I usually dread the moment, but every now and then it happens.
Someone asks me for… “An authentic medieval dress please!”
My usual reaction to this – for not-historically-savvy-people probably simple request – is taking a deep breath, leaning back and asking in return:
“What kind of authentic medieval dress?”
The usual reply, occasionally slightly different, is…
“A red one. With golden trims!”
(exchange colors at will)
That’s the point when I exhale, take another deep breath, and ask for the precise time and place the person would like to re-enact using that ‘medieval dress’ which, beforehand, was so detailed described (in their opinion, not in mine).
And that’s also usually the point when the replies of the person start to differ. It goes from…
“YOU are supposed to know, you’re the expert! I just want a nice medieval dress in red with golden trims; you know what I mean!”
“Well, you know, that typical kind of medieval dress. Like Arwen or Eowyn wore in Lord of the Rings!”
“No idea, like, uhm, 1650, London?”
And none of those people understands my reaction, which is usually this reply (in order of requests listed above); from:
“Uhm, yes, I’m the expert, but my crystal ball is broken. ‘Medieval’ is a timespan of approximately 1,000 years; from c. 400 to c. 1450 AD. Over that time, the clothing changed not just over the years but also from place to place. I am unable to know if what *you* envision when thinking of a medieval dress is the same as *I* am envisioning; because we both may be talking about completely different years and places. Please show me a picture of a portrait / sketch / engraving / statue / relief that shows the style of dress you have in mind.”
“‘Lord of the Rings’ isn’t medieval, it’s fantasy. None of the styles worn in those movies are, actually, historical; for absolutely no place or time. So if you’re looking for a ‘medieval’ gown, please show me a picture of a portrait / sketch / engraving / statue / relief that shows the style of dress you have in mind.”
“1650 is Baroque, not medieval (not even by far!). Please show me a picture of a portrait / sketch / engraving / statue / relief that shows the style of dress you have in mind.”
That’s usually when the communication ceases from their side or they bring up something that makes *me* cease the communication, like, asking for a “really cheap” red panné velvet dress with golden lamé trims, preferrably with ridiculous celtic motifs; claiming that this must be “authentic medieval” because their friend, who “knows things”, has such a dress and claimed it IS authentic.
So… my point is… pretty please…
If you are planning to ask a costumer (which is someone who sews costumes. A ‘customer’, on the other hand, is someone who buys something. Please don’t mistype!) about an authentic historical dress of (insert period of choice), insert links to portraits / sketches / engravings / statues / reliefs that show the style of dress you have in mind. If you have a timeframe until which you need the finished dress, please also state that. And also, if you have a budget, don’t be ashamed to mention that as well.
This helps you, as a customer, and also the costumer to envision what you have in mind.
The costumer is the expert, yes; but you and the costumer may have something different in mind when talking about something without having pictures at hand; and lots of time will be wasted – on your and their side! – until both of you know what the respective other is talking about.
Thank you 🙂