medieval nobleman tunic

How to Dress Like a Medieval Serbian Nobleman

Hi guys,
I am proud to present to you my latest garment. It’s a reconstruction of a medieval nobleman’s tunic from 14th century Serbia. The outfit is based on the clothes of the young king Urosh – an image from St. Demetrius church in the Patriarchy of Pec -(1345).

We didn’t recreate the outfit exactly, we just used the general model to extrapolate a different version of the garment. We made it a little shorter, and with less decorations. After all, we wanted a nobleman and not the king himself. So, I think it’s a good interpretation of what a lesser class noble would have looked like.

For the outer layer we used high-quality royal blue textile with woven lilies. The inside layer is fine light blue cotton. I’m particularly proud of how the buttons and the neckline turned out, they are very comfortable and clean in terms of stitching. Another thing I love about this tunic are the sleeves. Those vents on the front make the garment look a lot more impressive, and they make it comfortable to wear in both warm and cold weather. So, it’s definitely something that one should have if they want to reenact 14th century Balkan royalty.

Enjoy!

A 15th century goat rider with fashionable medieval tall boots

Medieval Tall Riding Boots

Hi guys, I recently finished a second pair of medieval tall boots, so I decided that it’s finally time for a short article about it. There’s not a lot to say really. Those type of boots appeared at the end of 14th century and remained in style well over the 15th century. Initially they were used for hunting and travelling. With the passing of time however, they became a symbol of wealth and royalty, which made them popular among the general population in all of Europe. By the mid 15th century they had become a part of the nobleman’s outfit which lead to better models and more decorations. Here you can see two models that I made – a practical brown pair for hunting and travelling, and a fashionable red one for riding, hunting and impressing ladies.

Enjoy!

Pernik museum reconstructions

The Pernik Museum Reconstructions

A year ago the local archaeological museum of Pernik, Bulgaria commissioned 3 full outfits for their exposition. As a member of “Chigot – medieval reenactments” I was given the task to make the clothing, footwear, and padded armors for the mannequins.


The 3 outfits included: a classical roman legionnaire, a late roman legionnaire (5-6th century), and a 10-11th century Bulgarian soldier. The romans were pretty easy to reconstruct when it comes to clothing and footwear. The Bulgarian, however, took me some more time. That’s why I have decided to dedicate more attention to him in this article.

Bulgarians slaying Byzantines – Menologion of Basil II

He is wearing a thick fur-lined kaftan,typical for the 10th century. The reconstruction is based on depictions from the “Menologion of Basil II” and the Skylitzes Chronicle – “Codex Græcus Matritensis Ioannis Skyllitzes”. The lamellar armor is based on find from Provadia, Pliska, and other places, and the helmet is based on 2 finds – 1 from Dobrich, and 1 from Asenovgrad.

Sorry for the bad quality of the reconstruction photos but we weren’t able to make a proper photo-shoot of the projects. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Medieval female decorated shoes based on 12th century wall-painting from a Byzantine monastery St.Pantaleon, Gorno Nerezi, Macedonia.

12th Century Decorated Byzantine Shoes

A year ago I was asked to make a pair of royal medieval female shoes with plenty of decorations. The period I was asked to reconstruct was 13-14th century. I did a lot of research on medieval female shoes on the Balkans but could not find enough evidence and images of a good model to recreate. The only thing that I found good enough to recreate was based on a wall-painting from the 12th century monastery of St. Pantaleon in Gorno Nerezi, Macedonia. The monastery was built in 1164 at the time of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos, needless to say – the area was owned by the Byzantines at the time. The Byzantine shoes on the wall-painting seem to be low, with a string around the ankle or a decoration. Also, the face/top of the shoes seems to be decorated with floral motives that can either be gilded gold, or embroidery. However, since the customer wanted decorated shoes with embroidery, I had to make them like that.

12th century Byzantine decorated shoes from St.Pantaleon, Gorno Nerezi, Macedonia

12th century Byzantine decorated shoes from St.Pantaleon, Gorno Nerezi, Macedonia

The goal of the reconstruction was to make a nice pair of medieval female shoes for a time period that is after the 12th century, but since I could not find anything else with decorations, I decided to use this model. Even though there are later depictions of royalties, the shoes they wear are either not visible (due to time and damage,or painter’s decisions), or they are just too difficult to decipher and can’t be reconstructed with precision.

My first pair of decorated shoes were covered with silk and embroidered over, but since this pair doesn’t seem to have textile covering it, I decided to do the embroidery over the leather. I used a pair of threads made of all natural linen which I bought from a medieval merchant in Grunwald, Poland, and had been dying to try out. As the work moved along, I realized that the threads are not really strong enough to last. They started exhibiting signs of deterioration, so I continued with great care, and this is the result:

Medieval decorated shoes Medieval decorated shoesMedieval decorated shoesMedieval decorated shoes

Overall, this was a good experiment in making embroidered shoes. It’s not my best work, and I wish i had better threads, but considering the difficulty of the project i think they turned out good.

PS: Keep in mind that these shoes are more or less speculative!!! – They are based on only one depiction. Also, they are not strictly for women. The depiction doesn’t show what kind of person is wearing them, so it’s safer to conclude that it’s a man. However, my customer was a girl, so I made them smaller.

Wawel dragon medieval

Medieval Folklore – The Wawel Dragon


What’s a Wawel Dragon?

 

Last summer we participated in the Battle of Grunwald, and on our way there stopped by Krakow where we heard an amazing story – The Legend of the Wawel Dragon.

Long story short – under Wawel hill lived an evil dragon who tormented the people, until one day he was slain by a poor but cunning tailor who fed the dragon with a poisoned sheep carcass. The tailor’s name was Krakus, so after he married the king’s daughter, the town was named Krakow after him.

Inside the castle on top of Wawel hill – the Royal palace and the Cathedral of St Wenceslaus


A Story With Many Faces…

As a Balkan child, I’ve heard this story in thousands of variations and it contains pretty much the same elements regardless of where you heard it. Furthermore, I did some research on mythology on the Balkans from the 16th to the 18th centuries and there are many songs and tales that tell the same story – the greedy evil dragon, the deep dark cave of treasures, the countless failed attempts to slay it, the clever but poor hero, and the grateful king who gives him his daughter’s hand in marriage.

Until that moment I had never wondered about the origins of that story because it’s so popular, but once you connect the dots, an interesting image emerges.


Dragonbones!

The one thing that makes this story fascinating are the remains of the dragon. On top of Wawel hill, where the medieval part of Krakow was built, stands the Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus where you can see the bones of the dragon. High above the entrance of the cathedral hang several monstrous massive bones on display. So every time you go there you are reminded of that heroic and legendary deed. They were put there in the 14th century – which is also one of the most prosperous periods in the city’s history. Now the bones themselves are probably from a whale or a mammoth, but they are still very impressive. And on top of that, there is actually a real cave under the hill – from the top of the hill (within the citadel) there is a tower with a staircase that goes down about 100 meters into the depths of the earth and into a magnificent underground cave that leads to the river just outside the castle.

The “dragon bones” hanging at the entrance of the Cathedral

How the Wawel Smok Legend Influenced Europe

 Now, I don’t want to go very deep into the subject because it’s really vast, but thanks to my research in post-middle-ages folklore on the Balkans, and my research on trade routes in the 14th century, I have reached a hypothesis which can be quite interesting and entertaining.

For starters, I want to explain why the legend is so powerful and influential. The first appearance of this legend comes from the Chronicle of Master Vincent from the end of the 13th century. The cathedral was built and destroyed in the 11th century, it was rebuilt in the 12th and destroyed again in the 14th century (1305). By the end of the 14th century it was rebuilt and it’s still standing. Now we don’t know where the bones came from or if they were hung in front of the earlier cathedrals, but according to research the cave under the hill has been inhabited in prehistoric times (50 000 BC.), so it’s very likely that they found the fossilized bones there or somewhere in the area.

So, when you have a strong story and evidence to support it – (like the bones, the tunnels, and the cave), this makes a pretty strong prerequisite for a medieval blockbuster legend. There are at least two written sources of the legend remaining to this day, so it has obviously been popular in the middle ages.

The 14th century is known as one of the most successful periods of the history of Krakow – trade relations improved, culture soared, and not surprisingly the legend spread through Europe. Now, the 14th century was a good time for many kingdoms including those on the Balkans where local rulers invested a great deal in education and learning, and since the oldest legends on the Balkans date from roughly that time period – it is not very surprising to see some of them resembling the Wawel dragon story.

The Dragon’s Den or “Smocza Jama” (Смоча яма)


What I’m trying to say is
, that with the growth in culture and trade in eastern and central Europe, this fascinating and compelling story, might have been the source of inspiration for hundreds of similar stories on the Balkans. This assumption is also supported by the fact that most kingdoms south of Krakow speak very similar languages on the foundation of the Cyrilic alphabet.

The Wawel dragon depiction from Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographie Universalis from 1544


So, what does it matter if the story has had such a great influence? What difference does it make?

