This post is a result of my cursory research of Lady Mi’s rock crystal necklace, exhibited by the National Museum of China in 2019, and my attempts to recreate it. I don’t plan on ever entering this necklace in competition, but I wanted to share this process as it shines light on how one can recreate something that looks period without using 100% period techniques or materials – and, mainly, on a budget. I’ll link to all the items I purchased for this project, as well as the sources used. Special thanks to Minamoto no Hideaki for helping translate.
Lady Mi, consort of the Fujun official (辅君夫人米氏, 685 AD-755 AD) was buried in what would become the suburbs of X’ian, Shaanix Province. Her tomb was discovered in 2002. She was buried wearing a rock crystal necklace with amethyst and turquoise drops and three blue beads, all strung on silk. The silk had degraded, and archeologists had to search for the beads that had scattered around her neck.
They found 92 crystal beads, 2 amethysts, 2 turquoise, and 3 blue beads. The amethyst and turquoise were set with gold bails.
I’ve got plans to revise the banbi documentation for publication over on the Tang Dynasty Garment Construction section, so you have a more easily accessible “how to” on this garment.
In My Sewing Bag: Socks! At Meridian Grand Tournament, I cut out and stitched my first stab at a Tang Dynasty sock, but it was too tight across the bridge. So at Menhir, I recut with a bit more room there and am currently seaming them up for another try-on.
And before you eyebrow at me, no, this is not my “check it off the list” post for February. I’m working on two – how to cite museum objects and do’s and don’ts for contacting libraries/museums/academics with questions.
To date, I have had a hand in writing three songs in the SCA. Two of them are silly. Two have corresponding illumination. One is based on a period poem and requires context. None of them get performed often, in part because I don’t attend many bardic circles, and within those circles, reading the tone of the circle to know what is best to present for the continued enjoyment of the participants/listeners is a challenge in regard to these songs.
So I’m presenting them here, if only so I keep a record of them in one spot.
The first was in answer to the Bard, Scribe, Illuminator challenge at the 2012 Northshield Bardic Madness. The theme was to do with animal puns, so Mistress Orlaith Ballach Inghean Fhlain, Larkin of Schattentor, and I wrote a filk of The Teddy Bear’s Picnic about the Great Bears of Northshield. I apologize for the lighting – this was in the last Fyte, which was the Feast Fyte, and I’d feel bad about doing a new recording without Larkin.
Chorus: (With the number lowering with each iteration) Four Great Bears went out one day To prove for good and all Who was the Greatest of the Bears To Grace a Northshield Hall
Fiskr [Fish] set out at a healthy pace But then he began to flounder
Ia took a breath to prepare But then she found that she lacked consonants [consonance; there is an infamous CD of Ia singing filks] Skjaldvør [called Wyndreth] had the breeze at her back But the wind went out of her sails
Tarrach began to take the lead But then he met up with a T-Rex [Tarrach was Northshield's second King, and had previously been King of the Middle - and would often sign T. Rex]
The second song is All Griffins Are Girls – A Heraldic Primer, which I wrote with Baroness Katerinka Lvovicha in either 2013 or 2014. She tells a story about helping someone at a Heraldic Consult table with fish heraldry, and to make a fish not look dead and hanging to dry, the attitude needs to be naiant. And, being Northshielders, we latched onto the conceit that Griffins are Girls. The words are here!
You might want to turn the sound up a bit on this one, or you can watch the video of us trying to remember the words and do the motions on the fly at a Bardic Madness post-revel.
That same year, for that same event, I answered a challenge for pieces based on period texts, etc. I chose Yehuda Halevi’s My Heart is in the East. (And I’ll eventually put my hands on the illumination again and upload the image.) I don’t have a recording from the event, but I do have something I recorded with my phone. This is the sad one. This is the one that requires context.
Yehuda Halevi was born c. 1075-1086 in Al-Andalus. He was a physician and philosopher and considered one of the greatest Hebrew poets. Halevi wrote The Kuzari, a pillar of Jewish philosophy, and was part of the “golden age” of Hispano-Jewish culture and life in Granada during the 11th century. He died in 1142, shortly after arriving in Israel. He lived during the entire First Crusade, and much of his poetry is marked by his longing to go to Israel. His text is below – I used severaldifferenttranslations to guide my own adaptation of his verse, in English, to music.
My heart is in the East But I am at the end of the West. How can I savor food, how can it be called pleasing - How can I render my vows and my bonds While Zion lies in fetters And I am in Arab chains?
It would be too easy To leave behind the bounty of Spain - So precious is the dust Of that desolate sanctuary.
Having been likely written at some point either during or after the First Crusade, Halevi’s poem carries a lot of emotional weight. What struck me was the intense, mournful longing, which I tried to bring into the music. Given the continued turmoil in the region, I opt not to sing this song unless asked, so that I can provide the proper context. And since I don’t go to many bardic circles due to having small children, I don’t get asked often at all. And honestly? That’s okay. It’s an emotional song for me, as much as it was good practice in taking existing words and figuring out a tune for them. It doesn’t need to be on any bardic circle “greatest hits” list.
I have two Tang Dynasty skirts made of linen. One is pretty pastel pink-and-purple. The other is kick-you-in-the-face orange.
The pink skirt is a split skirt, meaning that it is two panels pleated to bands with ties that are seamed at the sides, with a gap at the top so that it can be wrapped around the wearer’s waist and tied.
The orange skirt is a single-panel wrap skirt. It’s still a panel pleated to a band, but it is one long panel – long enough to wrap around the wearer 1.5 times, with ties at each end. It’s worn very similarly to a modern wrap skirt.
Here’s a (cued) video showing how to wear both kinds of skirt. (I can’t speak to the two-toned tie method’s period accuracy, since I haven’t seen ties in paintings that look like they are two colors, but it sure looks cool!)
