Monday, December 24, 2012

Everyone knows if I promise something as a Christmas present...

not to expect it before March....

I cut out the roommate's apron-dress tonight.  I'm hoping to have it all sewn up tonight or tomorrow and wrapped for her to open when she gets back on the 26th.  The apron is a good probability, it's all cut out and made of a thick lush teal wool from Pendleton, so I don't have to finish the seams.  I've also read somewhere the theory that Norse sewed their seam allowances on the outside of a garment and the decorative seam treatments are designed to finish the edges in a visible way.  It's an interesting theory and I'm giving it some thought, although not for Wednesday.  The garment is intended for An Tir's 12th night, so I also need to get the under dress cut out next week.

Extant Houppelande 1396
Also somewhere in the next couple months I promised The Boy a floor length, angel-wing sleeved houppelande as his Christmas present.  I have the wool, I just haven't quite figured out the cutting pattern I want to use.  The circle style has its advantages in simplicity, but isn't really fabric efficient.  Also the extant example is believed to be made from multiple "wedges" cut much like gores are cut for other dresses.  Of course I can't find the website I saw that on before...  I'm thinking about doing the wedges because the fabric I'm using is a plain blue wool which means I don't have to worry about an up and a down on it.

I'd like to finish it before 12th Night, but I'm not sure.  I've got a pair of braies mostly finished, and a shirt cut out and partially sewn. I'd really like to get a pair of hose to go with it finished, and a doublet to go under, since that would be most accurate, but I don't know how likely the doublet is any time soon.  I have a heavy red linen that I think would look good for the hose, I just need to find the time to pattern them, and eventually I'll get them sewn.  I'm thinking maybe a green or black linen doublet for under the blue houp, because those colors would look really good with the red hose.

My wifey sent me some gorgeous gold brocade and fifty bells to make himself a baldric out of.  The Boy is a fan of the Tres Riches styles so I'm planning a shoulder drape like the one in April or August's miniatures, and I'll see how far down his back I can make the bells go.  I might have to find some other kind of findings to spread out the bells.

I really should get back to the sewing.  How to Train Your Dragon is on, some how I find that to be a perfect accompaniment to sewing Norse clothing.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Just a bit of a distraction....

The style Himself likes
The Boy is rather bored lately, what with being unemployed and being at home all the time.  While this has manifested in tasty tasty noms for dinner, it also means we've been looking for projects for himself to work on.  When visiting the Tandy Leather here in town to look for materials for himself to make a kidney pouch, I found some GORGEOUS red leather that had to come home with me to make Roman shoes.

The trouble is, I don't know exactly what style it is that I want to make.  I've never made shoes before, so I want something relatively easy to create for my first endeavor.  I've been collecting images for a while, and I thought I'd put them up here to see if anyone had an opinion on which I should make.

5th century womens shoes found in Egypt
Photo by Mary Harrsch,
located in the Getty
I know I want Roman shoes, something closed toed and flat, but I can't decide between the simpler slipper style which I think would be easier for a first try, or the gorgeous cut work slippers that I've been lusting over for a while.

 If I choose the simple slipper style I'd want to figure out how to do the gold embossing found on both of these examples.
Shoes found at the Antonine Wall

The Low Ham Boot
I'm also considering doing a simple slipper style for the first pair, but doing a bit of a cut work pattern on them like the pair on the left without the ties to lace it closed.  I like the patterns and texture created by the cut work.

Sara Kerr's pattern mockup
I've found several tutorials and descriptions on how to make turn shoes, and some ideas on how to pattern shoes with a duct tape "cast" of your foot.  I'm working on getting more research together, and looking for opinions on what style to do before starting, but I do want to get started sometime in the next week and a half.  I'm daydreaming about entering a Roman outfit in the 12th night costuming competition.

I'm thinking about heading up to the Pendleton outlet before Jule next weekend to see if I can find some wool gauze to make "winter Romans"  Since most of my Roman gear was made in Texas, it's mostly made of cotton or a linen/cotton blend.  I'd like to make an outfit for that competition, but it's about a month away and I haven't made any of what I would like to enter.  On the positive side, it's Roman, so it's not that hard to make quickly.  But the wool would be more historically accurate, and it would be nice to have something that was more correct than what I'm wearing now, and it would be great to have something to wear in cooler weather that was my persona.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A couple new projects in the works...

and just about a week to finish them.  On the 15th, I'm headed up to Beaverton, (just outside of Portland) because a friend invited me up to dance, and I just happen to have that day off work.

Jen Thompson's gorgeous dress
I'm making new sleeves to go with my Florentine from three years ago.  As with the vast majority of people who have made this dress, I was inspired by Jen Thompson of Festive Attyre, whose information is currently in transition from one incarnation of her site to a new one.  The photos that aren't of me are from the website Sophie Stitches that has a collection of images for her research.

I did the dress out of Jo-ann cotton velveteen, and it's pretty enough that I'm still happy with the results.  I made the corded corset, and the giant puffy sleeves, and the striped turban, just like Jen's.  But I've had two yards of the velveteen floating around in my stash, and those matching sleeves with the beaded tassels have been drifting around in my head for years.

The Preaching of Saint John
 the Baptist, 1520, Bacchiacca
Portrait of the Artist's Wife, 
1513-1514, Andrea del Sarto

Me, photo by hubby for my portfolio
So, I'm making the sleeves to wear next weekend.  I'm down to just hand sewing, but that's flat felling internal seams, tacking down the chocolate silk trim, making the beaded tassels (still have to figure out what I'm going to do for the tassels, shredding the silk fabric isn't working well...), tacking down the bias facing on the sleeve heads and adding lacing rings.  I didn't line the sleeves since I didn't have anything I thought would look good as a lining, and I didn't really want to spend any money on these sleeves.

