Once upon a time, a lovely and wealthy dwarven woman owed a debt to a young artist. Our dwarven lady was a forgetful sort, and our poor elf somewhat suspicious, having been jilted by patrons in the past. As time passed, the artist grew angrier and angrier as the lady refused to answer the letters they sent, politely inquiring as to payment.
Our artist could not know that the lady was not at home, having travelled to the country to visit her family for some weeks. Finally, the artist took to hanging about on the street where the lady lived, paying bribes here and there to keep the local guards and servants amicable to their presence. After a week of this surveillance, the artist saw the lady return, carriages a bit dusty and sooty with travel. The artist approached the lady at once and demanded satisfaction.
“You have had my painting for several months, my lady. I require payment!”
At this our dwarven lady blushed a deep bluish color. “Oh, my dear friend. You must think me terrible!” She cast about at her pockets, which were empty. Then, in a moment of brilliance, she plucked off the buttons that held the empty pockets closed. “Here, these will do for your trouble.” Then she swept inside.
The young elf stared at the pair in their hand. The buttons were made of mythril backing, with fine gold vines rioting across and a single tiny polished ruby in the center of each. The sale of one provided the artist with funds to live and study and paint for an entire year, and the preservation of the other provided the artist with inspiration for many a year after that.
Buttons began as ornaments; the oldest examples were found in what is now Pakistan, and date back about 5000 years (source). Their history in the West as the ubiquitous closure doesn’t start until much later; the first button-maker’s guild opened in Paris in 1250 CE. By the middle of the 1300s in England, amongst the wealthy, only the incredibly out of date would wear clothing that didn’t require buttons to mold their form to your shape. (source)
While I would probably balk at a game whose costume rules included something so finicky as buttons, it can be fun to contemplate when designing a costume. They can also serve as an identifying badge; remember that many buttons were non functional, and so sewing on a decorative button or two on the garments of your members can show allegiance in as subtle or as bold a way as you desire.
Vintage Buttons Lot of 5 Large Mid-Century via Pillowtalkswf. Celluloid. Ships worldwide. $9 USD
Vintage Unusual Habitat Button, Rose and Leaves via Legacy Buttons. Plastic. Ships worldwide. $13 USD
Antique buttons, Lot of 6, Thread via The Lady at Skiers. Some wool, some silk. Ships worldwide. $27 USD
Shown Above: Rare Vintage Habitat Button from the 18th Century via Linda’s Buttons. Copper, glass, grass, and moth. Ships worldwide. $588 USD
It is the early-to-mid 1600s. You are bold. You are beautiful. You are free- for now. But Oliver Cromwell calls you godless, and Oliver Cromwell is determined to destroy your King, Charles II. Cromwell is a dangerous man to cross. You are, quite possibly, doomed.
Cavaliers was a pejorative name for the supporters of Charles II. The name was quickly reclaimed by the people it described as a positive thing; they called their enemies (the puritans), “roundheads”. The differences in dress between the two groups were not extreme to our outsiders’ eyes, but one of the chief differences was the extravagant feathers that graced the wide-brimmed beaver felt hats of the cavaliers (source). So, if you consider yourself a loyal servant of the monarchy, get your feathers and let us ride!
Cavalier-Style Dark Brown Pirate Hat via Hats by Violette. Wool. Ships to US only. $95 USD
The problem of how to artfully hold ones sleeves closed at the wrist is a relatively recent one; as a common problem, it is more recent still. It implies a certain luxury of cut- there needs to be enough fabric for a gape in the first place, after all.
This is bore out by the history of cuff links as a fashion item. Prior to the 1600s in Europe, sleeves that needed to be held closed were closed with ribbons or laces. It wasn’t until the 1600s that buttons, connected by a bit of chain, became the trend. (source) (These are similar to the modern silk knot, which dates from 1901.)
The modern form of cuff links were born in the 1880s, when George Krementz invented a machine that was capable of producing them; the industrial revolution and economies of scale meant that cuff links were much cheaper to obtain. (However, it wasn’t until the 1920s that the T shape shown above was invented.) Combined with their popularity, this also made them much more common across Europe and its current/former colonies.
The end of their ubiquity came around the 1970s, when shirts with buttons already on the sleeve largely replaced the French cuff. (source) Nevertheless, the French cuff has never entirely fallen out of fashion, which means cuff links are still readily available.
Set of 10 Vintage Cufflinks by Cockroach Shop. Ships worldwide. $2 USD
Rectangular Silvertone Chainlink Cufflinks by The Foundry 12. Ships to US only. $8 USD
Shown Above: High Seas Cuff Links by The Lysine Contingency. Ships worldwide. $17 USD
Wrap Around Black Leather Cufflinks by CuffCuff. Ships worldwide. $48 USD
Spring is finally shaking herself awake in the US, going by the entirely scientific evidence the way my whole neighborhood smells like honeysuckle. In more southerly lands, the last of the summer flowers are probably showing off their brilliance before winter steals them away. Either way, it’s a beautiful time of year to add a flower or two to your costume.
Flowers have been a part of human life for a long time; even Neanderthals used them. You could be a dashing sky pirate in the 1800s with a carnation in your lapel; an undead Etruscan with a wreath of flowers in your hair; or a punk-rock time traveler mocking a fashion that goes back at least to the 1400s.
Calla/Lily/Mum/Azalea Boutonnieres by daelansfancy. Ships to the US only. $3 USD
Coral and Cream White Flower Crown by HoneyBunnyStuff. Ships worldwide. $7 USD
PS: Don’t forget, if you’ve got a local florist or nursery, they might be able to cook up something cool!
