Sunday, August 21, 2016

Through the Paces

Two weeks ago, I packed up nearly all of my garb, went camping at Pennsic, and put my kit through its paces. It was hot, rainy and muggy. In order to get through the week, I had to mostly use my older garb- the linen dresses I'd packed along with two of my lighter-weight wool dresses. To make the most of it, and to convince myself that it was okay to use these older pieces, I used my new chemise when I could, and I made a plan for how to mix and match what I packed.

My original Pennsic garb plan in the works.
I had searched my collection of manuscript images for ones that I could easily recreate, at least in general color and style. This turned out to be a lot easier than I had imagined. I assigned one image to each day. I accounted for repeating gowns to limit how many I needed. I knew there would probably be a day or two when I would throw my planned outfit out. And it worked beautifully. Only the last day in garb, when everything was already gross, and I just wanted to be dresses, did I totally not care about my plan.

I want to keep moving forward with improving my garb. It's great that I made what I had work for me, but I don't want to use that as an excuse to stop. So I evaluated my kit, just as I had done last year, to see what I learned and where improvements need to be made. Here's what I've got:

1. My new chemise is not quite there yet.

I put my new linen supportive chemise through its paces. It ended up being worn 4 out of the 7 days I was in garb (with one day of airing out in between). I'm incredibly happy to report that it did not fail. Even on day 7, it was still doing the job (though some minor *ahem* adjustments were needed throughout the day.) I can't begin to express how amazing that is in my world.

Wearing it so much, however, pointed out some of the problems that need to be addressed. First, by the end of the week, my bust shape was much more uni-boob than I care for. I think some strategic curvature in the center front seam will correct that. I think that problem had always been there, but it wasn't until the linen loosened all the way that I really took notice.

Second, and the more urgent issue, the neckline is too small. This one thing, above everything else, effected how I liked or didn't like the outfits I was able to assemble. On a few days, I simply had to let go of my preference for not having my chemise show. No matter what I did, it was going to poke out. The wider necklines of the dresses I made a year ago are better necklines. They look more accurate, and are more flattering. So if this new chemise pattern is going to work for me, it needs a wider neckline.

I had sewn together but didn't wear a second chemise. This new one is identical except that it uses a front lacing. I didn't wear it because I ended up not getting the neckline sewn. Which provides me with the opportunity now to make the neckline adjustment I need. It will involve piecing new shoulders on, but I think it's worth running through that experiment on what I already have before moving on to a new chemise with these adjustments built in.

2. Lightweight wool is no worse than lined linen.

For a brief time toward the end of the week, when it had gotten the hottest, I questioned whether I should make more linen dresses. Linen is, after all, great for hot weather. Then I reminded myself that on some days that week I may have been better off in a linen chemise and a worsted wool supportive cote, and I would have looked just as nice, if not better.

I get it that when you're trudging across the battlefield in four layers, on a day in which all martial activities have been called off, anything other than naked sounds like a really bad idea. I needed to process that and remind myself that my desire to move to a mostly wool wardrobe is still valid. And still what I want to do. Linen may be great for hot, but it's not any greater for hot and humid as wool is, and it's not going to serve me as well in the winter as it is in the summer.

3. Sleeping Garb still needs to happen. 

Before leaving for Pennsic, I had managed to get a new linen sleeping shirt made. I had screwed up the sizing, and it ended up large and sort of weird. I did wear it at night, however, and was mostly comfortable in it.

It ended up being nicely cool at night (after the first night, which was so cold compared to the day, my body went into a sort of shock in which I could not stop shivering.) So it wasn't the sleeping portion of the garb that was any real problem. It was the coming out of the pavilion, being among people part that still wasn't ideal.

The shirt needs modification- primarily taking in, and perhaps an adjustment to the neckline. The wool tunic still needs to happen. But additionally, I need to come up with a comfortable solution for support, so that when I'm no longer in bed, I don't feel awkward. This may come in the form of a loose Lengberg-type bra. It will definitely need more thought.

There are other, little things that are harder to write out. I'm constantly aware of the way I feel in my garb, and sensitive to the impression it makes about me on others. As I move forward with new clothing, I want to be more open to the ways that my garb can reflect a bit more of my personality. I hope people can perceive who I might really be when I'm walking past them at the merchants, or sitting at a table eating a danish with coffee in the early morning, or sitting on the ground near the battlefield, or walking with friends. It's fun to match the manuscripts, and to understand what may be more correct or more period, but in the end, these are my clothes, and I am me, not just a made-up persona. At some point genuine character and care for authentic representation have to come to an agreement to not snuff the other out.

In case you missed it, you can see my week of selfies with glimpses at what I wore each day at Pennsic via Facebook #whatedythwore. There's also a video I put together with little snippets of what was going on throughout the week available to view on my Facebook page.

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