However, the sleeves are on the back burner as far as sewing goes right now.  I'm working on a gift for a friend's birthday, which is also the 15th.  I'm working on a semi secret gift, I'll try to get pictures of the finished project to post, but right now I'm working on the embroidery that's a cross between between the Mammen embroideries and her coat of arms.  It'll be pretty simple, dark blue silk outlines in back/stem stitch on white linen.  I'm hoping to finish it soon.

The other project that I'm working on is an exciting development for my whole house.  I was graciously gifted with a copy of Sally Pointer's book on cosmetics, The Artifice of Beauty, for a wedding present.  I've been interested in historical cosmetics, specifically Roman cosmetics, due to my interest in the duties of an ornatrix.  Sally Pointer's one of the few people that I've come across so far with information on Roman cosmetics.

For the Jule event on the 15th they're having a largess competition, and my super sekrit entry will be a batch of her Alkanet Lip Paint.  It's interesting, right now I've got a jar of chopped alkanet root soaking in sweet almond oil to draw out the color, and The Boy has been playing with a variety of methods for creating a tincture of myrrh. Either Thursday or Friday this week I'll be blending the alkanet oil with some beeswax and a little myrrh tincture and then putting them in little jars.  It's probably old hat for other herbalists, but I'm excited to be branching out into new realms for myself.

That's what I'm up to right now, I'm hoping for new pictures soon. Here's hoping...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Realized I never posted pics of my Housebook dress....

Even though the dress was made nearly a year ago... Oops?

Outdoor photos are from the first wearing at Stargate Yule down in Houston; the indoor photos are from Midwinter's Feast in Adiantum (Eugene).  Those last photos of the back of the dress are me being made the Barony's A&S Champion.  It's hard to see in the photos just how long the train is, but as I've got the dress kilted up in most of them to walk, you can see where the extra six inches past my feet is all hiked up.

I'm still not stuck on the neckline, and have tweaked it some, but need to do more with it.  If we're still in the area in January, maybe I'll tweak it some more for An Tir's 12th night.

Also: Awesome Red Hat!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thoughts on my teaching...

So this weekend I taught a dance class at the Ithra held in Terra Pomeria.  Ithra is a highly organized, kingdom wide "college" that has funding and management set up to help groups put together classes based events.  It has aspects both admirable and annoying, but this isn't really the time to go into it.

The class I taught was "Easy English Country Dance: Three Dance to get Your Feet Wet."  I taught three of the easiest dances I know, all from Playford.  I chose Rufty Tufty, Black Nag, and Gathering Peascods.  These dances are relatively simple, all have similar structures.  The handouts I put together included a brief set of definitions, some information about where the dances came from, and cheat sheets created by a Laurel in the East.  Along with the handout, I gave out a CD with the music for the three dances on it.  The Boy helped me teach, which was so helpful, not only because he compliments my teaching style, but we only had four students, and needed six people for the last two dances.  The four students represented a wide range of interest and experience in dance, but they all worked hard to learn the dances, and performed them well.  We went through the steps first, explaining what was common and what I would be likely to say when calling the parts of the dances.  We then set up the first dance, walked through the steps, then ran through with music and minimal calling.  Once they performed the dance without trouble, we went on to the second dance and treated it the same way.  They also danced that one well without my needing to call the steps after a few runs through, and we danced the third dance.  After running through the third dance we ran through all three dances as though they were a set at a ball.  The students were awesome!  They got the dances pretty easily, and seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Ithra has a student evaluation form so the class can let those running Ithra know if a teacher is any good.  Since it wasn't a secure method, I got to sneak a peek and my students thought I was a good teacher, so that made me happy.  However, one of the students asked me about something I hadn't considered, but when I told her I'd be happy to send the information her way, she told me she just wasn't that interested in the subject.  I'm running into that quite a bit in the SCA, plenty of people enjoy dancing, they're just not interested in actually learning the dances.  They're fine with a run through right before doing the dance, instead of actually knowing how to do it, and I'm not sure there's a way to change that.  I have one or two people that really want to practice dances until they know them.  But there aren't enough to change the local group.

Ah well.  I'm excited to continue teaching, and I'll do my best to be upbeat and high energy whenever I'm dancing or teaching dance.  I'm just feeling the frustration that my interests aren't shared by a majority of people.

The other subject I keep trying to teach about is hair styling.  I haven't had much turnout for hair classes lately, but it's a topic that I'm passionate about.  I realize that my specialty is Roman and therefore not everyone's interest, but I haven't taught a class on Roman hairstyles.  I'm hoping to branch out into more specific hairstyles instead of generic medieval and renaissance styles, but without someone's impetus, I'm likely to look into it.  I need to work on prepping more step by step tutorials for this blog, it's a way of getting info out without specific teaching events.  I'm working on a step by step for my method of Italian Hairtaping.  If anyone has any artwork or images they'd like help deciphering the hairstyles, shoot me a copy of the picture, I'd love to help!

I've also got an idea for a class taught in tandem with Miriam from The Sinister Spinster.  She's known in the area for info about the Cap of Saint Brigit, and I thought it would be interesting to teach a class on Hairstyle and Headdresses.  I'd work on hairstyles that form the base of some common styles, and she'd talk about the caps and veils used to create that style.  I'm hoping that we'll get cross interest from each other's subject matter.  I'm just not sure when we'll get to teach this, there's a bit of an upheaval going on in my mundane life.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sorry folks, haven't had much to say lately...

Although I just found out Janet Stephens is planning more hair styling videos on YouTube, this time around with live models in period style clothing!  Here's the video of what she's planning for the future with exciting tibits about which styles she's going to show!  There are some styles she's already done on mannequins and some styles she's discussed in her article and some styles that are "new" from her.

