We all come from somewhere

Yesterday I went through a box with old pictures. And I found photos of me in my early SCA days wearing some of my very first medieval clothing. And I thought it might be good to make a post about the fact that we all begin somewhere.
Most of us have started this hobby while young and quite often a poor student.
Sometimes it is hard for new young members to remember that those who wear fantastic dresses out of silks and woolens they can only dream of – have been in that exact same situation.
So here are some of my early day clothing. When I was a poor student and when books on medieval clothing were almost impossible to find and fabrics were not something you could order online… 😉

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This is me as Vicerine of Nordmark at Double Wars 1997. Picture was taken by Inger Iona Bladh.
I was 22 years old and studied Behaivioral Science at the University. The dress is made of a viscose/linen blend woven in some sort of vine pattern. I loved this dress! It was sewn on machine, had a rather long train and was laced in the back where I had put in about 60 metal eyelets. The belt was made of rough linen and I had sewn on parts of cheap necklaces that I took apart and I used gold colored rope like trim and some semi precious stones to bling it up. Oh and no underdress… 🙂

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This is a dress I made during the reign as Vicerine of Nordmark. The Viceroy had a matching outfit.
It is a heraldic dress with the nordmark arms (per pale azure and sable, a chevron argent) made out of satin cotton.
All edges of the dress (hem, neckline and sleeves) were embroidered with cotton floss – just simple rather large crosses – and in between the embroidered crosses here were semi precious stones attached. And then I had the tipets out of regular sheet cotton. Everything was machine sewn. And still no underdress. 🙂 And the necklace I am wearing is a ”Robin of Locksley” cross that were rather popular when the Robin Hood movie with Kevin Costner was brand new… 😉

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This is my very first all linen dress! Having Polish parents I got access to some cheap linen from Poland.
A friend of mine (the very talented EvaJohanna), had a bodice pattern that we all absolutely adored. It was cut in one piece and in times when corset like bodices and skirts and big poofy shirts were the thing this pattern was really the roar! I was so happy when I was given the pattern and was allowed to use it by its creator! And I figured it could also work if it was cut open in the back instead – so this dress is the reverse of the one piece front laced bodice – it is backlaced instead. 🙂 And I used it to make an Italian style dress for an event in the town of Varberg where there was going to be a Crown Tourney and all the girls from my home Shire decided that the theme would be white so we would all have white dresses.
Under the bust I wore a linen belt laced in the back and embroidered with glass pearls in shapes I had seen in illuminated manuscripts. This picture was most likely taken at Double Wars 1998.

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Double Wars 2000. I had moved away to study far away from my home Shire and I had also left the SCA. I started hanging out with a landsknecht re-enactment group and there everything had to be hand stitched. So This is me in my very first hand stitched landsknecht dress! At that time there were lots of ideas on how these dresses were constructed and most of those ideas were based on just trying to interpret woodcuts – and this was the result.
The dress is wool with raw silk behind the slashes in the skirt and the same raw silk is used in the jacket slashing and all was hand stitched with linen thread. I made hosen, a skirt, a shirt, a jacket, a slashed coif and a hat.
In 7 days.
I sewed all my time awake and slept possibly for 4 hours per night.

I do hope that this post puts a little perspective on development of the clothing in the SCA and also the fact that just because some people wear fancy dresses of expensive materials today, they might have started with polyester and cotton back when they were young and poor.
Now the access of information on medieval clothing was also very different and today the bar is much higher than it was back when I started playing, so new members of today most likely feel a lot more pressured to do accurate clothing than I did at the end of the 90’s.
But the bar is only so high as you set it yourself.

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7 thoughts on “We all come from somewhere

  1. its good to look back on these things and see how much you’ve improved- your early efforts are more elegant than some of mine. I made my first medeival dress when I was 15 from one of my ganrdmothers old wool blankets, I spent weeks embroidering it with big chunky stitches and then hated it so much I never wore it (my mum did though, I think she still has it somehwere)

    1. I so completely agree! And I think it is important that we who have done this a few years also share the stories of how we begun so that it becomes visible that most of us haven’t gone from beginner to master in a week or two… 🙂

  2. It doesn’t matter what you think of the attempts now, it’s how you felt about it back then and it’s obvious you were enjoying re-enacting life very much. Beautiful work, even for a young novice, and your face has such a serene expression. Thank you for sharing these photos

    1. Oh don’t get me wrong – I was really happy with my dresses back then even if I would do it differently now! The whole point was just to show that there is always a beginning and an evolution and that some that started 17 years ago or more have made a journey and didn’t start with making authentic dresses out of expensive materials! 🙂

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