvature of the underarm and slight flare at the bottom.

tunic_underarm

The sleeve is attached around mid-upper arm, and it tapers toward the wrist. There is trim covering this joint, and some additional embellishment at the lower arm closer to the wrist. There is also a roundel on the shoulder between the clavus and this joint.

 sleevetrim

Those tiny side gores!

I was thrilled to discover a Byzantine-period tunic with gores than really worrying about the size of them in question, as such things can be easily adjusted. This garment was tailored for somebody much smaller than the average person today. In fact, even my 5’2” size 0 jeans sister could not fit in this. But it’s not much of a secret that people 1500 years ago were smaller than we are today. I still like this though, because it shows that a wider flare for movement was still necessary, and it eliminated the bunching of the traditional rectangle tunic for wearing under layers. Unlike a solid gore that we see in some tunic patterns, this one is actually two small right triangles, individually sewn to the bottom already-flared skirt portion of the garment, and then connected via the side seam. The gores are set in lower on the hip, than rather on the waist.

tunic_gore

Let’s talk the pretty parts (or what’s left of them, anyway.):

As previously mentioned, the embellishments on this are pretty standard for the Roman influence left in Egypt at the time. First we’ll take a look at the silk tape. Here’s another instance of conspicuous consumption, where the wearer is affluent enough to have a touch of Chinese silk on the hems and collar of their garment. Although silk is more comfy against the skin than wool, these are also the parts of the tunic that will see the most wear and tear. The maker of this probably knew that silk, although more expensive, was arguably more durable, but at the same time, more difficult to launder. The only think I really noted on this was how it was attached to the garment.

It is not a folded bias tape that goes over and protects the raw edge, but a trim added as a facing on the outside of the garment, The hem was created from whip-stitching the top of the tape to the raw garment edge, which was folded in toward the inside of the tape. The bottom of the silk is attached with a running stitch. There are some visible larger whip-stitches in a white thread on the outside, but my guess is that this was a later repair work to keep the silk tacked down where the original stitches may have disintegrated. It does not run the entire neckline. The sleeve treatment is the same method.

tunic_neckline_crop

silk_stitches

As far as the neckline closure goes, there is nothing remaining that suggests what type of fastener was used. It could have been a simple toggle and loop or a tie mechanism that was ripped off ages ago. Some modern Orthodox Christian ecclesiastical garments do still have ties on the shoulder, but the Chinese-style toggle or button being in use is just as plausible, considering the Persian origin of the garment.

Unlike the silk tape, the roundels and clavii appear to be tacked down using JUST a whip-stitch.

roundelstitching

The seam treatments used on the overall construction of the garment appear to be a mystery. I saw no evidence of flat felling or thickness that would indicate a French seam. The conservators at the museum appeared to have pressed the seams flat, at least the ones joining the side gores, but that’s all I could really notice. There is a seam repair on the bottom of the right sleeve (photo left) that shows the same chunky whip-stitches present on the neckline, so my guess is that it is also later repair work. Seam finishes weren’t always used in period, so it’s okay to assume that it could be raw linen edges. I do not suggest leaving a modern interpretation this way, our fabrics are made differently, and mainly because a washing machine will rip it to shreds.

So, what does this tunic mean?

My overall interpretation is that this tunic is a transitional garment. It deviates enough from the blocky earlier Roman design into a more tailored fit. This would eventually make its way into the European continent and evolve into the “standard” for hundreds of years. Compare this other style tunic, contemporary to the one above. I definitely prefer a more tailored fit than wanting to deal with the bulk and folds that this rectangular cut would create.

fashion1
Tunic photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

Pattern:

I have drafted a simple pattern to use to make a tunic in this fashion that’s already posted here on the blog at https://annasrome.com/2014/01/03/byzantine-patterns-they-are-here/.

Happy sewing!

A Gallery of Roman Provincial Clothing

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!

 

https://www.facebook.com/ratna.drost/media_set?set=a.380002448762101.90838.100002570474924&type=1

King’s and Queen’s and Theses and Classes.

I know it’s not like me to not post for a month, so here’s a little recap.