And she's planning to do the Livia style I did for Midwinters!  I'm giddily excited for that video to come out, as I can already see some differences in her version from the way I interpreted it.  I'm hoping that one comes out soon.

The Cleopatra style she put up a month ago oddly disappoints me.  I look at the images she shows to accompany the style and give the basis for her recreations and I see a vastly different style.  She even comments near the end of the video that people will be confused that the style isn't more difficult.  And I have to agree with hypothetical other viewers, I think the hair should be twisted sections like a melon hairstyle, similar to the technique used to create the Plautilla hairstyle (the Hundred-Strand Braid style).  There is also more of a pouf to the hair along the forehead that she doesn't address at all, and an impression of a twist along the hairline near the ears.  Stephens credits all this to naturally curly hair, and does use a model with natural curl to her hair to produce the style, but I think that if the texture present in the coin is accurate, the model's natural curl needed to be emphasized somehow.  I need to do more research into oiling hair, I think that might be useful to create more defined curl instead of stretched-out, slightly frizzy curl.

As said before, I'm SO looking forward to new videos.  I realized earlier during my nerdgasms that I'm lusting for her work more than I've ever lusted for any man.  (Sorry honey)  I think I might end up "reviewing" them as I notice they come out.  I would love to have a conversation with her about why she chooses some things over others, I would so love to be her apprentice!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Just a quick post...

Found a relatively easy to understand and use website with good information about Roman clothing that I thought I'd pass along.

It's an SCA related site, with a detailed list of various specific Roman garments, and some basic methods for making them.  The stola method they have is for a banded stola, one I haven't created yet.  (I'm not sure how attractive it will be if I can't find an extremely thin fabric.)

It's good for garb, and is a decent reference on type of garment, color and basic construction.  Be aware that on the color reference chart that colors vary from monitor to monitor.  They have some image slide shows to accompany the pages, and a very nice bibliography of resources, though there's no indication of what information comes from what source.

And of course, they have no information on hair styling!  The most impressive part of Roman clothing (for women at least!)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Gratifying Roman moment...

I was at the neighboring barony's small local event yesterday, and was watching the activity in someone's class, when a lady came up to me and told me that I looked so graceful in my garb.  It's amazing how wonderful a compliment from a complete stranger makes you feel.  Especially when you are dressed in your persona, it's awesome to be rewarded with the feeling that you're dressed not only in a manner that flatters, but in an accurate way.  One of the things I love about Roman statues is their grace, and I'm a little giddy that I've managed to embody that, however briefly.

This photo isn't from this weekend, but it is of pretty much the same outfit.  Egils was the final full court for our local Baron and Baroness, and the lovely Baroness Morrghan was giving personal tokens.  The sweet lady she was gifting in the photo caused her to choke up, and I thought she could use a pat.  Of course this is the best photo of my garb that day, (I look a little silly in the rest).  I love how the pleats in the palla look right!  I had had it pinned to my hair as a veil, but pulled the pins out to receive my token.  Sorry for the fuzzy image, but the friend that posted it was at a bit of a distance, as evidenced by the head in the lower left corner.

Hopefully we'll know soon which couple will be stepping up in their place, as the step up event is in two weeks!  There is just a teensy amount of tension in the houses of the couples.  Now to go work on The Boy's tunic and toga.  Hopefully I can find the cord for my camera to post pictures.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Time for another hairstyle showcase...

Warmer weathers bring out the early period in many a Scadian, and having a Roman persona means I'm pushing heavily for chitons and tunicas.  Last year at An Tir/West War, I craftily managed to instigate a Roman day.  Since Idonia was going to be up in Court on our Roman Day, I pushed her to have a fancy hairstyle.  After all that meant her hair would be seen by probably a dozen sets of sitting royalty.

Portrait of Plautilla
 This is a hairstyle seen on Plautilla, unwanted wife of Emperor Caracalla, who married him in 202 AD.  I first came across this bust, which is housed in the J. Paul Getty Museum, in Janet Stephens paper, Ancient Roman hairdressing: on (hair)pins and needles.  She gives step by step instructions on how she recreates the style, and it's relatively simple.

Idonia's hair is about waist length, but this style can be done with hair that is slightly shorter, at least mid back length.

Stephens calls this style the 100-strand braid, due to the woven look of the finished style.  It begins by parting the hair vertically from brow to nape, then sectioning a small portion along the center, french braiding that narrow section and finishing the braid to the tips.  The portions of hair on either side of that narrow braid are parted into four vertical sections on either side of the narrow braid, for a total of eight sections.  It is easiest to part the sections as you'll be using them, instead of all at once.  Each section will be twisted instead of braided against the scalp, and once it reaches the nape, separate into a three strand braid.  For symmetry's sake, I twisted strands toward center, so sections on her left were twisted to the right, and sections on the right were twisted left.  Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of doing the scalp portions, maybe in the future.

After all the sections are braided, the nine braids are sewn together to form a flat panel.  I did this with a tapestry needle and cotton weaving thread, but historically it would be done with large bone needles and woolen thread.  Once all the braids are sewn together the panel is folded up, the tips are tucked in, and the top of the panel is sewn to the top of the french braided section.  The passes of the french braid prevent the panel from weighing down the hair on the scalp and sliding down, as they would have if the panel was sewn to a twisted section alone.

This style did impress the royals, and because it's sewn together instead of pinned, it's very comfortable to sleep on.  Idonia was in fact stuck in the style until I could get to her the Tuesday after to unsew her.

Hopefully this is helpful to those that are seeking an interesting and unique hairstyle to complete their Roman garb.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I know I promised this months ago...

But here it finally is,

Achieving Livia's Look:
Recreating an Ancient Roman Hairstyle

This Style in History:

Roman hairdressing has shown an amazing variety in styles.  Tall halos of curls, elaborate braided confections, and simple matronly buns, Roman women wore the hair in a vast array of personal styles.  One iconic style is that of Empress Livia.

