Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reconstructive Archaeology

Over the summer, my friend Nick called up and said, "I've got a gig in France in August, and i need a set of medieval clothes for it. Can you help?"

(I wish to point out that i've never gotten a gig in France. If you've got one you need filled, just let me know.)

Nick, in a former life, worked at Colonial Williamsburg, and he knew i had worked at Jamestown, for the costume director there (the unpaid internship that ate my life... and the most fun i've ever had at a job). Nick also knew that i have lots of background in medieval history. So this wasn't entirely random.

Time was short, so i agreed to make a tunic and hood, lend what accessories i could, and he would fake the rest. He needed to look late 14th to early 15th century, and suitable for a musician, so i thought immediately of the Bocksten Man and the Herjolfsnes finds. I settled on the Bocksten tunic and one of the hoods from the Norlund report. Happily, like a lot of ethnic and historical clothing, the Bocksten tunic has a very geometric construction, which makes it fairly easy to grade. Since Nick is very tall, this was an important consideration...

Took measurements and borrowed a shirt for comparison, made a muslin, checked the fit, made notes on the changes, cut out the final version, and hit the mark almost perfectly on the tunic. The hood was more painful (although it came out alright in the end). We'll have a confessional on that some other time...

I learned a few things along the way. The Bocksten Man was quite a bit taller than i'd expected, and the tunic hemline hung quite a bit lower than many garments i'd seen that were supposed to be based on that tunic. And - a detail i'd never seen in any of the redrawings, but which is plain when you look at the photos of the tunic pieces - there is a distinct, curved armscye. The top of the sleeve is cut straight, but the body of the tunic has a curve inward where the sleeve fits into it. Makes the shoulder lie nicely, and i suspect, rather improves mobility.

So, the finished product? Here (Nick apologizes for the non-period spectacles, but does need to see in order to play)... :

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