Monday, August 24, 2009

Medieval Do's & Don'ts

I've got several projects I should be working on, but there is absolutely no interest in my bones right now. So instead, I present The Compleatly Dressed Anachronist's Medieval Garb Do's & Don'ts (sorry, I've been reading Glamour magazine lately....).

Don't use fashion history books that rely on artist's renderings for your garb research, unless they back up their drawings with period images. Especially steer clear of Victorian-era fashion histories. 
Do take a look at period images to get inspiration for your next garb project.  There are many sources online, but I find that a Google image search usually gets me started in the right direction.

Don't worry if you can't afford 100% natural materials for your garb. Instead,
Do keep an eye out at your local fabric store for natural materials blended with a less costly fiber. When I'm on a budget, I go for the 45% linen/55% rayon "linen look" fabric. 

Don't base your garb on what you see other people wearing. Everyone puts their own personal spin on their garb, and some people really don't know what they're doing.
Do ask others for the sources they used for their garb, and be sure to tell them what you like about their outfit.  There's nothing like the jolt of confidence a compliment gives a person.

Don't bother washing your hair before an event...
Do make, barter for or purchase at least 1 good linen veil.  I can think of 6 ways to wear one off the top of my head, and all of them require nothing more than a few straight pins.

Speaking of headdress, Don't underestimate how far less than a yard of fabric can go.  Most hats can be made with very little material.
Do be sure, however, to measure twice, cut once.

On behalf of all those women actually doing it right, Don't use "Middle Eastern" as an excuse to wear barely-there garb.  
Do know that chances are good that the kind of men you're going to hang out with in a medieval group are more likely to be turned on by not being able to see your knees.

Don't use movies as sources.  Generally speaking, movie costumes are props- they are not constructed the same as a daily-wear outfit is.  They can be great inspiration, though, so
Do research period versions of movie costumes to separate fiction from reality.

Along that same line, Don't, and this is a huge don't, use crushed velvet, metallic fabrics, lycra/spandex, pleather or jersey (knit) for serious garb.  You won't be taken seriously.
Also, Do invest in appropriate underwear.  Whether you can do period or not, the proper undergarments make all the difference to the look of your outfit. 

Finally Don't be afraid to take pictures of your progress while making garb.  You'll be happy to have the visual references as you make your garb- they can clue you in to issues you may not see otherwise.
Do take a look at the hundreds of dress diaries and garb-related blogs on the web for ideas, inspiration and research assistance.  I hope The Compleatly Dressed Anachronist has done so for you, and thank you for reading!