Recently while talking to someone about the SCA I confided that I’m really bad at working with new people. I want to be good at working with new people.. and new people get referred to me because “Sylvie knows about clothes, you should talk to her” and I DO… but for a new person what I want to talk about is intimidating.
Let’s pretend you’re a new person and you’re interested in the SCA. You know that you have to sew a costume and since you don’t sew that’s intimidating. Then you find out that you need to sew a historical costume and that’s even more intimidating since you don’t know what details are right. So you hold off on playing in the SCA because you don’t have a costume or you don’t have a good enough costume. Then you read something online (possibly even written by me) and making a basic costume involves a lot of steps and a lot of sewing and a lot of pieces and seams you don’t know made with a machine you have possibly never used before and it becomes even more intimidating.
All of the difficulty, the sewing, the pattern, the right stitches, the right fabric.. it’s all interesting to me.. that is my geek. The difficulty and the complexity is what intrigues me about sewing costumes in the SCA and in my passion for explaining this to a new person I end up overwhelming them with details. So they go from interested to intimidated to very very intimidated. Possibly even to the point of just giving up to go watch TV instead.
So here’s the thing. Costuming in the SCA is a sliding scale. It goes from “attempt” all the way up to “looks like you stepped out of a painting”. Just beyond “looks like you stepped out of a painting” is “perfect”**. Perfect is not attainable.
It is totally acceptable to cut a hole in a piece of fabric, throw this over your street clothes and wear it with a non-white belt. That is an “attempt”. In fact I’d encourage someone to do that and GO to an SCA event before I suggested that they should skip the events and stay home for 6 months trying to make a better costume. Make something. Get out there and start playing. Then, if your interest is in costuming, spend more time and money on getting/making a better costume. It’s way more important to get into the game than it is to have the perfect outfit for the game.
Beyond that, if your interest is NOT in costuming it is also perfectly okay to buy off the shelf or re-purpose modern clothing pieces or make something that is “okay” without feeling that you have to continue to move your bar further towards “stepped out of a painting”. You get to choose where you set your clothing bar and you are the only one who can say whether you’ve reached your bar or not.
With that in mind.. my posts here are not meant to intimidate or to demean anyone’s attempt. This is my best effort to offer what I know and what I’ve learned and hope that it can help someone else.
** “Perfect” is not attainable. It just isn’t. It exceeds everyone’s abilities. Whether it’s because you can’t get the exact fabric that was used in period or if the fabric is made from the wrong fibers or if the seams sewn are a best guess since we don’t know exactly what was used in period. Whatever. Perfect is not attainable.