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.

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