Beginning the Historic Clothing Journey

Vincent De Vere Axed Root, Calontir, V1.0 2018

This post is the intro part of a much longer class taught in the spring of 2018.  The other sections will be posted as soon as I can edit them for a different format.

This class is designed to serve several purposes. One is to provide specific suggestions and assistance those who help others in exploring the SCA. Another is, on the off chance we have new people with us, we can provide them with some advice on beginning their process of finding and improving their collection of historic costuming and accessories. Another use for the class may be to provide more established members with some advice on how they can proceed and improve.

In this class we will first review a few basic tenants that I use to guide many of my recruitment and retention projects. Then we will talk about the different directions assistance may take when we are helping people to attend their first event. Then we will go over a patterning techniques that can be used to make fitted and unfitted garments for someone using just four measurements and relate it to a variety of extant based garments. Next a strategy for planning and organizing your costuming projects over time.

Philosophical Background: Excerpt from New Member Talking Points

Goal: To establish some foundational ideas that guide our other actions in dealing with newcomers.

Description: Many problems faced by new members happen over and over. We can learn from the past and attempt to prevent common sources of discomfort and missteps. This is a brief list of talking points aimed at preventing these common problems.

Some Foundation Ideas

This class is based on a couple fundamental ideas of Vincent’s little bag of philosophical gems. These are part of a discussion I try to have with people I recruit before their first event, but they are also things that come up over and over when I talk to people about getting the most out of their SCA experience as well as limiting the negative parts of their experience.

Over the years we have lost many, many, many potential good, strong members because of very silly and stupid reasons. When I have “the Talk” with new people, it is my intention to head off a lot of these silly and stupid failings with a preemptive strike. At first it may seem rather disconnected from a conversation about costuming, but I suggest that the more comfortable a member is at their first event, comfortable with what they are wearing, the process of signing in, and their comfort with approaching others or not approaching others, then the more likely we will see them again. After all, we need to first recruit, then retain. If they are not comfortable or do not feel they belong, they are less likely to be back.

On the flip side, many of these tidbits also linger for the entirety of someone’s SCA experience. The specifics may change between a new person to a well-established veteran, but I feel this advice is still sound. It is also important to say over and over as we get more use to our places in the SCA because I think it is safe to say that a majority of the negative experience new or potential member’s face come from things an established member does to them.

Quite often it is the older member that drives away the newer member. Are you really so much more valuable then they may become?

So here are some of the little gems I share;

  1. There is more than one way to play the game.
    • Everyone needs to find the right way for them to play
    • The only wrong way is the way that tells people they are doing it wrong* ( *Within the defined confines of the game- an attempt at garb, garb not fantasy based, pre- 1600 etc.) You can’t control how others choose to play the game.
    • You need to figure out what parts you want to play, how much you want to play, how much you can spend on your play
  2. No matter what anyone else says, there are only two requirements; show up, have fun. Three — if you are attending an event, show up, have fun, and wear an attempt at garb.
    • If you don’t have fun — you won’t show up again.
    • If you are not having fun, it might be because you are distracted by what some people have convinced you of being other requirements.
  3. (Applying to new people really) If at any point someone chastises you for your behavior or criticizes your actions or appearance or makes you feel unwelcome or uncomfortable, just say “I’m sorry, I’m new.” That is your magic phrase that should change their tone or get you out of any trouble.
    • If they don’t drop it, then they are probably what we call “an asshole.” Then, come and find me and tell me who made you feel unwelcome.
  4. The best way to have a long and satisfying career in the SCA is to find your balance — the right balance with school, family, money, time, distance, commitment –
    • Everyone should play in a sustainable way to avoid burning out and fading away. It helps if you know your limits, it helps if you know your game, and it helps if you know how to recharge.
  5. The governing documents that help establish the rules for the SCA state that participants must have an “attempt at pre-17th century garments” when they participate at events. It does not state how good the attempt is, but I argue that it is generally assumed that people would try, over time and at their own pace, to get better and better historical costumes to wear. These are some of the factors that affect the rate at which people improve.
    • How much they can spend on their clothing — either for the raw materials or buying pre-made or custom made clothing-
    • How skilled they are at sewing — the more skills they possess the faster they can construct better quality clothing
    • How much time they have to dedicate to making clothing — handmade clothing is hand made.
    • How much knowledge they have about historic costuming — although on line resources have greatly improved the dispersal of information about historic costuming.
    • How much access they have to the raw materials for garment construction as well as people resources.
  6. It is a far better/more sustainable/less self-destructive course to measure your progress by comparing where you are now to where you were, then to compare where you are now to where someone else is.
    • Focus on how much progress you have made, not where someone else is.

There are others, but for the most part these serve to explain the foundation on which my recruitment strategies are based.

If you disagree with any of these then refer to #1.


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