Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fit is my Friend

On a whim, I tried on an old bright orange dress that I always felt comfortable in to see how it fit with my belly. It's a cotton cotehardie, with lacing up the back, that my mom had made as a template for my wedding dress. It was made to fit over my wedding underwear- a push-up bra and belly-shaper, so I figured that, out of all my dresses, it would be the most fitted. The dress looked very good, hugging my bust in just the right way, and flowing perfectly over my belly with out a loss of length in the front. I wore a bra that I rarely wear that I've designated my "garb" bra. It made a big difference to the look.

I wore that same bra at Kingdom A&S today under my pale green pseudo-burgundian (the one I'm wearing in my blog photo on the right). I didn't get any pictures of me in it today, but I felt that I looked a bit more supported, which is definately what I'm going for. I also experimented with a semi 15th century headdress that I threw together last minute using some random pieces I had in my accessory box (or my "Box-of-Tricks", as I call it). I placed a long sheer veil over my head at about the halfway point (so that the front drapped down in front of my face to about mid-bust), then placed a fur-covered circlet-type thing over that, then folded the front of the veil back over it. I then pinned the front corners together to try to hide my hair. It was a bit odd, but overall it worked, and nobody looked at me funny- which is always a good thing!

On a completely different note, I have stumbled upon another idea for breast support in my continued research on 15th century garb- breast binding. I had always associated breast binding with women desiring to hide their gender (i.e. Joan of Arc), but after reading this article, and finding another mention of breast binding on Marie Chantal Cadieux's site, I decided that the practice might be practical for a woman as shapely as I. I will need to experiment to find out what thickness the band should be to be effective and comfortable. I would say that 3 inches wide is a good starting point. I'll purchase a cheap bead sheet and cut two strips from that, then sew one of the ends together to give me a good amount of length.

I purchased the prettiest pale teal wool today to use for my front-laced kirtle. It's 60 in wide, so I only brought 4 yards, but that should be plenty. My mother, Elspeth, and I have never really been all that interested in making garb with authentic materials in the past, but she and I have both gotten to a point in our SCA career that it seems appropriate to start. I did have a wool dress in my early SCA days, but I don't believe that was 100% wool. Since then, the closest I've gotten is a linen/rayon blend. I brought several different colors of it when it was on sale, so I've got a couple dresses of it. It looks like linen, but it doesn't quite hang like linen- it's a bit heavier.
So the 100% wool is a big step for me. I love the color- I think it will look good against my skin tone and bring out the green in my eyes. I was going to get the lightweight white linen for the smock/chemise, but that was too close to breaking the bank. I'll just keep my eyes open in the fall for white linen at the local fabric store instead. I think a maroon or plum color would look perfect with the teal, so I'll look for that to make the placket and sleeves.

Lastly, I've completed the re-sizing of my Elizabethan coif. I missed a long section of the band when I stitched the final side, so I have to go back and fix it, but it's essentially complete. I don't currently have any appropriate outfit to wear it with, and I just cut my hair, so it will have to go in my Box-of-Tricks for now. By the time my hair has grown out, I should have my Flemish working dress complete to wear it with. Gotta have the baby first, though.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bigger head than I thought

So I worked on my Elizabethan cap at Coronation yesterday and got midway through it when it occurred to me that I had not double checked my sizing. Thus I ended up with something way too small. I completed it anyway, just to get an idea of how it goes together. Except for the size, it turned out nearly perfect. I had intended it to be reversible, but didn't pay attention to where my whip stitching was on the other side. Since it was too small to wear, I turned it into a pouch for holding some of my sewing supplies and tied it to my basket. Here are some photos:

Sewing the band onto the cap.

The band is sewn all the way around on one side; checking to see how it looks. This is when I realized it was too small. You can tell how windy it was by looking at the loose threads!

The completed cap; this shows where the band is stitched together. My hand shows the scale- clearly the cap is too small.

The cap turned into a pouch. I just cut two small slits on the inside band and pulled some seam-binding I had through it. I used some embroidery floss to stitch around the holes so they won't tear or fray. It's a bit big for a pouch, but there's nothing else the cap is good for! Now I know to sew the band into a hoop at the right size before I sew the circle to it. I'll also need to be more careful when I stitch the other side of the band to keep the whole thing reversible.

Garb-wise, I had the chance to wear viking garb for the first time in my nearly 12-year SCA career. My husband, Dearg, is researching a viking persona, and as Lutr and Tessa are both viking as well, it seemed appropriate that we go in viking. My mother, Elspeth, made all three outfits. She had the beads and belt all worked out, but I didn't have time, so I look a bit plain. I wore a different bra than I normally do, so my bust was well supported. My underdress and smock are modified to accommodate my growing belly, but the apron dress is cut fairly close. I was warm inside, but it was the perfect weight for when we sat outside. Here's a photo of the three of us:

I love the coifs mom made. She embroidered a modification of my device around the front edge (she did the same to hers). I had it tied back most of the day, especially when we were sitting in the wind while we watched the fighting. The photo is so bright you can't really tell, but my underdress is pink. Dearg and I matched- he wore brown and gray plaid pants. You can see that beads would have made a big difference to my dress, but all-in-all, I felt that I looked pretty good. The important thing is that I was comfortable.

