On Wearing Garb: A Long-time Player’s Take on one of the Basics in the SCA

Sayyid Tariq ibn Yusuf ibn Askari al Ghassani

Joining the Society for Creative Anachronism is an exciting prospect for many people.  Whether they are a history buff, a cosplayer, a medieval combat enthusiast or even a Fantasy/Sci-Fi fan, being in the SCA is a chance to take a step away from their everyday mundane life to live in another time and place, even if it’s just for a little while.  There are many elements that are part of creating this illusion, such as (in the case of camping events) isolating ourselves from the modern world by going up into the woods, the sounds of drums and singers, medieval tents and banner, as well as other details.  However, the most obvious and important detail is the clothing that we wear during our sojourn in our artificial medieval world.  In the case of most local, single day events many of the other aforementioned elements are absent, leaving us with only our personal appearance to separate us from the modern world.  It is because of this that wearing garb to SCA events and activities is so very important.

Corpora (our Society laws and guidelines) states in section II-B that “Anyone may attend Society events provided he or she wears an attempt at pre-17th century clothing,… At business meetings and informal classes, the requirement to wear pre-17th century dress may be waived.”  The wearing of garb, therefore, is a requirement in order to participate in SCA activities.  That being said, the requirement is “an attempt at pre 17th Century clothing.” But what do we consider an attempt?

There are many ways to be able to adhere to without creating too much difficulty.  The first and easiest is to reach out to the local Chatelaine or Gold Key.  The Chatelaine’s responsibility is to make newcomers feel welcome and to help them make the transition into the “Current Middle Ages.”  The Chatelaine will either have direct access to loaner garb that belongs directly to the group or will have a list of people who would be willing to loan out personal garb for newcomer use.

A second option is to peruse your own personal wardrobe to look for things that could reasonably pass for an attempt.  For women, long, full skirts and fluffy cotton blouses or tribal-style blouses are pretty straightforward options that are considered good attempts.  The outfit could be rounded out with a pair of simple flats of simple boots.  For men it’s a little bit more complicated.  For pants one can use plain sweat pants or maybe even plaid Pajama pants.  Male tops are much more difficult to pass for a medieval tunic; however, a long vest with a simple woven pattern worn over a collarless dress shirt could work in a pinch.  Also, a smallish throw draped and pinned at one shoulder acts as a Viking-style cape and easily covers a mundane shirt.  If you have any doubt about whether or not a mundane outfit would pass as an attempt at pre17th century dress, feel free to ask the Chatelaine or any member of the local group.

A third option is to reach out to the Chatelaine or the general group membership for help to construct your own simple starter garb.  Although this is the most complicated option of the three, it is also the most fulfilling as it is a great way to begin actively participating in the SCA while still keeping things simple and manageable.  In addition, this is a great way to begin to form friendships, helping to solidify your place in the group as well as to strengthen the group as a whole.

The most important thing to remember is that an attempt is just that, an attempt.  Don’t worry if your first try isn’t perfect.  There is plenty of time and plenty of helpful people in your group that will be more than happy to help you make or get your own garb that reflects who you want to be in these current Middle Ages.  You are only limited by your imagination!

So remember, garb is the easiest and most important way to help to create our Current Middle Ages.  Use it as the ultimate expression of the medieval you and don’t take it for granted.  Working together, we all bring The Dream alive!