Elevation Bling – Accessory Artisan Appreciation

Some incredibly kind and gifted artisans made the various hair jewelry and accessories that I wore for my elevation.

My elevation mask, painstakingly painted by Seong Myeong Su Daegam Daesaseong.

The incredibly talented (and recently elevated!) Seong Myeong Su Daegam Daesaseong painted the red silk fabric that would become my face mask, based on a piece of embroidered silk from the Tang Dynasty featuring florals and ducks. She used the same technique she used for the rank badges on her danryeong. I highly encourage you to read more about her work over at Gold and Jade.

Her Excellency Caterina Angelique Coeur Noir made me a wonderfully repousse brass comb that served as my central hair accessory. It features a dragon (which is in my badge) and some pearled osmanthus flowers. She doesn’t have an SCA blog, but you can see her work on Facebook.

Comb by Her Excellency Caterina Angelique Coeur Noir

The Honorable Lady Sara al-Garnatiyya etched the two side combs and attached them to pre-made teeth, designing them to serve as complements to the central comb. You can see more of her metal and enamel work on her blog.

Combs by The Honorable Lady Sara al-Garnatiyya

Countess/Laurel Gwenhwyvar verch Owen ap Morgan (Northshield) made the wonderful hairpins that Mistress Una Barthrsdottir, Mistress Wuennemon die Naehrin, and Countess Aelfgifu Haraldsdottir put in my hair as part of my ceremony. I wanted to include this as a nod to the hair-pinning ceremonies that marked a new stage of live for women during the Tang Dynasty. It also meant that These large pins were meant to mimic the array seen in the donor portraits I was mimicking for my elevation outfit. She created a mirrored set of six for me, featuring laurel leaves and a squirrel, to reference my heraldry. Countess Gwen also made my peerage banner, which was a total surprise to me. You can see her work on her Patreon and on Facebook.

My amazing banner by Countess-Laurel Gwen (NS flavor). Photo courtesy of CL Gwen.

I am so incredibly thankful to all of these lovely artisans for making things for me to use during my elevation, and that enhance my overall wardrobe. They are all excellent people, and I encourage you to check out their other work.

I’ve got two more posts regarding my vigil and elevation in the queue – each about the clothing I wore for my vigil and elevation, respectively. We will be back to the usually expected content soon!

Elevated Hair

Recreation of a Dunhuang donor portrait by The Chinese Historical Costume Restoration Team.

I knew I would need to use some false hair for my elevation in order to get the look I wanted.

Quick recap – Tang Dynasty ladies loved elaborate, up-do hair styles that often called for padding or false hair (called “adopted hair”) to achieve the looks we see in statuary, murals, and paintings. For a more detailed look at the three basic kinds of hairdressing (hair, false hair, and headdresses), Zhang Jianhin’s essay in The Tomb of Li Chui is a good place to start. For images of modern recreations of these hair styles, see Hair Fashions of Tang Dynasty Women, by He, Jian’guo (何建國) or this guide to recreating historic Chinese hairstyles.

I even found a tutorial on BiliBili, China’s largest video-sharing platform (like YouTube), but when I sat down to try and make it, I was a million thumbs. I couldn’t get the hair to behave at all the way that the person in the video did, and I was getting really frustrated.

That’s when Phaedra de Vere came to my rescue. She offered to make it for me, and I gratefully accepted, sending her money and measurements and crossing it off my list, knowing that I was in good hands.

Phaedra made the hairpiece out of wire and hair donuts, covering it with layers of faux wefts color matched my (current) hair color (Arda CL-070).

The hairpiece’s bones – hair donuts that have been cut and put onto a wire frame.
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The finished hairpiece, with hair nets to fight flyaways.
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The guts of the hairpiece – space enough for me to tuck a bun into it, with an arrow indicating the front.

She’s absolutely stunning. Heavy – but stunning! And aptly now named “Phae” in honor of her creator.

Me, during the elevation ceremony. Picture courtesy Sir Conal MacDale

I’ll be writing another post about the various accessories I wore in my hair, courtesy of some truly awesome artisans.

Socks, of the Un-Fancy Variety

I’ve been contemplating Tang Dynasty socks for about a year now, and earlier this summer I finally knocked out a pair that fit me. I did my best to measure my foot in order to get the right size, looking at extant socks from the 8th century (and prior) and Seong Myeong Su’s instructions for Beoseon Socks (Korean).

My first few attempts ended up being too small to wear comfortably, particularly around the bridge of my foot.

Treasure Details - Shosoin - Imperial Household Agency
Pair of socks for Fuefuki (piper) player of Kuregaku (dance and music), No. 75, in the Shosoin Repository. Made of nishiki (colorful patterned weave silk) on purple ground. Lined with white plain weave silk.

The design of the sock is simple enough, with the top seam of the sock cut on the bias, a split at back of the ankle, and a pair of ties to secure the sock on the foot. The Shosoin Repository has two styles of socks – some shorter, and some taller socks presumably intended to be worn with boots. My plan is to wear these with my elevation shoes, since I need a thicker sock to make my boots fit.

