Medieval Glamping at Sudeley Castle

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After last year’s success at Sudeley castle , the Black Knight Historical team were invited once more – and that meant we were hired to entertain the visitors. The theme changed however – whereas last year we were inside the castle, doing 17th century stuff ( lace making, apothecary/early science), this time it was all about Richard III.

Which meant Lucas was one of the Richard’s cronies, Ratcliffe, and I was his wife Agnes. Which meant – posh stuff, posh tent, poshness galore, even more so since Eleanor (as Cecille Neville, Duchess of York, mother to the king) was to reside in our tent too.

And all of which meant that I needed to update my wardrobe. I had one posh frock but needed another one, plus a new kirtle, posher than the woollen ones I already had.

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Because one posh frock is never enough…

And as it happened I just managed to grab some lovely silks at the last market. They were supposed to go towards stock items, but I just couldn’t resist… not only that, I simply couldn’t afford much mid-season ( we had spent a bit on updating the tent’s interior), so I simply had to make do with whatever I had in my silk stash.

So, for a late 15th century I decided on a kirtle in this style, from the Marie of Burgundy portrait – especially since the silk  I had, from Watts&CO, was almost exactly the same ..

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I did not have time for the trim, belt and a new henin, but since it wasn’t meant to be an exact copy, the rest of the details could wait their turn ( I wonder how long will that be..). The rest however worked well.

The style is almost a transition gown, when the flat fronted kirtle started improving in cut and began to fit nicely, slowly transitioning into the kirtles of the early Tudor style.

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Working on the back of the bodice, attaching lining

Mine is lined with  brown silk ( gold/orange for the sleeves), and the bodice section is strengthened with one layer of fine linen canvas – more than enough to keep one’s assets in place; Indeed I quickly discovered that it was giving me much more of a cleavage than I had reckoned for! At the event, for modesty’s sake, I covered the bosom with a placard or a linen neckerchief, but the frock will need to be adjusted so that  the neckline will go up a bit. Heaving bosoms are not exactly the way to go in high medieval fashion… (more on silhouettes across the ages here)

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The sleeves are funky. I laced up mine with lovely points made by Lucy the Tudor; the dress fastens at the back with a longer lace too.

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 The kirtle worked wonderfully – I wore it on its own ( that is with a chemise, hose, headgear, etc) when inside the tent. The tent represented my household so it was still proper to be on a slightly more relaxed footing, without the overgown. I was at home, weaving, while my important and recently-made-very-wealthy husband was discussing important business with the king. And the queen mother just happened to pay a visit…

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So a great compromise, posh enough to be seen indoors – and, for one day at least, it was a blessing since it was incredibly hot!  3 layers is not much, but  it just wasn’t too nice to be sweating!

I was mostly sitting in the shade, and demonstrating weaving – both on a rigid heddle and on tablets, and both styles proved to be very popular with the visitors. I enjoyed long and detailed chats about the history of weaving narrow wares, textiles etc, and  it was a pleasure to exchange views and information with a very polite and well informed public. A few  ladies  had actually had a go at the weaving themselves 🙂

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Threading the little loom with linen threads in preparation for tablet weaving

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Tablet weaving in action

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Eleanor talking to the visitors – wearing a Prior Attire gown in gold metallic silk too!

As far as the gown was concerned, I had a length of black damask and was hoping it would be just enough…

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After some serious calculations ( yes! maths happened!), measurements, and drafting, trying to plan how much of the fabric I could use, and still match the pattern, it transpired that it was just enough for a voluminous gown with a modest train. I didn’t mind the modest train, my other frock has a long one, so a variety is there – plus I planned to posh this frock up with some fur…

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The first lady in the black was my generic inspiration – again, the fabric seems almost exactly the same style!

The fur was purchased from GH leathers  – 2 plates of white rabbit ( oh, and one of black for Lucas – didn’t I mention he was getting a new robe too?)

The gown was cut and made, lined with red silk and then the purfells  were prepared – fur was cut to shape for the hem, collar and cuffs, and the borders were secured with tape.

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Then they were studiously attached to the garment, by hand – it takes some time, but the whole process of preparing and attaching the purfells was worth it – the fur lies flat and neat!

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I put on the gown next morning and we had a mini photo-shoot in the castle grounds before the public stormed in 🙂

I must admit that I like the comfortable, shorter gown without a huge train to lug behind, and the basic colours looked elegant – with just a hint of clashing reds and vibrant greens from the kirtle:-)

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Flashing the greens, matching the foliage around!

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The back view

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We found some nice windows for an atmospheric shot…

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…but the wind was playing up with my veil a lot – so had to swap sides!

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The grounds of Sudeley Castle are breathtaking, and the event went well the next day too – it was cooler, so I got to wear the dress most of the day, but it also rained rather a lot. However, Brits  are used to this weather so we still had lots of visitors, though instead of sun hats and sandals they came armed with wellies and umbrellas:-)

The king ( Jason Kingsley)  was around on both days, taking part at ceremonies, public dinners, shows and also entertaining the public while giving short demonstrations of exquisite horsemanship on ‘White Surrey’ (actually Warlord)

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A sneaky picture from the tent…

There were a lot of  things to see – soldiers, kitchens, craftsmen, camp followers, storytelling, a whole bunch of Richard’s many cronies, a fashion show  – in short enough to occupy a family for a day ( plus  for the visitors nice food, the castle, medieval market, ice cream, and beautiful gardens to roam around).

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In short, an exquisite event, probably the most enjoyable tented event of the year – and indeed staying in a posh medieval tent was very much like glamping…  all the things we have accumulated over the years, fur covers, woven mats, tables, tapestries, lanterns, etc – it was all worth every penny; not only to see the pleasant surprise on the  public’s faces – but for our own comfort!

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Despite the rain, the tent was dry, and the mats got  lightly wet at the edges only.  The bed with its layers of sheepskin and wool bedding, with coverings made in wool and fur was not only warm but comfy ( Lucas may have a different opinion, as I got the bed before I knew him – so it is a tad too short for him). Me, I enjoy sleeping under the canvas, especially in the rain – so I loved every minute!

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Tapestries made a real difference too, as well as all the paraphernalia – lots to talk about to the visitors. Some of the items were provided by Eleanor (the games table, religious items, a chair, etc. Still, there’s an ever growing list of what we need for the tent – more chests, more wall coverings, more chairs.. I now want a standing loom too… So, it looks as if we may need a trailer… or a van….

Oh, and did I mention that Lucas got a new robe? There it is, in  the same silk as my kirtle, so we were matching 🙂 I still have enough of it to make another short robe, I may  yet make a stock item after all…

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reading from Chaucer…:-)

And the usual  facts and credits…….

Green kirtle – fabric – 4m of green silk, £115 per metre from the website if I remember well, but I managed to grab a roll at the market at a £80 per metre:-)

4m of taffeta for lining, £25 per metre

silk laces, £25

overall cost of materials –  £450

The gown:

Black damask – 7m @ £60 per metre,

Red taffeta for lining  – £6m @ £25

Fur – £150

Overall cost of materials: –  £650

…and the article on  how to make Burgundian dress and a kirtle here...

With more medieval inspiration here

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Clothes – Prior Attire

Lovely bling (I got a hat gem specially for the event) – as always, by Gemmeus

Belt –  Bayley Heritage Castings

Shoes and pattens – NP Historical shoes

Photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

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And the good news is – it looks like the event  will be back next August, 20/21st!! 🙂  a new page has been created for the event, so keep your eyes peeled! 🙂

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Fun Medieval Photoshoot

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Sometimes the timing is just right – a few months ago I was preparing stock items for the approaching market, and  it just happened that a friend and a client was stopping by  on her way to Devon. We had fitting scheduled for her new Victorian outfit, but  on an impulse we  decided to do a min shoot of the stock medieval items – using Amy and me as Models, and accompanied by  Amy’s ferrets and bird.

