Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Beaded Veils and Things We Put on Our Heads

Pink and green totally matches.
13th century clothing isn't always super exciting. Personally, I prefer to use nice solid blocks of color for my under gown and cyclas so that I can mix and match my wardrobe to suit my mood, the event, the weather or whatever the daily augury suggests. I have a few gowns that are patterned or made with flashy fabrics, but for the most part, you'll find me in Manesse codex match-ups. 

The one place I can have a bit of fun is in the stuff that goes on my head. Veils, wimples, coronet, crispinettes, filets and more, but my favorite accessory is a silk veil with beads. Lots of beads. Perhaps, a shameful number of beads.

There is nothing quite like a long sweep of silk and a clatter of tiny pearls. The wearing of the wimple, veil, crispinette and coronet is simply the part of my dress that feels the most medieval since these items are so limited in modern appearance. Nuns, holy people, a few pagans and Muslim women  are really the only modern survivors of the middle age aesthetic of women wearing head coverings as a sign of modesty or devotion.

Last Judgement Triptych
by Hans Memling, c. 1469.
Veil w/pearled edge
Of course, in the middles ages, lots of crazy veil and hat styles knocked the modesty out of the equation, but still kept a woman covered... even if she had to duck through doorways because of the height of a hennin. Ladies also jazzed up the veil by adding ruffled edges and sometimes even heavily beaded edges. There are lots of paintings of beaded veils that come from the medieval and renaissance period sometimes showing heavy beading, intricate works and veils so gossamer you can read a newspaper right through them. 

I look terrible in pretty much any hat produced after 1915, so I'm glad I get to have a bit of fun with head coverings in my SCA experience. 

I hand bead and hem all of my silk veils. I do this because silk is way easier to get a rolled and lovely edge when hemmed by hand, I can't afford buying this work from someone else and because it helps me to reach back into the past and make a little connection. I sew veils mostly in the evenings. In my rocking chair as I watch television, talk on the phone or listen to audio books, my hands are busy rolling the fine edge of silk, working with thread and beads to create something beautiful.

The best part is when someone asks me where I got my veil and I can answer with a smile and a blush of pride that I made it myself. I'm not fantastic at sewing handwork, so making more veils and delicate pieces that add to my kit is forcing me to become better at sewing as I decorate myself.

Currently, I am adding to my collection by working on a pale blush silk veil with pale rose glass pearls. Also, new crispinettes are coming soon...

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