So, I did the do and joined up with the SCA chapter at my university.
The SCA is the Society for Creative Anachronism - basically, they’re sort-of historical re-enactors. Their period of interest is pre-1600s, and their region of interest is ‘Europe’, which is a very flexible definition (Byzantine and Ottoman garb is perfectly acceptable). For more about them, try their website.
My interest here is twofold:
Firstly, I’ve had a lot of interest in low-tech techniques for making stuff, because I’m not exactly rich and often can’t afford fancy gadgets and tools. With the way my house is laid out too, I’m also awfully short of power points and working space. But people made some pretty amazing clothes, accessories, and other items without electricity and often without a whole lot of working space too - if they did it, then it can’t be that much harder for me. (Don’t laugh.)
Secondly, there are so many crafts that are dying out now. Some of it is thanks to mechanization; there’s just no reason for humans to weave fabrics now. Some is (apparent) lack of necessity, like shoemaking and armor-making (though, also see reason 1). And some is just…lost interest. The people who undertook these crafts aren’t getting any younger, and in some cases they’re perilously old. Finding people who have that interest to help revive the knowledge or keep passing it on is the only way to keep these crafts alive. Sure, we don’t need to make our own shoes anymore - but making stuff is fun, and it makes me feel happy, and I get the exact thing I want. So, I’m happy to do it.
Another attractive point is that teaching is required in the SCA. Beyond (effectively) the novice level of most recognized offices, you have to teach at least some classes in order to gain the next award. So it helps SCA members to have people to teach too. Everyone wins!
Now, here’s the thing. The SCA runs some events garbed. This means: you must be in a period-appropriate outfit. (They’re quite forgiving about stuff like shoes though, given the difficulty of making some items and the part where we’re all on limited budgets. But you have to make a reasonable effort.)
And I mean outfit. Everything visible on you, including your hairstyle, should strive to be as accurate to period and region as possible. (You can carry your phone and etc, but you have to disguise it as an appropriate accessory.)
As mentioned before as well, their period and region of interest is pre-1600s Europe.
I’m pretty fussy about my clothes and accessories, as anyone who’s ever heard me whining or had to go clothes shopping with me would know. I also have some stuff I have to carry on me all the time, like water, ID, my phone and its charge pack, and my daily medication. Which necessitates a bag, usually.
In terms of hairstyle, my hair isn’t as long as it once was (I’m working on it!) but I can be fussy about styling. I find it uncomfortable to have it pulled tight or hanging - ponytails give me a headache after a while, even now. But, in hot weather, I prefer to have it off my neck - and in windy conditions, I like it off my face. My hair doesn’t hold a curl at all (the best curling irons and curl setters out there might get me 4-6 hours of curl if I’m lucky) and it can be difficult to style as even after 3-4 days without washing, it can still be a bit slippery and fly-away.
Speaking of summer, I do not tolerate heat very well at all, and I burn easily without sunscreen (but sunscreen is its own special pain in the butt). Part of my clothing gripe these days is the lack of affordable, lightweight, breathable, covering and opaque summer clothing. SCA events take place all year around, so I will have to adapt at least one outfit for the hotter months. I like cottons and other natural fibers for summer, because I do not like being sweaty.
In winter, I can tolerate a lot. Provided that my chest, legs, hands and feet are well-covered, I’m warm. I also like to wear a hat or something over my ears to block the cold air from them (more of an issue if I’ve just showered). But - if I’m walking, or doing a lot of physical activity, I warm up very fast. I’ve sometimes had to strip down to just a T-shirt on otherwise-freezing days because I was walking a long distance and was starting to sweat. So, it’s a balance between ‘how active will I be today’ and ‘how much insulation do I need’. Luckily for me, I can tolerate softer/finer wools against my skin, so I have options.
My craft interests are leatherworking, bookbinding, illumination, calligraphy, printing (faux woodcut - I’ll be doing it with linocut stamps, but close enough), crochet (and possibly nalbinding if I ever get my head around it), and some jewellery-making (hot metal scares me, but there’s a lot you can do with cold metal and not-metal).
In terms of styling, I tend to be more attracted to styles than particular periods or regions; it’s about the a e s t h e t i c. In summer I like loose, flowy, drapey fabrics, sparkling glass and gemstone beads, balancing the practical against the attractive. In winter I’m all about layers, big heavy coats, contrasting lengths, flashes of colour from accessories or layers or linings, all that jazz. In general though, I’m not into bright colours - I prefer pastels or muted jeweltones and neutrals - and not huge amounts of decoration, but I do like me some patterns and embroidery sometimes. It’s a very loose and not-very-unified aesthetic, I know. (I’m working on a gallery.)
So, based on advice from Padraig Lowther (Paddy, who heads the Brewers, Vintners and Imbibers Guild) here are the regions and time periods that should work for me:
J.W. Godward was a painter in the Neoclassical style, who has some amazing artwork.
Idleness by J. W. Godward; oil on canvas, 1900. dat dress
Not only is it incredibly detailed (LOOK AT THE KITTY’S FUR) but it’s also very accurate.
The Jewel Casket by J. W. Godward; oil on canvas, 1900. dat background
You see, Godward (and his contemporary, Lawrence Alma-Tedema) both did some serious research into every detail of their paintings. Clothes, hairstyles, architecture…even the flowers in an arrangement. That alone I think makes him an arguably good source for design inspiration. (And also, that DETAIL.)
The Signal by J. W. Godward; oil on canvas, 1899. How can you not want to wear that dress?
(I like Godward’s style more than Alma-Tedema’s; he does more individual shots, while Alma-Tedema does more crowd shots which makes it harder to pick out enough detail.)
A Classical Beauty by J. W. Godward; oil on canvas, undated. THE HAIR
Just look at them, okay?
A Fair Reflection by J. W. Godward; oil on canvas, 1915.
Here’s a good gallery. WARNING: There are some nude images in here.
Here’s the rub: I want to go to the Intercollege War in July. That means winterwear, since it’s NSW in winter, and camping.
But it’s already April, and none of this stuff is fast to make.
Based on the little bit of research I’ve done so far though, and some clarification of the SCA’s rules from other members, it looks like the fastest warm outfits to throw together will be either the pre-Christian Viking or Grecian. I’m going for the Viking though, solely because it looks a lot more practical for July in NSW.
So…wish me luck! Seriously, I need it, I’m going to need a lot of money for this…
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