 You will no doubt recognize Amy ( the owner of Feathers&Flight Historical Falconry) from our precious shoot as she was the awesome Neobedouin and  Neonavajo in our Steampunk Amazones collection

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 And so without further ado a plan was hatched –  Amy came over ( not without adventures – blowing her tire  just off the motorway, abut 15 min away from us), fitting was done, pizza consumed and we set about photographing 4 medieval gowns. It was also a test of one of our new backgrounds, so lots of playing with set up, props, lights etc was insured – Pitcheresque Imagery sure had some fun with that!

 late 12th/13th style gowns were first. We did a few product shots and then  tried to do a generic ones involving the pets too:-)

 1. Burgundy wool and silk trim gown, lined with linen – worn over a silk undergown. here with Flynn, the barnowl

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2. A wool gown with silk trim

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With Mr. Baggins

Then it was time for  15th century.

first – an early 15th century houppelande in silk, lined with linen ( this one is still available  from our shop – here)

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 and then a late 15th century Burgundian gown in wool sateen with brocade collar and cuffs

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 For this look we tried to experiment  and  stage the Lady With an Ermine portrait look –  but the ferret ( Merry – and he was very merry indeed!) was very excited and the whole thing turned out to be very challenging – lots of fun ( much to the irritation of the photographer, I suppose), but trying to get him to stay more or less still in a graceful pose was tricky ( especially since we didn’t really want the animals to touch the gowns – there was for ale after all)… still we got a few fun pixs!

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Merry is all grace and loveliness – but Amy is clearly up to no good here! 🙂

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giggles galore…

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ewww, what’s that thing??? ;_)

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and at last, success 🙂

 And a few behind the scenes shots to wrap it up!

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ghastly attack

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practicing the fashionably pregnant look. The closest I will ever get to the real thing I think! 🙂

Hope you enjoyed these – I am already looking forward to our next stock photoshoot at some point at the end of June/beginning of July! 🙂

The most common mistakes in historical costuming/re-enactment – and how to avoid them!

 Over the years I have been asked about  a variety of problems within historical costuming – and how to avoid them. I have already written a few posts on different aspects such as the look, fabrics, etc – but here … Continue reading

Fabrics for historical costuming

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We all know that very often it is the fabric that makes The Dress. A wisely chosen set of materials will bring out the beauty of the design, will enhance the tailoring – or even hide some dressmaking mistakes.  A less than perfectly sewn dress will look amazing if the fabric is right – and a fantastically well stitched creation can be badly marred by a poor fabric choice.

Naturally what fabrics we chose differs – all depends on the purpose of the garment. If it is a one off frock cobbled together for a friend’s fancy dress party,  you may not want to spend a lot on expensive silks; however if you are planning  a creation that you are going to wear a lot, or if you strive for authenticity, the correct fabric choice is essential.

In this post I shall mostly concentrate on the historical accuracy and will try to provide a basic reference on which fabrics to use in which period. The list is aimed at providing a very general overview, so I won’t be getting into details like which weight for which garment in which century – would take ages and would make for a very, very long post indeed!  I have learnt a lot over the last 20 or so years in the field – but am not omniscient, so if you know of an article or a reference that would be helpful with researching which fabrics were used  when, please post in a  comment and I will add it onto the article –  it would be very much appreciated!

I will also get a list of providers of the fabrics I use most often.

So, there we go!

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Medieval.

Linen:  for undergarments, shirts, basic tunics, lining, gambesons, etc. Bleached linen for the unmentionables for the wealthy, unbleached, natural one for the less fortunate. Other colours ( reds, blues, browns, pinks etc were used for tunics, kirtles, linings etc. Different weights were used for different  garments.

Wool –  different weights and types were used – including   patterns – herringbone and diamond were apparently quite popular in the dark ages and Viking era for example; fulled wools tend to become popular from 9-10 century, whereas plain weaves were generally available throughout the period. napped and sheared wool start to appear in the 14th century too ( broadcloth, wool satins etc)

Silk –  plain weaves and some patterns are used from mid medieval period in the north of Europe,  earlier in the south – proximity to Byzantium and the silk route.  Available only for the wealthiest, really – and even then was used sparingly considering its great value. Plain weave, early taffetas ( 13-14th century), basic brocades and damasks were used. Silk velvet starts to appear in the end of 13th century, if I remember well, and by 15th has evolved into several styles ( cut, uncut patterns etc).

Raw silk was probably used more by the steppe tribes, and duponi was not used much either, apparently.

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14th century dress in wool, lined with linen

Cotton – although there are some references to cotton imported from India, they are very rare – fustian was used however (cotton/linen blend) and there were several fustian manufactures established on the continent.  In England cotton as a name is used in the 16th century and most likely refers to woolen cloth!

Great article on the use of cotton in the medieval, Elizabethan and Stuart era – here 

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silk/linen brocade, fleur de lys pattern

16-17th century

 Linen – different weights any types ( cambric, lawn, Holland, buckram etc) – for undergarments, linings, ruffs, coifs, interlining, aprons, doublets, waistcoats etc

Wool – lots of varieties by that time, including blends with linen and silk; looks for broadcloth, scarlet, kersey, worsted, stammel, russet, cotton etc ); also, as mocado ( velvet using wool pile instead of silk)

Silk – again, lots of silk types used, in a variety of weights, patterns, blends ( cloth of gold, cloth of silver, tinsel) and grades. Look for satins, damask, velvets,grosgrain, sarcenet, taffets) Different types and patterns were popular in different decades. A good link showing some types- here 

Don’t be tempted by duponis ( existed, but very rare as second rate fabrics – contrary to today, slubs were frowned upon apparently), noil, stretch or crushed velvets…. Not period….

(Duponi lovers, do not despair, modern powerwoven duponi has hardly any slubs at all may be used as an alternative to taffeta. just avoid the slubby stuff where it shows…)

Cotton – see medieval note

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Tudor gown in cloth of silver

 18th century

Linen – underwear,  waistcoats, breeches, also dresses in the second half of the century ( especial pattern or printed) – polonaises, jackets etc

Wool – breeches, waistcoats, coats, capes, cloaks, riding habits, travelling outfits, uniforms etc

Cotton – at last! Getting more and more popular – and cheaper (cotton from the West Indies and America) and with the Industral Revolution on its way, the invention of the Spinning Jenny and more advanced mechanical looms  meant being ablt to make cotton cloth in Englad too (  1774 saw the lift of the heavy tas levied on  brit produced cotton – it was established in the beginning of the century to protect native textile industry, and its revoking opened the marked for locally made cotton cloth :-); I believe the first cotton velvet is mentioned in 1790 or thereabouts – there is an extant male waistcoat made in cotton velvet in the States.

Silk –  taffetas, brocades, damasks, velvets –plain or very specific patterns –famous Spitalfields silks ; used for dresses, petticoats, coats, breeches, waistcoats, frockcoats etc

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striped silk for a polonaise

19th century

Linen, as before

Cotton – including muslin, lawn, voile and plain cottons for dresses, pelisses, breeches, linings etc also undergarments including corsetry

Wool – coats, habits, suits, cloaks, dresses, uniforms,  – everything goes! A variety of types and weights are used, broadcloth, superfine, shallon, worsted etc

Silks – velvets ( still mostly silks, cotton velvets or plushes used as furnishing fabrics too), tafettas, grosgrain, damasks, brocades, twills, satins etc – a great range of fabrics of different weights, weave and patterns used

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more stripes , wool this time, made into a Victorian bodice

 A few generic notes

*avoid man-made, artificial fibres whenever you can. Polyester taffetas may be cheap – and not only do they looks so, but they are a nightmare to work with too.

