I have mentioned quite a few times now that I did medieval reenactment in college. I was in That Medieval Thing and every year we held a medieval dinner in the winter and a medieval festival in the spring. As much as I loved all the behind the scenes work, my favorite part had to be putting on some sort of interesting outfit and performing.
TMT does what it can in terms of having a good set of supplies, but it often ends up as a weird hodge podge of some really good stuff, some really crappy stuff and the rest making up the spectrum. Costuming was no different. There were some really fancy or interesting pieces, some things that were mostly held together with hope, and then the remainder. It was usually a blessing if you found something that both fit your role and literally fit YOU, much less looked good. Things were extra hard for me as a woman with my stature. Being tall, wide and long-limbed (we tried to be historically accurate and women shouldn't show wrist or ankle), there was pretty much nothing I could wear. I took it as an excuse to make my own. Which led to the three dresses I'm going to write about now.
Now, everything up until this point in my blog I think I could say was made entirely by me, but that is far from the case for these. These were all made before I knew how to use a sewing machine, so there is no way I could have made these without my mother. I think it was a good team effort. For all of them we picked out the material, ribbons for trimming and any other notions together. I think I might have done the majority of the pattern cutting and pinning, and mom did all the sewing (including her least favorite part...the zippers).
I'll start with the dress that I think I might have actually worn the most often. My green dress was my favorite for a long time (and might still be). I definitely like the sleeves on this one the best. They have a very cool shape where if you lift your arm up the excess material drops down from your elbow, but if you lower your hand it encases your arm in fabric. The material is also a favorite of mine. I was so happy to find two materials of similar color, one solid and one with a vine-like pattern. The ribbon trim is also gorgeous and if I wasn't in such a rush to get this post done I would go take a closeup picture of it for you. Just believe me when I say its lovely and compliments the fabrics well. I only ever wore this dress for one official TMT event, and that was when I was playing a crazy old woman so I the dress was somewhat secondary to my face. However, I did wear it for a few Ren Faires and a few non-official TMT events we did (like alumni day, etc), so I think it still ends up being the dress I wore most often in college.
My "peasant dress" had the longest wait between uses. It is the first one of these dresses I wore, and only a few months ago did I wear it again. I had to lose weight to fit into it my freshman year of college. I was determined to wear it for Medfest and I only just made it in time. Although I picked out material that looked to me like something a peasant would wear (rougher, more natural), a few people commented that it really was too pretty for a dirty, scuzzy, poor actor (my part that year) to wear. I still wore it though. My favorite part of this dress was the cool arm bands with braided leather ties. I completely forget if the arm ties were a suggestion from the pattern or if its something I stole from the costume Eowyn wears in Lord of the the Rings, but either way I love how it looks. The long braided leather piece I am wearing as a headband in this picture was originally meant to be a belt, but since I always now wear my favorite leather belt that I bought from my friend Burf/Jason (and I just noticed I am wearing it in all three pictures), I had to re-purpose it.
My last dress is probably my fanciest one, and worn when playing one of my least fanciest (but still one of my favorite) parts. This dress has both an under dress and the huge/heavy/beautiful/full skirted overdress. For the underdress I picked out a simple light purple material. The inside sleeves though, have this fabulous material made of a sort of black mesh and roses in crushed purple and pink velvet. GORGEOUS. It was something ridiculous like $14 a yard, but I wanted it. I like the something extra they add. The overdress has a HUGE skirt. I just remember how long I had to stand while my poor mother pinned the hem of it. The whole dress is a bit extravagant. After it was done I realized how unlikely it was that I would get to play a character that was rich enough to wear something like it, since I always enjoyed playing the more esoteric characters. However, that year I got to play "Pillow Fuckall", the head pirate whore. The girl who wrote the plot said it would make perfect sense that the pirate captain would steal a dress this nice for me. That would explain why I am wearing such a queenly dress, but with the hem tucked up into my skirt to show some leg. Also in this picture you can see my fingers taped together because I had just had the stitches removed from getting caught with a sword in rehearsal the week before. I actually went to the emergency room in my underdress. There is a small iodine stain on the chest that serves as a small reminder of that ridiculous day.
All of these dresses were made from this set of patterns, which according to the website I was finally able to track down that HAD the pattern on it, is no longer available. I guess I should hold onto mine if I ever plan to make anymore. However, I have a nice stock of medieval dresses (as you can see) and I really want to start building up my Renaissance collecting. If I keep having to wear medieval dresses to ren faires...oh man. Talk about wearing last season's fashion! More like last century's.