hrj: (doll)
DISTAFF, the textiles group, had both 8:30 and 10:30 sessions scheduled this morning, but two of the three papers in the 8:30 session cancelled, so Lauri (the third) got moved into the 10:30 which will potentially slop over (being the last time-slot of the Congress).

Session 514: Dress and Textiles II: Codes, Classification, Camouflage

Sponsor: DISTAFF
Organizer: Robin Netherton
Presider: Gale R. Owen-Crocker

Dressing Up and Dressing Down: The Uses of Livery in the Fourteenth Century - Laurel Ann Wilson, Independent Scholar

Traces the evolution of livery from its origins as a type of "payment in kind" of clothing, in addition to wages, to its modern sense of "a type of highly standardized identifying clothing, a uniform".

Earlier livery allotments were often highly stratified and distinguished by the role and position among the recipients, not only in terms of the quality and amount of cloth, but differentiating colors and what proportion of solid or striped fabric, as well as furs for higher status recipients. The giving of livery was restricted to high status individuals, such that it was considered a transgression for someone not of sufficient rank to distribute it to his followers. The receipt of livery was considered a right, and in some cases the failure to be given livery relieved a person of obligations to the lord.

The wearing of livery displayed the lord's wealth and status, and it was important for recipients to wear it, especially on public occasions, so as not to imply their lord was stingy or poor. But receiving livery also gave status to the recipient, and so the distribution could be used as a tool to require the physical presence of the recipients in order to receive it.

The detailed specifications of exactly what cloth people receive include a curious reference to late additions to a livery roll receiving an allotment of the "secta" [Latin] of a particular occupational class--a term that may possibly refer to the specific color/pattern in which it was to be used to identify that class of recipient.

It is a later development for all recipients of livery in a household to receive clothing with a uniform appearance (though perhaps different quality), where the garments as well as the colors and decorations are identical. This created the "uniform appearance" (in both senses) that is associated with the term "livery" today.

Livery distributions to royal households could include hundreds of individuals. This could easily have had a massive economic influence on cloth/clothing markets, though it's hard to tell whether the market's ability to provide hundreds of identical outfits drove the distribution, or whether the desire to distribute hundreds of identical outfits drove the market to keep up and supply them.

[Cancelled papers: Dressing, Undressing, and Cros-dressing in Early Modern Accounts of the Holy Land - Emily Price; A Man in an Otter Suit: Echoes of Norse Magic in the Nibelungenlied - M. A. Nordtorp-Madson]

Session 542: Dress and Textiles III: Working with Textiles

Sponsor: DISTAFF
Organizer: Robin Netherton
Presider: Robin Netherton

Gender and Textile Production in Thirteenth-Century Paris - Janice M. Archer, Independent Scholar

Survey of gendered aspects of the structured textile industry, which controlled who profited from the trade and who was stuck in low-paying manual jobs. Identifying women's economic contributions via tax records can be difficult in "intact" households, as legal records normally only list male head-of-household. But singlewomen, widows, and occasionally a married woman with a separate business are listed on their own. Women may be grouped with others (adult children, groups of beguines, etc.) for tax purposes, but typically women stand alone in these records. Men's assessments will silently incorporate the productivity of wives and children.

Overall (all textile trades), female tax entries are more skewed toward the lowest tax bracket (but this may be due to the men subsuming other incomes?). Men are 78% of listed taxpayers, women 21%. Wool workers are generally better off than average but the gender distribution is similar. Silk workers show an even greater skewing to higher tax bracket, but still with women lagging. Looking at silk producers (e.g., silk throwers, as opposed to mercers), all men are in the lowest tax bracket, while women have the typical tailed distribution. Numerically, this role was primarily filled by women. Silk mercers show a very different pattern. with men having more of a curve distribution for both men and women, peaking in the middle tax bracket. Hemp and linen workers have a typical tailed distribution but needleworkers are badly skewed to the bottom.

Looking at the median tax for various wool jobs, the higher paid professions generally show men paying a higher tax than women. The highest taxes were paid by drapers, but male drapers paid much higher taxes than women, as a rule, perhaps due to access to higher status markets.

Example of one family's assessment shows the head of household plus 2 servants, 2 nephews, a son and a daughter, where only the daughter is left unnamed, despite being taxed at the same rate as her brother.

Female fullers and shearers had a median tax higher than men, but in each case this is based on a single individual. She may be part of the household of a named man (though taxed separately) or the widow of a man who had the same profession, and these assessments may reflect and inherited clientele.

As a general rule, the smaller percentage of women in a profession, the higher the tax assessment; the larger the percentage of women, the lower the tax assessment (and therefore the lower the income). But "family matters" -- women have higher incomes when family connections gain them access to elite markets.

"A Verie Good Way to Take Out Spottes": Modern Experimentation with Sixteenth-Century Textile Stain Cleaning Recipies - Cassandra Chambers Wagner, Independent Scholar

Examines "spot-cleaning" techniques, used for stains on outer garments that would not normally be wash completely. Looks at four texts from Germany, England, and France from the mid to later 16th century. This is an experimental history project to test the recipes for efficacy. White pre-washed linen were used as the test fabric, stained with Olive oil, red wine, mustard sauce, green sauce, blood, mud, beeswax (cloth not pre-washed), and oak gall & iron ink.

Sample 1: control, not treated
Sample 2: Water only (30 min pre-soak and water only hand wash)
Sample 3 & 4 modern stain treatments (detergent, Shout spray + detergent)

Samples 5-14 are from historic recipes: soap ball, lye-based cleaners, plant-based cleaners, fullers earth, milk, for the wax only: tallow & hot iron.

5. Soap ball: very poor result.
6. Cold lye (pH 13-14) worked well on stains 1-5 but poorly on mud & ink.
7. Lye + Alum (intended for wool, lower pH): not as good as lye alone
8. Salt, orange, lye: worked similarly to cold lye, but better on the mud
9. Lemon juice: worked on ink very well, but much less well on others.
10. Pea water (from boiling peas): worked well on blood and mud, not so well on others.
11. Strawberry water: not only doesn't remove stains, but dyes the linen pink.
12. Fullers earth: worked well on blood, mud, not so much for others.
13. Cow's milk (intended for wine stains): WOrked well on red wine, not so much on others.
14. Tallow & hot iron (for wax only): Tried with and without tallow, and the tallow does take more wax out.

