Just a little update. It’s been a long time since I’ve done any sewing. I am not sure if I was burned out, or frustrated with my ever-changing size, or something else. But this weekend, dear friends of mine won Crown and another was put on Vigil for the Order of Chivalry. This means I get a make a whole ton of viking garb. This excites me huge! Onward and upward to stitching. I will try to keep track of the plans and progress here.
There are some persistent assumptions myths among historical costumers regarding clothing colours. Fictions such as purple was only worn by Royalty, or pink is not an achievable colour in period continue to be handed down from one costumer to another.
It has recently come to my attention that there are some persistent
assumptions myths among historical costumers regarding clothing colours. Fictions such as purple was only worn by Royalty, or pink is not an achievable colour in period continue to be handed down from one costumer to another.
If the goller on the girl in Virgin and Child with Saint Anne Artist: Albrecht Dürer (German, Nuremberg 1471–1528 Nuremberg) from the Met isn’t pink, I’m a monkeys uncle.
Often these tidbits are passed on with little thought to their veracity or how much harm they are doing the costuming community.
One of these “facts” recently came to me from a very reliable source (as in, they’ve written books on the subject matter and are professional historical costumers specializing in 16th century England). This “fact” was that blue was not a common colour in period and that only servants wore blue. Since no one would want to be confused with a servant, no one wore blue who didn’t have to. Well, I can think of more then a few images of blue gowns in 16th Century German art and I’ve made a few myself. The article Dressed in Blue: The Impart of Woad on English Clothing, c. 1350-c. 1670 by Maria Hayward addresses these assertions and assumptions using many period sources to support her claims.
Summary and points of interest:
- In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, blue was so popular that dyers specializing in other colours launched a smear campaign against it.
- Despite high import value and traffic, only 5% of extant pieces of textile were dyed with woad, indicating that either woad dyed textiles were less popular then trade suggests or it’s hard to detect.
- The York livery colours were blue and murrey. Ms. Hayward speculates that this may have caused blue to go out of fashion during the reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII and Edward VI. Those monarchs would want to distance the House of Tudor from the House of York.
- The French love affair with the colour blue remained constant throughout the time covered. The author cites the twelve French Ambassadors attending Henry and Anne Boleyns wedding having worn an abundance of blue velvet and silk.
- The decline in blue worn by the nobility can be directly linked to the decline in wool worn by that class of persons. The colour never went totally out of fashion, it transitioned out of everyday ware and into costumes and uniforms using more expensive fabrics such as silks and velvets.
- Although blue wasn’t worn by the monarchy, other members of the aristocracy are noted for it, especially in their household staff. Often the closest staff of the nobility were minor aristocrats in their own right.
- By the Seventeenth century, city constables, town watches, and apprentices are all noted for blue apparel and uniforms.
- Apparently the term “Blue Collar worker” goes back much farther then I originally realized.
- Blue represented Loyalty in a highly superstitious world.
- Court entertainment often included the colour blue in it’s costuming. The Blue Knight was a feature in tournaments beginning in the mid 14th century. The concept was so well entrenched that even Henry VIII and his team wore blue uniforms on the tilt yard in 1511, 1516 and 1524.
- Later Masques became all the rage for court entertainment. Blue was a common colour seen in those costumes. It was said to look good in candlelight and often signified the ideals of Chivalry.
Vestments for the clergy were often blue even at the highest level of noble clergy.
Ms. Hayward addresses the cycle of popularity of the colour blue in the late middle ages and early modern era of England in a straight forward manner. She neither attempts to convince the reader that blue was or was not fashionable but instead provides documentation of who was wearing it, when and why. This paper provides a very solid basis for further research into the use of the colour Blue and it’s fashionableness across England and beyond.
Aprons can be seen everywhere, on everyone in the 15 and 16th Centuries. Worn by both men and women at work and at play, they appear to be a standard attire throughout the early modern era.
Worn by the lowest classes as working garments to offer some protection for their dearly owned clothing underneath, aprons were also worn by the highest classes as a show of status in extravagant embellishment and fine work. Even women of the gentry would need some protection of their clothing when doing the various household tasks not trusted to the staff.
Clothing cost money. Lots of money. The poorer classes would have 2 maybe 3 outfits. One for church, one for the rest of the time. They ate, drank, worked, and even slept in the same small wardrobe. In order to maintain the best condition of their clothing, protective layers (both inside and out) were made of cheaper materials. Items such as the hemd (English: smock, Italian: chemise) and the schürze (English: apron) were generally made from linen and served this purpose. I believe there are some records of wool aprons, but I am lacking a citation at the moment. It would make sense, since wool was nearly as cost effective as linen, although harder to clean.
Aprons in 16th century Germany are standard to a few different styles. I will explore these designs in detail in future posts. For now I will refer to them as “Front Aprons”, “Full Aprons” and “Shoulder Suspended”
Aprons were often smocked with either basic or elaborate embroidery, displayed cutwork and pulled thread work. The colours ranged from undyed to black, reds, blues, greens and yellows can be found in imagery of the time. Most often, aprons were white presumably for ease of cleaning and re-bleaching for reuse.
