What to Wear to War! A Look at SCA Garb!
Every summer Knights and their Ladies descend upon campgrounds around the world. These ordinary campground become host for the Society for Creative Anachronisms and their annual WARS. War simply put is when the different Kingdoms, Baronies, and Duchy's, of the society come together and battle one another in order to determine the strongest in the land. There are many types of battles, and competitions occurring during the whole weekend, or week long event. But, like all great events what you wear is crucial.
The SCA's focus and purpose it to promote the life, times, and culture of the Middle Ages or Medieval Europe. Therefore, when attending an SCA event you are required to wear "Garb". In other words, not only do you have an excuse to play dress up, it is required that you wear garb when attending war. This requirement adds to the air of authenticity that the Society strives to recreate. Since the middle ages stretch from the end of the Roman Empire to the 1500's your options for garb are almost limitless. At war you will see everything from belly dancers to togas.
So what should you wear? With such a large time span to cover the choices are unlimited so research is key. Take a good look at each era of the Middle Ages and discover what choices are available. Are you a Roman Gladiator, or a Scottish Lord? A gypsy woman or Irish serving wench? Another factor, you must also consider is how elaborate or simple you want your garb to be and how much money you are wiling to spend. Another factor to consider in planning your garb is comfort. Since War is largely and outdoor summer event the weather can often be a factor so you want to make sure your fabrics are light and comfortable.
During the middle ages the key foundation clothing item, for men, was a tunic. This is nothing more than a long baggy shirt that was worn. The tunic reached the from mid-thigh (Roman Battle Tunic), to the knees. Men also wore floor length tunics, particularly if they were old, priests, or for formal occasions. For women the main foundation piece was a chemise. This is nothing more than a floor length cotton night gown with full sleeves and a draw string top.
Over the tunic men would wear vests, battle skirts or simply tie them at the waist with belts. For women a overdress was worn over the chemise. These over dresses were often laced at the sides or across the chest. If a women was of wealthy means she would also have laced sleeves to go with her over dress. Another popular form of dress for men is a kilt and a full shirt, much like a women's chemise but shorter. At war you will also see women dressed as gypsies or belly dancers. You may be thinking gypsies + belly dancers does not equal medieval time but this was something many men of this time period would of seen during the crusades.
Once again, when choosing your garb it is crucial to consider comfort. What looks wonderful in early spring may be miserable in July. You also need to decide if you are going to make your own garb or buy it pre-made. If you are planning to make your garb start early this will avoid any issues you may have. When considering your garb, unless you are royalty within the society, purple is reserved for the members of court so you should stay away from that color. Another key factor in garb selection is fabric. Not only for comfort but authenticity you should choose natural fabric such as cotton, wool, muslin, linen or silk. No matter what you choose to wear at War strive for authenticity and comfort.