Last weekend my Lord Geoffrey and I competed at King’s and Queen’s Arts and Sciences in Montreal, Quebec. It’s always a treat to visit Canada, as the Principality of Tir Mara here in the East always knows how to put on a good event. Plus, poutine and beer. If you haven’t eaten your way across Montreal, I recommend it. I mean, there’s way more than poutine and smoked meat, but you at least get poutine, and smoked meat, or both at the same time. Like I did. For those that don’t live anywhere near Canada, poutine is a comfort food that basically consists of French fries smothered in a specific type of brown gravy and fresh cheese curds. It’s any dieter’s nightmare, and that’s okay. It’s sort of a Quebecois staple, but I know it’s quite popular in Ontario and the Maritimes as well, and trickling down into the Northern US. No, it’s not Disco Fries, which is a Pittsburgh thing.

poutine
Poutine with Montreal smoked meat. Yes, this happened.

Oh hey, this was our collective displays. As you can see, I wrote another icon, this time of Anne and Mary, so I’ll be adding pics of that in my next post.

displays

Other than that hullabaloo, my semester is focusing on the material culture of Early New England, so I haven’t really had too much time to stay in Byzantium as much as I wanted. I’m interning at a historic house here in my town, and planning to dig this summer at an American site, so my overall material culture focus has completely shifted right now to a period I don’t particular know a lot about, so as I’m focusing on that, a lot of my SCA stuff is getting pushed aside. As it should, because GPA before SCA.

My thesis, however, has been preliminarily approved by my advisor, and will have to do with Byzantium, as it should, because I should play my strengths, not my weaknesses. Once I get that in full swing, I can discuss more about it, but do to the nature of academic research for a grade versus research for the betterment of a re-creation group, I can’t really share too many details just yet. But it will have me developing patterns and sewing through the summer and fall.

I’m not giving up completely, though, I do have my CLASSES SCHEDULED for East Kingdom University and Pennsic War.

At EKU, I will be giving my primary source class, as well as a class on how I broke down the Tunic Under the Stairs (another post coming, probably this week while I’m in Florida on spring break) to get my pattern that I use for my garb. For Pennsic, I will be giving that tunic class again, as well as one on Persian influences in Byzantine Dress. I am only teaching those 2 classes at war this year, since 4 really takes a lot out of me, and neither of them are 2 hours long (my poor voice last war!) So this will leave me plenty of time to do other things. Especially if I don’t sprain my ankle this time.

With that said, I’m on my way to Florida. I need to see some [effective] sun after this crappy winter we’ve had in New England.

Justified and Ancient: Babylonians at Birka

The Earliest Period.
The Final Frontier.
The Alpha to our not-yet-happened Omega.
The Cradle of Civilization.
The Mesopotamians.

I am insane. As if my entry to the Garb Challenge last year wasn’t crazy enough, I had to find a way to one-up myself. Because that is what I do.

It’s not a challenge unless you’re actually challenged.

Her Majesty Thyra called for a “celestial” theme for the Birka garb challenge for this year, leaving it fully open to the interpretation of the artistes.

When I think of “celestial,” two things come to mind: the zodiac and tea. As funny as it could have been to dress up as an interpretation of Celestial Seasonings (that idea is totally attributed to my Laurel’s husband) I figured that the zodiac would be more cool. After all, Leo is by far the most superior sign in the entire sky, and with 1/12th of the world’s population, we should really be ruling it. Those other guys? Peons.  Meh.

I’ve been toying with the idea of the Earliest Period for a while. There’s just not much to work with but an interesting artistic record and old books on the subject. Plus, the majority of what’s been done is for religious plays, so sources are more  theatrical, rather than historical. In the end, I ended up getting a pleasant mix. Let’s get started.

tumblr_mdr1fcwRma1rrje88o1_500
“GET OFF MY ZIGGURAT!” (I love this frieze way too much.)

The Babylonians and their sister Mesopotamian cultures (Sumerians, Assyrians, Ugarites, etc.)  invented  the origins of what we consider as our Western Zodiac and modern astrology. So they’re responsible for your bad hair days during Mercury Retrograde, and your incompatibility with Libra.  They also didn’t wear much, and left behind just enough for us to get the gist. As for sources, I was only able to get my paws on a couple:

Jenkins, David. The Cambridge History of Western Textiles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2003.

Houston, Mary G. Ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Persian Costume. Mineola: Dover. 2002. Reprint by Dover of a 1920 edition.

