Lately I’ve been picking up on an old hobby of mine – medieval reenactment.
I’ve been interested in the middle ages since I was about 13-14 years old. I was reading everything I could find about medieval cathedrals, clothing, food etc. I loved to read historical novels and learn about how people lived, the handicraft of those times and much more.
I used to organize small medieval dinners with a few friends at home or out in the woods. We went to a few live role-playing convents and made our own medieval clothes. Oh well, as good as we knew how to in the mid to late 90’s in Sweden…
Some years later I started working at Korps hantverksbod (nowadays Korpsgård AB – a company specializing in materials for historical reenactment and live role playing) in the shop and taking care of the mail order service. Those were great times indeed! Meeting a bunch of fun and crazy people and learning a lot more than before. I also studied costume and interior history at the university, although that was focused more on later times – but it taught me how to be source critical and which tools and methods can be used to try to get an idea about what people were wearing and what items they used in everyday life.
After this I spent some years in Portugal where I didn’t really have much contact with other people within this field. Short before I moved away I was in contact with some people wanting to start a Viking reenactment group but I had no chance to move forwards with that. I was living on a farm where I had the dream to set up a course center focusing on older handicraft and Permaculture. I also wanted to do historical events. I managed to do a few small things, but alone and with little support from others it was hard to reach more than doing some workshops with a few participants. There were several reasons why it didn’t work out there and then.
Now, living in Germany, I decided to pick up on this interest again since it’s something I always carry with me. I have a fascination for “old stuff” in general and a specific interest for the times around 900-1600 A.D. in the European culture (meaning not only medieval but partially Viking and Renaissance times also). The aesthetics from these times really speak to me. Also, I find that handicraft is one of the things that manages to calm my mind own. Doing something with my hands gives my thoughts the chance to fly around freely, but at a moderate pace.
I started checking around if there were any Viking or medieval reenactment groups in the nearby area and found a group called Freie Ritterschaft Baden in the town nearby. I contacted them and was invited to join some of their weekly practices. Very nice people and you feel welcome right away. The only tricky thing for me is that they specialize on the period 1180-1250, which is a part of the middle ages that I’m not 100% familiar with when it comes to clothing (or garb as some prefer to say within the field). There are very few archeological findings from northern Europe from these times and also few illustrations where you properly can see how garments were constructed. There is also a lot of “fairytale” ideas about how things looked in this period. A lot of people tend to love the large hanging sleeves of the bliaut for instance, but not have a clue about how it was probably constructed as a whole. A lot of “medieval” companies sell dresses in this style that should probably be called fantasy dresses instead. But enough elitism for now. People have different aims within this hobby and I respect that. Some only wish to experience a magic time inspired by the past and others look for authenticity. I am one of the second type.
To be able to study this period one has to study statues a lot, so I guess a tour around a bunch of cathedrals will be needed. But for now, I’ve figured out a few garments that I wish to make and I base my construction mainly on earlier archaeological findings combined with a few manuscripts, for instance the Maciejowski bible. My plan is to start on a full new wardrobe which suits this time frame, since I only have Viking/early medieval stuff left from before.
To start with I will create a new tunic/chemise/under dress (whichever word you prefer) out of white linen. Then I managed to win a bid on Ebay for four meters of grey wool fabric which will be perfect for the overdress. I plan to make it in a model with slits under the arms so you can fold them back – something like this. Then of course I will need a bunch of accessories such as bags, clasps, belt, wimple, new shoes and so on. See the picture for some of the materials I’ll use. Still working on how they will all look. So for the nearest months I expect to be doing a lot of hand-sewing. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.