“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)
Faculty of Humanities Theses
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)
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]