What they DID leave us, is jewelry. Holy smokes.

attendant
An “attendant” to Queen Puabi found in the Great Death Pit find at Ur. Source: http://sumerianshakespeare.com/117701/118101.html

It was actually my husband Geoffrey that alerted me to this. I was going to make some sort of turban or hat. In fact, I came up with this bright idea while he was away on deployment during the Fall. So he had no idea how I planned to torture him until he got home. At first, he looked at me like I had six heads. Then I told him that he didn’t have to play, and he could just help me with some projects. Then I didn’t see him for weeks once the brass came in.

Anna’s job: Design the costumes and do all the soft parts.
Geoffrey’s job: Execute the metalwork and jewelry designs.

Anna’s work:

Before Geoff was even home, I got the fabric ordered. My plan of attack? Vintage sarees. Did the Babylonians wear sarees? Well, no. And certainly not ones out of cotton, silk, and polyester.  They wore a lot of wool actually, and from what I gathered, sheep fleece made into fringe. However, they did wear spiral wraps, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they did have influence on the fashion of the Indian subcontinent. In their existing artwork, you see tons of interesting motifs, including palms, various vines, and geometrics. Sometimes the wraps were over tunics, sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes they were nakey, but that wouldn’t fly for January in New Hampshire. So I had to play around with what we could do. First: Color.

There’s a variety of options out there for saris, but the zodiac has their own colors assigned to them. Most of my research (See also: Fast Google Search) returned that Leo was yellow, and Aries was red. Easy enough. Geoff can wear red. I can wear anything because I’m fabulous. I’m also a fan of orange, previously established last year, so I had to include it again. Some charts said Leo could wear orange, so…let’s do this. I decided on flame colors for Leo: Yellow, orange, and gold. And decadent shades of red and gold for Aries. Both signs are fire signs, so the gold needed to get in there. Other details I discovered was that Leo is ruled by the Sun, while Aries is ruled by Mars. We were also both Rising Capricorn, whatever that means, which involves purple and silver. So, I thought of throwing a stripe in there somewhere, and then decided not to.

I found a variety of sarees to work from in the eBay store of a seller in India. I bought so many that they sent it via FedEx for free, and I had a package from India in less than a week. I love the internet.

Once I had supplies in hand, I started the design process. Surprisingly enough, men seemed to have more convoluted options than women, so I started with myself first.

Women were usually depicted wearing the spiral over the left shoulder. Sometimes with a tunic underneath, but usually not. I decided to go FOR the tunic, as the materials I got were rather sheer, and well, January.

winged_ishtar
An image of Ishtar wearing the spiral, with attendants that I THINK are wearing sleeves.
ang1
Image from Houston, I think this is a dude, but there’s the tunic.
ang2
Another image from Houston from a cylinder seal that shows women.

I decided that the yellow saree would be the tunic, and the orange and pink one I got would make a nice spiral. This would give me a flame-like appearance. I got a new dressform for Christmas, so I got to play. \m/

First, I played with the spiral.

IMAG3366
Once I got in the 20yds of fringe, I trimmed it. I got asked by my apartment manager why I needed 20 yards of fringe when it came in. (I’ll cover the jewelry in a bit.)

IMAG3419

Tunic time. This took some thought. How would I cut the sari to best accommodate the ornamentation of the fabric. I ended up going with my simple dalmatica pattern, which would probably be the most reasonable way the Babylonians may have sewn something without tailoring.

IMAG3466

It was very sheer and oversized.

IMAG3467

And I got to use scraps as a headband like a rockstar.

IMAG3468

I recycled the fall from the bottom edge of the saree as the belt. So sheeeeeer.

IMAG3472

So I went ahead and wrapped the spiral up, folding down some layers to be able to build the dress, and voila. Finished garb.

IMAG3475

Onto Geoffrey as Aries. This is where it got tricky. The tunic would  be a given, but there’s a fairly large amount of fantasy Babylonian out there because of religious plays, and some old, old plates from Victorian costume books. I needed to do what I could to make it less theatrical and more historical, despite the gaudy sarees.

His tunic was the same pattern, then I took the trim from the edges of the saree and added an accent to the sleeves and collar, which is actually pretty Roman-looking. Aries is more decadent than Leo, so I decided to give him more metallics than myself. I would have enough bling with my jewelry.

IMAG3478 IMAG3479

I cut the pallu off of another saree, and trimmed the bottom of this tunic to make it longer and to mimic some palm designs I’ve seen in artistic record.

