Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Dipping the Toes into the 14th century

I admit it, I went astray the last year, as I had no 15th century event on the horizon. Or rather - there were many nice events, but I couldn't attend a single one of them. Not Nykobing, nor Liebegg.

Though I had developped a rather soft spot for the 14th century these past 18 months, to my great dispair - I love it. I adore the lines of the buildings, the style of ornamentation, the weaving, the shoes, the veils and last but not least, the line of the dresses.

I grew rather tired of the ongoing competition among Swiss 15th century re-enactors (not that I enter in any, I am way too lazy for that), that I decided that I'd like to have a simple "medievalish" dress, without any research behind, just for my own pleasure to attend faires and such. If I'd only knew... I discovered that I can't work on anything "medieval" without references, the books just had a magical appeal, and suddenly I found myself working with techniques described in Clothes and Textiles, cross checking with findings from Switzerland and Southern Germany - well - I was playing the old game again ;-)

The first result was a simple dress. The fabric is a diamantina-weave wool, handwoven and dyed a gorgeous golden yellow with onion peel.

After having seen the diamantina fragments of Mavaglia (Ticino, Switzerland), I felt justified enough to use that wool. And on another note, it kept whispering "I am beautiful. I am soft. You need a dress made from me."

It is a very narrow dress, as I just had 2.10m length on 1.20m width, I had to cut the gores on cross-grain, so they appear to be darker than the rest of the dress.

The buttons (yes. Buttons. Even if the evidence for buttoned dresses in our region is scarce, I needed buttons. Just for the look. I am aware that the buttoned dresses are more common in France and England, while here apparently just buttoned sleeves were the fashion, but at that time I was still working on a "medievalish" dress) have a reinforcing linnen stripe, as have the buttonholes.
The rest of the dress is unlined, though the neckline and the hem are finished with a stripe of handwoven linnen. It was rather challenging, as handwoven fabric reacts differently than machine made, and very very different to the slightly felted wool I am used to work with. It is softer and it's very easy to pull too hard, though it didn't require much shaping, due to it's own elasticity.
The diamantina weave is warm enough for winter, though I was glad of my cloak when we visited Chillon in December 2009, and it is still light enough to wear in summer.

Completed with a chemise/smock, and worn with a three-piece-headdress (small kerchief to fix the braids on the head, a wimple and the halfcircular veil) - voilà - finished was "Maid Marion" or "Braveheart princess" as some visitors named me.

The belt has been made by Nina Rucińska, of , I bought it in 2009 while she attended a Company St George event in Gruyères. The purse is my old 15th century one, I rarely working on my embroidered one, after an initial boost on that one, I grew very lazy again. The shoes are made by me, under Stefan von der Heides supervision, soft goat-leather, following an artefact found in Konstanz. (I like making shoes, but they are a piece of work, I must say)
It was great fun to work outside my familiar timeframe, and I've learned a lot on 15th century costume by straying 100 years earlier. Retrospectively - it isn't a bad dress, but I am lucky it turned out the way it did, I might have as easily spoiled the whole dress. So - it is a dress post, not a re-enactment post ;-)
BTW: The picture on top of this article dates July 2010, as I was working on Lenzburg Castle, giving small lectures on artefact - replica - museumseducation. It was nice and warm, and I had my information stand next to a fountain, where all children loved to splash about. Though I then introduced them to the use of "medieval chantepleure" - the waterdispenser, and let them play with that, what resulted in many giggles, and less water splashing than the fountain ordinarily might have caused.