I cut my socks out of lightweight linen and used a backstitch to sew the two pieces together, right-sides out. I turned down the top edge and the edges of the ankle split and sewed them with a slip stitch. I trimmed the seams and turned the wrong-side out and ironed the sock before stitching the seam again to enclose it. Since the seam runs down the middle of my foot, I wanted to make sure it was adequately protected from wear.

I made the ties the same way I made the ties for my banbi, only smaller, and attached them the same way as well.

Finished socks with ties.

Elevation Bling – Necklaces

I didn’t have an “elevation chest” of fabric or accessories sitting and waiting to be unsealed when I was given my writ. I honestly thought I was still a good 2-3 years out, so I had time. So over the last 4 months, I have been slowly acquiring all the fabric and other bits to make my vigil and elevation outfit.

I’ll be writing more about this process using the Elevation and Vigil categories, so if you want to see all these posts, you can click on that to see them all together in one spot. Yay metadata!

Ahem – anyway. I am basing my elevation outfit the donor portraits from the Dunhuang/Mogao Caves. The Chinese Historical Costume Restoration Team – the group behind the amazing recreations that often float around the internet uncredited, recreated an outfit worn by the ladies in Mogao Cave 9.

The Chinese Historical Costume Restoration Team's recreation of a Dunhuang portrait, likely from Mogao Cave 9.
Recreation of a Dunhuang donor portrait by The Chinese Historical Costume Restoration Team.

As it is with so much of this research, verifying that this very possibly restored image is from Cave 9 is difficult. It could be that it is from Cave 9/Grotto 167, and these black and white images don’t have enough contrast to fully confirm it. (I also suspect that, if this is the case, the image has been reversed.) Donor portraits in these caves were often in lower border panels of larger illustrations, and not often the subject of interest in comparison to the richly detailed murals of Buddhist art. Some of the caves have been digitized, with high resolution images of each wall and corridor, and some with digital walkthroughs. There seem to have been a rash of art exhibits back in 2016, but finding definitive information about this particular painting – likely a copy made from the mural as opposed to actual removed plaster – is difficult.

These ladies are shown wearing multiple necklaces, hair combs, u-shaped hair pins, and 9-10 larger, decorative hair pins.

As I’ve stated before, I’m not a jeweler or a metalworker, so I reached out to friends who are and asked for help in recreating the fancier bits that these ladies are wearing, while I took on the necklaces.

Late Tang women with prominent golden hairpins
A closer view at the jewelry and hair accessories from the Chinese Historical Costume Restoration Team’s project.

The innermost necklace is most likely rock crystal, or clear quartz, similar to Lady Mi’s necklace. The second necklace is most likely jade, which is a well documented material for personal adornment throughout Chinese history. The third necklace could be carnelian or coral, as both highly valued red stones used for adornment during the Tang Dynasty.

The majority of the beads are round, but the red necklace alternates between round beads and some sort of oblong shape. I interpreted these as teardrops, in part because we see teardrop shaped pendants on Khotanese ladies in Dunhuang Caves. After making these, a necklace from the Unified Silla period (Korea) in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection was shared on the SCA Korea (Unofficial) Facebook group.

The Unified Silla period, which spanned 676-935 C.E. is contemporaneous with the Tang Dynasty. Official ties between the two states weren’t reestablished after the Silla-Tang War (668–676) until the 8th century, but it’s not unreasonable to conjecture that fashion trends shared similarites – especially when the make-up of this necklace is not unlike Lady Mi’s rock crystal necklace. The comma-shaped jade in the Korean necklace are known as gokok (곡옥) in Korean and as magatama (勾玉) in Japanese, and suggest that this style of bead came to Korea from Japan, as they date from as far back as 1000 BCE there. There is a chance that the red beads in the Dunhuang necklace are comma-shaped as opposed to teardrops, but given the other Dunhuang images we have to go off of, I think it is the less likely option.

I still had some 6mm clear quartz remaining from my recreation of Lady Mi’s necklace, so I used that as my basis in terms of size for the other two pieces. The jade and red necklaces appear progressively larger than the quartz, so I chose 8mm and 10mm beads, respectively. I was able to source jade beads in the same milky green tone. For the red, I ended up getting “mountain jade,” which is dyed dolomite – actual carnelian, coral, or jadeite was not cost effective. I was also able to find mountain jade pieces that were teardrop shaped, in order to mirror the pattern in the images.

It was difficult to find red mountain jade beads in a teardop shape. If I were to make this again, I’d try to source a larger teardrop bead for the red necklace, to give more visual contrast between the two shapes. The ones I purchased were 8×12 mm.

For closures, I chose to make S-shaped hooks. I put two rings at the center of the red necklace to allow for my laurel medallion to be attached (it has S-hooks). This type of closure was known in China, as shown by the S-hook clasps of the bracelets and necklace found in Li Jingxun’s Sui Dynasty tomb. Li Jingxun’s burial jewelry was most likely imported from the west, since the techniques for working with gold did not fully develop until the Tang Dynasty, thanks to the influence of other cultures connected by the Silk Road.

I used my dress form to work out the proper length of each necklace so that they would each lay correctly.

These necklaces were the first thing I finished in preparation for my elevation – it was an easy project to knock out, once I had sourced what beads I didn’t already have on hand. I’m happy with how they turned out, and I’m excited to see what they will look like once the medallion is attached to the red necklace.