*Sometimes (well, almost always!) quality will hit your pocket hard – but in the long run, it is worth it.  Don’t go for plastic embroidered duponis etc – save up  for a month or two and get plain silk taffeta; if you cannot afford a dress in silk velvet, use a cheaper silk, or blend – or wool – a very period thing to do, plus it is easier to clean.

*Hunt for bargains –  I have searches set up on ebay looking for  different silk fabrics and sending me reports every week – some of the listings are useless, but sometimes you can  stumble upon real treasures! Go to sales at silk mills, fabric stores etc.

*If possible,  do not skimp on fabric. True, sometimes you get  a fantastic end of roll silk –  and there is only so much of it – then piece the panels up and of course use it – but if you are at liberty to  get the proper amount of the fabric for the project, do so.

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Silk brocade, Victorian

Trims and embellishment.

More or less similar things apply – avoid artificial stuff!  Elastic plastic lace will spoil any Victorian outfit, rayon guipure  lace will clash with proper Elizabethan fabrics. Also mark that different type of lace or braids were used in different periods – putting a cluny lace onto a 12th century bliaud instead of tablet woven braid will not do you any favours.

Again, please mark all those notes are for historical attire – if you are making fantasy, bridal, steampunk, etc garments, you have  much more freedom with the fabrics and embellishment choice – I  love experimenting with the alternative bridal styles or Steampunk looks as my imagination can run wild and I can go for the trims and interesting fabrics that I cannot use for historical gear!

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steampunk wedding gown using poly taffeta and satin – looks ok, but was an absolute nightmare to work with!

 Suppliers, in no particular order

Historical textiles – great quality  broadcloth, superfine and other

Hainsworths – wool

Whaleys – cotton, linen, silk

Bernie the Bolt – wool, linen, cotton – frequents UK and Europen markets – no website:-(

 Herts Fabrics – wool, linen –

 Renaissance fabrics – wool, linen, silks – lovely stuff!

Sew curvy – corsetry fabrics ( coutil, broche, drill)

 James Hare – lovely silks,  great lace,- you will need a trader’s account

 Silk Baron – silk velvet ( 80/20%), taffetas, duponi

Quartermasterie – lovely silks, also stunning silk velvet on cotton backing  – no website though! frequents UK markets

Harrington Fabrics – lace, silks, lovely brocades  – trader’s account needed

Watts&Co – church fabrics, absolutely gorgeous but very pricey ( looking at   £100 – £250 per metre, many fabrics made to order only)

Sartor – – historical textiles –  – great fabrics, do check the fibre composition information, as many of the stunning historical patterns are made in blends – half silk, half viscose:-(! some are 100% silk though and are a great find.

MacCulloch and Wallis – cloth, lace, haberdashery

Duran textiles AB – lovely silks and cotton prints, suitable for 18th and 19th century

Tudor Tailor – lovely wools suitable for Tudor and later costuming, plus linen and calico

Wm.Booth Draper –  great fabrics especially for 18th and 19th century

Happy shopping!

 

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Royal adventures In Carlisle Castle

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This summer Carlisle Castle has hosted a different royal couple each weekend – and on the 8/9th of August it was our turn :-)We were hired by History’s Maid to provide interpretation as Edward I and Margaret of France.

The period was familiar to us, though not in great details, so it was an excellent opportunity to do some more research and learn more about the social and military aspect of the late 13th and early 14th  century- as well as study the lives of the two monarchs in more detail. Here Lucas had a more complex task – at the date we chose to base our visit to Carlisle ( 1307, the second Scottish Campaign) Edward was at the end of a long, rich life – so a lot to learn about!  As Margaret was 40 years younger, I had a much simpler task…

It was a very interesting research – and it was great to be able to pass it on to the visitors as well – most of them arrived knowing that Edward, or Longshanks as he was called, is the king who had Mel Gibson, sorry, William Wallace, 🙂 killed – hopefully they left with a bit more knowledge!

As far as the costume bits were concerned, we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, as the booking came in when I was already booked with commissions till  October, but  managed to free 2 days  for working on our kit.

Lucas already had his fur lined mantle, hose and chemise  he uses for earlier periods – but he needed a tunic and a surcoat.  As it was hot at the time, we opted for linen in rich midnight blue for the tunic – decorated with bands of gold metallic silk, and a silk for surcoat – with metallic braid used for decoration.

Hair was a bit of an issue – we needed a graying blonde…  A wig was bought at a local shop – I trimmed it, styled it and it did the job!

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original wig

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styling – just before steaming it

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result!

A crown was borrowed from the English Heritage staff , the sword came from Black Knight Historical, and the bling from Gemmeus – and voila, we have a king!

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and the king in question on his lunch break 🙂

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As far as Margaret attire goes, I already had a cloak, chemise, shoes and a dress in wool – but there was just enough time to make a surcoat and a silk dress, and an alternative headgear.

There are very few images of Margaret, so I based the cut on the Codex Manesse garments – and recreated the headdress from  one of the statues of her.  Margaret wasn’t crowned – but she still wore a crown, and her seal shows her doing just that! – for the  original images for both Edward and Margaret, as well as clothing of the era, there is a modes board on pinterest

The hair was interesting –  the image shows curls, and probably coiled plaits which were jut becoming fashionable at the time – so it was a hairpieces  time for me!

I plaited my own hair, attached plaited extensions, coiled and securely pinned, and then pinned my own meager plaits around them

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2 sets of plaits, work in progress…

then I added clip on curls – and pinned them around too.

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The barbette and veils were next – and a crown on top. Or the alternative look,  based on the original image, a linen headdress with a frill and a veil on top of it…

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a medieval selfie

and the other look –

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and the whole picture

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The  weekend passed quickly – we were at the gate doing the meet and greet, and priming the visitors for the royal audience when they could ask  us questions. The audiences were  inside the castle and  they were great fun – lots of questions, followed by some more in depth discussions as there were a few history teachers visiting too – fascinating!  The kids learnt about what a person their age could expect in the royal service, what skills and arts they would have been taught and what duties they would have had. Adults inquired about the manners, armour, tactics, food, clothing, day to day life of a royal and their retinue. Battles tactics were discussed, pilgrimages and wars were talked about, languages and marital strives were elaborated on –   lots of interesting questions.

The days finished with a Walk with Longshanks – a stroll on the battlements, talking about the castle, the defence mechanisms and the area around. We even had a chance to practice our French as there were quite a few visitors from Canada, France and Belgium 🙂

 

And at the end of the day we were given leave to take some photos  –

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It was a bit windy…. 🙂

 

On the second day we took photos of Gemmeus jewellery and I changed the hair for a wig, to get thea ‘ Codex Manesse’ look 🙂

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silk dress with a stylised bridal belt from Gemmeus

In short – the whole event was both enjoyable and educative – the best kind, well worth the long drive there:-) – many thanks to all who made it possible  – greatly appreciated:-)

and the credits

History’s Maid

Carlisle Castle

Black Knight Historical

 Gemmeus

 Prior Attire

Pitcheresque photography

 

How to make a kirtle and a Burgundian gown

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 This article was  previously published on Your Wardrobe Unlock’d site – but now I am able to make it available here. it is not the newest piece I have written, but some basics remain the same, so hopefully it can be of some help:-)

In this article I shall discuss the cut of a late medieval kirtle and a very popular V neck gown – often simply referred to as the Burgundian gown.

Let us start with the kirtle.

All women of the late medieval ages would wear very similar layers: a linen chemise and a woollen kirtle underneath their overkirtle or a gown.

The difference in status was shown by the fabric and colour choice. Less affluent woman would most likely be wearing a simple woollen garments, in the more common colours of brown, russet, pale blues and greens.  A richer lady would go not only for more vibrant and deeper colours, but the quality of the cloth would be different. The most fortunate ones would be able to afford silks and brocades for their gowns, with silk, cloth or gold or fur lining and trim.

