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I tired myself out yesterday by failing to take a nap in favour of working on my green linen jacket. 

The jacket - it's hand sewn, and will have hand-braided trim (which I am currently braiding, since the sewing is as finished as it can be before trim). It's cute - at least, I think so. The colour combination made Bob startle a little, but I'm tired of boring safe colour. It's not all dull browns and raggedy-ass patched clothing for 16th century workers, you know, despite what everyone tries to tell us.

One of the biggest problems that all of us who research historic clothing encounter is the hollywood-influenced "eye" of the casual observer. Poor kass_rantsgot tagged by this just recently (not that she doesn't get this on a regular basis - kilts?! We don't need no stinkin' kilts!, but this was a biggie. Let's just say that NatGeo wouldn't know a "Real Pirate" if one walked up and shoved a cutlass where their sun do not shine), and it's this attitude that is responsible for all the "Irish" dresses, The Tudors, and Gwyneth Paltrow's Victorian riding habit (the green velvet one with the dumb-ass little hat kill kill*kill*kill*kill*kill*kill*kill*kill) (kill) in Shakespeare in Love

Y'all know what I mean about the "eye", right?  The ability to look at something historic without layering multiple 21st century filters over a picture or an artifact.  Being able to really see it, and, in the case of clothing, see what it is, not what you want it to be, even if it blows a pet theory out of the water.  Not everyone likes this idea, and I've even been berated by a Laurel, who told me that the "eye" was "complete nonsense".  But I'm guessing all my readers are down with this concept.

(It's a nascent "eye" that makes you go "I know something is wrong with that outfit, but I couldn't exactly say why".  More training, and you'll be able to say exactly why.)

Yes, pirates and gypsies and courtesans and bog-dwellers who become king of their own personal dung-heap are romantic.  Countless persona stories in the SCA witness to this.  As other people have said, they appeal to the sense of the "outsider" in all of us. But our romantic ideas of what life was like back then are so heavily overlaid with our 21st century filters that we have completely erased the missing teeth, the open skin sores, the lice, the smallpox scars, the lack of paved roads, and, in the case of female "pirates", the systematic rape and sexual abuse of lower class women.  

(Suck it, Elizabeth Swann.)

Outsider status may be romantic when you're dreaming of freedom and fortune tellers and dancing by the firelight, but believe me, you want to stay here in the 21st century and go home at the end of the evening with all your rights, money, and teeth intact.  The realities of Outsiders can be summed up by the systematic persecution of homosexuals throughout history.  Substitute any disapproved ethnicity/orientation, and the results are the same.  And forget about rights for women - in 17th century Amsterdam, a woman who got pregnant as a result of rape could not get a conviction, because it was believed that a woman had to orgasm to conceive, and if she orgasmed, she clearly enjoyed it, ergo, not rape.

Romantic, huh?

Even our view of "outsider status" is informed and altered by our 21st century privilege; the Outsider is more authentic, more real, more noble.  This is as condescending and untrue as the idea of the "noble savage" in the 19th century - by making the Outsider "superior", it absolves the privileged classes of any responsiblity in their persecution, and in the end, even Outsider status is appropriated by people who enjoy all the benefits and protections granted by their mainstream position (see:  People who appropriate Native American symbolism for suspect religious "ceremonies", Maori tribal tattoos, and white surburban teenage "ganstas").

But we were talking about costume, weren't we?

People like to think of the past as if they were dropped into it with all the knowledge and privilege they have now.  They see everything through a 21st century filter, especially the clothes.  In most cases, this means screw accuracy, the heroines should be Amazons with long flowing hair and lacy dresses, the heroes should have their musular, tanned chests shown off with frilly shirts open to the navel, accessorized with a remarkable amount of very white teeth.  Pirates have eyepatches and treat women pirates with respect, only the villains have any skin blemishes, and only bad girls come to bad ends. 

In the SCA, this manifests itself in people who prefer "pretty" over real.  In costuming (the focus of my post, I swear!), it leads to some of our more amusing myths - especially the one about how all colours back then were faded and dull, and everyone below aristocratic status accessorized with dirt. When you see a woman who has reasonably good clothes, but refuses to cover her hair, and wears a ton of modern-looking makeup, that's an example of a modern "pretty" filter - they can't see (yet) that a properly finished an accessorized outfit is truly a thing of beauty.

(It also manifests itself in poor judging practices - honestly, I wish people would educate themselves a little before simply accepting whatever current trope is circling the costuming circles.  If you have been told something, research it please, especially before taking points off someone's entry.  I hate going through judging forms and finding out the judge knows considerably less than the entrant, and is penalizing them for it.)

(Actually, I usually can tell that someone is ready for a Laurel when they're willing to wear something that directly clashes with modern beauty "ideals".  If they're up for crazy hairdos and strange adornments, then they have the coveted "eye".)

If we as a culture - even up to our museum curators and consultants - are more interested in a good story than the truth, we lose.  The past is fragile, and in the case of clothing/textiles, easily destroyed.  If we do not take steps to preserve the information properly, then bang, bang, the past is gone, dead. History should not be seen as a reality show, cropped and edited to only show the parts we think are juicy, with any truth manipulated for better viewer numbers, it's our past. If we're not interested in learning about it (including the boring, unromantic bits), well, then - to paraphrase Santayana, say hello to fucking it up all over again.

(He's more articulate, I'm pithier.) 

The past may not be exciting on a day-to-day basis, nor as extreme in its highs and lows, but it's pretty damned outrageous.  What they wore, how they felt about stuff, the colour combinations they liked - it's all the meat of the most fascinating research.  There's no need to embellish or romanticize it - it stands just fine on its own merits.

Which brings me back to my jacket, which is green with rose pink trim. Because they had it. And they used it. And I'm sick of people spreading the misinformation that people wore dull boring colours.  After 400 years, yes, they are faded.  But we're not reproducing 400-year old artifacts, are we?

Finally, for
tudorlady 
- I hope you don't mind, but I wielded my awesome *koff* MSPaint skills on your behalf:



(Um, those are supposed to be ruffs on the cats. And Lennie is carrying an axe. You know, because.)

Comments

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reasdream
Jun. 3rd, 2008 01:46 pm (UTC)
I don't know whether to say "Vivant", "Brava" or "Amen, sister!"

What I will say is that your MS Paint is made of win. :D
attack_laurel
Jun. 3rd, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
Heh. TL was bemoaning the fact that the program that made the original image couldn't do costumes, so I got busy. :)
gwacie
Jun. 3rd, 2008 01:50 pm (UTC)
Modern hair always gets me... and it's fun looking back on old event pictures. The people who are veiled and wimpled, etc. Don't look dated. The ones with modern hair, do. So there's a reason to be authentic; you won't have to hide the pictures later! ;)

Have you noticed that in movies if they're reasonably good at their costuming, the lead female almost always fails the test by having modern hair and makeup? (Because she must be beautiful, you see.) When I was a child I honestly thought they wore beehives in the Old West because of all the 1960s westerns I watched on tv ;)
attack_laurel
Jun. 3rd, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
It's very true - fashion changes fast, and bad hair pics are forever.

(no subject) - isabelladangelo - Jun. 3rd, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - stitchwhich - Jun. 3rd, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
maricelt
Jun. 3rd, 2008 01:55 pm (UTC)
So preaching to the choir.

Great color combo! I have one indigo and madder orange combo that is the bomb.

attack_laurel
Jun. 3rd, 2008 01:57 pm (UTC)
I love the pink and green - the Sparng garters at the MFA Boston inspired me.

I need 22 yards of trim though - it's taking a while.
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hugh_mannity
Jun. 3rd, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
*applauds wildly*

My 'eye' spends an awful lot of time making my brain say "waitaminnit..." these days.

And my persona stories are boring. Early Hugh is an innkeeper, in Walsingham, Norfollk some time in the 13th century. He's prosperous as Walsingham was a huge pilgrimage destination up till the dissolution of the monasteries, and thinks rather much of himself. Late Hugh is a weaver who lives in Norwich in the late 16th century -- he's a descendent of Early Hugh, but the family fell on hard times when the pilgrim trade dried up and he went off in search of work.

No pirates, highwaymen or ninjas need apply.

I harbour dreams of an Arabian persona -- mostly so I can wear comfortable clothing at Pennsic.
attack_laurel
Jun. 3rd, 2008 01:59 pm (UTC)
Stringmonkey had the right idea - in response to the "what job did you have in a past life" meme, she wrote something like "subsistence farmer" for each one. :)
(no subject) - hugh_mannity - Jun. 3rd, 2008 02:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
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valkyr8
Jun. 3rd, 2008 02:01 pm (UTC)
Ditto!
belfebe
Jun. 3rd, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
Amen.

Pirates have eyepatches and treat women pirates with respect, only the villains have any skin blemishes, and only bad girls come to bad ends.

That sounds like the plot (or lack of thereof) of Pirates, the adult film. (Which is hysterical, BTW, and features the longest burning cottage scene ever recorded in recent history.)

Which brings me back to my jacket, which is green with rose pink trim.

That sounds lovely. It reminds me of when I decided to trim my blue doublet with pink and line it with pale green. I still get some raised eyebrows, but I love it. The nice thing about those colors in that period, is that you can go to town with combinations we would probably not think about for contemporary clothing. It is fun, and it looks right.

Edited at 2008-06-03 02:04 pm (UTC)
pirategirleee
Jun. 3rd, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
ROFL! That is the best part of the movie (because it's just too funny)

OH NO! the cottage is burning down...we have to get out quick....but first we have just enough time for (insert pron music).
(no subject) - belfebe - Jun. 3rd, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
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peteyfrogboy
Jun. 3rd, 2008 02:27 pm (UTC)
It's interesting to see what "the eye" picks up on. You can often look at a recreated outfit and see that there are certain aspects of a garment that they saw, while missing others. A good "eye" continues to find those pieces and eventually fills in all the gaps. A lazy "eye" never gets past "poofy shirt and baggy pants".

Also:

Suck it, Elizabeth Swann.

Most concise slashfic ever.
attack_laurel
Jun. 3rd, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
*evil grin*
landverhuizer
Jun. 3rd, 2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
Green with rose pink trim... and just keep thinking.. what is wrong with that?
But then I have very little modern eye either :P

"pretty" over real"
they just don't know what pretty is
I like the real, nothin much handsomer
lorebubeck
Jun. 3rd, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
I love the "crazy" colors. My Turkish is greenish gold coat with lavender lining. "Matching" vest (I forget the correct term) is bright orange with bright light yellow lining. White "shirt" and Navy sawars. Awesome!

And let us not forget my (very period) Spanish purple, black and green plaid parti colored fitted dress!
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lorebubeck
Jun. 3rd, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)
I love your kitty! I havve a little girl just like him/her.
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gianetta
Jun. 3rd, 2008 02:57 pm (UTC)
Wearing Elizabethan has done some interesting things to my modern wardrobe. I have to ask Adam things like, 'Can I wear my red jacket with this teal shirt?' because I've started to think that that kind of contrast looks good together. I'm not sure he's the best person to ask as he likes some interesting color combinations as well, but I know that if he says no, it's definitely a no-go.

At this point, there are some things I care about at SCA events and others I don't care about so much. I'll probably get a few demerits from the laurels' council for saying so, but there are things I'd wear at events that I wouldn't wear at Jamestown and vice versa because I see them as serving different purposes, both for me and for others. I don't worry about my hair under my hat when I'm dressed as a boy at events because I'm not willing to get a boy cut to make it look right and hiding it completely under the hat looks both wrong and dorky, but I hide it under a coif and hat at Jamestown when I'm wearing girl clothes. The world seems to continue to spin. . .
thatpotteryguy
Jun. 3rd, 2008 03:01 pm (UTC)
"And I'm sick of people spreading the misinformation that people wore dull boring colours. After 400 years, yes, they are faded. But we're not reproducing 400-year old artifacts, are we?"

AMEN! HALLELUJAH! Sing it from the rooftops!

I run into this ALL THE TIME. And from professional historians and reenactors, frustratingly enough.

"I've never seen a green glaze that vivid on a period piece." "Period glazes are lead-based. And when a peice has been buried in fairly acidic soil for 600 years, lead glazes become porous, and leach the copper green." "How do you know that?" "Chemistry. The laws of thermodynamics still applied in the fourteenth century."

czina
Jun. 3rd, 2008 03:08 pm (UTC)
"Chemistry. The laws of thermodynamics still applied in the fourteenth century."

Are you sure about that? I don't know that The Church ruled definitively on that subject - you don't want to be another Galileo, do you?

-Sorry, but the fact that 'thermodynamics' and 'fourteenth century' were used in the same sentence (and very well, I might add) is just funny.

(no subject) - albreda - Jun. 3rd, 2008 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
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pirategirleee
Jun. 3rd, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you mentioned modern hair! I don't consider myself the most accurate or most authentic at events but I do make an attempt (coifs are your friend). I have to confess a personal pet peeve of mine is uncovered or modern hair (I'm more forgiving on makeup because my eyes disappear without a little). I know that not everyone has the time or interest and that is fine. What bugs me though is when you see someone wearing a nice reasonably accurate outfit but the illusion is ruined by modern or uncovered hair. Double negative points if they're wearing tennis shoes. I would never go up and say anything to anyone, but it does give me a slight eye twitch.

attack_laurel
Jun. 3rd, 2008 03:16 pm (UTC)
Make-up isn't verboten - just bright, obviously modern make-up jars with a period look - like bright red lipstick or blue eyeshadow with an Elizabethan face.

I have little piggy eyes that disappear without a little mascara - and I do face makeup all the time at events - just in a more subdued pale look.
(no subject) - isabelladangelo - Jun. 3rd, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - valkyr8 - Jun. 3rd, 2008 07:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
cathgrace
Jun. 3rd, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC)
I love how my German hats look so right with my German dresses, and oh so bad with jeans..... (and that MANY SCA people say I look better in my German stuff then what would be traditionally modernly beautiful.) It gives hope! I have some green silk, and some green wool by the way..... If you are at all interested in some attack laurel party favors..........
grumpycarrie
Jun. 4th, 2008 03:35 pm (UTC)
I know the feeling. I get more complements on my wearing of a veil and wimple then I ever get in mundanes. Everyone tells me that it is a really flatering look - I figure it just hides my double chin :)
roswtr
Jun. 3rd, 2008 03:25 pm (UTC)
I love the medieval color sense -- my current project is the Green & Orange Particolored Cotehardie of Eyeblindiness. If all goes well and I stop getting distracted, it should have it's debut at an event a couple of weekends from now. Just in time for the bright summer sunlight! I'll be seen from space!

While I appreciate teaching folks about the medieval aesthetic, though. It's one thing to combat the dreaded "Pink isn't Period" monster, but it's completely different to tell somebody that screaming neon pink is okay on a 14th century kirtle because the color is achievable with cochineal in a chrome bath.
etaine_pommier
Jun. 3rd, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
Screaming neon pink...
I have to hear that story...

One of my favorite current exercises is contrasting the incidence of colors in wardrobe accounts with the incidence of colors in contemporary paintings. I recommend it :-)
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