Put It to the Log: Exploring the Mechanics of a Late Medieval Dyeing Technique - Jennifer Ratcliffe, Independent Scholar

A very general survey of the medieval dye industry and trade, the chemical processes, and lots of pretty pictures of colored cloth and thread. [The problem with survey papers like this is that there's too much detail to include and no real overall conclusions. Sorry!]
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I love how I can rely on my friends and readers for interesting prompts for the Random Thursday blogs. This one came out of a Twitter conversation on how frustrating I find it to try to shop for work clothes, given the number of intersecting constraints that fall out of my life choices, including the need for bicycle compatibility. (And that’s before we get into my relatively strict preferences for fiber types and color patterns.) When a couple of people mentioned bicycling in skirts and I noted that I Don’t Wear Skirts For Work and that the reasons were complex enough they’d need a blog rather than Twitter, the response was, “OK, do it.”

I was born in 1958 in a middle-class American family. That context means a lot of things, but in particular it means that—as a girl—I was put into dresses pretty much from the cradle and that the schools I attended required me to wear dresses at school almost all the way up through the end of high school. (If I recall correctly, they changed the dress code at my high school the very last year I was there.)

This did not sit well with me. For the first part of my life, it wasn’t about gender presentation, it was about mobility. The family story goes that I never really crawled “normally”, I started out with a sort of “up on all fours” locomotion with hands and feet rather than hands and knees. Well, duh! Have you ever tried to crawl with skirts on? Once I got to school age, I would change out of dresses as soon as I got home into something more compatible with running around in the yard and building forts out of picnic tables such like. (There’s another vivid memory from this era: one time in kindergarten I decided it would be more practical to wear my shorts and t-shirt underneath my dress to go to school so it would be simpler to change when I got home. I recall being frustrated at not being able to explain the perfectly reasonable logic behind this to my mother’s satisfaction.)

It was never so much that I actively disliked dresses—my mother designed and made a lot of my school clothes and I rather liked that—but I disliked compulsory dresses. And as a shy loner I never got into performing femininity as a bonding activity with friends. (No friends.) Long after I was out on my own, there were delicate family battlegrounds about what I was going to wear to special events like weddings and anniversaries. When I got to college, I pretty much ditched skirts entirely as everyday wear and never looked back. Except for costuming, of course. That was also when I discovered historic re-creation and an outlet for the creative sewing I’d always enjoyed. And it was also when I started figuring out that I wasn’t heterosexual. Clothing started getting even more complicated than before.

I’m going to skip a lot of the rest of the autobiography and style development and jump to the present status. As a costumer, as a student of social sciences, and as a participant in corporate and academic cultures, I’m strongly aware of the use and unavoidability of clothing as a communication medium and a social signifier. I don’t fight this; I embrace it. But I embrace it on my own terms. When I switched from being just a grad student to being a teaching assistant, I made a massive shift in my wardrobe to symbolize “I am an authority figure and need to show respect for my position.” When I switched from having biotech jobs that entailed scrubs and lab coats to ones that involved desks and meetings, I made a similar shift for similar reasons. I’ve even gone through a few periods where I played with upping my game to blazers and scarves (though that has some practical aspects given the irregular temperature control at in the building). But what I don’t do is wear skirts or dresses.

Some of that is practical. Both my grad school time and my corporate time have typically involved a certain amount of bicycle commuting. And—with a nod to my abovementioned friends who are happy riding bicycles in skirts—I’ve never been comfortable doing that, purely on a physical basis. But a lot of it has to do with specific signaling regarding gender relations.

It may be simplest to jump over to talking about historic costume first. Most of my historic dress is in the context of the Society for Creative Anachronism, which allows for (let us say gently) a lot of personal expression in the re-creation of historic clothing styles. It was also in my first few years in the SCA that I figured out that it wasn’t just that I wasn’t interested in boys, but I was actively interested in girls. I was way too shy and socially inept to really be able to communicate this directly to other people. But in putting on costumes and trying out personas, I could test the waters.

In a modern context, it’s been a long time since jeans and a t-shirt coded as “masculine” (as opposed to coding as “not femme”), but in the context of historic clothing, there are both much clearer distinctions between masculine and feminine styles, and (at least in the SCA) the potential for mixing those signifiers in ways that don’t map directly to modern expectations. From the beginning, I’ve done a lot of cross-dressing in the SCA not only for practicality (mobility, etc.) and for the sheer joy of creating a multiplicity of garment types, but for gender signaling. (See my article on this topic for a much more detailed discussion.) Because the SCA is about a sort of role-playing all the time, there’s a lower bar to trying out (trying on?) different roles than those people expect from you, and thus shaping their expectations. Back when I was still trying to figure out how to come out (which was harder than you might think in the ‘80s if you didn’t actually have a partner to be obvious with), wearing masculine-coded medieval clothing enabled me to break heteronormative expectations in the ways in which I interacted with women…and declined interactions with men.

Even now, decades later, when pretty much anybody who knows me by my medieval name knows my sexual orientation, there’s a palpable difference in the sexual overtones of interactions with both men and women based on whether I’m wearing male-coded or female-coded costumes. Even solidly heterosexual women are happy to flirt and make admiring comments when I’m wearing a male-coded costume. And men who barely say hello to me under ordinary circumstances will come up and compliment me when I’m wearing strongly female-coded costumes.

And that last point gets back to the topic of modern, everyday clothing. I’m not actually interested in having men notice what I’m wearing or feel that what I’m wearing gives them an invitation to interact with me on the topic of my appearance. I’m not doing it as a display for them. I’m not doing it as a social invitation to them. And frankly it makes me uncomfortable. In the context of the SCA, it’s an amusing sociological observation. At work, at family social functions, going through my everyday life, I choose to wear that shield of clothing that signals my opting out of heteronormativity. (Mind you, I don’t actually wear anything that would be unexpected if worn by a heterosexual woman—but I avoid wearing things that would tend to be interpreted as inviting male attention.)