When a Hindu Bengali woman is married, she gains four symbols: shakha, pola, loha (three types of bracelets) and sindoor (a red dye rubbed into the part of her hair). This is a gendered practice; people treated as male do not carry any symbols of marital status. It is also viewed as a traditional practice- i.e. some of the younger generation and/or less devoutly religious chafe at it. Traditionally, a married woman wears these all the time. The shakha and pola bracelets are made from coral, and the less traditional will save these, and the sindoor, for special events. The loha, however- the bracelet made from iron- is more popular, and often made with iron coated with gold. They seem to be seen as more fashionable than the other symbols. (source)
For some of you, the concept of using something besides a wedding ring to symbolize marriage will be obvious, but for others, rings are all you know. Click on the source link, and read what the author has to say about the rich meanings associated with each of those symbols. And consider the fact that the men in this group are cut off from it- free from its burdens and forbidden to participate in its history. Is your character married? Widowed? To someone of the same culture, or a different one? What do they carry, to show this arrangment? What do the other characters think about this? What would your character’s family think, if they knew?
Except for the very last, none of these pieces are loha. On the other hand, unless you’re reenacting the lives of Bengali women, or are a Bengali woman, you might want to go with “inspired by” anyway.
240mm Baby Blue Electroplated Stainless Steel Bangle via BaubleBinBeads. Ships worldwide. $1 USD
Tiger Iron & Sterling Silver 7 inch Bangle via Sfresa. Ships worldwide. $32 USD
Iron Nail Cuff with Silver Rivets via HandforgeMetal. Ships worldwide. $150
Shown Above: One of many Loha by K.C. Sen Jewelers. Prices not given. Also, it appears that you have to actually purchase in store.
In the visual idiom of fashion, nothing says military like a pair of epaulettes- Because nothing says military like a confusing bit of shiny material with no apparent purpose. (If you are in a marching band, bear with me. Most people don’t get a chance to actually use these things.)
Note: Both epaulets and epaulettes are correct, in English. I shall use epaulettes in this post, for the entirely selfish reason that epaulettes is the correct French, and I like French.
But of course, epaulettes had a purpose. As gunpowder made plate armor superfluous, military uniforms transitioned back to being largely made of cloth. Beginning in the 1700s, epaulettes came into common use as a strap on the uniform jacket to hold the shoulder-strap of the belts in place, providing stability to a sword belt or cartridge box. The quality of these straps quickly became a way of distinguishing officers from enlisted- something that can actually be quite important according to the rules of war. (Take a peek at how the 1949 Geneva treats officers. This stems from a long tradition of officers and nobility that’s too complex to go into here, but the short version is: it was a good idea to be obviously an officer.) They still serve this distinguishing purpose in the modern day.
Despite their relatively modern origins, there is nothing inherent in the construction of an epaulette that makes it modern; the technologies required are weaving, cutting, sewing, buttons-making, and dyeing, so if your setting has these abilities, you could reasonably incorporate epaulettes. And if you’re looking for inspiration, click here, here, and here.
Handmade Epaulet/Shoulder Loop via Liuhaijuan. Ships worldwide. $6 USD
Shoulder Epaulette - Steampunk Style, Removable Pad via LaceWhisperJewelry. Ships worldwide. $10 USD
Soviet Vintage Military insignia set of 2 via Soviet Cameras and More. Ships worldwide. $15 USD
Shown Above: Vintage Military Braided Epaulettes and Shoulder Boards via Discombobulous. Set of 7. Ships worldwide. $15 USD
Today’s DIY Friday was inspired by Labyrinth. While the hosts show you how to make prop-style monsters, you could easily secure these to your armor or bags as a costume accessory by using the floral wire to anchor it. And voila! You can larp alongside your own little creepy critters.
If you want to spice up your leathers from Wednesday, this tutorial shows you how. Just keep in mind that attaching pointy things to your hands makes them… you know… pointier. Be safe!
You can get the only required tools, an awl and a bit of metal bar, at your local hardware store; most places will even cut the metal to the right length, if you ask. Studs you can find here, or often in a local craft store.
The drawing above depicts the Tara Brooch, an example of what could be achieved in 700 CE in Ireland. If you follow that link to the article you’ll see the incredible details that went into the panels- this represents an art at the height of its form.
As simple as tabards are, I’m always on the look out for other ways to display factions. These are a bit pricey for buying in bulk, but I can definitely see incorporating brooches into your formal garb; the frequency with which fashions changed in the real world means it would be quite fitting for characters who worship a nature goddess to be wearing leafy variations on a theme, rather than identical pieces of jewelry.
Crystal Studded Rhinestone Faux Pearl Leaflet Petal Pin Brooch via Alilang Fashion. Silver alloy, crystal rhinestones, and faux pearl. Ships to many countries.
Image Credit: Tara Brooch 1896; see page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
My Santa Claus wears a long red stocking cap with white fur lining; I grew up in the land of cartoons and Coca-Cola, after all. Images that familiar are hard to look at; what is Santa wearing? A Santa suit! And on his head? A Santa hat!
Stocking caps, however, predate Santa by quite a bit. Pointy hats, be they stiff or floppy, go back to Europe’s Bronze Age (source). The modern, cold weather version are called tuques. Some of them only form a tiny bubble over the crown of the head; others present a full and luxurious tail. In any case, these types of hat are appropriate in pretty much any setting that has cold weather, and knitting. The main thing to keep in mind is the fabric and pattern; Fair Isle, for example, is strongly associated with a real world location.
Maybe keep in mind that it takes a brave warrior to attach her head to a easily grabbed tail. Shouldn’t be a problem according to the rules of most boffer larps, but consider a padded coif. If you’re the more lightly-armed type, however:
Shown Above: Anker Der Gemeindeschreiber by Albert Anker [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons