Dress Like a Peasant – Parte Ye Laste

Thank you, my angels, for bearing with me during the RH004 Pleasant Peasant Project. I’ve had a wonderful – if sometimes frustrating – time. I’ve learnt a lot of stuff most of you tailors and seamstresses take for granted. 

Best of all, I’ve made myself a really spiffy outfit of historical clothing!

Let’s start with the images from which RH004 was developed. 

1430shepherds.jpgFirst, early, early C15. This image depicts shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night, when suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared unto them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. (Luke:2)

I did that from memory.  Go, me.

Here are the things to note. First, dig the shepherd on the left – he’s got on two Tunics, one with relatively tight-fitting sleeves, the outer with significantly larger tubes. Regardless, the Tunics fit like a sack.

The Leggings aren’t fitted, either – they’re clearly snugged up to the leg with garters just below the knee. 

One part of the ‘look’ I didn’t try is the linen wallet tied round the waist.  I’ll have to look into that for events later in the year. Also of interest is the blac, presumably felt, hat.

The fellow on the right has very large sleeves on his Tunic, with tight sleeves on the Shirt underneath.

Again with the baggy Leggings.  But this is neat – dig the straps under his bare foot!

The sheep appear unimpressed.

Next, let’s look at some images of dancing peasants.

There are lots of images of peasants working and relaxing in medieval manuscripts, especially in Books of Hours. This next image, below right, is one such, from the Heures de Charles Angoutlene.1450-1500s_HeuresdeCharlesdAngoutlene.jpg This is from the mid-to-late C15, and shows Peasants dancing to musicians in the shade of a tree.

Once again, note the mens’ loose-fitting Leggings and baggy Tunics. Interestingly, one sees Coifs and Hoods in this image, along with fuzzy felt hats.

There’s also a glimpse of a Tunic closure option – the fellow in the rear, with the blue Tunic and orange Hood, appears to have a Tunic which opens down the front.

This image is one of the pieces of evidence I use to support Kass’s extensive expertise in historical dyestuffs in justifying the Orange Tunic of Doom.  Note the kirtles on the dancing ladies!

1450shepherdsbeligum.jpgNext up – at left – are some more dancing peasants, watched o’er by the benevolent gaze of relaxing sheep.

Here we see some really interesting and tantalizing things.

First is the different color to the piper’s Tunic sleeve, which is also quite short compared to the fellow in the back.

Second is the short liripipe on the fellow at left’s (orange!) Hood.

Third is the white stripe round the edges of the Tunics and Hoods. In other images, of upper-class people, Kass has seen fur lining there.  Could these poor peasants be lining their clothing with sheepskin or something?  Think it over, sweetie; I’m probably full of wind, making a clothing mountain out of an artistic-license molehill, but it’s something to think on.

Peasants continued to dance, still ignored by sheep, in the 1470s, as this next image shows. Now we start to see all the men in Tunics which open completely down the front, but that’s really the only change between this and the image from 40 years hence.  The cut is the same, the accessories are the same, even most of the colors are the same (including orange!). 

1470sDancingPeasants.jpg

I tried to talk Kass into letting me get a Fez like the cat on the left, ‘cos it’s Teh Kewlest Evar, but she wouldn’t bite. C’est la vie. n’est pas?

grimanibreviarySepthose.jpgThere’s one more image I want to share, from the Grimani Breviary (ca. 1500).

This poor bloke’s Leggings have seen better days, what with all the holes in the knees.  Poor sod.

But notice something important: The basic style still hasn’t changed from the 1430s.  Same unfitted Leggings, same baggy Tunic, same Coif, same hat, same little knife dangling from his belt (which is, unfortunately for him, a bit of rope).

Later in C16, engravings and paintings show peasants dressed exactly the same.  Albrecht Dürer made a very detailed engraving – I mean, come on; it’s Dürer, fer Crissakes – of peasants, a copy of which is included in the RH004 historical notes, in which their clothing looks exactly like the stuff in the paintings seen here. 