Despite the differences in fabric and colour, the basic cut would be more or less the same.

Kirtles of that period sported tight bodices, laced in front, back or at the sides, with the skirts flaring out from the waist. Sleeves could be long, short – or, coming towards the end of 15th century, nonexistent – though even the kirtles with short sleeves or without sleeves could have sleeves made of nicer fabric pinned to the kirtle

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As far as construction is concerned, there are a few of possibilities. Most of the kirtles till about mid 15 cent seem to be cut in one length, without the waist seam. However, later on there is evidence for new tailoring techniques: kirtles with a waist seem or kirtles with a more advanced fit on the bodice – probably a development of the panelled kirtle/gown construction evident from the findings in Greenland. I have found one example of the bodice with an advanced cut – Agnes Sorel seems to be sporting one!( pic.5)

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rogier-weydenseven_sacraments_altarpiece__central_panel_large – kirtle with a waist seam, pleated

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The kirtle we are working on here is a rather typical example of a late 15th century one: with a waist seam and without sleeves.

They could be laced in front, sides and back, and it is up to an individual which option is chosen. For this kirtle, I have decided on a front lacing.

Materials:

Red wool – 4 metres

Linen for lining the bodice – 0.5m,

Lacing,

linen thread

 Method:

Prepare the toile of the bodice and try it on. If it fits, use it to cut the bodice in fabric  and lining.

6kirtle-bodice Baste the wool layer together and try it on again.  Mark and correct if the fit is not perfect, then sew:  first the two back parts, then the side seam, and then the shoulder seam.

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If you want your kirtle to have sleeves, cut the sleeves and sew them to the bodice now. Secure the inside seams , then fold down the edges –  front opening, neck, armhole or sleeves, and  stitch it using small stitches.

The skirt.  The skirt of a kirtle could be either attached to the bodice flatly, gently flaring out of the waistline or they could be gathered up or pleated.

As far as construction is concerned, they could be  made out of 3 or more big gores, or simply a large rectangular piece ( or pieces) of fabric. I chose the latter as it saves you time stitching the pieces together and it is easier to work on the hem. Whichever you will choose cut the parts first, then sew them together , leaving  top 10 cm open on one seam – it will be the front , matching the opening of the bodice.

If you are gathering or pleating the skirts, measure up the waist of the bodice and start pinning pleats in the skirt – they could be distributed evenly around the waist or grouped in front or back.  I simply gathered my fabric using the ruffle attachment and then stitched it to the bodice.

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Once the skirts are attached, put the kirtle on a dummy or a model and check the length. Mark the hem and pin it carefully, making sure it is even all around. Take the kirtle off and hem the skirts.

Next step is lining the bodice.  Sew the pieces of the lining together , just as it was done with the top fabric, insert it into the bodice and pin it carefully.

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If you want you can add a piece of stiffer linen at the front, where the eyelets will be – it will make them more difficult to work with, but they will be sturdier. Stitch it with small stitches – the bottom of the linen should overlap and encase the gathered /pleated fabric at the waist.

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All that has to be done now is the eyelets– use an owl to separate the threads of the fabric, push them aside and secure with a linen thread.

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The lacing can be either ordinary, for crisscross (rare) or ladder lacing, or the eyelets can be offset a bit to allow for spiral lacing They can be placed only on the bodice part, or extend onto the skirts part -particularly when the kirtle is cut as a whole, without waist seam.

Alternatively, you can use small metal rings – sew them to the front opening, and thread the lace through them using a narrow linen tape, plait or a braid.

The kirtle is now ready!

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The gown

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Hans_Memling_Triptychon

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Often referred to as a A-line, or V-neck, or simply burgundian gown, the gown worn by the middle and higher strata of the society  was a relatively simple affair, construction wise – but sported an incredibly wide array of interesting detail that  made the gowns distinctive.  The general construction could have been shared by all of them – but contrary to the popular belief, there was an astonishing variety in the layout of the pleats, depth and shapes of cuffs, collars and hems .  lots of examples on my inspiration board here

The one I am going to describe here is a pretty standard version with a v neck collar both front and back. The thing that distinguishes it though, is the fabric – with a silk brocade that sumptuous, I wanted to keep the rest of the details  simple.

 Materials:

Top fabric:

8m of Silk and linen damask (from Quartermasterie). Since the fabric is patterned, I needed much more fabric for the gown . When using plain wool or silk velvet, 5-6 metres is usually enough, depending on how big you want the train to be! The bigger the pattern, the more fabric you will need to match it nicely… you will also need more fabric if your material has a nap – like velvet as then you can only cut it in one direction. if your fabric is plain, you can make up for it in the width – with plain solids you can end up with a more voluminous garments as you don’t need to keep the front and back seams straight to match the pattern:-)

6-7 m of lining (here silk taffeta)

0.5 metre of silk velvet for cuffs and collar (optional: if you have a nice lining, you can just turn it over as it is, saving yourself quite a lot of work!)

Silk and linen threads

Pattern – the construction is relatively easy, the pattern in medieval Tailor Assistant works fairly well (pic. 20 -page 158-161), though I tend to use one length of fabric for a quarter of a gown, not a half – it makes the skirts much wider and flowing. Even if you are economizing on fabric, make sure you do not skimp on the hem width – especially if you aim to portray the weathier strata of the society.

Cut the body of the dress in top fabric and lining out. If your fabric has a pattern, make sure the front centre and front back matches.

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Cut the sleeves in the top fabric and then in lining- if you plan to have cuffs in different fabric, the lining of the sleeves can be shorter than the top layer – then cut a piece of velvet for the cuffs. The lining with the cuff should match the top layer of the sleeve- but leave plenty of seam allowance

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If you intend to have the collar in velvet, it is best to take care of it now.

Place 1 front piece of lining on the top fabric and fold the section of the lining that will be made into the collar.  Mark it carefully and cut the out . Repeat on the back piece (if your gown is to have a V neck at the back as well)

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Now you have 2 narrow strips of fabric that would serve as a template for your fancy collar. Place them on the velvet and cut out two of each, leaving at least an inch for seam allowance.

Pin a piece to the lining and stitch carefully

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. Repeat for the other 3 pieces of the lining.

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You can now sew all the parts of the top fabric together –  pin or baste the centre seams in front, matching the pattern, then sew. Repeat on the central back seam. Put the two parts right sides in together, and sew the side and shoulder seams together.

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back pieces sewn, matching the pattern

Put the velvet cuff right side on the top fabric of the sleeve. Pin it and sew it on

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Unfold and iron the seams flat.  Fold the sleeve lengthways, pin and sew carefully – if your cuff is in a much darker or lighter fabric, make sure you use different colours of thread for sewing the cuff part and the main sleeve part.  Once finished, turn it inside out  Repeat on the other sleeve.

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Pin the sleeves into the armholes and try to gown on. Adjust if necessary, making sure that the armhole is not too neither tight nor too wide. Once you are satisfied, set the sleeves in.

The top part is now ready. Turn it all outside out, iron all the seams flat and couch them down to make sure they stay flat  and to preserve fraying. Fold the hem and stitch it carefully, making sure the hem is even and that it curves gently into the train.

Repeat the same steps for the lining. For the body of the lining, you do not need to worry about matching the pattern – but if you have a collar in a different fabric, make sure the edges of the collar match.

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Set in the sleeves, iron out and secure the seams.

Inset the lining into the gown. Stitch the edges of the collar to the top fabric – either on a machine, or by hand.

Once the two layers are collected at the collar, turn the whole thing inside out – you should now have the lining on top. You will instantly see that the sleeves of the lining are shorter. Pin then carefully to the top fabric, and then fold the cuff back over – it should reach the lining without straining the top layer.  Fold the edge in, pin it and carefully stitch it to the lining  (or, you can fold the lining’s edge in and stitch it to the cuff – both ways work). Repeat on the other sleeve.

