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.

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“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.

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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.

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An image of Ishtar wearing the spiral, with attendants that I THINK are wearing sleeves.
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Image from Houston, I think this is a dude, but there’s the tunic.
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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.

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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.)

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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.

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It was very sheer and oversized.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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So I kept it basic for the drape test.

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

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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.

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….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.

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Lap top metalwork in the bathrobe. Yep. This is how we roll.
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The beginning of the first piece.
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Symbol of the sun god, Shamash.
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The first completed sun.
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He got a polishing wheel from Santa, and put it to good use.
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The finished medallions!
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The first layer of carnelian and lapis, following the same pattern as the original circlet.
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Original circlet.
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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:

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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:

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

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Here’s the actual source:

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

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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. 🙂

East Kingdom Coronation Garb – Vir.

The hubster needed Roman garb.

The hubster got Roman garb.

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Isn’t he adorable? 😀 He looks so amused for a highly displaced 11th Century Norman!

Our upcoming coronation here in the East Kingdom is Roman-themed, so naturally, I needed to make sure that we were both properly attired. Rufus here (I’m calling him that because of his lovely ginger hair, good cognomen) is wearing a basic man’s tunic with green clavii and some machine embroidered Greek key on his hems, his kidney belt for fighting, sandals we found at Salvation Army (real caligae will be coming in the future since he’s quite bent on being authentic) and a 6 yard toga in the semi-circular cut. Nice and lightweight and easy for someone not familiar with the feeling. He still says he feels naked. 😉

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Byzantine patterns! THEY ARE HERE!

They aren’t scanned fabulously, but heck, you get how they work. These WILL be posted on my Eastern Roman Garb page as well, but I wanted to get these on a blog page and tagged for searchability as I plan a better layout for the current page, but this is a huge step in the content direction.

HERE GOES.

Also, let’s try to start using the Greek terms, Kamision and Delmatikion, for Tunica and Dalmatica respectively to help disseminate Greek over Latin.

Anna’s Quick n’ Dirty Byzantine Kamision (tunica) and Delmatikion (dalmatica) Patterns!

These patterns are pretty self-explanatory for folks that are used to basic medieval clothing. Byzantine garb is basically all t-tunics, with only a few minor twists. The biggest issue is really the width of your fabric allowing for the nice curved underarm seam, that’s about it. These blocks are not the be-all-end-all ways to make these garments, but rather one interpretation to show you the pieces needed. Once you get a handle on the basic construction, all that’s left is embellishment and sleeve variations.

My pattern is based off of the 7th Century tunic in the permanent collection “Under the Stairs” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

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Kamision (Tunica) instructions:

Recommended fabric: linen or very light wool
Recommended yardage: 4 yards of 60” wide

First, assess your fabric, and see if you can use this pattern layout, note the positions of the folds. This pattern is not to scale, and the average sized person may not have enough extra fabric on the sides to warrant the inclusion of the gores. This is okay, as they can be cut separately.

A breakdown of the measurements you will need as laid out in the patterns, they DO NOT include seam allowance:

A: Tunica length. Measure from the nape of your neck to where you want the tunic to end.
B: 1/4th Chest measurement + ease. Typically what I do is take a chest measurement, divide it by 2, add 2 inches, and divide again by 2. That is your number.
C: Upper arm length has everything to do with the width of your fabric and not your arm. If you can fit the length of your upper arm (shoulder to elbow) here, that’s awesome, but it’s not necessary, you will want at least to the half-way point between your joints, otherwise your underarm will not fit.
D: ½ Bicep measurement. Remember your fabric is on the fold at the top for your sleeves here, so you don’t want this to be very wide against your body. Tunicae were fitted as dalmaticae were not, so you will want to adjust ease here as necessary.
E: Lower arm length is the difference from where your upper arm length ends to your wrist.
F: ½ Wrist circumference is actually ½ the measurement you get around a closed fist. You want to get your hand into your sleeve, after all.
G: Gore length is the measurement from the top of your hip to the desired hem of the tunic. Now, if you have a fine derriere, so to speak, feel free to elongate that gore to your waist, but the original tunic’s gore comes off the hip.

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There’s a variety of formulas out there to make a neckline. I have a small neck at 13”, so my go-to cut is 4” from the center point on each side, with a 1” dip in the back and 3” dip in the front, but a 2” dip in the back and a 4” dip in the front should fit most people. A boatneck, or basically just a slit, is also a common style for this period. The tunica at the Met has a keyhole neckline with the opening on shoulder seam. I’ve done that before as well. I recommend finishing your neckline with bias tape or a narrow hem before moving on.

