The Rock Crystal Necklace of Lady Mi – A Maker’s Diary

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’s rock crystal necklace, on display at the National Museum of China in their Datang Fenghua Exhibition (大唐风华特展, January 2019). Click to enlarge.

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.

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Updating Files and Plans

I’ve added two new files to the Documentation page on the site – my handout on Tang Dynasty Games (taught at Magna Faire 2019) and my documentation on the banbi I entered at Magna Faire, Menhir, and Midwinter A&S.

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.

Painted silk socks from the Astana Cemetery (Tang Dynasty).
Painted silk socks from Astana, in Zaho, F. (2012). Silks in the Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties. In D. Kuhn, (Ed.), Chinese Silks (pp. 203-257). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
p. 246.

There is an extant pair of Tang Dynasty socks from the Astana Cemetery, and we have a bunch of socks that date to the 8th century in the Shōsōin Treasure House. I’ve pinned a bunch, and I’m working on separating out my currently very disorganized Tang Dynasty Pinterest board into sections – with the socks being the first go-round.

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.

Bye for now! <3

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A Tale of Two (Linen) Skirts

Two linen skirts, both comparable in dignity.

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.

My pink skirt, looking kind of orange and in need of an ironing before I wear it again.

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.

So. Much. Orange.

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!)

Before I launch into the specifics regarding these two styles of skirt when they are made of linen, let’s talk about wrap and split skirts during the Tang Dynasty. The extant skirt we have from the Song Dynasty 1 and the doll-sized skirts from the Tang Dynasty 2 all appear to be of the single-panel wrap variety; however, we have some pictorial evidence of split skirts.

Detail of A Palace Concert, potentially showing evidence for the two-panel style skirt 3

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 see in 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.


Detail of mural on the north wall of Cave 107, showing split-style skirts, as well as skirts with horizontal stripes.4

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.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, tree and outdoor
Me, wearing the red silk skirt with the Sartor silk band that Mistress Una made for me.

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).

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, stripes, child and outdoor
Me in my stripey split panel silk skirt.

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.

  1.  Zhou, X.; Gao, C. (1987). 5000 years of Chinese costumes. Hong Kong: The Commercial Press. p. 123.
  2. 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.
  3. “唐人宮樂圖 (A Palace Concert).” (618-907). National Palace Museum. Retreived from https://theme.npm.edu.tw/selection/Article.aspx?sNo=04000957&lang=2.
  4. “Mogao Grottoes Cave 107.” Digital Dunhuang. Retrieved from: https://www.e-dunhuang.com/cave/10.0001/0001.0001.0107.
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falnfenix:

mszombi:

changan-moon:

Traditional Chinese hanfu in Tang dynasty style | 齐胸襦裙qí xiōng rú qún (Chest-high ruqun) | Photo by 霜序映画

Oooh, I’ve never seen a plus size woman in hanfu, she looks beautiful!

hey @scareferencedesk

Maybe not modern hanfu, but being “plus size” was a major awesome thing in the Tang Dynasty.

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A modern look at the 2 panel split skirt

what is that high chest skirt that is split? Is okay if you reference more?

Anonymous

fouryearsofshades:

Of course!

Most modern chest-high shirt were made with two piece of rectangular fabric, sewn together on the side, but leaving some portion on the top separate. The design was inspired by andon bakama but the vents are not visible when worn as the top of the skirt should be overlapping. 

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The dressing process:

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Historically, some skirts did have very visible splits. Hence, the outer chest-high skirt was mere decorative, unlike today’s skirt, which is the actual layer that functions to cover up the torso properly. They were mostly from late Tang. 

image

One of the cons of using this modern cutting for chest-high skirt is that it is possible to made the front piece longer than the back piece so that the length of the skirt is just right for the both the front and the back of the body. This is a modern concern, as seen above, those ladies doesn’t seem to care that their skirt was touching the ground.

Hope this answer your question! Do contact me if you have any more problem.

Tang stuff – one of my current research bits is the wrap vs. split skirt.

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xiao3la4jiao1:

 Reconstructions of various Tang dynasty hairstyles, found on baidu (link) but true source unknown.

This is from:

Hair Fashions of Tang Dynasty Women, by He, Jian’guo.何建國.

You can see the Library of Congress record here: https://lccn.loc.gov/88123343

But you can’t check it out from them right now, because I have their copy sitting on my desk. c.c

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Clothing of the Tang Dynasty

Clothing of the Tang Dynasty

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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.

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