This bust of Empress Livia resides in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (fig 1-5).  The museum has dated this particular piece of marble to 4 CE or later, and believes it to be a copy of an original made ca. 27-23 BCE.

Livia’s style is deceptively simple.  She wears her hair with a center section combed forward into a “nodus,” a feature she is known for, the rest pulled back from the face along the sides in loose rolls to meet in the back with a complex bun wrapped with braids.  The method for securing such a style is unknown, but there are theories.

I believe this bust to be a representation of a casual hairstyle Livia wore.  This style is shown on many other busts, in a variety of materials, most depict Livia, but some show other women have copied her style.

Being an empress, Livia was the model for a lot of sculpture.  Though Romans tended toward an eternally young depiction of people (statues made of Livia when she was 60 look much the same as when she was 20) there is certain realism to them (Bartman 19).  There are examples of Livia shown as an allegory, most frequently as the goddess Ceres, with a floral crown and holding a cornucopia, (fig. 6) or in the style of Pudicitia, where she is covered modestly by a veil (fig. 7).  In some of these styles she wears a similar hairstyle to the featured one, and sometimes her hair is simply parted down the center and flows to either side in waves.  In every allegorical image, she wears something on her hair, a veil, a diadem or a wreath of flowers.  This leads me to believe that her uncovered style is not allegorical.

Potential Historical Methods:

While no one knows for certain how these hairstyles were created, experimental archeology gives us some clues as to the methods necessary for securing them.  There are three methods for fastening styles that are possible with Roman hairstyling, “gluing,” pinning, or sewing.  Along with the arguments for and against each of these methods, this section will include descriptions of other tools a period hairstylist would use, and a brief discussion of who these historical hairstylists would be.

A method for securing hairstyles that involves coating the hair, either part or all of the strand, with a substance that sticks the strands together.  Beeswax and resins are capable of being documented to the first century CE; gel made from soaking or boiling flaxseed is theoretically possible, and water soluble gum arabic would have been available, though perhaps expensive since it would need to be imported.

It is possible that the entirety of the style was held together with “glue,” but I find it extremely unlikely.  This style, even carved in heavy marble, shows a lightness to the hair that wouldn’t have been possible if all the hair was coated in product.  Also, seen easier in the plaster cast of the bust of Livia, (Fig. 8) fine, wispy hairs along the hairline are present.  That a sculptor found them necessary to carve into the busts instead of eliminating them for ease of sculpting, seems to prove their existence.  These wispy hairs wouldn’t be present if all the hair were slicked back with styling product.

Romans who could afford it bathed daily, including women and children.  Baths were deep enough to be fully immersed, suggesting that the hair was soaked along with the body.  If so, a bath would destroy a hairstyle created entirely by water soluble adhesives.  The frequency of bathing would suggest the need for a more easily removable fastener.

Believed by some to be the most common way of securing a Roman hairstyle, this method uses pins to hold the hair at specific points.  These pins would be straight, single pronged pins, like sewing pins or hair sticks, as U-pins were not created before the 18th century (Stephens 120).  A profusion of decorative hair sticks exist in archeological record.  Made of ivory, bone, wood, jet, gold and other materials, they often feature carved heads or elaborate miniature sculptures at the top (Stephens 112).  They would be easy to insert into hairstyles, and be easy enough to remove prior to a daily bath.

However, the lack of their presence in art makes it more unlikely that these hair “pins” were used to create these styles.  Extremely few portrait busts show large hair sticks, and most of those only show one, insufficient to be the sole means of support (Stephens 117, 119) (Bartman 12).  If the styles were constructed using smaller pins, it would require numerous smaller straight pins to secure the style.  These small pins could possibly be hidden from sight, but I’ve found no report of a large number of small pins in grave finds.

Sewing hair as a method of securing a style requires a large needle, and sufficient length of thread to stitch through elements of the style, to prevent portions of the style from coming loose.  Thread was most likely wool, as it is the most common fiber in Roman clothing, and Juvenal mentions a slave working wool while the mistress’s hair was being styled (Stephens 124).  By using a thread of similar color to a lady’s hair, the thread becomes almost invisible, and more closely resembles period artwork.

The use of the Latin word acus causes some confusion amongst translators.  It appears to most often be translated as pin when describing hair arranging, but when used in conjunction with sewing terms, it means sewing needle.  Janet Stephens would argue that this word should be used for needle in both cases, specifically citing Sextus Pompeius Festus, whose Glossaria Latina has an entry on hairdressing and needles that states: “ACUS dicitur, qua sarcinatrix vel etiam ornatrix utitur” (that which the cloth-mender as well as the hairdresser uses is called a needle.)  That the same type of tool was used for both sewing of cloth and sewing of hair explains the difference in needle sizes in Ancient finds.  The size of needles believed to be used for hair sewing are larger than would be used for sewing cloth, commonly ranging from 10-15 cm, and being 0.5-1 cm in diameter, and have blunted ends.  Roman needles this large are usually made from bone or ivory, though there have been finds of gold and glass (Stephens 113).

In addition to finds of large needles, there is a frieze on a tomb that depicts objects connected women’s work, and a needle is depicted with a cosmetic spatula on the right side.  The spindle for creating thread is placed at the far left, with a variety of other elements between them; a clear separation of the two subjects.  There is also the “beauty case of Cumae” that contains jewelry, a mirror, several cosmetics related items, and a complete set of hairdressing tools, a comb, bodkin, spindle and needle (Stephens 122-123).

Roman hairstyles can be complex, and often require at least one other person to arrange the hair, if not several.  Taking down a style is also complicated; if sewn, one must separate the wool thread from the lady’s hair, cutting only that thread.  This requires the presence of an ornatrix. 

Many Roman ladies of wealth had a slave, or several, just for arranging their hair.  This hairdressing slave is known as an ornatrix.  Images of hairdressing performed by a servant are seen in tomb carvings (Bartman 4).  There are several instances in Roman literature of orantrices, and they are frequently mentioned as the recipient of abuse from their mistresses for pulling hair or making a mistake while styling it.  Juvenal’s Satire 6 features two slaves actively working on their mistress’s hair, while a third who has retired from work due to age sits and spins thread while giving advice.  Her skill is respected and she was once an expert of styling (Stephens 124).

Other Tools:
Aside from the needle and thread, arranging the hair of a Roman lady would require a few other tools.  A comb was necessary to detangle and smooth the hair, a hair bodkin for parting sections, a curling iron for later styles, and a mirror for the lady to view all angles of the style (Stephens 123).

How I Did It:

Start with clean(ish), combed hair.  This style works best with hair of near waist length or more.  Begin the style by creating the center section, parting the hair from the back of the scalp to approximately the center of each eye.  Comb this section forward, and secure the remaining side hair for the time being.  This is easily done with a hair bodkin. 

As seen in the images of the Lady from Cerveteri, in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, the center section is parted in a downward point near the front of the hair. (Fig 9)  I believe this part indicates a place where the hair is bound together, creating a secure spot to anchor later steps of the style to.  Bind off the section of hair, either with a needle and thread, or, if using modern elements, with a small hair elastic.  Pull the bound section and the rest of the center section forward and bind them together at nose length.  Braid this section below the binding down to the tips.  The tips can be bound with thread, dipped in water to temporarily stick them together (Stephens 123), or modernly, wipe gel on them to bind them together.  Sew the two bindings together to create a loop at the center forehead (called a nodus), and stitch the braid down the center section.  Then release the rest of the hair.

Part the rest of the hair down the center below the wedge.  Use large sections to create French twists down both sides of the head.  Some busts show twists all the way to the bun in the back; some only use part of the hair on the side, as clearly seen on the Bust of Livia in the British Museum. (Fig. 10)  Once these twists rolled to the nape of the neck, bind them into a pony tail.  Separate out about a third of the hair from each twist, and create a braid on either side of the head.  These two braids will wrap around the finished bun.

Take the remaining unbraided section of hair and pull the tail through the gap made by the center section of the hair, leaving a loop of hair.  Stick a hair bodkin through this loop to prevent it from being pulled through the gap.  Smooth out the tail below the loop.  Pull that tail back through the gap, creating a second loop below the first, inserting another bodkin to keep the loop from pulling through.  The two braids should emerge from either side of this loop.  What hair remains of the unbraided tail can be wet with water and wrapped around the bun.  Secure this bun with large stitches through it.  Wrap the braids around the bun, securing the braids with stitches.  The style is complete.

A few notes on constructing this style.

When creating the central section, start from further back on the head than you expect.  Most of the images show that the point of the central section is covered by the bun.  While the most frequent location for this large bun is the nape of the neck, the Late Republican Woman in the NY Met shows a very high bun, perched at the back of her head. (Fig. 11)  Her bun is also smaller than most of the examples, and rounder rather than the flatter versions that are more common.

There are a few other alternatives within the style that are exhibited by various busts.  The bust of Livia in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek doesn’t feature a central braid, but smooth hair. (Fig. 1)  Either all the hair is rolled into the nodus, or the tail of hair is some how smoothed down the central section of hair.  Also there is an interesting example of the nodus itself being braided in a herringbone style. (Fig. 12)  Most of busts of Livia herself feature a nodus that is full and circular, though when her nodus is paired with a central braid, it is often more horizontal, as can be seen in the bust of Livia Drusilla that resides in The Archaeological Museum in Selçuk, (Fig. 13) or in the bust of Livia from the Crypta Balbi section of the National Museum of Rome, (Fig. 14) where the nodus has broken off, but the shape can be determined by the remaining outline.

The less rounded nodus is also a common feature for women copying the Empress’ look.  Images of the Late Republican Woman, (Fig. 11) present a fairly flat nodus, with the top layer clearly shown.  The Roman Lady from Cerveteri, (Fig. 9), displays a nodus with barely any height, all the hair is drawn together on the top with smooth curves.

A third variation can be found with the side rolls.  In a few examples the side rolls are smooth, but still have volume, instead of sectioned, as in the Late Republican Woman’s hairstyle. (Fig 11)  Visible on the bust of Livia carved from basalt, in the Louvre, (Fig. 15) are large waves that undulate down the hairline on either side of the head.  The carving indicates that the hair isn’t rolled, but loose pulled toward the back to maintain the waves.

To Wrap it Up:

This elegant style is hardly simple, but with the help of a handmaid, friend or servant, who is a capable hairdresser, and a few simple tools, the nodus style of Empress Livia can be achieved.  There are a variety of small changes that can be made to personalize the style, and it is a beautiful way to finish an early Roman outfit.
Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Fig. 5
Fig. 4

Fig. 7
Fig. 6

Fig. 8
Fig. 10
Fig. 9

Fig. 11
Fig. 12

Fig. 13
Fig. 14

Fig. 15


Bartman, Elizabeth. "Hair and the Artifice of Roman Female Adornment." American Journal of Archaeology. 105.1 (2001): 1-25. Print.

Basalt Livia, (fig. 15) Louvre, Photo by Joe Geranio.  Jun 12, 2011.  Dec 28, 2011

Bust of Livia, Copenhagen 1444 (fig. 1-5). Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.  Photos by Roger Ulrich.  Jan 30, 2011.  Dec 28, 2011.

Bust of Livia, (fig. 10). British Museum, Photo by Roger Ulrich.  Oct 15, 2010.  Dec 28, 2011.