IMAG3482 IMAG3483 IMAG3484 IMAG3488

Now for his spirally goodness. I used the saree that I had cut the pallu from for his wrap, added the fringe, and looked at some art. This one has men dressed in several types of wrapping, so it’s clear that there was no set method.

babylonian_jeff

So I kept it basic for the drape test.

IMAG3492

And then I had the prettiest mannequins in Portsmouth. My work was pretty much done.

IMAG3496

I had to make him a hat. We debated for a while on which shape was best, but I ended up going with the “fez” shape, as it seemed the most reasonable for the application of his horns and wireform Aries symbols. Easy enough. 2 layers of felt and extra saree trim. It was still a bit squishy, but workable.

IMAG3537 IMAG3540

….And then we had the jewelry.

By the time I was on the website for Fire Mountain Gems, Geoffrey said we were going big, or going home. In that case, we were going to spend the money for actual semi-precious stones, rather than glass or lower-quality rocks. So, yes, our necklaces are all real lapis lazuli and carnelian. Fortunately, a friend of ours went in on the Fire Mountain order and saved us over $100. The gold tone beads are plated brass, as there’s no way we could afford that much real gold.  We based most of the necklaces off of pictures from this page that was wonderful for reference shots. http://sumerianshakespeare.com/117701/118101.html

They were just simply threaded on monofilament. We couldn’t find a hemp or linen cord thin enough for our use, plus, we are planning on taking these apart and re-using them for other projects or selling them. So for temp stringing, the fishing line would do just fine.

I could string beads, the rest was up to Geoffrey.

Geoffrey’s Work:

Geoff has been exploring the intricate world of jewelry a bit. He’s the only active coinmaker in the East (as far as we know) and he’s been doing great work with pewter casting. These pieces couldn’t be cast, so he finally got to dust off the pitch plate he purchased at Pennsic (nice alliteration there) and enter the wiley whimsical world of chase and repousse embossing. (He has his own blog and you should follow it at www.jeffthemoneyer.wordpress.com. I do maintain the page, he’s not very websavvy.)

He purchased the sheets of brass from onlinemetals.com. We originally wanted bronze, but the price was a bit higher than what we wanted to pay because the cost of tin is up, and they didn’t have a good thickness anyway. He used brass sheets that were probably still too thick at 24 gauge.

The original circlets from this period had leaves. They’re absolutely stunning. However, in order to not appear presumptuous and pay honor to the Order of the Laurel which I am not apart of, we decided to go with round medallions instead of leaves. Each of the large medallions he hand cut, repoussed, soldered, and wheel polished. This took days. DAYS. It took so long that we had to cut the process short for the other circlet, and just go with smaller medallions he could use punches with.

The large medallions have the Leo symbol, and a Babylonian sun motif that is connected to the sun god, Shamash.

IMAG3500
Lap top metalwork in the bathrobe. Yep. This is how we roll.
IMAG3503
The beginning of the first piece.
Shamash-Sun-God
Symbol of the sun god, Shamash.
IMAG3506
The first completed sun.
IMAG3543
He got a polishing wheel from Santa, and put it to good use.
IMAG3545
The finished medallions!
IMAG3547
The first layer of carnelian and lapis, following the same pattern as the original circlet.
c86860ffc8069cc7ffff86d8ffffe41e
Original circlet.
IMAG3550
My Leonine circlet of shiny and messy hair. The test fit.

He did the same thing for the smaller medallions, only with one row of beads instead of two. And polished up a hammered brass circlet he had made me previously. Combined with the necklaces, and brass earrings from Thailand, I had my first full costume fitting:

IMAG3575

Next, we moved onto Aries. He hammered the “horns” for the traditional hat right out of cut pieces of brass.

IMAG3569
So much shiny, and this is PRE-polishing wheel.

And I made 2 dozen wire formed Aries symbols for dongles to sew onto the top of his hat in place of the feathers, and some ornamentation on his sleeves. This sucked. Anna is not a jeweler. Anna LIKES having skin on her fingers and not smashing her hand with a hammer. I also made Leo symbols that I ended up not using. C’est la vie.

IMAG3536

 

Those got attached to his hat by hand. Sewing the upside down fish hooks on was enough of a challenge for me. He had to rivet on the horns with pieces of brass wire he soldered on. This made the hat uncomfortable. The horns also made it a bit snug since he didn’t form them to his head enough. He was going to be in some pain when this was done.

