The 12th Night Bling-Off
Last fall, some of us decided to participate in a friendly challenge to make new clothing for 12th Night. The more “bling” the better. Each month was supposed to be about one particular piece so that by 12th Night, you had a complete outfit. I decided to take this as an opportunity to try something I have always loved but never done – Scythian.
It’s the vibrancy of the art, the use of color, the amazing metal work that’s the attraction for me. It’s very dynamic art. Doing this also opens up so many possibilities for me to increase my skill level in things like felting so I can make the pieces for my booties. I think that’s the thing I like best about this project. From head to foot, I will have made everything myself.
For my head piece, I decided to recreate the Calathos. This style of headress was used most commonly in the Black Sea/Bactia area – modern-day Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. I love this look. I find it very elegant. I did not make the metal plaques as I have no metal skills, but it is something I’m very interested in learning. My Laurel has encouraged me to explore punch work as I expect to see many more plaques in my future.
This was interesting to pattern, mostly due to the height. I would make a pattern try it on and then decide it was too tall. I realized that it wasn’t the pattern, it was I am unaccustomed to wearing a tall headpiece. In reality the piece is only about 5″ high (not counting the baronial pearls).
The tunic is based on burial finds. This style of tunic, white fabric with red embellishment, is found in both male and female grave sites. I am going to do more research of the red on white motif. As these garments are found in burials and they seem to be ubiquitous, I believe that the red down the seams and the neck and wrists are there for ritualistic purposes – either as protection or for other spiritual reasons. On a basic level, red embroidery on white fabric is impracticable. In a nomadic society where resources are precious, it seems an extravagant option. I have used cotton embroidery thread as opposed to silk as I find it much more color fast.
The pattern of the tunic is very simple – rectangles for the front and back with smaller rectangles for the arms and some with small gores on the sides. That style looks terrible on me. I opted to use a more fitted rectangular construction pattern as that fits my body better.
I have chosen to make pants this time around instead of the skirt that is usually found in female graves. There have been pants found in female graves (though not many) and I am especially excited to read the 2019 study from the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences on the grave finds of 4 “warrior” women found in one of the 19 burial mounds studied in the archaeological excavation near the Russian village of Devitsa .
Instead of using patterned fabric, I decided use the opportunity to do some applique and embroidery. I took the inspiration for the design from a wall hanging found in one of the barrows from the Pazyryk finds. I have not done a lot with negative embroidery so this was an experiment. Using all the pieces certainly cut down the amount of ultrasuede I used. I suspect that is also the reason it was done in period. I bought the plaques originally for a different project, but thought they echoed the “fleur-de-lis” pattern nicely. While no extant pants have been found with plaques on them, there have been plaques found where pants would be.
The final steps for the complete project will be my coat and booties. The applique will be going on my coat. Based on leather work from a saddle arch from a barrow in the Pazyryk burials.
The bright orange wool is for my booties. I am very much looking forward to making the booties. I have never made shoes for myself before so this will be new territory.
I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts, opinions, and suggestions!
- Rudenko, Sergei I. Frozen Tombs of Siberia: the Pazyryk Burials of Iron Age Horsemen, University of California Press, 1970.
- Davis-Kimbla, Jeannine, Bashilov, Vladimir A., Yablonsky, Leonid T., eds. Nomads of the Eurasian Steppes in the Early Iron Age, Zinat Press, 1995.
- Hiebert, Fredrik, Cambon, Pierre, eds. Afghanistan: HiddenTreasures from the National Museum, Kabul, National Geographic, 2008.