And yet, I do wear dresses. I love wearing dresses. I like swirly skirts and sweeping lines and necklines that show off my awesome collarbones. But I wear them in contexts where I either know or trust the people around me not to interpret them in unintended ways. (I think I surprised my girlfriend by wearing a dress for last year’s Golden Crown Literary Society awards banquet. But you know? A lesbian publishing conference is the perfect example of a place where no one is going to think I’m signaling heteronormativity! It’s probably one of the most comfortable places I know to wear dresses.) But I’m not going to wear them at work, whether I’m bicycling or not.
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I've tackled a lot of historic reproduction pieces that I wanted to try once and never felt the need to do again. When the project in question normally comes in pairs, this can be a problem. Fortunately, knitted silk ecclesiastical gloves were normally preserved as relics (either in the formal sense, or simply in the sense of being associated with a prominent figure). So the notion of only having one is at least vaguely supportable. I started this project well over a decade ago, and the knitting was so fidgety and required such intense concentration that I rarely got any momentum going. I had one finger left to go, when the excuse of an arts competition for textiles (suggested project: hand coverings) gave me the excuse to push it through to the finish. I include below the documentary notes I prepared to go with it.


My Inspiration

This glove is closely inspired by a pair of liturgical gloves recovered from the 13th century grave of Rodrigo Ximenez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain. Information about the original is taken from the conservation report by the Abegg Institute. (Flury-Lemberg 1988) The original glove is knit from colored silk and gold thread. The article doesn’t mention the color of the silk, but typically liturgical gloves are red. The glove has a cuff of gold-brocaded tablet weaving. The article gives charted patterns for all the knitted motifs.

I’ve included a somewhat poor multi-generation image of the glove and charted patterns from the original publication. My apologies for the quality.

My Reproduction

My primary consideration in a choice of thread was to get as close as practical to the physical nature of the thread of the original. While the conservation report doesn’t specify the weight or twist of the silk, it is clear that the thread is very fine (ca. 10 stitches per cm) and silk-work of this era generally uses thrown silk rather than spun. I was able to obtain a very fine two-ply thrown silk thead in multiple colors and this inspired the project. I was not able to obtain either red or metallic gold thread in this weight, therefore I chose the two colors of what was available that had the best contrast to show the pattern. My thread is not quite as fine as the original, running ca. 6 stitches per cm on 0.75mm needles (the smallest I could obtain), so my glove has fewer repeats of the motifs than the original. I omitted the large agnus Dei motif from the back of the hand as I preferred to omit the religious designs). Therefore, due to the relatively small size of the other motifs, I was able to include all of the original pattern. In my glove, the band patterns extend further up the hand than on the original, where they end right below the start of the thumb. I retained the two-color diamond pattern on the thumb, following the original, however I found that this type of design resulted in a very bulky and inelastic knit, due to the thread floats, therefore for the other fingers I chose to use a plain color with knitted “rings” in the design color, following the model of several later ecclesiastical glove examples.

The glove was knit in the round on multiple double-pointed wire needles. Although no knitting needles survive from this early (and artistic depictions of knitting are later and show a larger scale of work), the physics of possible materials suggests that metal wire is the most likely type of needle for work on this small scale.

The cuff is tablet-woven red silk, brocaded with paired silver threads in a simple vine motif, taken from a band on a textile associated with the 8/9th century Saints Harlindis and Relindis (Spies 2000, p.126). I chose this design for it’s relatively small scale, rather than trying to match the time-period closely. The color of this band is more typical for the ground of brocaded bands as well as being more typical for the ecclesiastical gloves, however I didn’t have access to this thread when I began the knitting. I used a red silk in this case because I did the brocading as an “add on” to a piece of plain red silk tablet weaving for a scroll seal ribbon.


Flury-Lemberg, Mechthild. 1988. Textile Conservation and Research. Schriften der Abegg-Stiftung, Bern.

Spies, Nancy. 2000. Ecclesiastical Pomp & Aristocratic Circumstance. Arelate Studio, Jarrettsville. ISBN 0-615-11681-7

hrj: (doll)
I'm feeling a little like Lucy just yanked the football out from in front of me. The other half of the family gathering got stuck in New England, due to a combination of weather delays, missed connections, no available rebookings, and the logistical difficulties of widening the travel options. So it'll continue to be just the California half hanging out, watching football, playing card and board games, and indulging in food designed for a somewhat larger crowd. The original modified schedule (designate New Year's Eve as the official Holiday Dinner and New Year's Day as the gift exchange plus Open House) continues as planned. But it isn't the same as it would be with all of us here. I guess we'll add a ceremonial Packing of the UPS Box to the activities.

I think I may need to scare up a couple more dinner guests for the NYE roast beef.

On the up side, I still have 6 sewing days until 12th night and I'm well ahead of schedule. I'm doing two 16th century men's outfits comprising shirt, breeches, doublet, and coat. Of those, both shirts are done, both pairs of breeches are done except for lacing eyelets, one doublet is virtually done except for lacing eyelets and buttonholes/buttons, the other is cut out, one coat is completely done and the other is cut out. No time for slacking but I have no doubts of finishing it all.
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We can just assume that on any given day (and especially on weekends) I will be getting work done on the novel revisions. I'm doing about three different revision passes simultaneously depending on work mode. If I'm commuting, then I'm doing relatively straightforward read-and-fix stuff on the iPad. If I'm on the laptop but not at home, I can do more complicated search-and-replace work, especially ones that involve going back and forth between the text and my various reference tables and lists, or things that involve jumping around a lot in the text. If I'm at home, then I can work on deriving my names and technical vocabulary. It's fascinating to see how the essential story remains the same even when the details of what happens get changed. There were a couple of POV-lets early on that had turned out to be about three times longer than what ended up being the typical length. And when I went to look at them, they also had notes about problems with the POV that needed fixing. So I tried swapping out the POVs in the middle to make 6 (alternating) typical-length sections. So for a third of the affected text, I'm completely reversing which character it's filtered through. It's ... interesting. I have to accept the loss of certain details because they went on in the other character's head. But other bits now become accessible. And most of it is still there -- just with a different spin. It's also interesting to see how the characters evolved. This is an effect of my "write start to finish with no going back" principle. I'm now rewriting those "first impressions" to catch up with how they eventually revealed themselves. The lawyer/estate-manager is a good example: he's still essentially the same person, but some of his habitual mannerisms have changed, and the ways that he interacted with certain other characters shifted into a slightly different angle. (I also eventually discovered more about his personal life which, though it's entirely implicit, adds depth.)

