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Historic Re-enactment Garb
A very popular pursuit these days seems to be historic re-enactments. These may be of famous wars and skirmishes of the past, especially - but not confined to - the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
At our local university there is a group called The SCA, or Society for Chronological Anachronism, and I've found that there are groups, or kingdoms, as they are known, of this society in at least nineteen countries around the world. In fact, there are over 30,000 members.
We're interested in what happened in the past and the way our ancestors lived, fought in battles and died. SCA members dress appropriately and attend events that include feasts, dancing, music groups, tournaments and even classes in how to carry out these activities as close to the original and as authentic as possible (without the bloodshed, of course!).
Most SCA members take on pseudonyms that usually begin with titles such as Lord, Lady, Baron, Baroness, Sir, Lady and so on, and they address each other accordingly. There are special groups for families and young people and some of the members give their time to visit history and social study classes in schools to provide lively demonstrations that are as accurate as possible for the era that is being studied.
A number of members, both men and women, take a pride in hand-sewing their own garb, using only natural materials that were available in the time they have chosen to represent.
Women's clothing can vary from the simple to the highly decorated, depending on the status of the personality that they have taken on. Some women who are interested in re-enactment sew their own clothes by hand, while others purchase online and it's surprising the number of outlets available. Women's garments did not include set in pockets until the middle of the nineteenth century; instead they often wore separate pockets that were tied around the waist and hidden under the outer clothing.
Many women like to make their outer garments, but when it comes to underwear, especially corsets, and items such as shoes and accessories, they prefer to purchase them as making such articles can be very time-consuming and requires considerable know-how if they're to be comfortable by today's standards.
As with the women, some men enjoy making their own garb, while others prefer to purchase their clothing, shoes and accessories.
If the man is interested in re-enactments of tournaments, battles and sword-fights, this will require much more equipment, possibly with the addition of helmets and chain mail. They will spend long hours practising with sword and epee.
Materials used to make the garb include pure linen, hemp, fur and wool, with the addition of silk and cotton, depending on the era. Jerkins were often made of leather and were often worn over a doublet. It's interesting that men's clothes included pockets in the inside garments with a fitchet in the outer garment to give easy access to the pocket.
Some men enjoy taking part in re-enactments from different eras, so they build a collection of clothes to suit the era and this can sometimes amount to quite a wardrobe! Of course, the hats, shoes and other accessories need to be chosen to match the era as well.
Basic materials for headgear may include linen, cotton, straw, fur and felt. These may be purchased or made from start to finish by people interested in trying their hand at producing such things.
The finished products are usually decorated with ribbons, feathers and other trims such as objects fashioned from metal and bone. Again, these decorations may be purchased from businesses that specialise in such things, or they may be produced at home, after researching ancient methods of construction.
Food and Utensils
These days, so much of our food and the way we package it comes from other countries and was not known in historic times.
Food: Food then was more simple and, of course, in cold countries various methods had been evolved for preserving it over the long winters. Cereals intended for bread, cakes and for porridge were stored in containers, and by the end of winter, whether kept whole or milled they often included many weevils. Yeast was the only raising used. Wine was stored in wooden casks, fish and meat were sun-dried or salted down, as were most vegetables, although some were stored in piles of sand and became very dry and wrinkled before the next crop was available.
Utensils: Containers and utensils were usually simple, although sometimes the handles of knives and spoons were beautifully decorated. Clay pots were left plain or decorated before firing, according to their intended use. Cooking pots may have been made of iron, other metal or clay.
Bling and other accessories are popular today for personal adornment and there were many that were popular in 'the olden days,' as well, but some were different from what we use now.
There were also quite a few games and one of these is represented by the home-made cards in the accessory display below.
Much time was often spent in producing some of these accessories and different materials were used, such as wood, leather and fabric.
© 2014 Bronwen Scott-Branagan