How to move in period clothing

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Lady Phoenix
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How to move in period clothing

Postby Lady Phoenix » Mon May 08, 2006 2:40 pm

Ladies & Gents,

Something has me a little puzzled.

I’ve seen on some of the ‘best/worst film’ rants that some folks have noted that certain actors/actresses don’t know how to move in medieval / period clothing.

I’ve been to a couple of events now in kit, and although I'm still very much a newbie I feel quite comfortable in my kit. But how obvious is it to those seasoned veterans that someone is new to the scene, and exactly how should one move in period clothing? Is it all about confidence, feeling comfortable, or is it something else?

Hoping you can all enlighten me!

Nix


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Postby Drachelis » Mon May 08, 2006 4:10 pm

Our centre of gravity has changed over the centuries - we now sit back on our pelvis ( which is the reason for so much unexplained back pain) If you look at the posture in the Alexander Technique with our weight more over the balls of our feet you will get the idea of posture in previous centuries.

The majority of the clothes worn are much more bulky and, for women, our movement was restricted by the type of corset worn (once they became a clothing item). Modest also dictated the way we carried ourselves ( speaking of women again. At some points in history when calf muscles were the vogue , chaps put pads inside their stockings (nd hose) to enhance this area.!!-

A lot is being comfortable in your clothes and adapting to the limitations - if you remember recently there was a thread about wearing a bra under medieval kit many modern women just aren't comfortable about not wearing a bra - although it is not authentic and doesn't give an authentic look.

I would think that it would be easier to spot someone wearing court dress as a newbie because trains etc take a real bit of getting used to, - the slow arc rather than the quick turn around so that the train doesn't get tangled etc.


Just my thoughts



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Postby Alan E » Mon May 08, 2006 4:34 pm

For footwear without heels, it's necessary to place the foot differently (compared to walking in modern shoes): Those who've habitually walked barefoot (whether martial training or just from habit) generally do best at this. Sitting, standing and fighting in joined hose and doublet/pourpoint places some restrictions too; try doing a workout in doublet and hose compared to modern gym clothes: Not as restricting of course as a pair of tight jeans (and some people are reasonably active in those).

IMO a lot of 'the difference' can be seen between people who wear their 'kit' as costume, and those who treat the 'kit' as normal wear.


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Postby Sophia » Mon May 08, 2006 4:44 pm

Personally I think the problem is worse with later styles - a friend who studied and worked in Costume commented that there is often a problem with women being unwilling to wear the period underwear that is needed (such as a proper pair of bodies, stays, etc.) because they do not like the way it makes them look/feel

Anybody who has worn such clothes for any reason will tell you that it affects the way you stand, walk, bend and sit.

The same goes for wearing headgear - which is much more of a requirement for medieval itself, this also affects posture.

The most common problem I see is visible bra line or straps on women. It give the wrong silhouette. It is worth investing the time to achieve a decent fit on your kirtles and gowns (strongly recommend finding a friend to help and purchasing the Medieval Tailor's Assistant to do this).

The other problem is long skirts - if you wear trousers all the time it takes a while to work out how to walk in long skirts. Unless you are going to do upper class it is best to settle for a skirt that just brushes the top of your feet. The same can be said for how you sit.

When it comes to blokes I have noted fewer errors - their clothes tend to be more accurate from what I can see at least in more recent productions. Also the shoes/boots and swords force them to walk properly.

These are just my opinions, so don't take it as gospel. Some things remain a matter of opinion as we have limited details from historical and archaeological evidence.

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Postby Alan E » Mon May 08, 2006 4:54 pm

Of course what we're comparing people's movement to, is the digital recordings our ancestors left lying around, allowing us to analyse their way of walking, sitting etc... :twisted: :lol:


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Postby Phil the Grips » Mon May 08, 2006 5:10 pm

For men the simple act of having your hose/britches pointed to your doublet, which sits at the natural waist or hips makes sudden bending and movement a very different proposition as well. It does wonders for fencing and riding posture though!