Before any piecing of the pattern takes place: GET YOUR EMBELLISHMENT DONE. There is no way to apply clavii to a tunica once those side seams are in place. Get any roundels or segmentae you want on as well. It’s just easier to handle at this point.

tunica2

Follow the diagram on the piecing. If you are going with the smaller gores if you were able to cut it from the folded fabric, follow the illustration at top, if you cut gores from a separate piece, follow the bottom. Apply trim over the seams where the upper sleeve joins the lower sleeve.  This is definitely something else you want to do before you sew up the side seams.

Now all that is left is to join the front to the back along the side seams, hem the sleeves and bottom, and finish trims, and you’re done!

tunica3

Delmatikion (Dalmatica) instructions:

Recommended fabric: Linen, silk, damasks/brocades, light to medium weight wool
Recommended  yardage: 5 yards of 60” wide

Think of the Dalmatica as an oversized tunica, but as the tunica can be worn by itself as one layer, the dalmatica is an overtunic only. This is a unisex garment, and sometimes for women you may see it referred to as a “gunna.” Either way, this is where you really get to jazz up your wardrobe. They can be floor length or short enough to show off your tunica embellishments.

Sleeves can be short, long, or extra-wide as was the style in the 11th and 12th centuries when my persona lived. The only real difference is that typically the dalmatica was cut from one piece of fabric, including the skirt width, whereas the tunica had gores. However, gores are still a perfectly period option in the event of a smaller bolt width. Follow the instructions as laid out above for the tunica, and you should be in good shape. As far as embellishments go, the best way to go about this is to follow some period examples.  Clavii didn’t seem as popular on dalmaticae as the centuries progressed, and richness was displayed not so much with embroidered bands of trim but rather in the heavy silk damasks and brocades that were in fashion. My drawings including clavii to better illustrate how to embellish.

dalmatica1

Note that I included a curve at the edge of the skirt portion in order to better facilitate trim application on the dalmatica’s hem. This is optional, especially if separate gores are chosen, but note that wide trims will require careful piecing and pleating to better conform to the hem.

Just like in the Tunica instructions, remember you NEED to add any embellishment such as clavii and other appliques BEFORE you close the side seams.

dalmatica3
Once your garments are completely sewn, then it’s time to go in and add all the really rich goodies to your pieces, such as hundreds of pearls and other gemstones. 🙂

Long Dress Is Long

So I made a bliaut this week.Yep. This happened.

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!

Fig1
Queen Aelfgyva says, “Whatevs.”

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.

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Before pressing.
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After pressing.
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Attached to the body. There’s also trim on the outside, which I should have waited to do by hand.

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.

I told you. Long dress is long.
I told you. Long dress is long. This is what it looked like before I shaped the side seams.

And here’s a snapshot of my first test fitting before taking in the sides.

936008_10151835748198143_1029283617_nI 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. 🙂

Compleat Anachronist!

Have you ever wanted some of my blatherings in printed form to have and to hold forever?

Well soon you CAN! I contacted Compleat Anachronist, the SCA-wide A&S publication that comes out quarterly. http://www.sca.org/ca/index.html It covers all kinds of awesome topics for SCAdians that want to up their game, and for me, the issue will be on…surprise, Roman and Byzantine clothing. I am making it as comprehensive as possible, however, so everything a SCAdian needs to know about dressing in bed sheets is covered. 😉

Oh yeah, I’ll get that stuff up soon on Byzantine dress. I swears.

 

Please help my IndieGogo Campaign!

I normally wouldn’t post such things here, but, as some of you know, I am a published author, and I used a Kickstarter 2 years ago to get my book off of the ground. This year, I am using Indiegogo, which is another platform, to crowdfund my endeavors.

This isn’t just about my book this time. My sewing room is in major needs of upgrades since I basically live off of my sewing in the summer months because during the semesters, I don’t have time for a full-time job if I intend to stay a full-time student. I make basic garb over the summer by commission for people who are going to Pennsic and the like. Good linen garb, and I occasionally take more involved work on. This is not my career, this is not what I intend to do for the rest of my life, but it does help me pay the bills. If anyone is interested in what I do, feel free to email me at syrakousina@gmail.com.

Here is the link to my IndieGogo. If you cannot contribute, please pass it along! The more exposure, the better.

Thanks everyone!

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-support-angband/x/1583287

My name is Angela…

… some people call me Anna. I have an unhealthy obsession with Ancient Rome and Byzantium. I spend time I need to be doing Latin homework cutting intricate felt appliques for a tunic for one of my best friends fighting in Crown, and not even for me as consort. I’m perfectly okay with this. My boyfriend, some Norman guy, spent his day pounding out fake coins and brewing beer. Welcome to the SCA, make sure your tray tables are in their upright and locked position, because its going to be a wild ride.

Half of an Order of the Tyger’s Combattant medallion.