They say props are everything:

I made two cuneiform tablets out of terracotta Sculpey, with a stylus Geoffrey formed for me out of a brass dowel.

IMAG3525 IMAG3526 IMAG3528 IMAG3551 IMAG3552  IMAG3554

The tablets read:

Leo: “Remember this: Leo rules and Aries drools!” (He wasn’t happy about that one.)
Aries: “If you can read this, you’re pretty damn smart.”

They are in English, not Akkadian,  and I just translated them into cuneiform using this website: http://www.paleoaliens.com/event/babylonian/ (PaleoAliens sounds like a legit source!)

 

The finale:

After all was said and done, we did our test wearings, and figured out the best ways to wrap the spirals on our bodies. You need to start at the belt like a saree, and work it up your body, carefully folding to create the tiers. For Geoffrey, we brought it up to about his sterum, and used his kidney belt to secure it. Mine was safety pinned in the back to hold the drape in place.

Over all, this was an exercise in experimental archaeology and making fancy kinda-accurate showy garb. If anyone is serious about looking into the persona of the Earliest Period, I recommend you actually attempt dreadlocking your own sheep fleece for the fringe. 😉 Other than that, I don’t have much to say on the subject of garb from this period. What you see is what you get until more artifacts are found.

As for women, if you’re curvy like I am, this may not be the best option. I’m not sure how Mesopotamian women were shaped, but this garment is not figure flattering. It fits to the widest part of your body, and stays there. SO for me, it was my hips. I lost my waist entirely in the wrap, so the pictures coming in are mortifying.

I couldn’t get Geoffrey to wear a wig and beard, or even kohl on his eyes, but in the end, wigs and a fake beard would have no re-wear for us. So it would have been a waste of money. At least for the garments and the jewelry, most can be reconstituted into different pieces. His tunic is going to become a Byzantine kamision for him, and I will be taking the wraps and making loroi/pallae, and maybe a delmatikion. My yellow tunic can work under a Roman dress for a splash of sheer color. So everything can be re-worn as something else. This way the money and time we put into this won’t be for nothing.

But, we DID win Best Garb in the Early Period category for the Fashion Show! We didn’t win the overall Celestial Challenge, that went to a woman who made an AMAZING cloak with the planets from a 14th Century Manuscript.

scroll

Here’s some pictures of us in action at Birka, enjoy!

1897750_10153009301203959_8936626155477613510_n 10418393_10153009301223959_1680984858815226089_n 10423269_10153668651504848_2173191541741422227_n 10940528_10153009301473959_5125582394689521577_n 10941385_10153009301483959_1898059147726376917_n headwear us better

Idle Musings, Part 2: On the Wearing of the Color Purple

In more of my pre-Pennsic Procrastination, additional thoughts have chopped their way into, “gee, I should be sewing right now” time.

 

Namely, this:

 

No! I mean THIS:

 

That is the shade of what is known as Tyrian, or Murex Purple.  The imperial purple of Rome.  As you can see, it is NOT indigo, it’s closer to a magenta-red, and it’s actually quite nice.

This was brought up because right now I have enough free linen points over at Fabrics-store.com to do some damage, and wildcherry, a color similar to this purple is on sale. This put me in a conundrum. Do I spend the money and being haughty and make a lovely purple piece of garbery, or, do I let it slide and stay within my persona? The East Kingdom has no sumptuary laws, especially when it comes to the wearing of colors, so I could wear this without any issue on the game side of of things. However, on the Anna side of things is where I question it. Would my persona be in the purple? As an imperial with the rank of lady, it’s likely I could have afforded it, and sumptuary laws did change over time to make it more available…IF you could afford it.

However, I feel like the wearing of purple, to me, as a Romanian (Byzantine), is being presumptuous in rank. If I was bestowed the gift of purple from someone of a higher station, that’s different. If someone won crown for me (highly unlikely situation) then well, yes, definitely. But the purchasing, sewing, and wearing of a purple garment would make me feel like I cheated. Yes, even though I hold the rank of lady, and I have seen period imagery of ranked women wearing SOME purple in their embellishment, they were never clad in it fully like the actual emperor and empress. So even though I may hold a position that allows me to wear it, and I could probably afford the dye, I would limit my purple to embellishment only, rather that entire garments.