My only main bugbear is people carrying weapons poorly- the number of times I see the pommel of a sword (whether longsword, backsword, rapier whatever) being gripped with a white-knuckle grasp as they walk around annoys me (in reenactment and in films).

This is the equivalent of walking around with two-fingers up at everyone you meet. If you have decent hangers then the sword should sit nicely on the hip, only needing steadied by resting the back of the hand lighly on the hilt to stop it swinging at anyone as you pass.


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Postby gregory23b » Mon May 08, 2006 5:10 pm

Half the problem is badly made clothing worn inappropriately, also there is a portion of self-conciousness involved.

Posh kit is made to ponce around in in a stately manner, tight hose, really pointy shoes etc, for more strenuous activities looser more practical versions are needed.

Hose that are done up too tight at the back can cause posture changes as they can drag the doublet down a bit esp if sat at a work bench etc.

Also tv/film kit is mostly costume and are not always constructed the same way as real clothing for practical reasons on the stage etc.

Running in flat shoes for the first time is fun!!!!


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Postby Phil the Grips » Mon May 08, 2006 5:14 pm

Alan E wrote:Of course what we're comparing people's movement to, is the digital recordings our ancestors left lying around, allowing us to analyse their way of walking, sitting etc... :twisted: :lol:

...or riding manuals,dancing texts, deportment books, etiquette books, fencing manuals and all manner of physical culture texts and images that exist.

Most of these aspects (of wearing clothes, treatment/maintenance of clothes, movement, etiqutette, and so on) is still evident in fomal clothing of today and only became obscure in the last 30 years with the advent of "leisure" clothing, stretchy materials, replaceable clothes and a more sedentary culture.


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Postby Shadowcat » Mon May 08, 2006 6:27 pm

I really hate seeing women striding out as if they were wearing trainers, especially in criolines, or any kind of hoop skirt. (One particular actress comes to mind, who really does wear trainers under her costume if her feet are not to be seen, and it notices!) The idea is to walk with little strides or steps, so the hoop glides and the feet are not seen. (Think swan, not duck!) For women in 18th century mules, the step was "toe-heel" otherwise they wouldn't stay on properly. Nowadays, with trainers and flat shoes, most women walk "heel-toe"!

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Postby mally ley » Mon May 08, 2006 7:50 pm

Nix, feeling comfortable in your kit probably means you're not doing too badly and if it is made as authentically as possible (no, I'm not getting dragged in to a hand spun, home woven discussion) - ie, no bra, the right length, tight enough, loose enough etc - then it is probably altering the way you walk/stand without you realising it.
If the clothes are right (underpinnings, shoes et al) and you don't think about how you are wearing them everything should fall in to place.



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Postby Ellen Gethin » Mon May 08, 2006 9:56 pm

I remember reading about the making of the film Gone With the Wind. David O Selznick, the producer, insisted that the actresses all wore authentic underwear, because it did affect the way they moved.


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Postby Sophia » Mon May 08, 2006 10:16 pm

Another issue people who are starting out have is the number of layers. If you are using all natural fibres they breath and it is amazing how many layers you can wear without overheating. Obviously you will sweat and some people worry about the whole hygiene issue (see thread in Friends and Gossip).

My experience is that if you preshrink the linen for underwear you can boil it to b@@@@@y which generally gets it fairly clean. Make at least two or three sets of underwear before you acquire a posh outfit. Peter C-H, my other half has expressed a desire for linen shirts for everyday use - I have told him to learn sew :twisted:

Personally I find C15th easy to wear, though many of my friends would note that the difference between my re-enactment clothes barring the bras is mainly in the cut and fastenings. I am also a birkenstock/flat shoes fan due to an old back injury - says it all really. The biggest problem I have is other people (mainly MOPs but sometimes Peter) standing on my train if I wear a posh gown

Ho Hum :roll:

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Postby frances » Mon May 08, 2006 10:37 pm

If you spot a lady holding her ground-length skirts up with both hands as she walks - that is a first-time wearer!! If you see a man not wearing some sort of headgear - then he is only playing at it. Easy really.