Like head coverings, aprons are something we often neglect in our portrayals of persons in history. In our modern recreations of historical dress, we go for the flashy, big picture. Accessories are the details that blur the lines and make our garb more authentic and feel more real.
Like most tournament formats in the SCA, A&S competitions usually follow a fairly standard format. “Enter ‘x’ pieces with some level of documentation and be adjudicated according to the level of competition”. Over the past few years, there as been a shift in A&S activities from the standard in order to draw in more participation. I’ve seen, run and/or participated in “unfinished projects”, round tables, and show & shine formats. Recently at Samhain in Montengarde the A&S champion ran a format that I could both participate in with ease and challenged my documentation. The theme was Irish (there were other categories, Irish is the one I entered) and there was a 1 page limit on documentation. I conveniently had a Beoaed on hand whose garb we’ve been working to make more authentic.
I also entered his attached braies and hose, which I learned are just called Trews according to the authorities on 16th century Irish Dress.
This description is corroborated by William Camden in 1589 who described the dress of the kerns as large linen tunics with wide sleeves hanging down to their knees which were generally dyed with saffron; short woolen jerkins, and simple close fitted trews. It is also backed up by the suit of clothing found in Kilcommon bog near Thurles Co. Tipperary (Dunlevy, 1989, p. 57).
As I said in a previous post, some friends of mine did an thing, that thing allowed me to step out of my 16th C costuming head and jump into 10th C for a bit. The time between Arnsbjorn winning Crown to Coronation was very short. Normally heirs have 8-12 weeks to prepare for their step up, because of changing calendar schedules, Arnsbjorn and Inga only had 4 weeks. “Simple” you might say for a viking step up, its all rectangles and nothing is fitted. You’d be wrong. Inga wanted a simple apron dress, undergown, and a front panel. Most of her “wow” would be in bling and beauties applied to the garments. Arnsbjorn needed a whole new outfit; he spends most of his SCA time working on domestic things or wearing fight kit.
Most of the fabric’s for both outfits came from mine and Inga’s fabric stash. The problem was that the red linen in my stash is not the colour of red they wanted. 1.5 weeks into the process, they ordered some more linen from Fabric-Store. From the sample card Inga has, they thought they wanted the Redwood in IL019 (5.3oz 100% linen). On a whim they also ordered Crimson in the same weight.
Shipping between Canada and the USA can be a challenge. Customs and international borders delay deliveries and we couldn’t afford a delay. Even shipping priority USPS (recommended by the retailer) the Linen didn’t arrive until 10 business days after being ordered. This put us 1 week away from Coronation with the fabric still “on the bolt”.
When the linen’s arrived, the Redwood was much more orange then the same card or image online. Thankfully the Crimson was much closer to their choice and we went with that. The Redwood was a good tone for Sigurd’s coat (created by Inga and Brangwyn).
Arnsbjorn wanted something different. Below is the inspiration image.
|From a Calendar (sorry no proper citation, not my calendar)|
|Arnsbjorn at Coronation, photo courtesy Beothuk on Flickr|
|Tablet trim on yellow band|
|Arnsbjron at Coronation
Photo by Beothuk on Flickr
Despite only being at the start of my apron research, I really need a new apron. I’ve been working on one for months now. It’s been set aside many times in favour of commissions and other priorities. But I find myself with idle hands today. Here is a small tease of what is to come.
|Detailing of Smocking on Apron|
All good intentions seem to lead down the road to hell. Or at least Valhalla.
Friends of mine went and did a thing, so I will be taking a short hiatus from my 16th Century costuming to work on their very period Norse stuff. They have visions, I get to make them reality!
I hear all the time about how easy rectangular construction is… this is embellished truth. I also hear about how viking’s are all the same …. an outright lie. Or how “its all about the embroidery and jewelry”… whoever said that didn’t have 4 weeks to turn around full outfits! I find rectangular construction just as challenging as fitted garments. Mostly I psyche myself out thinking they are so easy and make stupid little mistakes. We will get to those later.
As mentioned, 4 weeks to turn around the following:
Viking Womans undergown – White Linen
Viking Mans undertunic w/ side collar closure – White Linen
Viking Womans gown embllishments – Yellow Linen
Viking apron dress – Red Linen
Viking coat – Red Linen
|Inga’s undergown pattern, including incorrect body measurement|
I started with patterns, since neither had a good pattern that fit. I took a few existing garments and pulled measurements. **Note** When taking a pattern, make sure you’re measuring often and on flat surfaces. Measure again before cutting. I measured and then cut the body of the womans gown too small and it had to be remade… Why do I find body blocks and fitted patterns so much easier!
|Arnsbjorn’s shirt pattern. Sans underarm gussets.|
I wish I could say there was 3 dimensional measuring and math involved, but there really wasn’t. Just a measuring tape and a flat surface, pencil and paper. Once I had the measurements rough sketched, I plotted them on graph paper and started cutting.
All seams were assembled by machine, and finished in either a pressed flat open seam or run and fell seam, whipstitched down. I am particularly proud of how my gores and gussets went in.
|Inset gore at front of Inga’s gown.|
Keep an eye on this space for a tutorial on how to inset gores without the help of a convenient seam.