Kentish Step Up Outfit

Fearghus and Sylvie, Prince and Princess of Cynagua July 9, 2016 A.S. 51
Fearghus and Sylvie, Prince and Princess of Cynagua July 9, 2016 A.S. 51

My step up outfit is my current best interpretation of Kentish Dress Style IV with a few caveats.

6th century Kentish finds are from burials. For the most part the fabric has rotted away except where it’s in close proximity to metals (brooches, brocaded tablet weaving, swords, weaving swords). This leads to the need to extrapolate the garments based on very little actual evidence.

Dress Style IV, as described by Penelope Walton Rogers consists of “a garment with a vertical front opening clasped by two brooches, one at the throat the other centre-chest, and worn with a buckled belt” (Dress Style III) with “the addition of a front-opening coat or jacket on top. The coat/jacket was fastened by a pair of crossways bow brooches, either at the waist or immediately below, the jacket being worn outside the belt” (Dress Style IV)

Things that I wore (and their caveats):

– The colors of the garments were chosen to echo the colors of Cynagua. No time was spent to assure that those colors were achievable within the time frame recreated with dye stuff available.
– I used an annular to suspend my Laurel medallion, a pin holder, a glass medallion and a pair of scissors. It would have been more correct to suspend this as a chatelaine from my belt (which was over the gold tunic) but I decided instead to pin it to my coat.
– I’m jealous of the Anglians for their spiffy wrist clasps. I have not yet found those clasps used on Kentish clothing. That said, when I started trying on my outfit I found that my sleeves were fairly loose and I ended up using bracelets to gather them in. I have no evidence of such wide bracelets (practically wrist cuffs) being used. In fact I know of only one example of a bracelet used at all.. so it’s doubtful that they would have worn the bracelets as I have.

Front opening underwire Bra, underwear and shorts
– I wore a bra and underwear. I’m modern.. and going bra-less (or underwear-less) makes me uncomfortable. The bra is new. I’m exceedingly pleased with the bra. In fact a fellow Cynaguan (where her mundane job is as a plastic surgeon and who has professional experience with these things) noted that I had “boobs of awesome”. I’ll take it.
– I wore shorts to cut down on chafing. It’s a thing. I do not like it.

White linen sleeveless, knee length smock
– I wore a white linen smock under everything. I have found no evidence that the Kentish women wore an additional garment under their tunic. Based on the way my tunic wears there would be only flashes of flesh showing between the two round brooches on the tunic. That said.. I’m a fairly modest modern woman and “flashes of flesh” was more flesh than I was willing to show off at my Investiture as Princess of Cynagua. Additionally the smock is sleeveless and knee length. I knew I wanted to maintain my modesty but I didn’t want to die of heat stroke. Ideally the smock would not show anywhere except on the center front slit of the tunic. Unfortunately the neckline on this particular smock straggled forth from the tunic. Meh.

Hand-sewn autumn gold floor length tunic held closed by two round brooches
– This was cut according to this pattern. I invented the cut of the tunic in order to work more flatteringly on my body shape. There’s a fairly good chance that the shape is wrong for the time frame. Evidence for the cut of tunics in the 6th century is exceedingly minimal.
– This was entirely hand sewn with white thread using flat felled seams. When we were talking about step up garb I decided I’d do a gold tunic and black coat. In thinking about it I remembered that I’d started sewing a gold tunic by hand right before my son was born (~3 years ago). When he was born I ended up leaving the tunic unfinished and it and all its pieces ended up in my UFO (Un Finished Objects) pile. I pulled it out and realized it was 3/4 finished but since it was hand-sewn I’d have to finish it hand sewn. So I finished off the gores and added a hem to it. I have one more center-back gore which I didn’t sew into it (I didn’t think it was needed) but I think I may go ahead and add it. I will say, hand sewing a garment leads to instant seam treatment.
– I strung a bead swag between the top and bottom round brooch. This is one of several ways that the Kentish women wore bead swags.
– (not visible) I belted the tunic with a tablet woven belt woven with the “Anglo-saxon double diamond pattern“. This has been identified as either Anglo-Saxon or as 14th century. I decided to wear it because it’s super lovely and it’s about the third thing I ever wove.

Black wool gabardine coat lined in black linen bound in red silk with red/white silk tablet weaving held closed by two radial head bow brooches (sewn together by Margaret Pye. Tablet weaving by Thora vefari)
– The cut on this is similar to this pattern with the exception that it was shorter (45″ top to bottom) and has shorter non-tapered sleeves.
– I decided to line this in linen since it seemed like it would give the coat a nice drape. I’m not certain it’s necessary. I also have no evidence for a lined garment in this time period.
– When setting up our step up garb (and rifling through my stash) I came across a yard of blood red silk taffeta. I’m not certain the silk taffeta would be appropriate for the time period but I thought it would add a nice contrast next to the gold tunic edging the black coat. I cut this on the bias to make bias binding around the front opening. I think it looks fabulous.
– I suspect that un-brocaded tablet weaving was used on the front opening of coats as well as brocaded tablet weaving but only the brocaded ones have been preserved. That said.. this is my supposition. Thora vefari wove the tape used on the front opening. I believe the pattern is conjectural. It’s similar to a silk band found at Oseberg.

braids covered by white cap topped with a long veil held on by two annulars and a tablet woven fillet
– I braided my hair into two braids which started right behind my ears and then used bobby pins to keep these on top of my head. Specifically this was done to pad the area where the Lady of the Swan coronet and the Princess coronet would sit. By adding the braids I found I did not need additional padding under the coronets.
– Over this I word a cap styled like the St. Birgitta cap. The St. Birgitta cap is dated to around the 12th century but there are images that push “some kind of white close-fitting cap” back as far as the 6th century.
– One of the Kentish graves had two small annulars that were found near the head. I decided to use these to hold the veil onto the cap
– Quite a few Kentish graves have traces of brocaded tablet weaving found on/near the head. This has been interpreted to be brocaded fillets. I suspect that un-brocaded tablet weaving was used as well but (of course) I can’t prove it. In this case I used what I had at hand.

4 thoughts on “Kentish Step Up Outfit

  1. Your blog posts are what got me started on doing 6th C Kentish for myself! I've enjoyed reading them, and following the links. Thank you very much.

    Your outfit looks lovely!

    For the front opening on my dresses, I've used either whipstitch or herringbone stitch to close the opening from the mid-chest down. I figure that if anyone asks, I'll say that I'm no longer nursing and can cover them up now. I still wear my two brooches to close the rest.

  2. I'm thrilled to hear that you were inspired to start wearing the 6th centur Kentish outfits. I really don't see them well represented and that's a shame because they're just so distinctive (why be vaguely early period when you could easily be documentabley 6th centur Kentish?).

    WRT the front opening.. I'm almost half tempted to leave off the under smock (especailly this last weekend when we were eventing in the Nevada desert).. but only half 🙂 I think for now I'll stick with it.

    I'm hoping to get a couple more outfits completed before too long and add pictures of those to the blog as well.

  3. This outfit is wonderful! I have been looking for a more defined early period style and stumbled across your blog via pinterest. You do amazing work!

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