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Postby Lady Phoenix » Tue May 09, 2006 9:23 am

Excellent, thank you all for your detailed replies.

Mally Ley, I'm afraid I do wear my bra, but I've chosen one that doesn't give me too visible lines, and although I know I'm not authentic wearing it, it helps prevent backache as I'm not a small lass - maybe later in my reenactment career I'll feel a bit braver about leaving it back in the 21st century! But I am very comfortable in my clothes so hopefully that helps me not seem too 'new'.

Cheers
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Postby Alan E » Tue May 09, 2006 10:23 am

Phil the Grips wrote:
Alan E wrote:Of course what we're comparing people's movement to, is the digital recordings our ancestors left lying around, allowing us to analyse their way of walking, sitting etc... :twisted: :lol:

...or riding manuals,dancing texts, deportment books, etiquette books, fencing manuals and all manner of physical culture texts and images that exist.

Most of these aspects (of wearing clothes, treatment/maintenance of clothes, movement, etiqutette, and so on) is still evident in fomal clothing of today and only became obscure in the last 30 years with the advent of "leisure" clothing, stretchy materials, replaceable clothes and a more sedentary culture.

:P It was a rather tongue-in-cheek way of pointing out that we don't have direct evidence of their actual deportment :shock: , only of how they documented it; this inevitably gives a rather idealised point of view (IMO).

gregory23b wrote:Half the problem is badly made clothing worn inappropriately, also there is a portion of self-conciousness involved.

Posh kit is made to ponce around in in a stately manner, tight hose, really pointy shoes etc, for more strenuous activities looser more practical versions are needed.

Hose that are done up too tight at the back can cause posture changes as they can drag the doublet down a bit esp if sat at a work bench etc.

Also tv/film kit is mostly costume and are not always constructed the same way as real clothing for practical reasons on the stage etc.

Running in flat shoes for the first time is fun!!!!

Self-conciousness: In period, some clothing was (of course) a deliberate display, so wearing such kit self-conciously is perhaps appropriate? :?

Hose can be fairly tight and still allow free movement: The more it (and the doublet) hugs the body, the less chance of it catching as you move (in the way a modern formal jacket does if you reach forward with both arms - a doublet shouldn't). Hose and points you just learn how to lace for different jobs and they certainly do improve your posture (I now tend to notice when I slouch in modern clothing :oops: ).

I wear flat shoes by choice and find modern heeled shoes (which I'm wearing in the office) most uncomfortable to walk in :roll: !


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Deb

Postby Deb » Tue May 09, 2006 11:14 am

Nix,
You should be proud, your kit is lovely, especially when it's your first attempt at anything like it.
I noticed I do tend to stand/sit/move better in my medieval kit, it does help with posture - i slouch less. Shoes have never been a problem cos given the opportunity I opt for bare feet.
First time in a gown with a train was fun, worked out the turning circle easily enough, but being yanked backwards by people treading on the train wasn't fun - still isn't



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Postby Lady Phoenix » Tue May 09, 2006 11:23 am

Aww shucks, thanks Deb hun, :oops: :D that's a really nice compliment, specially coming from a professional! I'm just pleased that the stuff I've made is ok, in appropriate colours and the cut is ok for our period. Well chuffed now :D

Nix


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Postby Tod » Tue May 09, 2006 11:39 am

I don't know how much other peoples kit weighs, but 18th century coats are far from light.
As I tend to wear low heeled boots most of the time so I don't have much trouble with authentic footwear (it helps that I make shoes!) but I find that the first time I wear the rest of my kit I get back ache at the end of the first day. This seems to go away after the first event of the season. I reckon there must be some thing like 6 yards of hard wool in both my frock coats, add to that the same again if I've got my wool riding coat on top and it adds up to a hell of a weight. I've found myself walking and standing differently in kit over the years, even the girls at work noticed I stand on my back leg (if that makes sense).
Plaid is differnt as it tends to sit on the hips. When pocketed the weight is spread around the body which feels fine until the weather warms up.