Late Republican Woman, (fig. 11) NY Met, Photo by Roger Ulrich.  Feb 11, 2010.  Dec 28, 2011

Livia, (fig. 14), Museo Crypta Balbi, Rome.  Photo by Rien Bongers.  Nov 2, 2009.  Dec 28, 2011.

Livia as Ceres, (fig. 6) Louvre, Photo by Joe Geranio.  Oct 28, 2006.  Jan 11, 2012.

Livia Drusilla, (fig. 13) Selçuk Museum, Ephesus , Photo by Christoph Houbrects.  Sep 20, 2009.  Dec 28, 2011

Liva from the Villa of the Mysteries, (fig. 7)  Photo by Joe Geranio.  May 15, 2009.  Jan 11, 2012.

Livia Tunisia, (fig. 12). museum unknown, Photo by Joe Geranio.  Apr 18, 2008

Plaster Cast of Bust of Livia, Copenhagen 1444 (fig. 8) Photo by William Storage.  Oct 25, 2009.  Dec 28, 2011

Roman Lady from Cerveteri, (fig. 9) Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Photo by Roger Ulrich.  Oct 21, 2010

Stephens, Janet. "Ancient Roman hairdressing: on (hair)pins and needles." Journal of Roman Archeology. 21. (2008): 111-126. Print.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The one and only image I've found that might indicate French Braiding is Period...

So I haven't found much proof  that augmentation braids are appropriate for medieval hairstyles.  A vast majority of hairdressing is covered for the final image, usually with a variety of veils, but sometimes with hats; however, I have come across a singular image that appears to be a French braided style.  The trouble is, I only have the one image, and the website I found it on doesn't give much information on the source.  The webpage belongs to The Medieval Combat Society, a reenactor group in the UK that specializes in 13th and 14th century.  They have a huge collection of images for Female Civilian Clothing, composed of tomb effigies and grave brasses.

French Braids? 
The specific brass that appears to be French Braiding dates to 1335, depicts Elizabeth de Northwood, and should reside in Minster Abbey.  There is one extremely confusing word in the extremely brief description, the word copy.  This word causes me to question the actual date of the brass, but unfortunately it has gotten very late, and I've had a long day, so my Google-fu isn't what I would wish it to be.

Elizabeth's hair has some natural wave to it and is braided from the temples like many other hairstyles for this period, but the exciting part is the way the braids start off tiny at the top of her head and grow larger as they braid towards her ears.  This seems to indicate that more hair is added to the strands as they pass over each other.  The V-point within the braid is a bit of a conundrum, because it would normally indicate a french braid.  (Duth or cornrows have an upward point instead of a downward.)  However, gathering the hair in a normal French Braid doesn't result in the sharply defined edge of braid as in the image.  See the smooth sections in the below image, stolen from, as they join with the previous strand, no clearly defined edge of the braid.

There are some techniques for braiding that will cause the braid to flip over and give a clearly defined edge; it  is created by only augmenting the braid from one side of the head.
French Braids Hairstyle

It is a baffling image for me, and the source is just as confusing.  What does it mean copy?  Every time I come across the image online it is the same one, but there is no description of the image past what the Medieval Combat Society has. How are these braids accomplished?  The loose hair between the braids and the face on either side creates a challenge to recreating the style if it is an augmentation braid, as the hair is left loose enough to maintain its wave, not impossible to do, but not the sturdiest of styles.

There is also a simpler explanation, that the braids are actually being drawn from the back of the head down by her ears and are tapering out at the top.  A plain braid follows more accurately the myriad of other examples from the time period, but I'm still looking for the elusive proof of French Braiding in the Medieval Period.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Having trouble writing up my classes...

I've promised (and eventually sent in the info about) two classes on hair that I'll be teaching at Egils, but right now I'm having trouble figuring out what exactly to talk about in these classes.  The first, boringly titled, "French Braiding For Beginners," is a hands on tutorial on how to do augmentation braids, (French, Dutch and Cornrows).  It'll have a brief bit of explanation and demonstration before letting the students at each other's hair.  I haven't figured out if there will be any kind of handout, as I don't really want to spend money.

The second class is the one that's really holding me up.  The Boy and I talked about it on the way back home from the event we attended on Saturday.  I knew I wanted the class to be about authentic hairstyles, since French braiding hasn't been documented for most periods.  Unfortunately, authentic hairstyles is a very broad subject, and one I'm not as well versed as I would like to be, since my specialty is Roman.  The Boy suggested that I do a tutorial on hair sewing, but I was having a hard time envisioning the subject as a full class.  I get rather short sighted on things that I do well, and often don't realize that it may not be obvious to everyone how to accomplish some of the things I do.  So, talking through the class with Himself, we decided the class should have a brief discussion of the historical plausibility of sewing hairstyles together, followed by a basic tutorial in a hairstyle or two.  The Boy suggested my Norse braid loops, since they're simple, many ladies up her wear Norse, and, provided the student has long enough hair, can be accomplished on their own hair.

Odd how often my "attentive"
photos seem "surly"
The other option I'm thinking about for a tutorial in hair sewing is hair taping.  I've gotten pretty good at doing hair taping on myself, and fully believe this style was done by middle class women because it can be done to one's own hair with a minimum of effort.  I also believe it to be the structural basis for some hat styles, especially late period styles.  My introduction to hair taping was through Faoiltighearna's webpage on taping, but I've developed a few theories of my own since then.  The image below from her page of examples shows a woman wearing a cap similar to the style worn throughout several countries and centuries.

Those are my thoughts so far on the classes I'll be teaching at Egils.  Now to try to figure out what to say in my discussion without gushing enormously over the ancient hairstyle goddess Janet Stephens.  Check out her YouTube Channel, it's awesome!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Trying something new...