I also started a new sewing project today: cut out the fabric and lining for another gothic fitted undergown, this time entirely in linen for when I anticipate getting dirty. (Like cooking.) I'm hoping to have it done in time for the culinary symposium, although the lacing eyelets are likely to be the most time-consuming part.

And then I BARTed over to Borderlands Books in SF for a reading by Jo Walton who I'd never previously managed to meet in person, despite us both having been active on rasfc back in the Before Times.

Finished the day off by processing some more dance music for the iPad reader to be ready for the Crosston Ball next Saturday. I'm experimenting with doing some cut-and-paste work on 2-page layouts to get them down to a single screen. It would be a different matter if I were simply singling out one line out of a 4 or 5 part arrangement, but I don't always know in advance which part I'm going to play on the harp (and for some tunes I like changing things up on the repeats) so I prefer to keep the full arrangement.

I'm probably due to write the first iPad review soon, now that I've had a chance to work through my favorite apps a bit.
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This is a rough translation (with the help of for much of the grunt labor) of the aforementioned article about the 15th c. underpants find at Schloss Lengberg. The original article is by Dr. Beatrix Nutz and I apologize to her if I've mangled any of the facts beyond recognition.

The Unmentionables

That's what one formerly called the undergarments, above all the underpants, which shame forbade one to talk about. Nevertheless they've been around for quite a while. The Romans called them "subligar" and in the Middle Ages they were called "broche", when they were primarily considered a garment for men. Nevertheless there is also a depiction of young Roman women at the baths (fig. 1) wearing a similar article of clothing. Yet in the Middle Ages they were known only from artwork (fig. 3) until now a pair of late medieval underpants were found in Tirol in an archaeological dig (fig. 4). The find was discovered, together with numerous other textiles, including leather, mainly shoes, and futher organic remains, including a wooden flute, from a spandrel in Schloss Lengberg, in the Nikolsdorf district in East Tirol in 2008. Spread out, they have a roughly hourglass cut, somewhat wider at the "hind" end and with ties on the corners, by which they resemble a modern bikini. Made from linen, which can be seen in three layers in the middle, they could have belonged either to a man or a woman. A DNA analysis, performed under the direction of Dr. Walther Parson at the Institute for Forensic(?) Medicine at the Medieval University of Innsbruck unfortunately furnished no knew insights. Through the archaeological find, the architectural history of the castle can be dated to the 15th century, with the help of Carbon-14 dating. The underpants date to sometime around 1440 and were disposed of as waste in the spandrel, during construction on the castle when an additional floor was added. This practice was common in the Middle Ages whereby one could get rid of garbage withou much cost. As the floor was laid over the spandrel, which the history of the castle indicates was in the year 1485, the waste became "out of sight, out of mind". Besides which, they could also serve as an insulating material between the floors.

The find of these underpants now makes it possible for archaologists to research the exact design and cut and to examine the seam techniques and materials that were used and to discover details that one can't determine from pictures. This promises new, exciting discoveries concerning underwear production in the 15th century. Eventually the underpants can be reconstructed so that one can experience a medieval "clothing-feel".

I'll add one comment from my own research on the topic of medieval underpants. The comment about not being able to determine whether the garment belonged to a man or woman, while technically true in an absolute sense, doesn't take into account the significant amount of evidence that this particular garment was not only restricted to men's use at the time, but was considered a "definitively masculine" garment in the sense that it was used symbolically in art to indicate masculine authority and the usurpation thereof.

Still and all, this find is very exciting, not only for the information it provides about the particular garment but for the promise of all the other textile finds there may be waiting for us out there.
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[I probably shouldn't have stayed up past 1am to polish this up, but what the heck. I'll probably revise it based on commentary before putting it on my web site.]

Cross-Dressing Women in the SCA and the SCA's Period: A Personal View

Introduction and Disclaimers

Some time ago, I gave someone on Live Journal a promissory for an essay about my own personal take on women cross-dressing in the SCA. And I made some initial notes and started a draft and then it fell off the priority list. And then the topic came up again in a discussion at a local sewing circle and I worked on the essay some more. And then it fell off the priority list. But since it's a theme that I find interesting both on a personal and sociological level, I kept plugging away and came up with this essay. This is quite long. )
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Dragged out my old Victorian riding habit for Dickens Faire tomorrow and determined that it was passable with some quick and dirty taking in at several places. Unlike a number of other outfits, I'm unlikely to do serious alterations on this one (but will probably also keep it around). It just isn't an era I do much costuming in but it's useful to have something to wear. I have a bit of a fascination with riding habits as a genre and it provides an excuse for not bothering with excessive underpinnings.

I'll be quite the social butterfly this weekend: Dickens with [ profile] xrian, [ profile] scotica and possibly others; [ profile] etaine_pommier's cookie party; and then [ profile] tafelspitz's aebelskiver breakfast. I suppose I should also get the holiday cards addressed and mailed (probably no chatty letter this time, easier than figuring out what to say) and at least start brainstorming on gift-shopping.