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Postby Tuppence » Tue May 09, 2006 11:48 am

Some of this goes back to our Victorian-colored ideas. I've more than once been told off (by re-enactors and mops), for sitting with my knees apart while wearing a medieval dress. Even when I was doing something where my feet had to be apart for balance, or I'd have tipped off the stool....

...or riding manuals,dancing texts, deportment books, etiquette books, fencing manuals and all manner of physical culture texts and images that exist.


but I think the point about that is that these are all secondary sources, in that we don't necessarily know what the motives of the artist were, and how good an artist the one in question was (did he actually get teh line of the back just right??), and whether he was conforming to artistic conventions of the time.
which brings us back to the fact that without seeing people moving around we can't know for sure how people did it.

Taht said, some clothing from different periods alters your posture in obvious ways.

The most obvious difference comes from corsetry (whether female or male - though women seem to be much more willing to be historically accurate inthis way than men...).
But corsets from different periods alter you posture differently (see the frankly scary s-bend cosets that push your hips back and your chest forwards, making you 's' shaped, as probaby the most extreme example).

There's also the fact that posture was permanently and artificially altered in previous centuries, frirst by swaddling and similar, and then by using corsetry on children (incl boys) to make them stand up 'straight'.

When wearing proper corsetry, it's hard to avoid having the correct period posture and movements, because the clothing forces you to.

But a lot of re-enactors don't wear the correct underpinnings because it's 'uncomfortable'.

Going further back in time, the very tight clothing should force people's posture to change less than their movement.
As said above, looser clothing would be worn by poorer people, or for more strenuous activity (you quite often see pictures of labourers in just their shirt and braies through the whole medieval period (or in the case of well diggers, just their shirts)). there's also the question of whether poorer people would have had access to someone with the cutting skills required to produce the very tightly fitted clothing worn by the fashionistas.

In the (medieval) period I re-enact, loose clothing is pretty much the only option. Even if you do have a dress that laces (it's not terribly respectable), it can't be overly tight. Therefore most of us (the girls anyway :lol: ), wear 'naturally shaped' bras - the straps don't show because we're all covered up, and the clothing is too loose.

Long veils and wimples get in the way if you're trying to do anything, but we tend to tie them up in a sort of 'turban' like style, that's shown in some manuscripts.

The biggest difference is flat soled shoes (not for me cos I wear flat soles and bare feet half the time anyway). It's the old toe-heel vs. heel-toe step that's mentioned above. In societies with heeled shoes, the natural tread is heel-toe, but in societies without heeled shoes it's toe-heel (well, ball of foot - heel).
Apparently it was commented on quite a lot when people from Europe came into close contact with American Indians.

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Postby Cat » Tue May 09, 2006 4:06 pm

Deb- so you don't wear your faithful paras under the frock then? (Cat ducks and runs! Quack!)

On a seriouserer note, I got conned into wearing a very well made C15th posh gown last year, and found out that Cats can glide. The snooty expression on the face came from the dual fact that I knew I looked the dogs doodahs, and that I wasn't wearing any underwear. At all. That's the nicest thing about gowns.


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Postby Foxe » Tue May 09, 2006 4:52 pm

Cat wrote:The snooty expression on the face came from the dual fact that I knew I looked the dogs doodahs, and that I wasn't wearing any underwear. At all.


Now you know my secret :wink:


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Postby Drachelis » Tue May 09, 2006 5:27 pm

I'm afraid I do wear my bra, but I've chosen one that doesn't give me too visible lines, and although I know I'm not authentic wearing it, it helps prevent backache as I'm not a small lass


Don't worry Lady P I too am well endowed and I find that there is no problem with not wearing a bra - except that gravity takes over - I still carry all to the fore just in a more southerly position ( they haven't quite reached my waistband yet but heading that way :shock: ).