Instead, I will play with words. Purpura, in both Latin and Greek, is a funny word. It means both purple AND red, so it’s hard to assume which color was being worn unless modifiers are being given, which they sometimes aren’t. And a good red color, like kermes derived from crushing little insects into dye, was just as expensive as milking murex snails. So I will gladly spend all of my persona’s invisible money on quality crimson and not feel like I’m placing myself higher than I should be while still dressing as a diva. 😉 Problem SOLVED. HOMERUN!

This of course doesn’t mean a thing outside of my own persona and kingdom. If you want to wear purple, and can wear the purple,  rock that purple.

I need to get work done.

 

Another look at the “Bamberger Gunthertuch.”

As frequent readers may recall, I have a post here entitled, “The Illusive Dover Dress Debunked.” Wherein I was determined to set the record straight from badly interpreted secondary source material using the primary source. I have created what I think is the look portrayed in the silk fragment. At least the start, anyway. Let’s review.

Here’s the look most often emulated in the SCA:

dover1

Which was taken from this interpretational sketch from the 1980’s:

full_kaiserhof_23_800x600

Here’s the actual source:

Gunthertuch

Here’s the Anna, zoning off as Queen’s Guard (hence rose baldric) at Crown Tourney (I was so tired.):

14039587698_399ffff840_b

 

Yes, it’s a very simple style to emulate. I often wonder if Elizabethan personae come to my page and sneer at my untailored, baggy linen glory. 😉 However, lets see if we can break this down and determine what we’re looking at, and how I did.

First, the women portrayed in the tapestry are both Tyche, the goddess of fortune and prosperity, taking on the shape of the Blue and Green Demoi, the two main political associations in the Eastern Roman Empire. They are supporting a figure that seems to be Emperor John I Tzimiskes on his triumph over Bulgaria in the late 10th Century.

The women are first and foremost, deities. Even though the Byzantines were extremely pious Orthodox Christians, they were proud of their Hellenistic and Roman roots, and often displayed images from classical mythology and literature as part of their way to connect themselves to the splendor of the ancient empires.

The dead giveaway on the divinity of the subject is that they are barefoot.  In the Greco-Roman culture, only the divine could be portrayed as barefoot. That does not mean that people could not and did not go barefoot in real life, but as far as artistic record goes, this was reserved for the gods. I am not barefoot for a few reasons. 1: I am a high lady of the court. Barefoot would mean I couldn’t afford shoes. 2: It was Crown Tourney, ew, gross. I am actually wear a pair of red China flats, since red shoes were all the rage for women during the period. One day, I will make nice, period shoes, but I digress…

Another odd observation is that they have bare arms and appear to be wearing cuffs of some sort. This boggles me. The Blue is wearing a tunica that appears to be almost-flesh colored, but the Green, in her minty green tunica, definitely has bare arms. What I have determined off the cuff (*rimshot*) is that this is another classical throwback, or, the weaver really screwed up. Screwing up is period, we see it all the time, which would make some sense. I don’t understand the placement of the cuffs on the arm when they look like trim that matches the garments. If you’ve ever worn a wide cuff on the upper arm, you know how uncomfortable they can be. However, to me, the dead giveaway that this was an error is if you look at the woven pattern on the wrists of both demoi, you see that the trim matches that of their tunicae. Jewelry wouldn’t match embroidery, and their headwear doesn’t match their dresses, and they’re both different. I suppose the only way to really tell is to see the textile in person, which will probably never happen unless I get to go frolic about cathedrals in Germany sometime soon.

EDIT 5-21-14: I did find this small scan of a book about the textile, and it looks like there may be a touch of green left on her shoulder, so fading could also be a culprit.

622856_2

Of course, if this WAS intentional, my guess would be that the artist was trying to emulate the sleeveless fashions of the classical period.

Or, they could be dancers. I’ve seen a great deal of sleeveless “Byzantine Dancer” interpretations in the SCA and other re-creation groups around on the web, but I did find this image from the Paris Psalter very quickly on Wikipedia with a fast search. This also dates to the 10th Century and has connections to Basil II/John I Tzimiskes period as the textile.

From Wikipedia, “David Glorified by the Women of Israel.”