Still writing every day. Have a good handle on how I want to approach name-generation, but I need to sit down and actually apply the sound rules to a large body of name-candidates and see what starts sticking to which characters. (I have, however, drawn up an extensive list of People and Places That Need Names.) I'm starting to think that, having solidly laid down Part I, it may not be that bad an idea to have jumped to the end and started working backwards from Part V. I'm "discovering" a number of useful and convenient things that are going to have happened, and working backwards makes it easier to set them up. Still, not the most natural way to work (and probably not the most efficient in the long run.)
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The nice thing about personal to-do lists is that one is not in the least obligated to accomplish them. I slept in to the decadent hour of 8am then went off for an extended semi-recreational shopping trip. Picked up some new DVDs, some shoes of the same style that I've previous bought about 6 pair (I have a solidly "guy" attitude towards shoes -- when you find something that works, keep buying it until they stop making it, then grumble a lot), a new teacup in my china pattern, thread and buttons for the fix-it work on the 1910s outfit, more than I intended in the way of organizational gadgets at The Container Store (that place is dangerous!), and some assorted mini-gourmet food items at Cost Plus to restock the car-camping-kitchen. Enjoyed a leisurely dinner of lamb rib-roast with sauted onions, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts, with mini cheesy biscuits on the side. Then did all the machine sewing for the fix-it items (tucks on the skirt, new tucked placket for the blouse front) and carefully removed the clamp-on snaps that I'd put on as a quick-and-dirty substitute for making button holes. Fortunately, the little prongs that fasten the halves of the snaps together had only pushed the threads aside and after being removed you couldn't even tell they'd been there. It was a vast waste of the snaps (which can't be re-attached to something else once the prongs have been bent) but they were way too heavy for the batiste, and besides which I'd put them wrong way round on the cuffs. So now I'll actually make buttonholes and add buttons, as well as adding hooks-and-eyes on the skirt waistband (rather than depending on safety pins). There: now you know all my dirty secrets about my one-night sewing project.

The only remaining must-do is my writing for the night, and so to bed.
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So having gotten off work on time for the first time this week (a week that involved two days working to 7pm and one working to midnight), I was able to put in enough sewing time to finish the tunic I committed to making to help expand the wardrobe of the Prince of the Mists. Now I just need to figure out how to arrange delivery, given that I don't appear to be attending any SCA events this month.

And now I'm really really tired and going to bed. I had a waiver from my boss to sleep in and come in late this morning, but round about 8am the Director of QA invaded my dreams demanding to know where the documents were that the VIPs wanted to review and I gave up on the whole sleep thing. Today was a lull, but I suspect tomorrow may involve more "do not leave until this is done" events. Next week should be more relaxed -- the headless chickens will be plucked and gutted and we can begin debating recipes.
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Several DVD mini-series later, the tunic only needs the handwork completed on the wrist and neck facings, and the sleeve trim applied. Gah, way more handwork than I'd intended, but once I started top-stitching the seams down, there was no good stopping point. I'd started out intending to do a Kragelund pattern (being the closest to my target century) but when I got to laying out the sleeves I needed something a little less generous and ended up more in the Bocksten direction. The construction is fairly conservative for the Bocksten date, so I don't feel too uncomfortable about being off a couple centuries in the inspiration.

Didn't work on my purse. The A&S preparation will claim tomorrow evening. But, hey, there was that sewing stuff organization!
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Have the tunic about half done (alas, the machine-sewn half, not the hand-finished half). I expect to finish working my way through the bought-but-unwatched DVDs when finishing it tomorrow. But I did make great strides in the organization of my sewing supplies! The collection of needles is all sorted out into separate containers and carefully labelled. The thread collection is now organized in boxes by color. And the drawer of assorted tools is also organized into manageable containers. Giving myself permission to go out shopping for organization paraphernalia is a great motivator. So, let's see, out of five drawers jammed full of random sewing stuff, one is now organized (and has space left over). Woo, as they say, hoo.
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If I post it publicly, then I may feel committed to doing some of it.

Item: Sew together the tunic I cut out on Tuesday at [ profile] etaine_pommier's. ('Cause I promised [ profile] duchessletitia I'd make a tunic for the Prince.)

Item: Prepare for presenting the Shepherd's Purse lecture at Cloondara A&S next Tuesday.

Item: Finally sew together the medieval-inspired purse I've been working on desultorily for the last couple of months.

Item: Make further stabs at clearing the strata off my dining room table.
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The last session, although I'll probably do a wrap-up post later this evening.

Session 595: Dress and Textiles IV: Long Ago and Far Away

Merovingian Fashion: Asking the Buried about What They Wore (Sarah-Grace Heller, Ohio State Univ.)

We start off with a dismissal of the generalization that clothing didn’t change throughout the Dark Ages, then a discussion of fashion theory and how it might be expressed (see yesterday afternoon’s panel discussion). In fact, so far the talk has been almost entirely a recap of yesterday’s introduction to theory of fashion. Now the content:

5-7th century provides rich grave goods. Unfortunately many grave contents have been lost or scattered due to plundering or carelessness. Some information about collections of grave goods and gender are based on highly interpreted composite interpretations. More recent finds have been more carefully extracted with greater attention to textile remains. Great variability in the richness of graves (although publicity has been on rich ones). Note that the existence of rich grave goods means that these goods have been taken out of social circulation while still in a useable form, requiring the living to create new goods for their own use. In the context of burials, the existence of “mass produced” moulded plaster sarcophagi supports a hypothesis of personal choice based on variation of superficial appearance – a characteristic of a fashion system.

A peplos style garment had continued in use in northern Europe while having been replaced by the tunic in the Mediterranean. But during the Merovingian period the tunic became more common while the use of brooches – athough now less functional for fastening clothing – remained common, suggesting that they had become fashion accessories. Brooches of cheap material only begin appearing in the 6th century, indicating a shift in which class wore them and what they signified. (The “democratization” of styles is another symptom of a fashion system.) The use of cut garnets in metal settings decreases and paired brooches decrease in favor of a single, central brooch (7th c.). Decorative garter fasteners (for women) begin appearing, with less decorated ones higher on the leg where they would be hidden from view.

At least 5 of the criteria of a “fashion system” can be discerned in the Merovingian data, although the intensity of the evidence is certainly less than that seen in the high middle ages or modern era.

Wefts and Worms: Silk Weaving and Sericulture in the West before 1200 CE (Rebecca Woodward Wendelken, Methodist Univ.)

