Ok, so not everybody can afford a steel-clad jouster on a white horse as a fashion accessory – but don’t worry, there are ways around it:-)
So far, in our Looking the Part series, we have covered the foundation garments in Part 1, and make up and hairstyles in Part 2. Part 3, as can be quite safely inferred from the title, will be about accessorizing – but not only…
Please bear in mind, that I speak from a professional historical interpreter’s perspective – these posts are offered as generic advice only and you can choose which you may want to incorporate in your job or hobby. You can be as historically authentic or as fantasy as you want – simply choose the tips that would apply to you, and help you to create a convincing persona or character.
And so, let us start, with a truly vital element of every costume .. shoes
Not so much an accessory,but utterly indispensable for most folks – unless you are happy to run around barefoot in peasant gear ( done that, great fun!). Alas, good shoes and boots are not cheap – but it really is worth to save up for a few months and get a decent pair – and they will last you long, especially if you cover several periods, or dot need to wear them for days at a time. Most of the early footwear can have the simple advantage of lasting longer as you can often simply get a new sole fitted to your shoe.
Key things to remember:
*Wear shoes suitable to the historical period – but also to your status, occasion and weather: Riding boots are rarely appropriate for ballroom; court shoes will be useless on a campaign; if re-enacting medieval styles, it is a good idea to invest in pattens, if you work in a wet climate ( most of the UK then! :-). They are not only a nice accessory that attracts public attention, they are fantastic means of saving your fancy thin leather slippers from the mud!
* If you work in costume, or at least spend a lot if time in kit, do invest in shoes that fit. Banal, yes, but somehow many of us tends to economize and usually go for cheaper pair that sort of fits, instead of spending a few pounds more and getting a better pair, or a bespoke on. I It is simply not worth the pain – as I suppose most of re-enactors learnt the hard way!
* Before buying – do your research. Quality providers of historical footwear will always be able to show you the sources they used for the design on the shoe. Before you decide on style, do your homework and check online, or in books, what shapes, heels, colours were used in the given period. Don’t go for cheap copies based on ‘general knowledge of the period’ – if you are interpreting and talking to the public, you will be surprised how often shoes are on the agenda…. Also, make sure that the workmanship is decent – shoes that look right but are shoddily made will not be of much use. if you can, get your footwear from a recommended supplier.
* Take care of your shoes – remove mud, use grease, or shoe polish as often as needed – that simple and obvious step will prolong the life of leather, prevent cracks etc.
Shoe providers I have used and can recommend:
American Duchess – doesn’t really need introduction – covering 18th to early 20th century designs, great shoes at affordable prices. Love my Victorian Tavistocks, and am saving up for a couple of more pairs. …
Andy Burke – one of the top UK suppliers, great quality work – many styles available for a variety of budgets. I have my 12th century shoes from him – not the cheapest, but very comfy!
NP HIstorical shoes – lovely work, haven’t bought any from them yet, but inspected, and admired several times at different markets
Pilgrim Shoes – quality shoes on budget – my Tudor shoes are from her, they are great fit and have so far served me well for the last 6 years.
U szewca – Polish guys – my 17th century shoes and Cavalry bucket tops are form them… They do ship abroad, drop them a line! both pairs were made to measure, and are very comfortable and durable – I still use the shoes, some 10 years later – same goes for the bucket tops ( though they recently died in our garage fire – so will be ordering a new pair)
2. Hats – we already covered hats while talking about hair in the Part 2 , so just a reminder – wear them! Hats, hoods, bonnets etc are not only great for completing the period look – they also serve a function as they protect from the sun, rain, cold etc. They also help hide a bad hair day…. 🙂
As to obtaining the hats etc – the same key point apply – make sure it is appropriate for the period, status; ensure the supplier is trustworthy – if possible use recommended companies. Do your research as well….
Providers – since I make most of my own hats ( Prior Attire ), I rarely buy them – but i have recently treated myself to a lovely hat from Sherri Light ( Farthingale HIstorical Hats) – my friends also buy from her, and I often admire her designs at the markets:-)
I am not a fan of jewellery normally – indeed the only bling I wear is my engagement and wedding ring – had that for a couple of years, the longest any of my jewellery items has survived… the reason is simple – I do a lot of sports and earnings, bracelets etc are a bit of a hindrance – or danger even when you do martial arts or horse riding.
However, I have accumulated some historical bling over the years ( not near enough though!) and I do wear it if I re-enact a wealthy character. Not much point having clothes it for a queen and then skimp on necklace, earrings, ouches and rings, isn’t it? this is the area I am most deficient in, but am slowly catching up!
So if you want posh, get your bling – and bear in mind that items like surface decoration, pater nosters, pomanders, decorative hat pins or tiaras count as well!
Provider I have used in the past – Gemmus – lovely work!
4. other stuff.
And there we have a number of not only decorative but also useful items:
* fans – look great, useful in hot weather and perfect for demonstrating the secret language of the fan…..
* walking sticks – great accessory – looks fantastic, provides support when your legs are tired, and can be used as a weapon… 🙂
*gloves – in many periods a must – but also keep your hands warm ( and clean).
*muffs – fantastic for colder weather
* bags, purses,pouches, reticules- you name it. Look period, are practical ( make sure they are big enough for a hankie, car keys and a mobile phone 🙂
* umbrellas and parasols
*belts, girdles etc – goes without saying really 🙂
*keys ( chatelaines)
*tools – medieval scissors hanging from the belt, a viking needle case, etc – range of styles and options through the ages, depending on the profession represented!
* weaponry ( mostly for men in this case, but not always)!
* no doubt many others….
a good accessory is not only great for the look and comfort – but they also serve an additional purse – a perfect conversational gambit, essential when dealing with members of the public.
hope you have enjoyed the mini series – and hope it may be useful to at least some 🙂
One final remark – a perfect frock, on perfect underwear, impeccable hair and all the accessories required will count for nothing if your behaviour is not suitable to the portrayed persona. If it is a social event, closed to the public – hell, free rein! but if you are working at a living history event, do mind your manners – and mannerism of the era too! Queens rarely ran around barefooted with flowing tresses, chased by scantily clad youths; ladies rarely swore; gentlemen treated ladies with respect ( at least in public!); servants did not treat their betters as equals – and so on and so forth. It is impossible to be 100% authentic in your behavior, language, mien etc – but we can at least try and eliminate the most obvious things! 🙂