Sunday, April 8, 2018

Some Things I'm Not Authentic About (Yet)

I'm often told at events some variation of the compliment that people admire that I don't slack off too often on my medieval appearance standards at events. While that's true, it has struck me that there are a handful of things that not only do I not really do all that authentically, but also I haven't really given too much thought to trying to be more authentic about them.

Since I don't do actual living history, and I've got the "reasonable attempt" expectation of the SCA in the bag, I can accept that there will always be things I'm not doing historically, mostly because I don't need to. In some respects, putting that effort in would be putting energy and money into the wrong places. That's not, of course, to say that I won't ever do these things with more authenticity. When the rest of my kit is tight, these are some of the things that should I should address next.

Like many modern women recreating the past, there's a certain boundary of authenticity I don't cross when it comes to the things under my skirt. There's still back-and-forth debate about whether women in the middle ages regularly wore any type of underwear about their nether regions, but the general consensus these days seems to be that they did not. I, however, always do. Not only that, but I wear modern, sensible skivvies, with no attempt whatsoever at any form of medieval accuracy. Combined with a pair of leggings to ward off chaffing, you'd be hard pressed to spot anything but the modern world up my cotte skirt.

While I can and have made a few pairs of cloth hose, I actually prefer knit socks. I personally have no evidence that anything like knitted socks existed in early 15th century Flanders, and even if there was, you can be pretty sure they weren't like the machine knit socks available to the recreator these days. I like them for their fit, weight, and the fact that I don't have to hassle with them or my garters all day because their elastic cuff keeps then where they should be (in combination with my garters). In recent months, I've moved away from using brightly colored striped pairs and opted for earthier solids that feel less costumey, but that didn't stop me from wearing stork socks to a recent Crown Tournament. There's no getting around that machine-knit knee-highs are not authentic.

It kills me that I am most active when I'm at an event, but the tool I use to track my activity is so egregiously modern. I generally keep my FitBit on my wrist at events, but this is one of those things that will bother me some days, but I won't even think about it others. It's enjoyable to feel the "goal reached" vibration on my wrist as I walk from one thing to the next at events, and the high numbers of steps I rake in is a nice pat on the back to me trying to be healthy in a completely modern way. It's also a watch, and since events have schedules, that handy feature is...handy.

Along the same lines, you'd be hard pressed to find me without my smartphone nearby. I am very certainly not alone in this anachronism, and while that doesn't justify it, I'm perfectly content with having it around. I take pictures with it (which often get used for this blog or its related social channels). I check in with my family if I've gone to the event solo. I check the weather. I scroll mindlessly through Facebook when the event has gotten boring. It's actually a fairly good indicator of how much fun I'm having. I enjoy when events fill my day so well with their eventiness that I forget I own a phone altogether. For the most part, though, it's always in my bag, ready at a moment's notice.

The things that go on under my cap are not at all authentic. Like my underwear, my feelings in this regard are that if modern methods create medieval results, and are 100% concealed in the process, then I'm go for launch. Ever try to put your hair into a Saint Birgitta's cap without it being contained in some way? I think it's probably something like trying to stuff an octopus into a plastic bag underwater. If a hair tie can save me that charade in the span of about three seconds, I'm using the hair tie. Since my hair has also gone through stints of being short, I've used headbands, bobby pins, clips, etc. all in the name of getting everything out of the way and under that glorious cover of a linen cap.

I think the bottom line here with this post is to show that it's alright for some things to get the pass (unless you're doing actual living history, of course, when authenticity is required). We're all working on the things that we want or need to improve, which means the other things that don't matter as much aren't going to get our attention. Make the changes you can, when you can, how you can, and be willing to adjust your personal standards as you go.

And if you see me distracted by my phone at an event, come say hi.


  1. Love this! I have a very similar view!

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I had commented after reading this that I finally felt I was up to the "twenty foot rule" myself. I was quickly informed I am more like the "five foot rule". I too have modern sensibilities and needs that go with my garb. I feel a lot more comfortable knowing I am not alone.

  3. YES! I agree completely. Starting from the skin out, I was also taught that there was no underwear. As a woman, I never believed it, women in other times had bodies like mine, and frankly I cannot go without "knickers" for cleanliness sake.I have met woman who can, but I am not one. I exist. Fortunately upper support can be built into kirtles and gowns. As to stockings, my legs cannot support fabric hosiery and garters without serious complications in circulation being cut off. And for the big finish: for modern safety's sake my car keys and cell phone are attached to me, plus some ID. It only takes one stranding to teach that it's a good idea. In that case a small "pocket" tied around my waist under my kirtle will do, or pinned to a facing with a kilt pin.
    My hair is very fine and controlling it is necessary, long or short. I love the cap for that especially now that it's short. When it was past my waist, if it slipped out of my head covering, no explanation was needed, but ties were.