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Tips and Tricks for Winter Garb


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Unless you are not fond of the cold and wet. There is a Swedish saying that goes, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” With that in mind, we offer you some quick tips and tricks to staying warmer out at faires or events during the cold season. This is a toolbox of options. What you will need will be entirely determined by your local climate. Are you expecting some light flurries? Is it below freezing in the morning and then warming to something pleasant in the afternoon? Use this as a checklist and you’ll be better off when you stop to watch the shows and listen to the music.

Tailor your wardrobe!

The first tip is to tailor your garb for the season. Go late Roman in the summer and bring out the full on Tudor for winter! Norse is great from a flexibility standpoint because it is all about layers!

Keep your noggin warm!

Really this should go without saying, but, just like in the warmer months we see a lot of folks skipping out on the headwear. First off, headwear really sells your garb and makes it look like you are wearing clothes as opposed to a costume, but aside from that it also keeps the sun off your skin and will keep you warm when it gets chilly out. Aside from coifs, veils, and hats, look into obtaining a hood.  Liripipe hoods are great, because as the day warms up you can remove it and drape it through your belt (or put it in a pilgrim’s bag). Similarly, a London hood can be buttoned or unbuttoned as needed. Related to hoods, is the gollar seen in the Low Countries. A nice short mantle that keeps the shoulders and neck warm. Covering the neck and throat seals up one area where our bodies ventilate the most, holding in warmth.

Outerwear is what to wear!

In addition to keeping your head warm, keeping your core warm is an absolute must. From Medieval rectangular cloaks, to snuggy gardecorps, to sweeping mantles, choosing something that will add more layers to the bits between your head and feet will go a long way to creating heat pockets around your body and keeping the wind and wet at bay.

Don’t skip the undergarments!

In the summer you may ditch the shirt, smock, or chemise (boldly modern, but we’ve got modern laundry methods, so what the hey?!). This underlayer is key to creating warm air pockets around your body though. It is like the sheet under the comforter, helping to trap warm air between those layers. Layering is more than just stacking various clothes though, make sure to pick fabrics which have physics working in your favor. Ditch the cotton. It holds damp, and more than simply creating a cold feeling, wet can literally kill. Linen and silk are better options. Similarly, you can bust out some lined garments. Line wool with linen to make it warmer and avoid any undue scratchiness. Feeling bold and fancy? Fur line your garb like nobbies of the past!

Linen lining wool. Source: Sorores Historiae

NOW, think about your extremities!

To have effective winter garb, you need to first get your headgear and body layers sorted before thinking about hands, arms, and legs. This is because your body sends heat to those areas which are vital for survival – your organs – “heid and heart”. When dressing, you should think this way, too, because you want that heat to stay in. When it gets out your body starts to draw heat away from your extremities to protect your more needed areas. Gloves, are, a clear choice. The Medieval lobster claw option is always fun, but will make handling wallets and phones tricky. Think about layering fingerless gloves under more period appropriate gloves, so you can manage your modern mischief without exposing your whole hand. Detachable sleeves, such as pinned sleeves, (or semi-removable sleeves like those found on Maciejowski style garments or some doublets) give you options if the temps and weather are going to be variable.

Feet are the foundation!

While feet definitely count as an extremity, they require a bit more thought than hands, legs, and arms might. Breaking contact with the ground prevents wet and chill from creeping up through our feet. Pattens are the historical way to do this. They are wooden platforms which are secured around the shoe and lift the person off the ground an inch or so. Another historical method comes from our friends, the North Men. Simply drape a blanket or sheepskin over your shoulder and then when you find yourself standing still for an extended period of time, place it on the ground and stand on it. If you have thick soles, you are likely alright. But, aside from simply being off the ground, make sure you have thick, warm, DRY socks. Remember, wet makes you feel cold, so avoid cotton socks.

Source: Sorores Historiae

Consider your fabrics!

We have mentioned cotton being a not optimal choice a few times now. But, what about good options? Wool is, of course, great. Velvet (NOT thin panne velvet!) is a nice option especially for late period garb. Corduroy is a period fabric, but look for it in something not entirely cotton. Silk, lined and used in layers will also work. If you are not looking for accuracy, look for polyester. It is not as good as wool, but can be found at a cheaper price. You can find polyester flannels that have a similar look and feel to wool. Wool, real wool, has the added benefit of being naturally waterproof. Otherwise, you will want to waterproof your outergarmets. Remember, WET IS BAD! 

