Same-sex couples and cross-dressing
- My partner and I just participated in our first Ren-Faire as
vendor/artisans. I'm comfortable in skirts, but my partner hasn't
worn a dress since she left her family of origin. I outfitted us in
sketchy inexpensive costumes, skirt, smock and bodice for me,
breeches, shirt and leather apron for her. We're woodturners, which I
suspect would not have been a typical occupation for women in
Any comments about my assumptions or costuming decisions? Anyone know
anything about Ren-Faire customs?
If I'm out of line with this question on a SCA chat, let me know, and
if you have any other suggestions, please share them.
(Moderator note: please sign all posts to this group, thank you, Despina de la one moderator)
A fascinating book on the subject is available, Clothes Make The Man: Female Cross Dressing in Medieval Europe, by Valerie Hotchkiss; ISBN: 0815323697 9780815323693, and the OCLC: 33983482. The work itself, and her bibliography should provide you with a starting point. Also, if you have access to a good research library, such as a university library, try some journals: Gender and History, Sexuality and Culture, Sexualities, Evolution, and Gender, Journal of Gender Studies, to name just a few. Most of these are available electronically through a university library's database.
I am not terribly familiar with the Ren Faire Circuit, but am a graduate student in Medieval History focusing on Gender/Sexuality and Clothing/Dress. If you prefer, you may contact me privately at mamluk@....
You might also check out the book, Tudor Tailor by Ninya Mikhaila, and her website, www.ninyamikhaila.com. The book does a good job of featuring what middle class people would have worn during the period. Janet Arnold's books Patterns of Fashion 3: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women, C. 1560-1620 and Patterns of Fashion 4: The Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neckwear, Headwear and Accessories for Men and Women C. 1540-1660for more advanced costume ideas. Good luck in your endeavors.
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- On Dec 16, 2008, at 10:24 AM, adiebaren wrote:
> My partner and I just participated in our first Ren-Faire asExperienced Faire worker here ;)
> vendor/artisans. I'm comfortable in skirts, but my partner hasn't
> worn a dress since she left her family of origin. I outfitted us in
> sketchy inexpensive costumes, skirt, smock and bodice for me,
> breeches, shirt and leather apron for her. We're woodturners, which I
> suspect would not have been a typical occupation for women in
> Elizabethan times.
> Any comments about my assumptions or costuming decisions? Anyone know
> anything about Ren-Faire customs?
What the Faire will let you wear (as you no doubt know) depends
greatly on the Faire and its basic premises. If you have to pass a
costume inspection, ask: but if you've done this already, you sound
like you don't have to worry about that aspect too much. The Faire
I've worked at generally had higher authenticity standards than most,
and there, cross dressing was generally not "approvable," but they
did allow it for certain craftspeople. (Most notably the
glassblowers, who had obvious safety concerns about wearing great
swathes of yardage near a furnace. I don't know whether woodturners
would have any safety issues. It might also depend on whether actual
crafts were being demonstrated at the booth, or whether someone was
merely selling finished products. The glassblowers I'm thinking of
had a live furnace.)
At this particular Faire there were also a few women who wore
masculine styles quietly and more or less flew "under the radar" of
the costume inspectors (i.e. got a female costume approved and then
sometimes wore something else). Generally women dressing as men
caught a lot less flak than a man attempting to dress as a woman (not
many ever tried that), and generally, the more blatant the mismatch
was between physical gender and clothing style, the more frowned upon
it was. Flaunting or "camping up" the discrepancy was Right Out.
(Unless you were a paying customer, of course, when you can wear
whatever you want -- and we sure got some doozies.)
Whether in reality 16th century women ever, under any circumstances,
wore men's clothing I think is not in doubt: clearly there were a few
who did. Clearly too, it was never typical. Those are factors that
will enter into your and your partner's decisions about what to wear.
Wearing something that is possible, but not typical, is an
authenticity "balancing act" many people struggle with -- is it
better for educational purposes to stick to the "typical"? Or to
demonstrate that "typical" is not "universal"? Can other factors
(like serious discomfort) override a desire to be "typical"? Are
there other messages you do or don't want to convey by choosing one
option over the other -- for instance, about the abilities of women
of the period, or the opportunities available to them? No one can
answer these questions for you -- it's pretty nuch up to you.
Also to consider, my general impression is that women who wore men's
clothing usually were attempting to pass as men. Only you (collective
you) can decide whether that's something you want to do, and to what
extent. Among modern re-enactors I know women who wear men's clothing
who have learned a good deal of masculine body language and may even
wear a convincing (fake) mustache to go along with their clothing --
and who few people even recognize as women unless they happen to know
them personally. I know others who simply are their usual selves with
16th-century-masculine hair styles (which is more or less how they
wear their hair anyway) and clothing that doesn't emphasize their
female figures. Another balancing act.
Hope that's some help ;)
O (Dame) Christian de Holacombe, OL - Shire of Windy Meads
+ Kingdom of the West - Chris Laning <claning@...>
a.k.a. Christian Ashley, gentlewoman to Lady Stafford
Guild of St. George, Northern California
http://paternosters.blogspot.com - http://paternoster-row.org