Investigation of the production of silk as a raw material (as opposed to the production of silk textiles from existing thread) in the West. First pre-requisite is the culture of white mulberry trees, which take ca. 15 years to mature. Growth requirements mean that silk production was possible only in a relatively narrow geographic band which, fortunately, included much of southern Europe. Review of the physical and environmental requirements of the silkworm life cycle. Wild vs. cultured silk characteristics. Reeling vs. spinning. Gradual spread of silk culture westward. Arrived in Persia, Syria by ca. 2nd c. BCE to 5th c. CE. By 3-4th c., silk was available in Rome as a luxury good, but a commonly used one. Silk was being woven in Byzantium but from imported raw materials, creating a shortage. By the 8th c. the Islamic expansion had taken in all the traditional silk-producing regions in the West and culture moved further west into Greece and Cyprus, but primarily weavers use raw materials imported from now-Islamic regions. In 8-12th c., sericulture introduced to Venice and other parts of Italy and some attempts further north. Further expansion in Islamic regions as well (e.g., expending to Egypt and Yemen). Transfer of skilled silk workers due to warfare and invasion, e.g., from Byzantium to regions further West. Sericulture introduced to southern Spain. (Pretty slide-show of early silk fabrics.) [me: This presentation is pretty much a basic historic background on the history of silk production in regions affecting Europe, rather than argumentation towards any particular thesis.]

Imagined Fashion: Four Fifteenth-Century French Artists and Their Travel-Book Pictures (John Block Friedman, Kent State Univ.)

The manuscripts will be identified as P, C, M, and P2. The text is known as Secrets d’Histoire Naturelle. Two contributing descriptive texts were combined and moralized in a later version, but later on the moralization was stripped out and turned into something of an armchair travelogue. The illustrations are highly interpreted by the various artists and may be localized to the culture of their consumers or exoticized to emphasize the foreignness of the contents. Ms. P’s artist is clearly working directly from the text (or a good summary of it) and corresponds in interesting details. Ms. C copies the illustrations from P, possibly even by tracing in some cases. The illustrations correspond closely in layout and composition, but details are often “updated” to contemporary fashions and artifacts. Ms. M is fuller and more luxurious with some added text. It may have been made for Rene d’Anjou by the same artist as C. The illustrations may have been copied directly form P rather than C as some of the older details are retained, but there is a more sophisticated treatment of the details. Ms. P2 seems unrelated to the others and many of the illustrations are idiosyncratic. The illustrations focus more on women, possibly due to it being made for a female patron.

Question: how do the artists use clothing in support of Western ethnocentricity?

Stereotypical exotic “Eastern” styles, familiar from Biblical illustrations of Jewish or Saracen figures are used for non-European figures. Headgear is a special focus of identity representation. Turban-like headgear or headbands and “Jewish hats” are used indiscriminately to signify foreignness. Nakedness or non-textile clothing was a signifier of primitive or barbaric societies.
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Well, the Pseudosession was delightful as always, especially the paper that – using a strict scrutiny of the documentary evidence and projecting recent changes in female fertility in a scientific fashion – determined that the death rate in the Middle Ages was far lower than it is today, that the birth rate was nearly zero, and that wealth appears to have been the primary underlying factor in mortality.

After that, I danced half the night away with my posse of scary textiles-and-clothing women. (If there were pictures, a number of my readers might be quite startled.)

Session 560: Dress and Textiles III: Heroes, Ladies, and Fools

Invisibility Cloaks and Magic Belts: Garments and Fashion Accessories in the Dietrich Cycle (Chiara Benati, Univ. degli Studi di Genova)

The text is a collection of “historical” stories featuring the 5-6th c. Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great. The stories combine historic and fantastical elements. The typology of garments are influenced by the nature of the texts: esp. the plot elements (warfare, tournaments, etc.) and gender (female characters are quite marginal in the historic tales, but more common in the fantastic ones). The purposes of clothing, when it is mentioned, include: providing a signal of sumptuousness or simply “dressing the set”; providing a magical function (see title); “symbolic” clothing providing information about roles and identity of characters. The vocabulary itself can be grouped in two: nouns identifying the garments (13 items) and modifying attributes of the garments.

* gewant = generic “garment”
* gurtel = belt
* handschouh = gloves
* hemd = the undergarment (e.g., shirt)
* (missed it)
* kleit = generic “clothing”
* kotte = a cheap fabric
* keppelin = cloak with hood
* tarnkeppelin = invisibility cloak
* tasche = bag
* wapenroch = silk surcoat worn over armor
* zendelkleit = a woman’s silk gown
* baldekin = a precious silk w/gold thread
* hermelin = ermine (animal or its fur)
* hermin = a garment made of ermine
* pfellel, pfeller = a refined sik (but sometimes wool?)
* scharlach = a specific type of fabric (scarlet?)
* side = silk
* sidin = made of silk
* zobel = sable (fur)

The terminology reflects medieval fashion (e.g., use of decorative belts and bags, the types of fabrics) but no garment is described in detail with regard to construction features – only the general attributes of beauty and luxury are featured.

Pulling the Wool over Our Eyes: How the Heroine’s Clothing (Un)Makes the Man in Jean Renart’s Roman de la rose (Kathryn Talarico, College of Staten Island and Graduate Center, CUNY)

Clothing features heavily in the relationships and action, e.g., the necessity of characters to acquire fine clothing (and go into debt for it). This results in self-consciously detailed descriptions of the characters’ clothing and the act of dressing. The initial description of the character Lionor is that of a generic romantic heroine, with the hearer expected to fill in the specifics in imagination. She’s “under the surface of the text” hidden by the words. But then the mode shifts to excessively detailed descriptions of decorations, fabrics, linings, and even the way they are arranged and fastened for particular effects. (Further, the narrator of the romance occasionally intrudes and comments on the level of detail that he’s using.) There is a common theme of things hidden, of every item having further layers beneath that give it meaning or value. Another theme is the importance of outward appearance of correct behavior (both in actions and attributes). Taken together, the impression is that of artificial roles, taken on by the character for effect and purpose, but in the guise of acting out the forms of a standard romance. Lionor does not give the impression of being in love, but rather of wanting to create the outward forms of being in love. Her clothing and manner of dress is an essential part of this. Even her moment of “unveiling” is only to unveil a fictional presentation of her own creation.