So I'm going to try doing something new here on the blog, a period hairstyle of the month, every other week or so, maybe if I'm really dedicated it'll be a weekly occurrence.  I'd like to showcase a style, with citations of sources, and briefly explain how I believe the style was accomplished.  And of course, there will be photos!

I'd like to start with the style my hair is in currently, one I'm calling Norse Braid Loops. I first came across this style from the Viking Answer Lady's website on hairstyles when looking for proof of braided pigtails existence about a year ago. I know many women will wear their hair in braided pigtails with their Nordic clothing, and wanted to prove this was accurate.  Gunnvör mentioned, "women with their hair worn in two braids, falling to either side of the head beside the cheeks" depicted on carved stones from Cumbria.

So I decided I had to look them up.  I found W.G. Collingwood's article on Google Books, and copied the photographs.  I had only a passing interest in Collingwood's article about the stones, and skimmed it to see what he had to say about the hairstyles.  He says, "They have long plaits of hair curled at the ends (not aureoles nor hoods) which suggests that they are meant for female figures."  I took his paper with a decent dose of salt as it was printed in 1907.  It is clear from the images that the figures have their hair in either one or two sections, some show evidence to texture carved in, probably to indicate braiding, and many have a curl at the end of the tail.

Do follow the link to Collingwood's paper, the images there have more detail than is available in these copies.

Looking at the images, I interpret the style as the hair of the ladies with pigtails being parted down the center.  I took the hatching on the stone to mean the sections are braided.  My hair is extremely straight; I have a hard time getting it to hold a curl, and the women's hair I know that is curly doesn't curl in the same perfect loop.  Also the carving that indicates braiding is etched into part of the loop.  This lead me to believe that the loop isn't simply the end of the braid left natural, and had to be coerced into this shape.

For my recreations of this style, I begin by parting my hair down the center and braiding each section to create pigtails.  I use modern clear hair elastics to bind the ends when I get to the bottom. Then I use a large blunt needle, labeled in stores as a tapestry needle, and thick black cotton thread to sew the tail of my hair to itself in a loop. 

This is a photo from last year, a slightly surly (maybe attentive?) expression from the back of court at Egils, but it shows my Norse get up and the loops at the end of the braids.  I've learned that the loops at the bottom need to be joined for at least an inch above the elastic. This helps preserve the round shape.

Hope this give people an option for wearing their hair with their "Viking" clothing.  It's a cute style that I like, though friends have threatened to stick the loops onto things.  The uniqueness of the style helps to complete the look of my garb, and allows me to feel just a little more finished.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Toga wool has arrived!

I'm so excited.  The wool for The Boy's toga arrived yesterday.  I ordered it from a website I'd never seen before, and shipping took a little over a week, which feels slow thanks to the ridiculously speedy delivery from I'm used to, but the result is so worth it.  Fabric Mart Fabrics has a somewhat limited selection of fabrics (keeping in mind that I only want natural fibers), but the prices are ridiculously nice, and they take the time to describe not only the weight of the fabric, but how it drapes.  There are suggested ideas of what to use the fabric for, but I don't know that they really pay attention to what they're saying, as they suggest making scarves out of gabardine.

I ordered this ivory wool crepe.  It's gorgeous, lightweight and drapey, and extra wide which I didn't realize before.  I'm looking forward to cutting it into it to make the curved edge, but I'm not sure if I should wash it or not.  I'm worried about it shrinking and getting much thicker than it is now.  The only piece of crepe I've worked with in the past got thick and felted after repeated washing, and I definitely don't want that for this wool.

I suppose I could cut the extra off first, and try washing the extra pieces to see how it washes up before deciding to wash it in the future.  I need to test it, since I want to dye some of the fabric to make the stripe on  the edge.

At least I have the giddy thrill awaiting me tomorrow of having a washer and dryer being delivered!  For the first time since I moved to Oregon, I'll be able to do laundry in my own home!

On today's to-do list, aside from dishes, I need to figure out the classes I'll be teaching at Egils this year.  I have had people ask if I'd teach how to french braid, and, although it isn't period, braided hair is better than a modern style. I'm also trying to figure out what I'm going to say for my more accurate hair styling class.  I think it will be titled "Sewn Hairstyles, Yet Another Thing to Do with a Needle and Thread."  Also on the Egil's front, some friends of ours, and their friends, will be joining us, making our own little camping group this year.  We need to get land reservations in tomorrow, and get to figure out what equipment we have for cooking.  It'll be exciting.

Ah well, lots to do today.  At least last night I made a little progress on the Overly Ambitious Embroidery Project of DOOM! I finished the dark gold color last night.  I need to go buy more skeins of thread, I'm running out of nearly every color.

Keeping Busy,

Monday, April 9, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Working on Fancy New Garb for the pair of us...

The Boy and I are getting "matching" garb.  Since there's a chance we might be the next B&B, I've decided it's time to start working on our "potential investiture" garb for June.  We decided to go Roman should the occasion arise, and even if it didn't, we'll have a nice set of Roman gear to wear.

So I'm sort of in the planning stages.  I purchased some wool for a toga, and then decided to make up a list of garments I wanted to make, and a rough, totally overestimated budget for them.  I've also be perusing period imagery and information sites, looking for the appropriate color combinations and styles that go with the thought of us being invested as territorial governors in Imperial Rome.