It’s really rather shocking how lower-class garments changed so little over a two-hundred-year time span.  But they didn’t, which makes RH004 so bleedin’ versatile for me as a participant in medieval living history, SCA events, and as a historical shopkeeper.

Ye Reconstruction Compleat

And now, laydeez an gennelmun, the show you’ve been waiting for!  My reconstruction, wistfully called The RH004 Pleasant Peasant Project!

The images were taken this morning, and will be shown not in the order of braieswithMellie.jpgcompletion but the order in which the garments should be donned.

Ladies, be warned – in some of these I have my shirt off. Worse yet for small children, in some I’m only in my underpants.  Try not to faint.

First, at right, the Braies. Disregard the intrusion of Overseer Number One, and instead pay attention to my manly physique.  The Braies are quite roomy, and fit nicely.  

braieshose.jpgSecond, at left, Braies and Leggings / Hose.  The Leggings/Hose are attached to a leather belt which acts like a modern slattern’s naughty garter belt keeps up her fishnet hose. 

Before you ask, no, the Leggings do NOT have Cuban heels.They do have a seam up the back, though, that I didn’t have to pencil in with eyeliner.

The garters at the knee are handmade, really nice examples from Herveus that Kass bought years and years ago.  Still wearing strong, Herveus!

Note how baggy they are. As noted previously, that’s a-purpose. 

In the first place, I didn’t have anyone to fit them (I deliberately opted to not ask Kass, as I only wanted to ask her stuff if I got really stuck). In the second place, I wanted to mimic the baggy look of the early contemporary images.

At right, Shirt comes next.  I still have to hem that, alas; I’ll finish shirtlayer.jpgthat up tonight.  If anything, I think the Shirt and Tunic are both a bit too long; I may have to address that later on.

Oh, yeah, and a touch of ironing wouldn’t go amiss, would it? :snerk:

I’m still debating about what to do about the neck – should I close it, and if so, how? coifless.jpgIn the first image in this post, the fellow putting on his shoes has a button showing at the neck of his Shirt. I wonder if a small cloth button might not be in order to keep my Saturday Night Fever hairy chest hidden from view. Thoughts? Comments?

Note also the tapered sleeves.

Now, at left, time for the orange! 

Note the larger, tubular sleeves.  Not as large as the gaping short tubes seen in a couple of the contemporary images, but still pretty roomy. There’s also a Gusset under each sleeve, making even more room.

Got me bit of rope for a belt, with a pouch, knife and paternoster. At first, I was going to slip the knife on the rope behind the pouch like was done in C15, but then I took a closer look at the contemporary images and noticed that all the knives I could see had them dangling from the belt. It’s either a bit of string of a leather thong; I had some hemp cord handy, and thus was the knife-hanging accomplished.

And now for the bit I made but didn’t make, if you follow me: the Coif. (If you hoodless.jpghaven’t read about my trials with the Coif, read back a couple of days. Then pity me by buying me a pot of ale next we meet. Or with chocolate.) We’ll leave it at that, shall we?  Tearing off scabs is hoodup.jpgas pointless as it is painful.

At left, the RH004 Pleasant Peasant outfit is nearly complete.  The Hood has been donned and pulled up to keep my ears warm.

Again, the Hood buttonholes are purposefully left zoomed out so you won’t make fun of me.

At this point, I got a little warm. It’s not a lot of layers, but in the upstairs hallway – where the heat likes to rise before convecting back down to the basement – it can get warm quite quickly. Having loads of wool on made me nice and roasty-toasty warm!

Finally, below, the completed ensemble. Aren’t I as medieval as pottage? 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little foray into something I’ve never done before. It started as a way to flesh out the wardrobe before heading to Gulf Wars later this spring and ended as a practical application of Reconstructing History products.  Again, those were:

hooddown.jpgUsing the bronze needle is a joy. I rarely had to resort to the Thimble. The linen thread is fine as silk, with no slubs and wonderfully strong – I used to break the linen thread we used to use merely by tugging on it; this stuff takes a beating.

I’ll keep you posted as to how The Peasant Project outfit holds up over time.  Better yet, come see me at an event in 2010!

THE END

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