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The sleeves are now ready, and you can turn the gown outside out again.   It is time to work on the hem.  Hang the gown securely on a hanger and hang the hanger high, so that the whole gown is in the air. If you have time, leave the gown hanging for a few hours or overnight – it is important especially if your gown in wool lined with linen, as they tend to stretch.

Place pins at the bottom of each seam, pinning the two layers together.  Place more pins around the hem, at about an inch from the hem.  Sit next to the hanging gown and start folding the lining and pinning it to the top layer. Do not stretch either fabric, let it hang smoothly naturally.  Pin all the lining in, and leave it pinned for a few hours again. After that check if the lining hasn’t stretched even more – if yes, re-pin. Once the fabric of the gown hangs in smooth fold, without the top layer puckering or the lining hanging lower than the top layer, secure the lining to the top making small even stitches.

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Alternatively you can guard your gown with a band of different fabric- my own is bound with a narrow band of the same velvet I used for cuffs and collar (pic.35).

Your gown is almost ready now. All that remains to be done is making sure the collar is lying neatly and flatly. Put the gown on a dummy, secure it with a belt and fold the collar back out, showing of the lining (or the velvety/ satin  bits).  If you wish, you can secure the folded collar with a few stitches, on the top of the shoulder.

The gown is now ready

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All you need now is a belt, appropriate headgear , hose and shoes and you are ready to go out and attend a tournament, cheering  your knight on as he smashes lance after lance at the tilt!

Other examples of gowns made with this technique:

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gown for Duchess Cecily Neville – so in royal purple, with cloth of gold trim, on silk flat fronted kirtle

Sudeley Ricahrd III-37

a gown in silk damask, this one is trimmed with fur

kitty burg

silk velvet with taffeta lining

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wool with linen lining

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silk velvet, taffeta lining and satin trim

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silk/metallic brocade, silk taffetalining

frocks, needless to say, by Prior Attire

Bibliography:

Boucher, François. A History of Costume in the West, Thames & Hudson; Enlarged edition (23 Sep 1996)

The secrets of Burgundian costuming, Marie Chantal Cadieux, http://cadieux.mediumaevum.com/frontlaced-kirtles.html [Accessed 27/12/10]

Maria Gutkowska Rychlewska “Historia ubiorów”, Ossolineum, Wrocław 1968

Sarah Thursfield, The medieval Tailor Assisstant, Ruth Bean Publishers, 2001

Hanseatic King’s Lynn festivities

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1475 – The Hanse House in King’s Lynn is build, following the treaty of Utrecht granting Die Hanse privilages and making King’s Lynn one of the Hanseatic trade towns. To celebrate the event,  we teamed up with a variety of folks, all brought together by Black Knight Historical – and spent  a day participating in the festivities and talking about 15th century life in the town.

 

I used to do a lot of 15th century living history, but not recently – so most of my kit was old – or too posh for the role I was going to play – a hanseatic merchant/apothecary’s wife. Danzig-bred wife to be more precise – and since I spent most of my youth in Danzig ( Gdansk), it was a most appropriate role. It called for a suitable garment –  wealthy, but not over the top, a bit behind the high fashions, but practical and stating my status clearly. A decision was made and I settled for a version of Rogier van der Weyden style frock – wool, lined with linen, very, very full, trimmed with fur.

the inspiration board on Pinterest –  here

The frock took 7 metres of fabric – and the same amount of lining – the hem circumference is over 6m… It was relatively easy to make – it as the veil that was more problematic.  I set my heart on making a frilled veil you can see in the portraits – I and making the frill ( 14m of linen was frilled…), hemming it and hemming the veil took almost as long as making the frock… not particularly happy with it, so will look for other ways to achieve the look I think. Still, it looked ok  for some pics.

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It was very warm, so I wore the frock only for the procession and riding (and pictures), and while at the stall, I was a bit cooler in my kirtle:-)

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very happy with the new garment – and love the way the wool drapes – a few pictures below…

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Was also happy with my new belt from  Bayley Heritage Castings, and shoes and pattens from NP Historical Shoes

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Lucas spent most of the day at the stall as well, chatting about late 15th century medical lore…

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His services were sought out by the nobility  as well…

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But before we finished, he quickly changed an assumed his other role – that of a photographer, and captured  some of the people at the event…

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Eleanor in her Duchess Cecily Neville role…sporting a gown  I made for her last year

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On Sunday we stayed long enough to take part in the parade…

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and shoot some product pictures of jewellery for Gemmeus… which, by the way was the easiest robbery ever – it was enough to say we are having a photoshoot and  the rings and pendants were safely deposited in my purse in no time at all. it robbery was somehow hindered by the fact that Nicky from Gemmeus knew  where I live – so alas, had to return all that lovely bling after the shoot…. 😦

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And take some good photos of my posh frock –  Memlinc brocade, lined with silk, silk velvet trim – all handstitched on holiday a few years ago….

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All together , a great weekend was had by all – hoping we will be back next year!

 

Credits:

Photography – Pitcheresque Imagery – more pictures form the event here

frocks – Prior Attire 

Jewellery – Gemmeus

Belt and a ring – Bayley Heritage Castings

Shoes and pattens – NP HIstorical Shoes

event organization – Black Knight HIstorical

Horse s& team – Steamhorse

12th Century Dress – the Bliaut

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Mention a medieval dress to someone and the odds are the image they have in mind is a loose frock with long sleeves. Type ‘medieval’ into Google, eBay or etsy – and modern L.A.R.P and hand-fasting gowns of that description appear – with most of them sporting the iconic long, trailing sleeves.   The proper medieval dress of that description was called a ‘bliaut’ (and was apparently worn by both sexes, though later male bliauts tend to be shorter), and its variants were fashionable across Europe for about 100 years. The earlier examples of the dress of that type seem to be a continuation of the fashions of 11th century – loose gowns often with girdles and long sleeves getting bigger, longer and more elaborate; but it is the second part of the 12th century that celebrated the bliaut at is best  – here the look is far more slender, with a slim waist emphasised by the more fitted style of the dress, careful girdle arrangement and, of course those sleeves.

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Figure of Grammatica , from the Hortus Deliciarum, c. 1180

The most iconic look is represented by the famous statues in Chartres cathedral

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Figures from the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament), centre portal of the west facade of Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France,

So what makes the Bliaut proper? Look out for these features:

  • Excessively long sleeves – fitted to a degree above the elbow, and opening wider below – and sometimes simply elongated cuffs. The lowest part of the sleeve is often square
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    sleeve shape.Chartres1, http://www.eg.bucknell.edu

  • Tight fit on the torso – often showing wrinkles – most likely caused by side lacing
  • Girdle – often wrapped twice around the body, with the ends hanging in front (though single girdles or no girdles are also seen)
  • Neck openings – can be round, keyhole, or V shaped, often decorated with embroidery, woven braids of applied silk bands in contrasting colour
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    Terence’s Comedies, St. Albans Abbey, mid 12th century, Folio 10 recto

  •  Sometimes the long sleeves are knotted for practical as well as aesthetic reasons
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example of knotted sleeves.Angers – BM – ms. 0243 F077v (fin XII) 2

Moe examples of bliaut and other fashions of 12/13thcentury – here – 11-13century fashions

There have been several theories concerning the construction of the bliaut. Some claimed that the dress is loose, but that the middle part is a corset, or a stomacher worn on top of the dress and secured by the double girdle. Some believed that the waist part was cut separately and the bodice part and the skirts were gathered and sewn on to it. Personally, I find the theory that it is the side lacing, (a new technique that appeared on the scene at that time), which makes the dress fitted and accounts for the wrinkles on the torso. It also makes sense from a costume evolution point of view – the basic, almost rectangular cut of the previous centuries is still used here with just slight adaptation – whereas a corset of any kind, as well as a stomacher, or cutting the bodice horizontally would be completely out of place, several centuries ahead of its time and too huge a jump to consider seriously. In my opinion it also points naturally towards the development of ‘cotte and surcoat’ –  remove the sleeves and unlace the sides and the garment looks disturbingly like later surcoats – though in this case male fashions and heraldic surcoats were probably a bigger influence.