For Bastian I was planning to make:

Tunic- Linen with maroon clavi or bands, sleeves?
Toga-Wool with maroon band
Belt-Fabric, gold fringe?
Calcei-Leather, dyed dark red

We're also considering:
Subarmalis?-red linen, gold fringe
Breastplate?-plastic or leather with sculpted embellishments and painted
I'm contemplating how exactly I want to do the Tunic.  I can't decide what the appropriate clavi (stripes on the tunic) would be for himself.  The two narrow stripes on either shoulder indicate equestrian status, and I haven't found a source that says an equestrian class could become a provincial governor.  There are two other clavi patterns repeatedly mentioned online, the senators wore a large stripe down the center of their tunica laticlava, and victorious emperors and generals got to wear the tunica palmate, a purple tunic with gold palm leaves embroidered on it.  Clearly The Boy isn't a victorious general or emperor, so the palmate is out.  I'm not a big fan of the way the senator's tunic looks with the single large stripe center front.  But if it turns out you can't be a provincial governor without being a senator first, then that's the way we have to go.

I read once that the imperial purple was actually a reddish purple, like a maroon, though I can't remember where I saw it.  Since The Boy got his PhD at a school whose colors include maroon, I thought it would be a nice touch.  Himself will be more comfortable in a linen tunic, especially in June, and linen is a sign of wealth.  I'm also not sure about sleeves.  I think I want to do a short sleeve, give him a little more coverage on the shoulder.

I've already purchased the wool crepe I intend to use for the toga.  I found a good deal on, $9.99/yard for an ivory crepe.  I ordered 7 yards, and when I checked out, they gave me a surprise $2 off per yard, and with the shipping it came to less than $65!  I plan to cut it to a half circle shape of the earlier Imperial togas, mostly to save money on buying fabric, and because it will be slightly easier to wear.  See image 5 as the simplest style.  I'm thinking of visiting Eugene Textile Center and dying the fabric for the clavi and the stripe on the toga to the maroon color.

The belt is pretty simple, a narrow width of fabric, red since Himself is a squire, with fringe.  I like the look of gold fringe.
The calcei are Roman boots, made from leather with cut work that laces up on top of the foot with some ankle support.  Romans wore boots when outside, and sandals indoors.  The wealthiest Romans with slaves would have a slave to carry their sandals when they visited others.  So The Boy and I both need boots as this will be an outdoor event.  I'm also thinking about making these myself, because shoe making seems exciting, but this particular style requires a last, and I don't know if anyone in the area has a set.  Roman culture has some guidelines for shoe color, and red shoes are reserved for the Patrician class.
The garments we're considering for him, but aren't sure are the Subarmalis and Breastplate.  They'd be an easy way to save money by excluding them.  I want them because of the image of Augustus in his embossed breastplate and toga looks so mmmmmm!  The combination of militaristic and oratory makes sense for me since Himself is both a fighter and a talker.  If we do manage to get them done, I would make a light weight Subarmalis without all the padding since Himself wouldn't be fighting in it and wouldn't need it.  I'm planning it from Crimson Linen from with the pteruges (strips around the waist and shoulders) done in linen with bullion fringe at the bottoms.  Theoretically, I'd buy a plastic breastplate that is fairly plain, and use Sculpty or something else to create the embellishments, and paint it in a bronze color. 

And now for the parts that I'm wibbling on.

As for my new Garb I was planning to make/aquire:
Tunica interior-white linen, long sleeve
Over Dress-Egyptian style tunic? Gathered neckband? “tapered”?
Palla-silk? Linen? Patterned?
Boots-leather, cutwork
Jewelry-moon necklace, two or three drop pearl earrings, coral necklace, bracelets, rings
I'm not sure exactly what I'll be making for myself yet, since I can't seem to pick a style.  I know I want a new linen under tunic, the tunica interior which will be plain white and long sleeved.  I might embellish the neckline with a little trim, but not much.  I found a website with a bunch of Fayum mummy portraits, and I love the look of this lady.  The blue and gold are a lovely combination.  The ladies of Roman Egypt all wear colorful tunics, many in red tones, including one in bright pink!  Most have clavi in a dark color, some with a thin gold edging to black bands.  There is a large variety in their jewelry, but the metal all appears to be gold, and there is a frequency of pearls.  Most of the necklaces are chokers, but there are a few with longer.

Alternatively, I could stick to the Roman styles I've been doing and do a sleeveless stola.  There are a couple styles I haven't experimented with yet, specifically the banded stolla as done by Iohanna fillia Iacobi.
The banded style or one with the top gathered into shoulder straps are much more appropriate for a woman living in Roman Italy like my persona does.  I'm not sure what colors I'm going to use yet, I haven't found a fabric I'm in love with yet, and there's not much in my stash that's calling to me.  I have a metallic silk stola that I started ages ago that could be finished for this purpose, but because it is so see through I'd want a layer between stola and tunica interior.  No idea on that yet.

Equally, I have no idea what I want to do for the palla.  The fabric I'm currently using for a palla is a gorgeous gold silk sari with metallic threads woven throughout.  But I'm getting a little tired of it.  I'm not sure what I want instead, a linen or wool or silk, patterned or plain, maybe with fringe along the edges?  The sash I'm using now is a brown and white silk, and it's fine, but again, I'm bored with it.  I would love for this to be the opportunity to get something nicer, but I haven't really looked into it.
I also want to make myself a cute pair of Roman shoes to wear for this.  The same Roman reenactor site that has the cute boots above has a pretty pair of women's shoes.  I want to dye mine red also, because I wouldn't be the wife of a high ranking governor if I weren't high class myself.

I'm looking forward to making some of the jewelry for this outfit.  I've found a little bit of information about the crescent moon pendant worn by many of the Fayum mummies, but I need to find out more.  The little I know is that they are good luck charms against evil, and are likely devotions to Diana.  They're very pretty, and I like adding little things to an outfit that make it more accurate.  I also want to find the findings necessary to make the three drop pearl earrings that are very common in portraiture.

So those are my current thoughts on the fancy new clothes.  I didn't realize I had so much more planning to do on my side.  I suppose I just have to wait a little while for some fabric to speak to me.

Also, I have no idea what to do with my hair!