So I've got a few weeks before the next event, Crown Tournament. I'll probably wear my fancier Burgundian on Saturday. We'll be bringing in a new member to our household, Clan Bredi. Then I'll wear my lighter Burgundian on Sunday. Between now and then, I'll try that cap again.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Focusing on my Head

One of the things I wish we saw more of in the Society is headdress. There are only a handful of time periods/regions that did not embrace the need to cover the head in pre-17th century Europe, so why do we not see more headgear? Part of the reason, I'm sure, is that most people, especially women, think that wearing a headdress beyond the simple veil or coif is impractical. That's true to a certain extent. The largest and most cumbersome of medieval headdresses were worn by upper class women who had little to do in the day, while many the modern medieval woman is a flurry of activity during events. I feel, however, that this is a cop-out. The real reason probably has something to do with patience (or lack there of). Putting one's tresses into a headdress is not a quick task, and when all you want to do is get into the event and start forgetting about the modern world, the task doesn't seem all that important.

However, there are several good, quick, headdresses out there. The french hood, the henin and veil (the henin need not be a mile high), and cauls (whether they are exactly period or not) are all good headdresses that are easy to assemble onto the head and wear throughout the day. In the summer sun, straw hats worn with snoods, coifs or caps are appropriate and period. Even the simple veil can be enhanced with the addition of a fillet and barbette (which is how the veil should be worn to look right- see this article).

I can't speak too loudly here, for I must admit that I don't always wear a headdress. My excuse is that if I'm going to make and wear a headdress, I want to make and wear it right. This means that I need to have good materials- something I am consistently lacking.

But not today! In researching Flemish garb, I decided that my limited sewing skills and lack of sewing machine did not prevent me from attempting to construct an Elizabethan cap. While I am at Coronation this weekend, I intend on hand sewing the cap together. I may do some embroidery on the band first, if I can find my embroidery floss. I will post photos on Sunday if I accomplish this task. The funny thing is that I'll be wearing my new Viking garb this weekend. Talk about anachronistic.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The biggest boob(s) in the SCA

I am now 6 months pregnant, and though it has taken some time for my plus-size frame to look more like I'm carrying a child than a baker's dozen of doughnuts, I've found it quite difficult to feel good in the garb that I wear. Part of this issue is that my tailor, my lovely mother, Elspeth, has not had the fortune of fitting many pregnant women with clothing, and would much rather over-estimate how much my belly will grow than have to construct new garb every two months. This is not something I can blame her for, obviously, but the effect of the over-compensation is moderately flattering at best.

My biggest issue (no pun intended) is my quite ample chest. I sported a large bust even before I became pregnant, but now I push the limits of a DDD cup. On the whole, due to diet and exercise, medieval women never had the fortune of having a larger bust size than hip size, so it is nearly impossible to look at any period garment and say "Oh, I can really see myself in this." Most often, I feel good in the dresses I wear, but when I spot myself in a mirror, or I see a photo of myself, I instantly feel that my breasts overwhelm and the look is not at all period.

I have discovered lately, through my new interest in Flemish garb, that this issue can be solved with something I appear to be lacking- ample support. This, however, is a difficult solution given my current condition. I will not be wearing a corset any time soon (nor am I likely to go that route even after my son is born), but apparently my padded mundane bra is not going to do the trick on its own. My prevailing thought now is that if I can lift and support my breasts properly, it will be much easier for the casual observer to realize that I'm pregnant and not just putting on weight- something I have wished for throughout my pregnancy.

This need for better support, and my extensive searching for Flemish garb, has led me to one easy change I feel my wardrobe must make- more fitted garments. Previously, like most SCAdian women, my dress of choice has been the cotehardie. It took several attempts before my mother found the right pattern for my body shape, but we have discovered that even before pregnancy, my weight is constantly in shift. This has caused most of my cotehardies to be made with the same loose fit, to accommodate anything that my body decided to do. This became clearly obvious to me this past weekend when I was able to wear one of these cotehardies and experienced no tightness around my belly. In fact, even my bust had room. This demonstrated to me that my cotehardies are too big- in general, even for pregnancy. The premise of the cotehardie is to provide support, and every period example of this sort of dress shows it cut tight to the body- almost as though it's acting like a modern girdle. Though we wear them as outer garments in the SCA, cotehardies are, for all intents and purposes, underwear; doing the same job as a bra.

The 14th and 15th century equivalent to the cotehardie for the Flemish is the kirtle, which appears to be appropriate for both under and outer wear in the 14th century. I have found many examples of front laced kirtles that I find very attractive and useful (as I intend to breast feed). Two such examples I reference often are Marie Chantal Cadieux's kirtles found here, and Matilda la Zouche's kirtle found here. I have yet to determine if one of these dresses can look right with a baby belly, but this will no doubt be my first dress post-pregnancy. Until then, I will see if any of my current garb can be modified to provide the support I so desperately lack.