The pleated nature of the fabric often seen on the sculptures is another enigma – most likely it represents very voluminous but light fabric, like silk, rather than fabric that has been pleated to a waistband, etc.  To what degree the statues and other representations in medieval art are artistic licence will probably remain a secret forever, so going with the cut, techniques and construction that were known at the time is a much safer bet.

If you wish to have a closer look at the variety of bliauts represented in art across Europe and the construction theories, have a look at this site – very useful! http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~lwittie/sca/garb/europe_class/europe_bliaut.html

The pattern.

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I have used a pattern consisting largely of simple geometrical shapes – front and back are rectangles, often cut on the fold, or with a vertical CF and CB seam, with the waist cut out more to fit, thus softening the lines. Armhole lines sometimes seem to have been slightly softened too – they were probably the newest development in tailoring at the time! The gores are triangles. The sleeve pattern is the most innovative as it incorporates both concave and convex lines, softening the harsh geometrical look.

The dress can be of equal length, reaching the ground all around, or trained. If you can, make the gores as wide as possible – the bigger the hem circumference, the better the folds of the dress look. With the modern, wider fabrics it is also possible to cheat a bit and save time by cutting the front and back with wide skirts, incorporating the side gores, with only the front and back gores – a technique I used once. It did work, though it is incorrect for the period as the fabric widths were so much narrower.

The fabrics – Wool would be the most common, and certainly my favourite, though silk might be the option for the most affluent personages– and more frequently worn by the Franks in the Outremer – silk was cheaper there and more suitable for the climate. It is also through the returning Crusaders that northern European countries would have access to silk – in England at that time it was as a luxury almost unheard of, worn only by the wealthiest magnates of the realm – and usually even they could only afford it as decorative strips edging their bliauts. Silk garments were almost exclusively for royalty.

Lining – it is argued whether all the dresses were lined, and it is likely that some weren’t. For me, lining the bliaut is always a good idea, especially if it is trained. It looks better, lasts longer and wears better – the wool doesn’t cling if you happen to wear a woollen kirtle underneath. Linen is best, though silk can be used as well – probably in contrasting colours for the sleeves.  For economy reasons, if lining with silk, only the sleeves would be lined with the expensive fabric, the rest of the lining would be cheaper linen, as it wouldn’t be displayed.

Materials

6m of wool or top fabric ( more if you plan a trained gown or very long sleeves)

6m of lining

Silk or linen thread

Optional: silk for decorative bands, wool for decorative woven braids and girdle

Method.

  1. Cut all your pieces in your top fabric and lining.
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front piece cut -here using a modern method, cut together with the side gores

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front and back gores – back gore is longer as the skirts will be trained

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the sleeve

  1.  Sew the top fabric first – assemble the front part first (the front gore and the side gores if you are sticking to the period correct pattern), then do the same for the back – i you are having side gores at the back sew them in as well, if not, it is only the back gore.
  2.  Sew the front and back pieces at the shoulders  Press the seams open. Couch them down if not using lining or if the fabric frays a lot.
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gores sewn in, fronts and back sewn, shoulder seam sewn – sides still left open

  1. Sew the sleeves right sides together.

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4. Turn the sleeves on the right side. find the centre top of the sleeve and place it, right sides together matching the shoulder seam.  Pin the fabric of the gown around the sleeve and sew. Repeat on the other side.

5.You now have the entire gown assembled– but the sides are open from the armpit. Try it on, and see if the sleeve fit is correct, but also mark the length of the side opening – it should be just at the seam where the gore starts, but if your figure is fuller you may need to adjust a bit.

6. Take the gown off and sew the side pieces together. Press the seams open.

  1.  Repeat the same steps with the lining.
  2.  Hem the top fabric – at the sleeves, side opening and neck.
  3.  If you plan to decorate the sleeve edges, neck hem etc with embroidered bands,  bands of silk or  other trims, do it now – any stitches going through the fabric will not be visible
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the detail of the front – lining stitched, hiding the stitches from sewing on the handmade braid

  1.  Insert the lining – stitch it to the neck and sides first, then the sleeves , using slipstitch.
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silk lining of the sleeves sewn to the top fabric

  1. Hang the gown on a dummy or on a hanger.   If possible, leave overnight, especially if working in wool – the fabric will stretch a little bit. Next day, check that the hem is even, adjust if necessary and hem the top fabric.  Do not stitch the lining in yet.
  2.  Again, hang the dress. Pin the top layer and lining together, matching the seams. Trim the lining if necessary, then fold the seam allowance under and pin it to the dress hem.  Stitch together  In this way you should not end up with the lining being too short or not too long. Whatever you do, do not bag line the dress.

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  1.  Next step – the eyelets!  Mark the eyelets on the fabric around the side openings. Pierce it with an awl, then work an eyelet using a linen or silk thread. Repeat for all the eyelets on both sides

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  1.  Your dress is ready  All you need to do is to lace the sides with a line or silk ribbon, or a hand plaited lace.

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But – it is not the end. The dress on its own is only half the success – you will need a bit more to look and feel the part.

 Girdle –  the simplest way is to make one from a length of silk, or wool. You can also buy or weave one yourself, from line, wool, or silk yarn – the knotted ends visible on the girdles from the Chartres are most likely loose ends left unwoven. Make sure it is long enough if you plan to wrap it twice about your torso.

Undergarments.

The bliaut is not worn on its own. Like all the other clothes in medieval times, it was worn on linen chemise/kirtle/underdress, with optional woolen kirtle worn on top of the linen layer – ideal solution for colder months. The cut of the chemise/kirtle didn’t differ much from the earlier garments (discussed in details in article on the Anglo Saxon garments) – simple garments with gored skirts and tight sleeves – indeed the sleeves were sometimes so tight they had to be closed with stitching on the wearer – an option for the ladies who could afford maids. In the warmer climates it is possible that a silk bliaut would be worn just on a linen chemise

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a kirtle, Carmina burana

The sleeves and neck of the underdress could also be decorated with woven braids or embroidery

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wool kirtle with sleeve and neck embroidery

The hair.

The hair is a bit tricky. The fashionable style was simple two braids, often decorated with ribbons. Simple – if you have the hair for it. My hair, although long, is nowhere near that long, and plaited into two braids looks pathetic – no volume to it at all. The period solution would be to use horse hair to supplement your own tresses but in absence of horse hair, we can use modern extensions

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If you hair is short, simply plait the extensions and clip then onto your own hair. If your hair is long enough to plait as well, follow the steps below.

  1. Divide the hair into two.
  2. Take the extension ( they usually come in fort of one long skein of hair), fold it in half and  start plaiting with your own hair – 2 strands of extension and your hair as the third strand.

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  1. Plait  a few strands to secure them, then re-arrange the strands – you will need to divide the extensions so that the third strand is formed. If your hair is long enough, simply continue plaiting till the end of both real hair and extensions. Dividing the extensions tend to be rather messy, especially if you are using artificial fibre, but it can be done in such a way that it is difficult to spot where the real hair ends.

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  1.  You now have a finished plait. You can leave the ends loose, or secure them with ribbons. there are mentions of metal fillets used to secure the braids ends, and you can just see the contraption on the Chartres figures, but I haven’t found anything like that around – if you know where I can get them, please do let me know!
  2.  You can now leave the braid as it is, decorate it with long silk ribbons, simply crossing the ribbon over along the length of the braid

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There is an alternative method, where you can use only two strands of hair and weave the ribbon around them – but with the extensions it doesn’t look too good as the ribbons slide a lot!

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If you are a young unmarried woman, you can wear your hair in braids without any other covering – though chaplets of flowers will look nice on them.  Otherwise, you will need a veil and a fillet.

Veils at that point slowly started to depart from the big rectangular kerchiefs worn earlier, and were simple affairs of smaller rectangles or much more graceful oval ones. They were made mostly of linen, though silk was used as well, if the family could afford it. Veils were secured by a fillet – a hand of woven braid for common women , or a circlet of metal – in case of the noble ladies,  the metal diadem was shaped, with a slightly flared outer ridge, and often encrusted with jewels.

Mine was made to order, and is a simple brass hoop, slightly flared – and quite heavy – it definitely leaves a nice dent on my skin after the whole day of wearing it!

In the last decades of the  12th century a barbette started to be worn – a strap of linen worn under the veil, passing under the chin and pinned on the top of the head –  an example can be seen on the effigy of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine

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.Eleanor of Aquitaine, effigy

Barbettes were useful as it was easier to pin the veil on and they framed the face nicely – they were in use for the next century or so finally disappearing in the 14th century, though chin straps resembling barbettes were seen with the 15th century hennins. They really herald a new style for the 13th century – with the hair gathered in a bun at the nape of the neck.

All you need now is a woolen hose and shoes – latchet style with pointed toe, often with straps , and if it is cold, a mantle or a cloak  semi circular or circular, wool, lined with either linen, or wool)

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bliaut in wool, lined with linen, neck decorated with embroidery on linen, handwoven woolen girdle

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Bliaut in silk, with silk bands decoration

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an Outremer princess – bliaut in silk, with contrasting bands of silk used as decoration and girdle, worn on a chemise only, in Jordan

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bliaut renedered in silk satin as a wedding dress.

There you have it, a nice and cosy woollen garment, or a lighter one in silk – whether for re-creating  Outremer fashions of for contemporary weddings  bliaut remains the iconic medieval dress. Elegant, graceful and stylish, it was ‘resurrected’ a few more times in the centuries to follow – in the late 14th/early 15th houppelandes and then in the Victorian times, when the Pre-Raphaelite movement reached back to the medieval times for inspiration ( the Accolade, lady of Shallot – and the Japanese gown from 1895 –, http://www.kci.or.jp/archives/digital_archives/detail_222_e.html).

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1895 silk gown, kyoto, Kyoto

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grey houppelande with open sleeves reminiscent of the 12th century fashions

Nowadays the style became popular with the fantasy movies like the Lord of the rings – the flowing, gentle lines work perfectly as the attire of the timelessly elegant elves.

Bibliography.

Kyoto Costume Institute, http://www.kci.or.jp/archives/digital_archives/detail_222_e.html

Gutkowska – Rychlewska Maria, Historia ubiorów, Ossolineum, 1968

Francois Boucher,  A History of Costume in the West,

  Britannica:   http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/107728/Chartres-Cathedral

The Bliaut throughout 12th Century Europe, http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~lwittie/sca/garb/europe_class/europe_bliaut.html

 

 

Anglo Saxon kit

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Early medieval styles and clothing is very often thought to be dull, coarse and unattractive – a sort of a potato sack with a girdle.  The stereotype might not be far from the truth as far as the lowest classes are concerned, however, once in the realm of middle and upper classes of society, one can discover an astonishing wealth of fabrics, colours and details. True, the basic cut remained more or less the same, but the ornamental details and the richness of materials more than made up for it.

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New Minster Charter 966

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Austrian National Library, Cod. Ser. N. 2701-2702, Fol. 252v,

In this article I will concentrate on a wealthy 9th century Anglo-Saxon woman and man – the outfits presented here were made for Black Knight Historical for Living History presentations. The cut of the clothes is pretty simple, but that was not what presented the challenge here: it was doing the research to get the clothes right in the first place! For that, I found the Anglo Saxon England website extremely useful and the study of the extant garments neatly presented by Mark Carlson was of enormous help as well!

Let us start with the male garments.

Throughout the early and middle medieval periods fashions changed very slowly. The most important aspect of everyday life was usually practicality, and so the basic clothes of that period are simple, practical and durable.  The rudimentary attire of a man a commoner or a noble man would consist of the following layers.

Loincloth – a piece of fabric worn with hose or under trousers, usually depicted on the representatives of the poorer strata of the society

Braies : simple 2 legged trousers. Made in wool or linen – with the advance of Hose (single legged, tailored to fit the leg tightly and attached by a drawstring to the braires),  braires replace the loincloth and are worn underneath. With the advance of Norman fashions later on, they can become very voluminous indeed!  http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/trousers/breechesindex.htm

 

The early braies and late the hose was often secured at the lower leg with winingas – long strips of cloth binding the calves – often with a criss-cross binding of a woven braid on top of the woolen winingas. Winingas were wound spirally up the leg and then secured by tucking the end under, or by a metal tag hook

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hooked tag, 7-11th cent, uk detector finds database, ref.number 12751

Undertunic ( smoc or serc) a linen  A line garment with light cuffs and often split hem at the sides – a predecessor of a shirt!,

Tunic, or overtunic (cyrtel) a linen or more often, a woolen garment on top of the undertunic. Tunics were of varied length, from mid calf to over the knee, and long sleeved.  Often the length of tunics worn one over the other could differ– and the top one could be just a bit shorter to show off the contrasting colour or hem decoration of the undertunic. Their cut was simple- early ones were simply made up of rectangular pieces, split at the sides – later on gores were used to give the tunic skirts more volume. They were not always made of one length of fabric- many finds show that they were often cut from much smaller pieces obviously depending on cloth available (http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/skjolha.html )

 

Often, the neck, hem and sleeves were decorated either with a woven braid or with embroidery – worked either directly on the garment or on a linen/silk/woollen band of a contrasting colour and then applied to the garment itself.

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Junius Manuscript, late 10th to early 11th cent., p 53

The tunics were usually belted with a simple braid or with leather belts.

A mantle or a cloak was worn over the whole attire – a large variety of styles seem to be in evidence, from a simple rectangular piece of thick woolen fabric, to semi or circular ones, often decorated with braid and pinned with a brooch.

The outfit would be complimented with shoes or boots and a woolen cap.

The set my client has decided on was 2 tunics and a rectangular cloak. He already owned braies and winingas and a linen undertunic, but wanted a slightly longer woolen tunic and a shorter one to go on top – and the cloak to compliment the image and to keep him warm in winter.

The tunics were cut in the same way, with only the length being different – the overtunic has shorter sleeves too to show off the embroidery on the longer one.

The pattern I used was based on the one from Mark Carlson site – I decided on two side gores with no front gores however:

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skjoldehamn tunic pattern

 

 The materials:

2 m of honey mustard wool

2 metres of herringbone weave wool

2 metres of thick pale red wool for the cloak

8 metres of hand-woven braid to decorate the cloak

0.5 m of linen for the neck and cuffs embroidery

Silk yarn for embroidery

 

Cut out the body of the tunic first, making sure there is enough space for movement.  Cut out the sleeves, underarm gussets and side gores.

Sew the gussets to the sleeves first. Sew the shoulders together and then stitch the sleeves to the  body – mark the middle line of each sleeve, and pin it to the shoulder seam- to make sure it is symmetrical.  Sew the gores to the front of the tunic then fold the tunic at the shoulder seams and run one long seam from the cuff to the hem, stitching the sleeve, front and back and gore to back pieces in one go. Repeat on the other side.

Turn the tunic to the right side, try it on and adjust the length and the width of the neck opening.

