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Same-sex couples and cross-dressing

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  • adiebaren
    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
    Message 1 of 3 , Dec 16, 2008
      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
      Elizabethan times.

      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)
    • Brad Moore
      Milady, A fascinating book on the subject is available, Clothes Make The Man: Female Cross Dressing in Medieval Europe, by Valerie Hotchkiss; ISBN:
      Message 2 of 3 , Dec 16, 2008
        Milady,
        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.
        I Remain,
        In Service,
        Nicolas L'Anguille




        __._,




        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Chris Laning
        ... Experienced Faire worker here ;) What the Faire will let you wear (as you no doubt know) depends greatly on the Faire and its basic premises. If you have
        Message 3 of 3 , Dec 16, 2008
          On Dec 16, 2008, at 10:24 AM, adiebaren wrote:

          > 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
          > Elizabethan times.
          >
          > Any comments about my assumptions or costuming decisions? Anyone know
          > anything about Ren-Faire customs?


          Experienced Faire worker here ;)

          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
          ____________________________________________________________
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