I have always wanted to dress up as a pirate. I do not mean a one eyed stick-legged pirate, but one of those sexy, fiery, courageous female pirates. Maybe because pirates live above the law, doing what they want, when they want or maybe because they act rough and tough. Who knows? Being a pirate has a certain allure that is difficult to explain.
I started looking for a pirate costume online. Costume super centre had some awesome pirate costumes to fit all tastes and budgets. But I wanted more than just a costume, I was determined to take in the whole package and not just dress but behave like a pirate. So I started looking for the history of female piracy. I was amazed at the richness of information I found. I had not realized that pirate women were not only fictional characters from romances and films, but that they have played an important role in history and particularly in women's history.
Some historical background:
Female piracy has been around since about 600BC. Although predominantly a male activity there are a few female pirates that have made history. If men became pirates in search of adventure, woman did it for more than that. Some times women became pirates to escape from poverty, prostitution, arranged marriages and oppression. Each one was determined to live their lives the way they chose rather than by the law. Each of them was in her own way brilliantly disruptive.
Some female pirates recognized by historians:
Jeanne de Clisson: (XIV century) The "Lioness of Brittany" became a pirate after the unjust execution of her husband. She was merciless and it is said that she carried out the beheadings herself. She became a pirate to avenge her husband who had been unjustly executed by order of the French King, Philip VI. She is believed to have aided the English government against the French.
Anne Bonny (1697-1720). Born in Ireland, Anne married a pirate and had an affair with another pirate. When her affair was discovered she was sentenced to flogging, but she skipped town dressed as a man. Anne joined her lover's - Captain Calico Jack's - crew and became a pirate in the Caribbean. Maybe because of her Irish roots, Anne is often portrayed as a violent, fiery, bad tempered and wild person. One famous tale says that as a child, she stabbed a family maid to death in a temper, but this is pure conjecture!
Mary Read, alias Mark Read c.1690-1720. Born illegitimately in England, Mary's mother passed her off as her legitimately born brother Mark who had died. Mary passed most of her life pretending to be a man, but eventually she was discovered and had to get married. After the death of her husband Mary went on a voyage and her ship was captured by pirates. It is said that she was given the choice of dying or joining the pirate's crew. She chose the latter. As a pirate, Mary encountered Anne Bonny and they became friends and worked together in Captain Calico Jack's ship.
When both Anne and Mary were captured and taken for trial in Jamaica, they both plead to be spared from hanging because they were pregnant. But before giving birth Mary died in jail from a fever and there are no records of what happened with Anne.
Grace O'Malley (1546-1603) A pirate who ruled the coasts of Ireland, she was probably the only female pirate who met with Queen Elizabeth I. Reports of the meeting say that the two women shared a mutual respect for a fellow female in a "man's" job.
Ching Shih (around 1804) Ching and her husband were among the most feared pirates in China. Even after the death of her husband Ching managed to keep "her domains" under control.
Female pirates in fiction
The most famous fictional females pirates are:
- Elizabeth Swann from Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean films. A proper young lady who transforms into a pirate.
- Faris from the video game Final Fantasy V
- Nami and Nico Robin from the manga series, One Piece
Female Pirate costumes from costumesupercenter.comClick thumbnail to view full-size
Although they were outlaws these women fought for more than just money. Female pirates fought for freedom to be themselves, to love whoever they wanted and when they wanted. As a child Mary Read had been forced to dress and behave as a boy and it is no wonder that later in life assuming her role as a woman and a wife she found her new role frustrating. At a time when women had no voice or vote, the freedom offered to men was too attractive for Mary, so more than likely she was grateful to be offered the opportunity to become a pirate.
Still, I realize now that the image of a real pirate has very little to do with reality. Real female pirates had to live among men and made themselves respected in a man's world. They had to spend their lives at sea, not only in a confined insalubrious place -I cannot imagine pirates having shiny ships - but they must have also suffered from nutritional disorders due to the lack of fresh food in the ships. Not only was food was difficult to keep when at sea, but so also was water a precious commodity. Alcohol was easier to stock and so it was the preferred beverage. History tells that when the ship with Mary and Anne onboard was captured by pirate hunters, the two women were the only ones sober so they were the only two who fought back while the rest of the crew was drunk and unconscious!
As it happens, being a female pirate was not as sexy or romantic as I had imagined. But then, we are in the XXI century and we need something to make us dream of the forbidden, so why not just for a night get dressed and in the skin of one of those courageous women? Have fun!
Pirate's costumes in Amazon
Talk like a Pirate:
Here you will find how to best personalize your pirate costume with some Pirate lingo. If you are going to dress like a pirate you must speak like one.
Some basic words that will give more credibility to your costume are:
Avast! - No way! or Get off!
Aye! - Yes
Grog - An alcoholic drink, usually rum diluted with water.
Pickup Lines for the Lady Pirates
"Come show me how ye bury yer treasure, lad! "
"I've crushed seventeen men's skulls between me thighs!"
"C'mon, lad, shiver me timbers!"
"I guarantee ye, I've had a twenty percent decrease in me "lice ratio!"
And my favourite, "You. Pants Off. Now!"