Repeat for the other tunic.  Once sewn, I finish all the edges by hand using linen or silk threads, and couch down all the interior seams: it flattens them out and gives even a partially machine-sewn garment an authentic look. All I had to take care off was the embroidery – and that took much longer than the tunics!

As far as the patterns and techniques are concerned, I found Jane Stockton article most helpful – very detailed instructions and a nice selection of patterns. http://www.axemoor.net/pdf/1_Embroidery_for_Clothing.pdf

Start with preparing your fabric. I used two rectangles, one for the neckline and one for the cuffs.  I drew the design on the fabric and attached the fabric to my wooden tapestry frame. Make sure the fabric is taunt and stretches evenly in all directions.  Now for the lengthy process of embroidering. I used lovely silks from Sally Pointer (http://sallypointer.moonfruit.com/), divided into two threads strand.  I opted for the chain stitch as being relatively easy on straight lines, curvy lines and it is good for filling in shapes nicely as well. It takes a few trials to get the stitch length sorted out, but after a few minutes of practice, I was ready to embroider in earnest. And embroider I did-  and for quite some time too!

Once you have all the embroidery done, take the pieces from the frame, and cut them to shape – make sure you leave some fabric so that it the raw edges can be folded under and stitched to the tunic without compromising the pattern.

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embroidery for the tunic1

 

Iron the pieces carefully and pin onto the fabric. Stitch the folder edges to the main fabric with small, even stitches.  Once in place, iron again – and you are done!

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embroidery attached to the tunic

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With the tunics out of the way all that remained was the cloak, and that was pretty straightforward: cut a rectangle of fabric, hem it and it is ready. You can line your cloak, or leave it unlined, and you can put some decorative touches to it embroider the corners or hems, or, as in this case, you can sew a hand-woven braid on top of it.

Braids were woven using either small heddles for simple patterns or  tablets with holes ( pic.13) – three, four six and eight varieties can be bought from at  any re-enactment fair, and the basics of weaving are easy. http://www.stringpage.com/tw/basictw.html

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heddle weaving

 

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horn tablets for weaving

 

 

Female attire.

 

Similarly to the male garments, women from that period had a lot of choice as far as fabric, colours and decoration was concerned, even though the basic cut remained simple. The layers a wealthy woman would be wearing would be:

Undergown (smoc) – an A line kirtle with tight sleeves, reaching probably all the way to the ground. It was most likely that women would were one in linen (a later chemise or smock) with another one  in wool  over it.   The second layer is often called the overgown as well as the distinctions here seem to be rather blurred. I usually assume that the undergown is the linen or fine wool dress with long narrow sleeves, always reaching to the ground, on top of which you can have the overgown with straight  or flared sleeves.

Overgown proper ( cyrtel) – as mentioned above, a woollen garment with straight sleeves, which In later times started to flare our a bit leading to the long trailing sleeves , particularly evident in the 12th century Norman fashions.

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chartres figures

It could have been lined or unlined – the pictorial evidence seem to suggest that both solutions were used, though contrasting lining would present a nice decoration with  the flared sleeves style.

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The Encomium Emmae Reginae , Queen Emma

As far as length is concerned, again it would be  ground or ankle length- though it is argued that it was indeed sometimes a bit shorter, probably depending on the amount of fabric available – or maybe to show off the contrasting colour of the undergown. Whatever is the case, my client opted for the slightly shorter version. Gowns and undergowns are often shown hitched up over the belt – a practical solution for such a long and voluminous garment!

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New_Minster_Charter_966_detail_Mary

On top would go a mantle- a circular affair in wool, with lots of drape, or, again, for the practical reasons, a rectangular cloak like the men’s one would do the job just as well

Headwear – most women would wear a wimple – a rectangular piece of linen, draped around head   and neck, often secured with a fillet- a braid or metal circlet worn on top. Veils were popular among the ecclesiastical community, but with time secular women would wear a veil and a circlet on braided hair as well- again depictures in later centuries and mostly among Norman fashions.

 

My client opted for a woollen undergown (she already had a linen one) decorated with embroidered bands of silk, a shorter overgown decorated with a woven braid and a rectangular cloak in lovely chequered wool.

I used the following:

3.5 metres of fine, deep aubergine wool

3 metres of red wool

2 metres of chequered wool for the cloak

8 metres of hand-woven braid to decorate the overgown and to serve as a girdle

0.5 m of yellow silk for the neck and cuffs embroidery

Silk yarn for embroidery.

The cut and pattern were almost identical to the men’s tunic, but obviously longer. Also, the overgown sleeves were straight and not narrowing.

For the instructions of how to make the gowns, follow the instructions given in the male attire section – they are the same!

 

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embroidery for the undergown

Here are the two outfits worn by Ian and Kindra at the Norfolk Cathedral Christmas Fair – and don’t they look snug and dashing!

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Kindra getting ready – but the image shows the underdress nicely!

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Bibliography:

 

Anglo-Saxon embroidery  http://medieval.webcon.net.au/loc_england_anglo_saxon.html [Accessed 02/03/2011]

Anglo Saxon England: http://anglosaxonengland.net/rana/docs_files/Anglo-SaxonClothes.pdf [Accessed 01/03/2011]

Basic tablet weaving: http://www.stringpage.com/tw/basictw.html [Accessed 05/03/2011]

Corbis images, documentary  http://www.corbisimages.com/Enlargement/AW003493.html [Accessed 05/03/2011]

Carlson, I. M. (1996-). Some Clothing of the Middle Ages Historical Clothing from Archaeological Finds. Retrieved 10/03/2011, from http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/cloth/bockhome.html

Jane Stockton,Embroidery for Clothing – Anglo-Saxon,http://www.axemoor.net/pdf/1_Embroidery_for_Clothing.pdf [Accessed 02/03/2011]

Joan Clarke, English Costume through the Ages, The English Universities Press LTD, London, 1966

10th and 11th Century Clothing in England: A Portfolio of Images http://www.uvm.edu/~hag/rhuddlan/images/[Accessed 05/03/2011]

 

 

Vikings in Wales…

Image  We have recently been on a short holiday – well, sort of holiday – not much rest and rather a lot of work with 5 planned photo shoots, 4 of which we actually managed to shoot ( weather was uncooperative on one occasion)….. the last day, jut before packing up, we got  a bit of a drier spell so could shoot the vikings – just a few pictures showing some of my old kit, and Lucas’ new bits… We forgot to take loads of funky kits with us ( my new clothes, jewellery, knives etc), but thought it was worth giving it a shot…. so a coat was finished in the morning, and the minute the last stitch was made , the rain eased off and we packed up and drove to the beach…

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tablet woven braid stitched onto the wool using a linen thread

We shot at Freshwater West beach – and the cold wind made it rather challenging, especially since the photographer was also to model the kit…

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Lucas setting up….

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and encountering a few problems…. 🙂

 

but finally we got the equipment working and we could snap a few pics!

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am wearing a linen dress with tablet woven woolen braid, a woolen danish style overdress, with linen braid, and a Rus style coat in wool, lined with fur. the coat is a garage fire survivor – a bit charred, the fur is a bit distorted by heat, and a bit smelly – but still usable….

 

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Lucas opted for Rus style too here – loose trousers, with winnegas, linen tunic and a woolen coat, lined with linen, decorated with a linen braid. and a wig…. :-0

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swapped my coat fora woolen mantle here… on first seeing this picture I had a good laugh at how silly Lucas’ wig looks. and then realised that my hair does not look much better and I am not wearing a wig! 😦

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hair behaving better here…

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braving the cold without any outerwear – a better view of the dresses…

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and a close up of the gear….

 

So,  a pretty basic set of kit, no riches here, but i think we got a few nice images – hope you enjoyed the post!

 

costumes: Prior Attire,

linen braids on Lucas’ coat and my overdress –  Nordulf

my shoes – Slawek Rokita

photography – PItcheresque Imagery

 

 

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