Getting Dressed in Chrétien de Troyes’s Perceval in Ivory (Paula Mae Carns, Univ. of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign)

The paper specifically examines the story as depicted in a carved ivory casket of the 14th c. The initial scenes depict Perceval’s initial social gaucheries on his encounters with a group of knights, a lady, and on his entrance to Arthur’s court. It follows with his initial adventures after becoming a knight. In all of these, Perceval is wearing a rather peculiar description that looks like a one-piece bodysuit (although one view has some lines that could be a belt or the top edge of pointed hose) topped by a pointy hood. (In the text, his mother dresses him “in the Welsh manner” with one-piece hose, a shirt and hooded mantel.) At least one ms. illustration of Perceval of a similar era shows him in a similarly pointy hood. Otherwise, images of this type of pointed hood tend to be associated with fools/jesters. A state of undress is generally associated with folly or insanity. These characteristics fit well with the initial portrayal of Perceval when he acts against normal standards of behavior (although because of his mother’s confusing teaching, rather than through mental deficiency). When compared to other illustrations of this story, the ivory casket takes an unusual focus on Perceval’s folly.

Interestingly, the lid of the casket has images of Saints Christopher, Martin, George, and Eustace, and from the style it clearly was created to go with the Perceval images around the edge, rather than being a later cobbling together of unrelated carvings.
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Session 320: From “Clothing” to “Fashion”: When Did Change Begin to Matter? (Roundtable Discussion -- Carole Collier Frick, Southern Illinois Univ.; Sarah-Grace Heller, Ohio State Univ.; Desiree Koslin, Fashion Institute of Technology; and Laurel Ann Wilson, Fordham Univ.)

Sarah-Grace Heller presents the background on what is meant by a “fashion system”. [me: her work on the topic was what got me ruminating on fashion and medieval culinary literature a while ago.] The basic principles are: a relative down-playing of the value of the past; a society-wide desire for constant, systematic change; a use of fashion for individual expression and social imitation; a medium of self-enhancement via consumption and appearance; change focus on superficial forms vs. major ones; a theme of excess and exaggeration; the establishment of what is and is not fashion is performative with privileged individuals able to define fashion; change is driven by criticism and disapproval; value is placed on pleasure; when a fashion system is established, it shifts society towards an equalization of appearances. She gives specific examples from a 12th c. French romance which focuses on a male fashion plate.

Desiree Koslin reviews the necessary preconditions for fashion: innovative social change, commodity markets, and a cycle of critical review and dis/approval of personal expressions. Presents examples from 1st millennium China. Note that some of the sartorial details (in their underlying structure, not the superficial details) are the same ones elaborated by other fashionable societies at other eras. More details and examples. Concludes with point that “fashion” also produces “anti-fashion”, as with ascetic orders (example being S. Clare’s ragged mantle).

Carole Collier Frick discusses ways of dodging sumptuary laws, e.g., if a law forbids a specific named garment or style, simply invent a new one with a new name. Discusses the ebb and flow of fashion, the inconsistency in whether men or women drive it. Reiterates similar prerequisites for “fashion” as previously mentioned.

Laurel Ann Wilson traces the male/female differential as an indicator of fashion, as well as pointing out that as men’s hemlines rose and fell, the conservative critics of fashionability derided both equally in their turn (often for similar reasons), making it clear that it was the fashion/change dynamic that they disapproved of rather than specific styles. Agrees that fashion is defined by rapid and unnecessary change, change that re-shapes the body, complexity, choice.

Overall, pretty solid agreement on what constitutes a “fashion system”, but then this isn’t surprising given that the panel was organized around that particular theoretical construct. (I think it makes a lot of sense, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize it as a theoretical construct rather than an eternal verity.)
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Session 300: Costume in Medieval Literature

Old Habits Die Hard: Vestimentary Change in William Durandus’s Rationale divinorum officiorum (Andrea B. Denny-Brown, Univ. of California–Riverside)

Alas, scratched.

Raiment of Needlework: Clothing Images in Miracles of the Virgin and the Feast of the Assumption (Laurel Broughton, Univ. of Vermont)

Discussion of visions of the Virgin that dwell in loving detail on her sumptuous clothing. Most descriptions of Mary’s clothing, though, are more restricted to (symbolic) color, or vague generalizations of splendor. General background information on the Feast of the Assumption. And now we get to the pretty slide show! The mantle is a focus of rich decoration, either simply in the intense blue color, or with jeweled gold-brocaded orphreys or powdered with gold decorative motifs. When shown in scenes that include female donor images, Mary does not wear “current fashion” but always “old fashioned” garments of simple, loose cut. So the decoration is the focus of the sumptuousness. (The paper’s author observes that the relationship of Mary’s garments to “modern fashion” bear a stylistic parallel to that of priestly vestments to male fashion. (Mostly we’re simply getting a lot of pretty images now, not a lot of new information.)

Sartorial Strategies in the Roman de Silence (Nicole D. Smith, Univ. of North Texas)

Alas, scratched. Damn. I’m particularly fond of the Roman de Silence. I have vague plans to write a fantasy novelization of it some day (with a slightly different ending than the original).

What’s the Pearl-Maiden Wearing and Why? (Kimberly Jack, Auburn Univ.)

The “Pearl-maiden” who appears in the dream-vision of the text’s narrator wears garments and a headdress featuring … guess what? … pearls, in addition to bearing the “pearl of wonder” on her breast, a symbolic feature of the text. But there is disagreement as to the likely construction of her garments, apart from their decoration. Her gown is described as “blazing white”, open at the sides, bordered with pearled bands. The garment is describe as a “bleaunt” (but not to be identified with the “bliaut” of the early 12th century – the Pearl text is from the 14th c.) but also as a “beaumys”. Bleaunt can also be a type of fabric (a very fine linen or silk) as opposed to a garment name. “Beaumys” is emended in various edited editions as “beau amys”, “beau amice”, “beau biys”, or even “bleaunt of biys”. Another description provides “with lappes large”. One suggested interpretation for this is tippets. But this creates a problem with the description “vpon at sydez” (open at the sides) if one interprets that as referring to the sideless surcoat, as the two fashions, while present during a similar period, do not coincide. “Open at the sides” might refer to a slit in the overskirt, but visual evidence from the era doesn’t support the existence of such a garment. So perhaps the “lappes large” interpretation is wrong? Another possible reading of “lap(pe)” could be a skirt or any part of a garment loose enough to be raised, folded, or seized. The sideless surcoat does sometimes have full, loose skirts that would fulfill this definition. Following on, the garment has a double border of precious pearl “in porfyl py3t; Py3t watz poyned and vche a hemme; At hond at sydez, at ouerture”. This is interpreted as “purfled”, i.e., edged with an expensive fur (the continuation of a lining fur, but using a more precious fur where it shows externally). The areas where this purfling is described are consistent with a sideless surcoat. Furthermore, the positioning of the “wonder pearl” on the maiden’s breast would then correspond to the jeweled ornaments typically seen on high-end sideless surcoats on the front plastron. As discussed in detail by Robin Netherton [me: who is sitting next to me during this, nodding energetically], at the time of this work, the sideless surcoat had become symbolic of queens and other prominent women, rather than an ordinary garment, and also a feature of funerary images. These features come together in the symbolism of the Pearl maiden as well.
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Session 73: Dress and Textiles I: Threads and Fibers