It works for them and it will work for you!

Hide mundanes under layers!

Don’t have the time or ability to winterize your garb this year or all those layers and linings just not enough because you’re a lizard? Hiding mundane thermal wear under your garb works, too! Hand and foot warmer packs can easily be hidden – just remember to never place them directly next to skin!

Happy Holidays and stay warm out there!

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Medieval Mutts: Best Friends and Good Doggos

Archaeologists can tell you that dogs hoodwinked humans into feeding and housing them at least 14,000 years and our entwined histories likely go back a bit farther.

These days our doggos are primarily pets. But, in the Middle Ages dogs played important roles. For instance, they played musical instruments, battled rabbits, joined monastic orders and preached to prairie fowl, became doctors, and were generally epic.

Okay, not really. But dogs WERE primarily working dogs and bred specifically for their needed tasks.

There were not the number of breeds we have today, but a 15th-century work, Boke of St Albans, lists common types of dogs. Some are breeds we would recognize today, others seem to be groupings based on their appearance or their function. For instance, the list includes mongrels, greyhounds, terriers, spaniels, and mastiffs, as well as lymers, kennets, and raches, and further includes dung-heap dogs and butcher’s hounds.

What could Medieval doggos do? On English Dogges is a 16th-century book by John Caius which mentions work like messenger and water-drawer. He also mentions tinker’s curs who helped carry buckets. And turn-spit dogs (probably my personal favorite) who ran in a wheel to turn large spits in manor house kitchens.

“Defending-dogs”, or guard dogs, were very common. And for the aristocracy, hunting dogs were a must. On farms, doggos helped out with livestock wrangling.

SAD SIDENOTE: Some of these Good Boys (and Girls) were used in dog fighting and bear baiting rings. Luckily, these are no longer common sport. Doggos have been good to us, we should be good to them!

While there were loads of working dogs, lap dogs did exist, especially among women of the aristocracy, as well as monks and nuns (who also kept cats and birds…add toads in there and monasteries were practically Hogwarts).

In the 14th century, the Archbishop of York felt forced to declare that those who had taken orders should quit bringing their pets to service. (Apparently no 3rd grader had gleefully explained to him that Dog is God spelled backward – a thing that happened to me just last week)

But, of course, there were those folks who felt that dogs should only be working animals and wrote snitty-grams about how having dogs as pets kept the good and Godly folks of Europe from proper noble pursuits (we can only assume these were cat people). One author referred to pet dogs as “instruments of follie to play and dallie withal, in trifling away the treasure of time…” I imagine the OG poster also likely had a permanent scowl.

In the Middle Ages, doggos were very much a symbol of loyalty because DUH! 

We are regaled with stories of loyal dogs protecting their owner. For instance, the dog of a murdered man spotted the murder is a crowd of onlookers and attacked the man, biting and pinning him until he confessed. Similarly, a Berber king in the early middle ages was captured, but hundreds of his hounds attacked those responsible and were able to secure the king’s freedom and escape.



He snac, he trac, he attac, but most of all he got your bac!

Even in the Islamic regions, where dogs were categorized as unclean animals, people totally kept them as pets and even wrote advice on proper care. Because THAT FACE!

How good were the good boys and girls of the Middle Ages? Let me introduce you to Saint Guinefort.

Illustration of Saint Guinefort

Everyone remember the bit in Lady and the Tramp where Lady protects the infant from rats but then gets blamed for upsetting the child? Image that, but a snake instead of rats, the infant is thought dead instead of startled. And, the heroic dog is killed instead of put out in the yard. Once the infant was found very much alive, the family buried the dogs with honours and then apparently the dog produced miracles after death and was beloved enough by the folks of Lyon, France that he was (temporarily) sainted.

The “faithful hound” mythos is found throughout Medieval literature, all telling similar stories around the same theme as Guinefort.

Elaborate tombs containing pet remains were en vogue amongst the wealthy in certain places. And you can find dogs as part of effigies pretty commonly through the time period and across Europe.

The knight’s crossed legs reportedly mean he was a crusader and the dog at his feet is said to mean he died at home.

What did folks name their canine companions? Anne Boleyn has a pupper named Purkoy (a pun on the French “pourquoi”). 

Here is a non-exhaustive list of names referenced in Medieval and Renaissance literature and documents:

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