Apprentice Tournament – Samhain

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.

This is Beoaed in his blue silk Killcommon Jacket and Saffron Leine

I also entered his attached braies and hose, which I learned are just called Trews according to the authorities on 16th century Irish Dress.

Most of my documentation came from Mairead Dunlevy – Dress in IrelandH.F. McClinotck – Old Irish & Highland Dress and The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick plates


John Derrick – The image of Irelande (1581)
I had a few major personal accomplishments with this entry.
First off, being able to pull something out of the closet that I made without the intention of entering it in A&S and enter it was a big deal. I had great comments from my judges on this.  It was honestly not something I had really thought about, but like Mistress Katryna said it speaks to where my work is.
Second was distilling my documentation to a single page.  I was having problems finding the happy medium between covering my divergences from period and documenting what was actually period. In the end, with guidance from Mistress Inga, I kept the paperwork simple and elaborated on my process, design and divergences in my oral presentation.
Eventually I would like to do a series of blog posts about later period Irish clothing including some patterns, so keep an eye out!  For now, here is my winning entry from the Samhain A&S competition:


16th Century Irish Clothing – By Adelheid Holtzhauer
·         Blue Silk Jacket in the style found in the Killcommon Bog find.
o    Blue silk outer fabric, linen canvas interlining, white linen lining.
o    Hand sewn with blue and white silk thread
·         Saffron Linen Liene with green and red embroidered seams
o    5.3oz Autum Gold linen from
o    Hand sewn with green silk thread that is deteriorating
o    Repaired with white cotton thread and re-embroidered with green and red cotton
·         Linen underware and trews based on the Killcommon Bog find.
o    5.3oz white linen, green linen, patched with orange linin
o    Handsewn with white cotton thread
During the 16th century, the English were trying to conquer Ireland. Conquering a country included the vanquished accepting the dress of the victors (Dunlevy, 1989, p. 46).  Ireland was divided on acceptance of English rule.  With this divide came some interesting combinations of traditional Irish dress with English fashions.  Depending on how one wished to be viewed, one would dress in different modes or simply mix and match as seen in plate 12 of The Image of Irelande (The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick (London, 1581) – Plates, 2002).
As luxury fabrics became more readily available in Ireland, the Noblemen began to eclipse their women in dressing with vanity in rich fabrics.  In order for the in Dublin Castle encouraged the Irish aristocracy to wear lavish garment by offering expensive fabrics or clothes as gifts.  Acceptance signified acknowledging English rule in Ireland (Dunlevy, 1989, p. 44).  Doublets were known to be made from and lined with expensive fabrics such as satin, velvet, cloth-of-gold. Legs were covered with breeches on the upper legs sewn to stockings below (Dunlevy, 1989, p. 45).
Saffon dye was made from the dried stigmas of the autumn crocus and was considered a distinctly Irish dye and was specifically legislated against by Henry VIII in 1537 (Dunlevy, 1989, pp. 47, 54).  This saffron colour was traditionally believed to protect the wearer from ill health (Dunlevy, 1989, p. 54).
The saffron-dyed linen léine (pl. léinte) had long full sleeves and their jackets were short-waisted with v-necks and hanging sleeves covering the tops of the arms and tied at the wrists (Dunlevy, 1989, pp. 53, 54). There is a misconception about the Irish not wearing trews or leg coverings.  Woodcuts from John Derrick debunk this showing kern wearing fitted leg covers or trews and underwear (The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick (London, 1581) – Plates, 2002).
The mode of dress was described by John Derricke after spending time in Drogheda (Dunlevy, 1989, p. 56):
His skirts be very short
With pleats set thick about
Their shirts be very strange
Not reaching past the thigh
With pleats on pleats they pleated are
As thick as pleats may lie
Whose sleeves hang trailing down
Almost onto the shoe


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).

Léune’s are shown in the print titled “Irish Chieftans” in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford as closed in the front, drawn up through a belt to make them knee length and the resulting pouch around the waist was probably used as a pocket (McClintock, 1950, p. 32).  Later the léine is shown as open in front and the sides fold across the chest, it is also shortened to a length between the hip and knee (McClintock, 1950, p. 41)
The Irish trews found in the Killcommon bog have a drawstring waist, and made of a single piece of fabric joined with a seam and shaped to the waist.  The legs were made with a different fabric with a seam at the back and attached to the body with a seam around the thigh. The bias cut of the lower leg allowed more flexibility in the tight fitting garment (Dunlevy, 1989, pp. 57, 58).
Dunlevy, M. (1989). Dress in Ireland. New York, NY: Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc.
McClintock, H. (1950). Old Irish & Highland Dress. In H. F. McClintock, Old Irish & Highland Dress Second Edition. Dundalk: Dundalgan Press (W. Tempest) Ltd.
The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick (London, 1581) – Plates. (2002, 06 27). Retrieved 11 03, 2016, from Masterpieces from the research collections of Edinburgh University Library: