The Layers of Elevation

Note: It’s taken a year to get this post finished, but 2020/2021 were pretty dense as far as years ago. Regularly scheduled content will continue soon!

Continuing with the analog of a scholar passing examinations and taking an official post, I wanted my elevation clothing to stand in contrast to the simple, un-dyed linen robe I wore for my vigil.

Quick note: this is an image-heavy post, but rather than intersperse the images, I’m going to put them all in a gallery. Enjoy!

Scholars who would travel to Chang’an (the capital city of the Tang Dynasty) to for the annual conferrals of jinshi degrees, the final and highest degree in the civil exam framework (sound familiar?). This group was recognizable by the plain hempen robes they wore – and were called mayi (hemp-clad), buyi (cloth-clad), or baipao (white-robed).1 The word jiehe (“doffing of the coarse clothes”) described the occasion when scholar was assigned to an official post. High-ranking officials were called “vermillion-robed” (fifth rank or above) or “purple-robed” (third rank or above).

I also wanted to find a way to incorporate the SCA tradition of the laurel cloak.

I’ve already talked about the inspiration for my elevation robes, but here’s a quick review: The Chinese Historical Costume Restoration Team did a photoshoot of a recreation of an outfit worn by one of the donor ladies in Mogao Cave 9/Grotto 167, which is what I based my elevation ensemble on. It consists of three shirts (襦, rū) with incrementally larger sleeves, a skirt, a shawl, and shoes. (I cover the accessories and hair in other posts.)

I knew I wanted a red skirt as a nod to the “vermillion-robed” officials, and Mistress Maudelyn kindly dyed silk gifted to me by Lady Wilhelmina de la Coste. My skirt band was a gift from my laurel, Mistress Una.

I used my large-sleeved gown (da xiu shan, 大袖衫) pattern for the sleeves. I’m pretty sure when the sumptuary laws (as ineffective as they may have been) talk about sleeve width, they’re meant to curb the opulence of these sleeves. I also adjusted the sleeves so that the inner shirt’s sleeves were slightly longer, which would ensure they peaked out from beneath the teal and darker blue. I kept the body length short, so the only true “gown” in this ensemble is the laurel cloak Una made for me.

My inner-most shirt, dyed with the wax-resist method.

I spent a hot day in July with Mistress Wuennemon and Mistress Nula dying the fabric for my inner gown and shawl. We used a wax-resist method for the gown and a clamp-resist for the shawl. Countess Laurel Gwenhwyvar verch Owen ap Morgan made the blocks for my shawl, and they were so big we had to use a kiddie pool for the dye bath. I didn’t get a chance to go back and stamp stars on the ponies, and I’m not sure if I will. We also learned that batik and a hot dye bath aren’t a great combination, but I was still happy with our results.

Mistress Una made my laurel cloak, which is the large-sleeved gown (da xiu shan, 大袖衫). It’s a thin white silk with hand-printed gold laurel wreaths.

  1. Feng, L. R. (2015). City of marvel and transformation: Changan and narratives of experience in Tang Dynasty China. (Ebook). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
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