Friday, July 6, 2012

Garb Thoughts for a Midsummer Day

(Author's note: I started writing this on Sunday, June 24, but didn't get around to finishing it. With the big storm and power outages that canceled the June 30 SCA event in my barony, things got kind of crazy. So here is the article as I started to write it ... if that makes any sense.)

As I noted three years ago, today is Lithuania's Midsummer Day, also called Rasos, Kupolės or Joninės. The weather has been heating up around here, but I spent most of today indoors at an Italian Renaissance gown workshop hosted by Mistress Jeanmaire du Doremy. She is a Laurel primari
ly for late-period clothing, and by "late period," I mean the 16th century.

A couple of blog posts ago, I mentioned that I'm not all that great at making garb. Seriously, the clothing I've made since joining the SCA in 2004 amounts to a couple of chemises, a T-tunic dress, a shorter tunic for wearing over a skirt or pants, a woolen half-circle cloak, a liripipe hood (which I keep misplacing), a couple of veils, and a whole bunch of "bog dresses" or simple cotton chitons. This simple stuff is great for Pennsic. I'm not sorry I made any of it. But if I want to make some authentically Lithuanian (or Polish-Lithuanian) garb, I have two routes: the early-period stuff, with precious little pictorial evidence, or the late-period stuff, where there are at least a few paintings, such as Lucas Cranach the Younger's depiction of the Jagiellon family.

Mistress Jeanmaire's class focused on a particular dress worn in a 16th-century portrait, a print of which hangs on her wall at home. She has already made a gown for herself based on this portrait, and she wore it at the most recent Kingdom Twelfth Night. She explained in detail how to make the four layers: chemise (you must have a chemise specific to this dress), corset, underskirt, and the gown itself. We took each other's measurements and traced out customized corset patterns (after trying on the existing corset). At the end of the afternoon, we agreed to have another meeting in late September, well after Pennsic, when we can show off what we've done so far and continue working on our outfits.

Update on July 6: Since the class, I've dug out my copy of Tarp Rytu Ir Vakaru and looked at the illustrations other than the Cranach portraits. The book has one or two other late-period depiction of women wearing dresses that seem to be more like "Italian Renn" fashions than Saxon gowns. I really ought to bring this book, and the little other evidence I have, to the next gathering with Mistress Jeanmaire and ask her about this. If it turns out that Italy was as much of an influence on Lithuanian fashion in the 1500s and 1600s as the "German" regions (because of Bona Sforza and other "intermarriages" among noble families), that will make my "what to wear" conundrum much easier to resolve.
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