These women are definitely dancers, and the painted style of this is most interesting in the layering of the colors. They are definitely wearing what could be considered the classical stola on it’s own, and the men are wearing the clothing of Late Antiquity and do look more Western Roman rather than Byzantine. This is a curious piece to work from as far as clothing styles go. However, looking directly at the women, you can tell the dresses are one piece and woven or dyed into different colors, and the actively dancing woman is still wearing some sort of sandal on her feet, so she’s not totally barefoot like the demoi are. However, the sleeveless style is there for a dancer. This link that shows a modern woman reenactor gives a source as being in the Biblioteca Marciana, or the Library of St. Mark’s in Venice. I went to check it out on the Biblioteca Marciana digital library, but the back-end of their Java encoding is broken, and couldn’t view their manuscripts, not to mention the reference given is so vague, I’m unsure of which manuscript it’s actually in.

EDIT 5-21-2014: somebody on the SCA Garb Page on Facebook has found it for me, HURRAY!

XIR205720

Those dancers may be similar, but the lack of ornamentation, and the weird flounces at the bottom of the skirt don’t mesh with the Tyches in the tapestry.

My big red X over this hypothesis is that the job of a dancer in the Byzantine Empire was THE LOWEST OF THE LOW. They did have court dances, and ritual dances, but for entertainment purposes, especially the showing of the arms and legs? You’re a harlot. Plain and simple. This is seem all too well in the opinion Procopius had of the Empress Theodora in his “Secret History.” Granted, he was a bit of a gossiper, but she was portrayed as the absolute dregs of society before she was married to Justinian. This was not a wanted profession. Why would 2 images of a divine person be dressed as dancers? That sounds insulting to the goddess Tyche. It would be almost satirical in nature for the demoi (remember, political parties) to be dressed as such, but not in the way that the silk is portrayed. They’re supporting figures for a conquering emperor, and not there as jokes.

For now, I will stick with the idea that the sleeveless-appearing Green Tyche was done in error on the weaver’s part, considering the Blue Tyche has the cream colored tunica. If it is an attempt at classical Roman revival, the stola should be to the floor, as the two layer look is strictly a Byzantine fashion style. The weaver was emulating Byzantine fashion, not Roman.

Moving onto discussing my interpretation, I created the stola from about 3 yards of red-orange linen. As shown in my previous post on this style, the Byzantine woman’s stola would have looked similar to the Roman stola (see my Ancient Roman costuming page for more info on that) but closer in cut to the men’s Roman tunica, as seen in this Coptic example:

stola2

I opted to play with this idea with the “pinching” method of the Roman stola, that is, bringing in the top seam a bit to achieve straps, and provide a more comfortable neckline. The textile shows the women wearing a relatively high neck, as opposed to the deep V-necked style of antiquity. Easy enough. The trick of course is to fit the neck to yourself over and over again with pins to get the look you want. Here is the illustration of mine:

bambergerstola

Here’s some pictures of the finished product to help give a better understanding, you can see how I already finished the neck and shoulders before I attached the straps. The embroidery is done by machine and I’m just a fan of that aesthetic. Similar bands are shown in some artwork, but I just wanted a little bling. Also, pardon the icky bathroom mirror:

IMAG2050IMAG1992

And here’s an action shot of me receiving my Maunche, which I was actually happy to see so I could see how the sleeve openings looked, and they look comparatively well against the original source material. There is no large gap as shown in the Dover artwork at the top, and the draping against my shoulders looks fantastic and flattering. If I would have left the fabric any wider, it would have been frumpy, and any smaller it would have been too tight. So 40″ wide is the magic number for me and stolas. Your mileage will vary depending on the person.

14039461779_8b1dc428bb_b

I guess the next thing on my list is to make a tunica with the solid stripe in the front as opposed to the clavii, and take pictures with my turret hat and a palla in such a way that mimics Tyche. I still love my overdramatic dalmatica style of the 11th Century, but this is a comfortable option for warmer events, and it was relatively warm indoors. Hence the lack of hat and palla. I did have it with me, but they made me toasty. It’s also hard to guard thy queen while being immobilized by your garb. 😉

It’s pretty much safe to say that this particular short stola was worn from the period of Justinian and Theodora in the 6th Century as seen in the Ravenna mosaics, and through the 10th Century as seen in the Bamberger Gunthertuch.

From Ravenna: Possibly stolas, possibly tighter dalmaticae, the hems are tucked up, not cut on an angle.

 

I hope this little simple project of mine helped those who were scratching their heads over the Dover illustrations. I feel that this is the correct form of the garment worn, and that more women will be interested in trying this unique style of the Byzantines. 🙂