Fashion Advice


I was gifted several yards of beautiful apple green linen at War of the Wings in October. It was an anonymous gift (it appeared on my bunk and no one has owned up to having put it there), and as such I want to do something kind of special with it.

I just don’t know WHAT.

My persona is 13th century German, and the visual references for that period are sparse. I am open to doing something outside of my century, but nothing TOO far outside of it. I just can’t decide what to do. I have some other fabric to use with it (be it a surcoat or what have you), and I am totally okay going to buy more. But I need to decide what I’m doing before I do that.

Does anyone else have any good references for German garb between 12 and 14th centuries that doesn’t come from A History of Costume by Carl Köhler? Or just something really spiffy that you think I should try? I’m running low on ideas.

So what you’re saying, @sca-nerd, is that I can’t convince you to try Chinese garb? 😉

JK! Signal boosting for you. <3



So my historical costuming resources list from 2011 was less than a page long- I’m not saying that I’ve learned a lot in the past three years, but this list is now sitting pretty at a solid nine pages.  Whew.  And people wonder why I want to redo this damn series.

This list is by no means an exhaustive one- it’s a list of (primarily western) historical fashion resources, both online and offline, that is limited to what I know, own, or use!  It’s a work in progress, and I’m definitely hoping to expand on it as my knowledge base grows.  First things first, how about a little:


  • Read, and read about more than just costuming.  Allowing yourself to understand the cultural and historical context surrounding the clothing of a particular region/period can be invaluable in sussing out good costume design.  Looking at pictures is all well and good, but reading about societal pressures, about construction techniques, daily routines, local symbolism, whatever else will really help you understand the rhyme and reason behind costuming from any given context.
  • Expand your costume vocabulary.  When you’re delving into a new topic, costuming or otherwise, picking up new terminology is essential to proper understanding and furthering your research.  Write down or take note of terms as you come across them- google them, look up synonyms, and use those words as a jumping off point for more research.  What’s a wire rebato?  How does it differ from a supportasse?  Inquiring minds want to know.
  • Double-check your sources.  Especially on the internet, and double especially on tumblr.  I love it, but it’s ground zero for rapidly spreading misinformation.  Books are usually your safest bet, but also take into account their date of publication, who’s writing them- an author’s biases can severely mangle their original source material.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Do everything you can to find out information on your own, but feel free to reach out to people with more specialized areas of knowledge for help!  Be considerate about it- the people you’re asking are busy as well- but a specific line of questioning that proves you’re passionate and that you respect their subject matter expertise can work wonders.

Okay, onto the links!

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of getting off the internet and looking into books!  God bless the internet, but books are (generally, this isn’t a rule) better-researched and better-sourced.  Bibliographies also mean each individual books can be a jumping off point for further research, which is always a fantastic thing.

Remember- owning books is awesome and you should absolutely assemble your own library of resources, but LIBRARIES.  Libraries.  You’ll be surprised to find what books are available to you at your local library.


Patterns fo Fashion books
Detailed, hand-drawn diagrams of historical fashion, inside and out.  Pretty amazing stuff.

Fashion in Detail books
Not what you want if you’re looking for photos of entire costumes- note the “in detail” bit up there.  Just a beautiful series, and great reference for all the little things you might miss otherwise.  The V&A has an amazing fashion collection, and it’s great to see them share it with the world.

Keep reading

Broader than period, but still good information.

Clothing of the Tang Dynasty

Clothing of the Tang Dynasty

Clothing of the Tang Dynasty – Class Tomorrow!

Tomorrow at Winter Collegium in Meridies’s fair An Dun Theine, I’ll be teaching my first garb class.

Because no, hobby horses, while they are worn, don’t really count as garb.

I’m excited. And nervous. And excited. But if the sudden swell of people on Facebook garb-related groups who are interested in Tang Dynasty stuff is any indication, I’m hoping for the best.

Handout and presentation are done – now is the time of relaxing and trying to think about other things so I can sleep tonight.

I am bigender and predominately masculine, though am biologically female, and I am exceedingly uncomfortable in dresses. Unfortunately, my persona is an 800-900 AD fighter and craftwoman, also peasant. I’ve been notified that the further i get in the SCA, I will most likely be required, or requested, to wear dresses, due to it being period for females. This is uncomfortable enough that I’m not sure I’d be willing to stay. Silly problem, i’m sure, but it bothers me. Any information around this?

“likely be required, or requested, to wear dresses, due to it being period for females.”

First of all, I kind of want to give the stink eye to whomever told you that. Because I don’t see it as accurate at all.

You need to be comfortable in whatever you decide to adorn yourself with – whatever region, time period, persona, culture – I don’t care. YOU need to be comfortable, otherwise why wear it?