Evidence for Roundels in Viking Age Embroidery from Bjerringhøj, Mammen Parish, Denmark (Raven Alexandra Fagelson, Independent Scholar)

The paper looks at the Mammen embroideries with a focus on a compositional analysis of the geometry of the motifs to try to reconstruct their possible original layout. All the acanthus motifs occur in a curved arc, as does one line of small “face” motifs. In two cases (one acanthus, one small-face) then two fragmentary arcs occur on the same textile. Examples of other embroideries with arrangements of roundels occur in a similar time-frame (early medieval) in a number of different contexts (cloaks, altar cloths) with dizes ranging from small (Maasik embroidery) to very large (cloak of ?Henry II? with essentially one large roundel taking up the majority of the back. Acanthus and other foliate borders of roundels are demonstrated from a variety of sources. By mathematical calculation, the acanthus arcs could be part of a 22 cm diameter circle and the small faces to a ca. 35 cm diameter circle. Roundel motifs on textiles normally have “contents” and the leopard, bird, and quadruped motifs occur in conjunction with acanthus/face arc fragments. Roundels often occur in lines or arrays and often are conjoined where they approach, and some of the acanthus motifs appear to approach each other in this fashion, although the geometry is somewhat off.

Fur, Feathers, Skin, Fiber, Wood: Representational Techniques in the Bayeux Tapestry (Gale R. Owen-Crocker)

The embroidery depicts a wide variety of natural and man-made textures. Only two stitch types are used: stem stitch and laid-and-couched, and only 10 colors. The types of stitches chosen may be determined by the scope and speed of the work. The background fabric is left blank – there’s a similar embroidery in silk but with a blank linen background (in Italy?) Texture of fur or feathers are rare, there’sa quadrupen with “tags” on a plain background, and a peacock with the tail depicted in individual feathers, and one other bird, but otherwise broad areas of animals are plain L&C with outlines. Bodies, as of birds, are divided into parts by stem-stitch lines (e.g., beaks, wings, wing-pinions and tail feathers) similarly to the outlined sections of clothing. Lines of couching in both animals and clothing often follow the general contour of the segment, rather than being absolute. Although the general rule is that stem stitch is always outlines and couching for fills, there are some small areas of fill done in stem stitch, e.g., a bird’s pinions. Often this happens in long narrow spaces, e.g., bird legs. Some use of stem for texture, e.g., a horse’s mane, but this is inconsistant. Human skin is left as the ground cloth (a technique also used in manuscripts where only outlines of features are indicated with skin left as the plain parchment). In crowd scenes, the outlines of faces/hands and blocks of hair often seem artificially varied, simply for visual interest (also done for clothing, but less artificial there). Individualization of horses both by position and color of both horse and equipment. A few failures of this distinction, possibly due to poor planning by multiple workers, changed in mid-project to maintain a contrast between adjacent figures.

Flax and Linen in Medieval Novgorod (Heidi M. Sherman, Univ. of Wisconsin–Green Bay)

Archaeology important for history of trade in Russia due to scarcity of written sources. Soviet Union sponsored massive numbers of excavations providing a wealth of research material. Scholars agree that Novgorod had important flax trade but not much previous work done on the topic. Work on wooden artifacts includes lots of flax processing tools. (Digression into political dynamics of the day.) Types of relevant finds: scutches, breakers, combs, hackles, spindles & whorls, distaffs, parts of looms (although these last three are not flax-specific), also flax seeds and seed-pods. Some arguments over whether the toothed wooden “hackles” might instead be fish-scalers – much larger number of these hackles in comparison to scotches which might suggest another interpretation. (me: These aren’t the iron-toothed hackles that look similar to wool combs but look more like a short weaving-sword with a series of shallow notches along one edge of variable size.) Households typically had scutches and spinning equipment but not typically the “hackles”. In contrast, a different style of hackle is a narrow long-toothed comb that looks more like a “paintbrush” shape (i.e., a housepainting paintbrush).

Distaff, Whorl, and Wheel: Medieval Views of Spinning (Janilee Plummer, Ball State Univ.)

Analysis of 10-15th c. images of spinners primarily from Western Europe.
Religious: Eve, Virgin Mary, other femail saints, annunciation of the shepherds, other
Daily chores: spinning while tending sheep, while doing other everyday activities
Defense: e.g., using a distaff as a weapon
Ephemera: marginal illustrations unrelated to story, grotesques, animals
Men: unmanly men (hesitant to go to war, being laughed at or abuse), but also professional spinners e.g., of rope or hunting equipment

Eve depicted spinning as a symbol of physical labor as punshment for the Fall. But then Mary is depicted spinning as a symbol of being a “virtuous woman”. Hmm. The distaff-weapon isn’t only in inter-gender violence – image of Sarah beating Hagar with a distaff, a woman beating off a fox from her geese (me: but this follows an image of a fox-bishop preaching to the geese, so there may be other symbolic layers here). Tacuinum Sanitatis shows women spinning with a distaff while walking for other purposes. All sorts of marginal animals depicted spinning (ape, pig) in parallel with other types of activities. Male spinners: depicted as objects of derision or as a symbol of the unwarlike or unmanned man (e.g., Hercules forced to spin). The exception is for non-textile spinning, e.g., men in the Hunt Book of Phoebus Gaston depicted spinning rope for hunting nets. (Also unusual in that the spinning process involves two people – one turning the wheel (with a crank?) the other drafting the thread.


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