Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Spicing Up a Medieval Congress

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In the summer of 2005, my daughter, who is a French Medievalist, was presenting a paper at the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds in Leeds, UK. As she was still nursing, her little Cecilia had to accompany her. I tagged along so I could tend to my granddaughter while my daughter attended presentations. (The day we arrived in Leeds, was the day the entire world learned that the London suicide bombers were from Leeds but that is a story for later.) I had expected to be wooed by Medieval pomp and circumstance but none of the Medieval scholars met my expectations. Save for the lone musician in Medieval costume, playing reproduction Medieval instruments, there would have been a total lack of atmosphere to this Medieval event.

When daughter was again to present a paper in the summer of 2006, I expressed my disappointment at the lack of passion and romance exhibited by Medieval scholars, the lack of costumes. She, a daring soul, agreed to wear Medieval dress if I were to construct it. I am also daring, so I accepted the challenge, knowing nothing of Medieval dress. I was launched on a research and sewing project with a deadline of a month before having to mail the costume to her home in Paris. As luck would have it, Tall Husband learned that a work colleague was an historic reenactor familiar with the Medieval period. He provided invaluable information and web addresses, sending me off on a quest!

As it turned out, McCall's has Medieval patterns that can be ordered on line. I e-mailed links to my daughter and she made her selections. The dress she chose took thirteen yards of fabric. I had to clear out the living room and use the floor to cut, which took all day just for the dress. We did not go for historical authenticity. Those who do, make their own patterns, sew by hand and torture themselves in other ways, I'm sure. I went for the romantic impression of Medieval dress, with an Italian style, lace-up damask dress and a French style chemise of silk. The small crown-style hat, which was also made from a McCall's pattern was the style you see in Medieval paintings. Websites of those who sew historical reproductions were of great help in finding notions (such as lacing rings, etc.) and in reconstructing the patterns to achieve a better look or fit. Also, a friend, who is near my daughter's size, graciously agreed to let me put the costume on her so that technical changes could be determined. The friend, in the photo above, is taller than daughter, so the dress does not romantically drag the ground as it did on the intended.

I met the deadline and shipped the thirty pound costume to Paris, along with dressing instructions. So my adventurous daughter was the renegade scholar who presented her scholarly paper in a red Medieval dress that summer. And who would dare to argue against the scholarly findings of one who is wearing a crown?!

1 comment:

  1. This is truly awesome!!! I can't wait to see the sun hat. It should be a peice of cake after this gorgeous comstume. I need to make some curtains for my little kitchen window, I have put if off way too long. Maybe your hat will inspire my curtains! xxx kim