Otherwise known as: “I’m broke” or “I’m not quite ready to commit yet.”
The thing about the SCA is that you’re required to make an ATTEMPT at pre-17th century garb. This means that there are no “SCA approved fabrics,” no 5/10/20 foot rule (this says that you should look historically accurate from so many feet away – this is not a rule or a requirement), or garb police. If someone does criticize your garb, feel free to walk away. However, keep in mind, if you ask someone about how you can look more historically accurate getting them to shut up may be difficult. If you want to learn more about a certain style, I recommend going up to someone who is wearing that style and ask them about it. Most SCA folks enjoy dressing up and are more than happy to share their knowledge with you, and they can probably point you to some resources.
So, it comes down to this: Don’t let the lack of “perfect garb” stop you from coming out and playing. Everyone should be able to play, even on a budget. That being said, I highly recommend as you progress further into your time with the SCA that you work up to using linen, wool, and silk (and cotton depending on your time period and location). It’s also far more comfortable. Linen really help keep you cool in the summer (Ever here someone say “summer linens?” There’s a reason for that) and wool is a dream in the fall and winter (high quality wool is expensive but soft, you can also line wool with linen, cotton, or flannel if the texture bothers you).
Note: The rules are “pre-17th century, so, if you want to wear Roman or Greek, which by the way is SUPER easy and cheap to make, you can. I’ll be adding a how-to on that soon.
Cheap & Easy Ideas
- You can find them at thrift stores
- They are often cotton or cotton blends
- White and off-white ones are good for chemises/serks/underdresses
- Colored sheets work well for tunics, pants, and dresses
- Cotton is period appropriate for some times and locations
- It’s fairly inexpensive
- It can be found almost anywhere fabric is sold
Drapes, quilts, upholstery fabric
- They can also be found at thrift stores
- Normally not terribly expensive at fabric stores
- Look up clothing in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries for ideas: examples being a sideless surcoat or a doublet. If your a novice sewer you may want to wait on this.
Flannel & Wool
- Flannel can be used instead of wool (especially if you’re allergic to wool)
- Wool blankets sometimes end up in thrift stores (a rectangle of fabric pinned at the neck is very appropriate for early period)
Time periods for the novice sewer:
Some time periods are easier to sew for than others, like Roman, Greek, Anglo-Saxon, Norse, migration era, early european… Your first, and most people’s first, SCA garb can be “generic SCA.” This consists of a simple t-tunic (google “medieval t-tunic” and you’ll find plenty of patterns) and pants or a dress (which is just a long t-tunic). As for footwear, ballet flats or suede slippers make for pretty inconspicuous shoes.
Things to keep in mind:
Except for upholstery fabric, it’s best to avoid anything with a pattern on it. Patterns and prints get tricky from a historical perspective.
Some fabrics are flammable or melt, so if you’re going to be around an open flame be very careful.
Polyester and poly blends don’t breathe so they can end up being very warm. It’s good to keep this in mind for summer events.
Black is a color best avoided. A true black was very hard to obtain and it didn’t really come into use until the late middle ages, before that it was simply not a thing. I know what your thinking, “But wait a second, there are black sheep!” Actually, black sheep are either really dark grey, dark brown, or me.
Dark fabrics are fine, they were achieved by over dying (dying was very expensive making it a sign of wealth). Outside of black most colors, aside from neons, are acceptable so go nuts.
Remember, this is your first garb and it’s ok that it’s cheap and easy. Do the best you can with what you’ve got. And have fun!