As long as you are wearing a well fitting undergarment - nothing loose - so that they ( pardon the expression) don't flop about - it really is very comfortable and there are no underwires to dig in!

Corsetry for later periods is another matter as far as comfort is concerned but appropriate underpinnings dictate the period posture and movement.


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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Tue May 09, 2006 7:42 pm

I like the way i feel in my medieval attaire. It makes me feel more manly. though having a rondel dagger shoved through my belt pouch might have something to do with that.



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Postby Ellen Gethin » Tue May 09, 2006 8:55 pm

When I was first experimenting with wimples and veils, I happened to know a nun, who was very helpful about how to do things without the veil getting in the way, and how to pin everything together.

However, even she had a cautionary tale.
When the order was first formed, Sisters started with a white veil as a Novice, then had a black veil at their First Profession (this was becoming a full sister, but still with the ability to change your mind if it turned out not to suit). At Final Profession or Life Vows, the veil was black and floor length. This looked great, until the day Mother Anne was standing on Whitby seafront in a high wind and her veil got tangled round a passing gentleman's legs!
After that, all the sisters wore shorter veils.


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Postby Deb » Wed May 10, 2006 9:20 am

Cat,
How far did you run honey? no paras are strictly for when its piddling down, although have been told off recently for being barefoot in the rain - feet are easier to dry than medieval shoes!! Although shoes don't end up as wrinkly as feet



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Postby Cat » Wed May 10, 2006 10:27 pm

(Shouts from other side of field)

Only joking! :D


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Postby tailordrews » Fri May 19, 2006 12:00 am

but I find that the first time I wear the rest of my kit I get back ache at the end of the first day. This seems to go away after the first event of the season.

Hi i can only say the same about this when i wear my 18th century outfits, jacket, waistcoat and breeches, cloak. I think the back ache comes from the cut of the jacket with the narrow back. Its made to push back your shoulders, and give yourself a broader chest. I have made my jackets after the cuts in Norah Waughs book and another has the cut of the wedding suit of Gustav III of Sweden. Our modern clothes are made much different and we are not used to the outfit gives the shape, desired.
When i am dressed with all my lace frills on my shirt, with a wig and powdered face, and tiny shoes with white stockings, i really behaves differently than i do daily, take the steps more carefull and move my arms much different. You cant stretch out your arms normally either, because they are cut to have a bended shape.
Its very different to the normal daily life.

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Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Sat May 20, 2006 9:14 am

Medieval footware and tarmac don't seem to gel. It's either ouch where did that chippinng come from or whoa where did that black ice come from!



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Postby Calendula » Fri Jun 23, 2006 10:43 am

Coming back to this interesting thread as it seems a good place for my question. I never know quite what to do with my hands when moving about in (women's) costume. If you are not on the LH but are walking around, people still scrutinise you and you can't go swinging your arms. If I don't have a basket or other thing to hold, I generally clasp my hands together at waist level. Any suggestions? I am ECW/Restoration, mostly!



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Postby tailordrews » Fri Jun 23, 2006 5:36 pm

Calendula wrote:Coming back to this interesting thread as it seems a good place for my question. I never know quite what to do with my hands when moving about in (women's) costume. If you are not on the LH but are walking around, people still scrutinise you and you can't go swinging your arms. If I don't have a basket or other thing to hold, I generally clasp my hands together at waist level. Any suggestions? I am ECW/Restoration, mostly!


Hello.
I think the best way to have your arms and hands, is to rest them on each side of the hips on the top of the skirt, let them fall down and rest on the skirt.
I have the same problem not being used to shaped sleaves. You cant stretch out your arms and have them straight like we do today. And having slightly bended arms is very difficult. Its rued to put them in the pockets i think, so i dont know what to do with them either. Sometimes i mess with a handkerchief to keep them buisy :-)

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