Anna goes on pilgrimage! Part 1: The “Midwife” Esoforion

Next week at a Trimarian event called “Corsair’s Heart”, Mistress Mayken van der Alst is coordinating a Medieval Hike! I decided that this sounded more in my wheelhouse than an entry into the Birka Garb Challenge, so I chose to go full bore and see what I could come up with.

The short answer: A middle/working class Byzantine ensemble that would be comfortable for hiking in. The hilarious thing is that I don’t own anything lower class, or uh, casual.

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But for real, in period, in persona, I would have been carried to Jerusalem in a litter, or rode in the back of a carriage. If I was “roughing it”, I would be on my own horse. Walking? Bah!

But that’s not the point of this exercise. The point is to walk, and wear and carry something that I could walk in, comfortably.

Better start at the bottom. Layer that is.

In my searching for *sigh* casual Byzantine, which, by the way, not that easy, I found a Cappadocian fresco that is contemporary to my period. Here, a midwife and Salome bathe the infant Jesus and his rippling man-pecks of the Divine.

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Fresco is located in the Dark Church, Goreme, Cappadocia. 11th Century.

Everything here seemed perfect. You have women working, wearing clothing indicative of an arid climate that would have been passed through to continue to the Holy Land. The colors are great, and my favorite part? The Midwife’s SLEEVES:

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Hot diggity, they’re tied behind her back!

I determined it was either one of two things: A guard that was slung over the shoulders to allow her to pull her clothing back and away for midwifery duties, or, slits in a tunic designed to do this, again, for her profession. Both are plausible, of course, but I decided to test the theory on a tunic, as it’s also supported by some of the work Dr. Timothy Dawson has done with kavadion/gambesons whereas the underarm is open, and the padded long sleeve can be pinned back for more movement.

This is what I came up with.

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The base pattern for the esoforion (undershirt), is the Manazan Caves Tunic, which I’ve used before for some shirts for the hubby here. The reasons I decided to go forward with one of these for myself were: A; The high collar is good for protecting against the elements. B: The extant tunic is contemporary to Cappadocia, but not in the same location. The Manazan Caves are in present day Karaman, Turkey, and the Dark Church is in present day Goreme. This is a distance of about 270km. That doesn’t mean that these settlements weren’t in contact, and it’s still close enough for approximation of Cappadocian fashion. C: The long gore construction of the Manazan find would work well with allowing a ton of ease and slack on the arms for slits in the sleeves.

So, with my pile of 3.5oz natural linen, I set off on an adventure. I determined that the sleeves would have to be longer to pull this off, but since that was a Persian trend that had trickled into Byzantine fashion and stayed, I had no qualms with some potentially droopy sleeves. I also ended up hand-sewing the entire collar, and all openings/hems. There are only 6 machine sewn seams in the whole thing, not bad. I do want to do an entirely hand-sewn one of these, and I have the fabric to do it, so I figured this would be good practice. Plus, as I mentioned in my previous blog post about this tunic, hand sewing the collar construction is a must, anyway. It just won’t work right with a machine. Good thing too, because after the couple days it took me to complete the collar setup, I returned to the machine, and promptly sewed a full stitch through my left index finger, INCLUDING THE NAIL. Typing hurts right now, but it’s healing. I guess that’s a sign I should keep on my hand work practice.

So much whipstitching, man. The Byzantines loved them some whipstitch.

I decided on the arm slit placement after basting the side seams together, and looking at fit. Each slit is 8″ out of the front seam that connects the gore. I then cut the basting, turned in a hem, and it was done. Zero fuss, and zero fabric waste or odd cuts into the garment.

The pictures speak for themselves. It works. The placement of the uber-long gore makes for a full range of movement, and as you can see, I can still create more slack to go over an outer tunic.

This garment is more than practical for just midwifery. While on pilgrimage, it would be beneficial to cover your skin for sun protection, and the long sleeves still allow for this. But, if I get too hot, or need to cook/set camp/do dirty work, I can tie my sleeves back and be comfortable doing so. Genius.

What’s next?

I’m going to use a tie on the front of the collar this time, versus a button and loop as I did for Gieffrei, because I feel it will allow me to adjust fit and function better during the hike. I can inkle weave a small band easy enough in an hour on my little loom.

Of course, the outer garment is next after that. I’m following through with the color scheme of the fresco, especially the look that Salome is wearing on the right. I have a block printed cotton I will be using for the turban to match the Cappadocian look, as well.

My final touches will be a shoulder bag, and a relic bag for my belt. If I can find out more, I want to research into accurate ankle support as well, only because I’m a chronic sprainer and could use the, uh, help. These will all be completed over the course of the next week, and I’m looking forward to pulling it all together for the hike!

I’m ready to throw cheese!

Wait, what?

This weekend is my [new] barony’s annual Palio, or civic competition. Stonemarche is broken up into 3 rival contrade, or districts, that compete in games and tournament to determine a winner. Originally, I wasn’t planning on going, since this weekend has always been reserved for Vinland Raids down on Cape Cod. Unfortunately that event is on hiatus, so, off to Palio di Stonemarche  to roll some cheese we go!

Then I thought, “I should wear something red and yellow for the Hippocampo Contrada!” And figure I had some stuff that would work.

 

…and then I basically got garb challenged.  I had 2 weeks to make a new outfit for this event. Ugh, why do I get myself into these things?! So I settled on 16th century Italian working class pretty quickly. Because I’m broke, I pillaged my old garb piles, and decided to kill the old red stola I had that was way too big and I never wore anyway. This would be my dress material. I found an old chunk of blackworked cotton from when I actually pretended to be Late Period for a while, and some white linen for sleeves and…

 

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Nailed it.

I kind of feel like Ronald McDonald, but considering it was thrown together from a box of scraps and bias tape, I can’t complain. The pattern drafting instructions I had from my collected old notes back from when my persona WAS 16th Century working class Italian that I never did anything with, and I finally made a damn Campi-style dress. Not without tons of flaws, mind you, considering the materials at hand, and I probably wouldn’t have done it at all if it wasn’t for the fact that my machine has an automated buttonhole feature. Other then that, after I got through the hiccups of fitting the bodice, the rest went together insanely easily. The camicia’s collar is also just white hem facing. Hey, I did say, “box of scraps” didn’t I?  The skirt isn’t as full as it should be, but it’s not as slim as it appears in the pic, either. I’m also glad that 2 layers of linen and some interfacing in the front is apparently enough to control my figure without boning or a heavier interlining.

At least I can wear this again next year at the event! And once I do move back south, I plan to give the dress to the barony so another can enjoy it.

I basically just sewed what I saw. I’m sure there’s more tailoring that should be going into this, but this isn’t for an A&S project, or persona development, this was made for 100% fun, unlike my orange traffic cone, which took me almost a month’s worth of work and did require some actual research. But still, this is what happens when I get challenged to make garb. I am the reason why we can’t have nice things.

Here’s some other pics circa 1580’s I used for reference:

Rolled Sleeves:

Vincenzo Campi (Italian painter, c 1536 – 1591) Kitchen

Front lacing:

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Blackworked camicia:

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That’s 2 late period outfits in a year, as opposed to when I claimed to be late period, and had like, none. Wow, Anna. WOW.

 

I do have some much more interesting Byzantine stuff coming up soon. I just need to get through my rush at work before Pennsic, my Pennsic classes, and whatever other curveballs before I start posting more research relevant to the site. Until then, enjoy my ghetto fabulous Italian Ren dress.