Thursday, February 21, 2013


I'm at the awkward stage. You know the one where you have 80% of the knowledge, but only 20% of the tools. It's pretty frustrating, and somehow comforting myself by saying "but at least I know what's right" isn't working.

My wardrobe of garb has been dramatically improved, particularly over the course of last year, but it's still falling short. It's a bit mismatched. And even more frustrating is that my extensive headdress collection is partly to blame. It's not as extensive, I see now, as it needs to be. Or rather, it's extensive in the wrong way.

I enjoy having a variety of things to put on my head. I also use many of the items in my hat box as props for teaching. I enjoy the process of imitating the looks found in period art, and the sometimes long testing sessions that come with that line of research. Due to this, my head accoutrement collection now fills 3 boxes. Unfortunately, this penchant for covering my head has resulted in a disproportionate number of headdress that I don't actually wear to events.

My 15th century headdress options are particularly lacking. Which is stupid (to be blunt with myself), since 15th century headdress is, in a research sense, my forte. Also, my three main dresses at the moment are all 15th century garments. As a student of 15th century clothing, I feel a bit hypocritical to show up at an event wearing a noblewoman's gown with a peasant woman's hood. The best excuse I can give is that at 11pm Friday night, it was the lesser of two evils. I could have either felt like a goober trapped in personal class warfare, or like a goober with mismatched periods.

Goober, or not, I has happy to be by my husband's side,

I didn't look terrible, and I have to remind myself that the vast majority of people around me couldn't have cared less about how mismatched I was, but the fact of the matter is that I was bothered by it.

This upcoming spring and summer offer me a particular challenge I have not had the opportunity yet to experience- serious garb preparing for Pennsic War. It's been 10 years since I last enjoyed the atmosphere of Coopers Lake strewn with pavilions, and I've changed quite a bit in that time. For starters, I feel much more compelled these days to make sure that my husband and I have a great selection of well-made garb ready so that we don't have to compromise on our personas simply to get through the week.

Which brings me back to the issue at hand- my mismatched wardrobe. If I have any hope of feeling like I've accomplished the task of dressing well for that week in July, then it's crucial that I take experiences like this past weekend to heart, and evaluate what lesson they taught me. And right now, the lesson is to sit down, mentally permutate my garb options, and start finding the solution for the gaps I find.

The interesting thing about doing that is that there are two sides to the coin. On the one hand, I can look at my dresses, create outfits with them and figure out what appropriate headdress I'm lacking. Or, I can look at my headdress in conjunction with my dresses to determine if there are dresses or gowns that I'm lacking. The possibilities are pretty vast. Especially if I open myself up to looking beyond the outfits I can create today, and think about outfits I'd like to be able to create for Pennsic.

Of course, this borders awfully close to that whole "planning" bit I wished to steer away from this year. I suppose I can justify that by pointing out to myself that it was a lack of planning that resulted in me wearing a hood with a noble woman's gown in the first place.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Research for 2013

A few months back, I decided that I was going to nix the outfit component of my "Garb Quest"A&S entry and concentrate instead on submitting a research paper. I've struggled for a long time, since making that decision, on what exactly I wanted the topic of the paper to be. I knew that I did not wish to deviate too far from my interest in early 15th century women's clothing, but beyond that, I wasn't in love with any of the ideas I'd come up with. Until now.

I've looked at a lot of manuscript images from my chosen time period of the first half of the 15th century, and the more I've looked, the more I've began to perceive that women's clothing depictions from this time begin to look a bit cookie-cutter. Which is a bit odd, considering that illumination styles had reached a turning point in the 15th century with their heavier leaning toward realism. With this new way of depiction, one would think that illuminators would jump at the opportunity to paint any score of unique outfits, just for the opportunity to depict something new in a medium that was finally ready to show it off. So why should the opposite start to appear to be true? Or is it not true, and this "standardization" of women's depictions is merely a side effect of unstructured observation? Just the mind trying to categorize and make sense of each image against the rest by attaching commonalities to each, despite more key differences. True or not, however, what sort of class and culture information can we glean from making those categorical distinctions more clear?

I won't go into all the details here (since that's what the paper is for!), but basically, I've selected 5 manuscripts, all from France (including 1 from Flanders) and all produced between 1400 and 1435. Each one of these manuscripts offers a variety of depictions of women, of all classes. I will attempt to sort each of these depictions (my initial estimate is 250 total depictions) into "style" classes. Once the styles have been identified and counted, I'll be able to first state if that "cookie-cutter" perception is valid, then share my findings in a type of early 15th century "Look Book", which can then be used for deeper costume study.

I'm super excited about this project. No matter what I find with this survey, it's the type of analytical research I can really sink my Capricorn teeth into!