Two ladies on the right side of the table in A Palace Concert appear to have split skirts, perhaps with a secondary skirt worn beneath. The lower lady, wearing a pale pink printed shirt and a pale skirt with a green tie. Deciphering what we are seeing here is a little rough, not only due to the degradation of the painting. It is possible that the split in the paler fabric of the skirt is instead the hanging piece of the lady’s skirt tie, but given the position at her underarm and the way the skirt folds move around it makes me question that theory.
Like the lady below her, the flute-player’s pale skirt is divided at the side to reveal a triangle of red fabric with some sort of design. She is also wearing a red pibo, but the shawl clearly flows down her back and across her chest as opposed to under her arm. Even if it was tucked inside her skirt’s waistband, which we occasionally seein other images, the fact that we can see it would still stand as evidence of a two-panel skirt.
In addition to A Palace Concert, ladies on the north wall of Mogao Cave 107 are wearing two skirts, the top-most of which has a very deep split.
So to the question of which is more period, there might be a distinction to be made between the two styles of skirts based on region or a narrower time period, given the fluctuation of fashion during the Tang Dynasty, but I haven’t yet dug that far to find/make that distinction. Cave 107 is dated to late Tang (827-859), while the A Palace Concert is anonymous, making it more difficult to date.
I (usually) wear linen skirts at events where I am chasing small children, because small children don’t understand that sticky applesauce or banana hands on Mama’s silk is a bad idea. But I learned something about linen skirts when I wore the orange one at Known World Costume and Fiber Arts in Georgia this summer – single panel wrap linen skirts with linen ties do not want to stay up.
This is possibly and very likely due to the weight of the linen and the way the linen-on-linen ties act. Silk is stronger, and has a bit of tooth compared to linen that helps it grip. My very first Tang Dynasty skirt had bias cut silk ribbon ties, but they weren’t heavy enough and were too slick to do the job, so my subsequent skirts had either poly-satin ribbon ties (which is fine in a pinch) or ties I made myself out of fabric tubes or folded and stitched silk.
The pink, two-panel split skirt has never slipped the same way that the orange one did. I think it’s because the weight of the skirt is split between two sets of ties. Also – in my experience, if you want to embrace the cleavage-y aspect of Tang Dynasty clothing, go with silk. My linen skirts do better if they sit at the top of your chest, so that your breasts can help support the fabric, as opposed to across the middle.
The width of the ties make a difference too. I’ve noticed that my big band skirt that my Laurel, Mistress Una, made for me, tends to sag a bit at the sides. I think that if I replace the poly-satin ribbon ties with wider, silk ties (at least as wide as the band itself), I can fix this issue. As it is, the narrower ties are secured at the top of the band, meaning that the bottom of the band sags.
If you compare the photo above to the photo below, where I am wearing a skirt with a thinner waistband, the silk ties are in better proportion to the waistband, and do a much better job at… well, their job. (These are both two-panel skirts, by the way).
The next few events on my docket are sans children, so I think I’ll tackle the Sartor skirt first in terms of fixing stuff. Then I can figure out how to best turn a the orange wrap skirt into a split skirt, so that I can wear it around a toddler without fear of malfunction.
Zhou, X.; Gao, C. (1987). 5000 years of Chinese costumes. Hong Kong: The Commercial Press. p. 123. ↩
Chen, B. Y. (2013). Dressing for the times: Fashion in Tang Dynasty China (618-907). (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Academic Commons. (doi: 10.7916/D8KK9B6D). p. 92. ↩
Stefan’s Florilegium has a couple of articles on period cosmetics and perfumes, which I can’t seem to link directly to – but just do a search there for “cosmetics” and you’ll be happy.
Be wary of the “Encyclopedia of Cosmetics” type books, because if they do talk about SCA period, it’s super quick and tend to not be cited well. And if you’re looking at non-western European makeup…yeah.
A couple of months ago, I threw myself (is there any other way?) into researching period tracing techniques for Western Europe. We talk about how “tracing is period” but generally, the conversation stops there. This was a fun little rabbit hole for me, and someday I’ll trek back down it and try to make my own tracing paper. Though I doubt my husband will be a fan of me spreading fish glue on granite until it is thick enough to make paper…
Kaydian Bladebreaker’s Court Barony backlog is done!
Ahem. Sorry about that.
Sir Kaydian’s barony is the companion piece to his lovely lady’s, Mistress Cassandra, given at the same event. I was very honored to be asked to take care of these backlog scrolls. They took me awhile (as is evident by the distinct skill-evolution between Cassandra’s and Kaydian’s, especially in terms of script) due to moving twice and the general stuff of life, but they’re done now, and soon I will be shipping Kaydian’s scroll so that they can be matted and framed and (I assume) displayed side by side. Both of them are based on the Visconti Hours – Kaydian’s is LF 155 and Cassandra’s is LF 153.
I wanted to take a moment and show how I prep scrolls for mailing, in addition to showing this pair side by side (which is why I haven’t blogged about Cassandra’s yet). Pics and more after the break!
I’ve added a few new things on the site in the last few days.
Thing the First: The Tang Dynasty page in the Epic Timey-Wimey Garb Project has been updated with my research.
Thing the Second: I’ve also added Construction notes for Tang Dynasty garments. Right now this is very female-centric.
Thing the Third: I started configuring an archive of scribal stuff (awards, etc.), and I finally launched it today. It’s by no means complete – there are some descriptions missing, and I haven’t loaded in all the images yet. But it didn’t make sense to keep sitting on it. It’s the Scribal Archive link in the main navigation menu. This is basically an image gallery with descriptions of items I’ve made while doing this crazy scribal thing. As I continue to add to it to keep it updated, I hope to add more specific information about materials, etc.