As you go “further” in the SCA – meaning, the longer you are in – it is generally perceived that your kit (fighting kit, garb, feast gear, whatever) should improve. I have been in the SCA just over 4 years (5 in April 2016), and I am nowhere near where I want to be in terms of my kit. Will I ever be 100% spot-on period? Probably not. But I would still like a nice day camp set up and decent kit for feast.

All that being said, there is nothing and nobody shouting down from the heavens saying you HAVE to wear dresses, even with a female persona. There is plenty of evidence of cross-dressing throughout period (the church had lots of OMG DON’T DO IT which means SOMEONE was doing it), and in some areas/periods (like Tang Dynasty China) females wearing male clothing wasn’t a big deal.

Alternatively, you could also have a male persona. Or an alternate persona that is male. Like, say Rhoswen Vihjalmsdottir is your main persona, you could also have Ragnar Vihjalmsson as her brother. But honestly? Do whatever you want. Don’t feel like you have to divide who you are (with personas) in order to be comfortable.

Just be comfortable. Wear what you want. Cultivate a support network within the SCA so that if someone gives you guff, you can lean back on people who love you – and those people will give the guff-givers the stinkiest of eyes and the firmest of talkings-to.

But you asked for information, and so information I will give you. <3

Transvestite Knights: Men and Women Cross-dressing in Medieval Literature
(full text viewable online for free)
Kerkhof, D.L.
Faculty of Humanities Theses
(Master thesis)
Abstract: My thesis looks at cross-dressing knights in medieval literature and tries to answer why cross-dressing was common in literature while in reality, cross-dressers were seen as sinful. I look specifically at Ulrich von Liecthtenstein’s “In the Service of Ladies”, Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur”, “Berengier au Long Cul”, Dietrich von der Glezze’s “Der Borte”, Heldris of Cornwall’s “Le Roman de Silence”, and “Yde et Olive”. A number of historical sources are also studied in order to understand the medieval literature. The importance of intention as well as what kinds of clothes were worn to cross-dress and how the different genders were viewed is also discussed.

Early, Erotic and Alien: Women Dressed as Men in Late Medieval London

(check your library for full text)

History Workshop Journal (2014) 
doi: 10.1093/hwj/dbt046

Judith M. Bennett and Shannon McSheffrey

Cross-dressing by premodern women is often viewed as practical and instrumental (for example, women dressed as men to get jobs or to travel), while modern women’s donning of male garb is usually interpreted as expressing contemporary queer identities. This article introduces a more flexible view of female cross-dressing in the distant past, using the cases of thirteen women cited for such activities in London records between 1450 and 1553. These cases are placed within both the broad context of European practice before the eighteenth century and the specific context of cross-dressing women in premodern London itself. The article argues, first, that cross-dressing by women is not a recent phenomenon, but instead has a scattered but fairly continuous history that stretches back centuries. Second, the article shows that female cross-dressing could be as playful and erotic as male cross-dressing; most of the eroticism of female transgressive dress was, however, linked to prostitution and male erotic desires. Third, it explores how London authorities sought to distance themselves from the perceived vice of female cross-dressing by characterizing the practice as foreign to their City and its culture. The appendix includes a full listing of all known cases of cross-dressing in London before 1603.

Le Roman de Silence

Heldris of Cornwall, first half of the 13th Century
Summary: The story is set in England, and starts with the king decreeing that only boys can inherit property. The nobles get mad, and Lord Cador of Cornwall and his wife decide to name their daughter “Silentius” and raise her as a boy. Years later Nature shows up and gets into a fight with Silentius because she’s really GOOD AT BEING A BOY so much so that all the young eligible ladies are falling in love with her. 
Facing page translation English/French: [Amazon] [Worldcat]

Hi, do you have any references for Japanese names? I’m looking at doing a Japanese persona from around the Heian time period. Also, do you know any references for garb for that time period? I’m looking at a lower noble/ high-ish merchant class. Thank you for your time. This helps a lot!

My mother used to say “I don’t know the answer to that, but I know where to find it!”

(She was a librarian.)

So, no, I don’t have any references for Japanese names – but I know where to find them! 😀

The lovely heralds over on Facebook’s SCA Heraldry Chat group reccommend the following:

Name Construction in Medieval Japan

From the vendor: Written by “Solveig Throndardottir” (aka Dr. Barbara Nostrand), a large compilation of historical Japanese names – forenames, surnames, nicknames, their meanings, and the appropriate Japanese ideographs.


I also found some web resources which might be helpful.

”Japanese Names” on An Online Japanese Miscellany, by Nihon Zatsuroku


A list of pre-1600 Japanese name resources
by Issendai (who appears to be a SCAdian…)

A Long History of Japanese Names, Part II: [Link]

For clothing….

The Costume Museum (Kyoto) – Heian Period: [Link]

History of the Kimono, Part II, Nara and Heian: [Link]

FREE EBOOK: Woven into the Earth by Else Østergård

FREE EBOOK: Woven into the Earth by Else Østergård