Well, as a medievalist I feel a little joy knowing that the European kingdoms in the middle ages have had more in common then we might have expected. It’s the common ideas and stories that help bring people from different nations together and that’s very important for me. We know a great deal about western Europe and its history in details, whereas the Balkans and the eastern parts of Europe are still a bit obscured, un-researched and veiled in myths. So, every light we shed on our common history, is a step toward understanding our ancestors, and that’s worth the effort.

I hope you like this article, and if you ever have a chance – you should definitely visit Krakow! It’s magical!

Krakow in the 16th century

Viking reconstruction with tablet weaving decorations

How to Decorate Your Medieval Clothing

This is one of the most common questions I get from friends and reenactors. My answer is always the same – It depends on the historical period, the evidence that you find about it, and the ways to reconstruct it.

These three things are essential for making an accurate reconstruction of any piece of historical clothing. When it comes to reconstructing anything from the Balkans during the middle ages, however, it gets really hard. That’s because of the lack of evidence of that period. We make our assumptions based on manuscrips, murals, written evidence of that time, and extant original archaeological findings. Once you’ve got a solid base of research on that garment, you need to find out what methods of decoration were used at that time and see if you can replicate them. This usually discourages people to decorate their medieval clothing. It sounds like a LOT of hard work, and it sometimes can be. However, there are some ways to make it easier, and here are some of my suggestions:

1. The most common way to decorate anything medieval, is by embroidering it.

Some simple embroidery stitches

It may sound horrible to a man to have to decorate his huge clothes on his own. However, there are some really easy stitches that you can use that can help you decorate a lot faster. Besides the looks of the garment, the authenticity is of utmost importance. You need to make sure that those stitches were used at that place and that time! For example, in my group there was  a serious argument of whether we could use X-stitches or not. X-stitches look good and are traditional for culture, but we had no evidence to support their existence during the middle ages because we had no artifacts to prove it. We had various embroidered capes and clothes and religious clothing preserved from that period but none of them had any X-stitches. So, overtime we reduced the use of that embroidery style and replaced it with accurate ones.

2. The second most popular way to decorate medieval clothing is with another piece of textile. If you’re making a tunic, you can make the main body of the garment of one fabric and use a different color, pattern, or material of fabric to sew around the sleeves, neck, and rim of the tunic. This of course depends on the reconstruction that you are making. Balkan medieval manuscripts and wall paintings suggest that this was one of the most popular ways to decorate your garment. We don’t have a lot of well-preserved finds, but we do have a lot of murals. So, if you want to be quick with your decorating, this is the way to go. And, as always, make sure it’s totally authentic!

Here are some examples of what the end result should look like:


3. Another way to decorate medieval clothing is with tablet-woven bands. Tablet weaving has been used since the early middle ages to create beautiful bands for clothing decorations, belts, and bag straps. There are various findings and depictions that show this to be one of the more popular decorating methods during the middle ages.  Here are some archaeological finds:

These are the methods you can use to decorate your own medieval clothing. The only thing that’s left to discuss are the buttons and brooches that can be used. That, however, depends highly on the location, period, and characteristics of the culture that you’re reenacting. For example, Bulgarian medieval clothes are known to have been decorated with gold and silver threads, pearls, applications, glass beads, semiprecious stones, and a various designs of buttons. To reconstruct a poor man’s clothing you can use textile buttons. They are made of a ball of wool or other filling that is covered with textiles. If you want to reconstruct someone that is higher in hierarchy, we suggest you use silver or copper sphere buttons. They are the most popular ones and come in various designs. Just make sure you choose the most authentic model for your reconstruction! Besides metal ones, buttons can also be made of glass or clay, although the latter is not as durable. Glass buttons have been found in several medieval funerals in Bulgaria.

 

Well, that’s all the advice I’ve got on decorating medieval clothing. If you don’t want to spend too much time on it, just ask a friend or a tailor for help. Just don’t forget to do your research and make sure it’s authentic before you start anything!

Enjoy 😉

 

 

 

 

 

larp costume

Fantasy LARP Costume

Live-action-role-play is a popular hobby among the fans of fantasy movies and novels. It gives you the chance to LARP costume designdelve into a fantasy realm atmosphere where every player acts like a fantasy creature and does not break character. The settings and stories of such events vary greatly, but most commonly they follow the pattern of a classical adventure – a problem occurs, a solution is sought, the problem is dealt with, and the heroes get rewarded, unless they die in the process.

In any case, I am a great fan of LARP, and recently a friend of mine commissioned a nice tunic for his LARP costume. He sent me a drawing of what he wanted, and this is what I managed to come up with. The outfit has padding on the waist and shoulders for a breastplate. Also, the sleeves are detachable from the torso for further comfort.

 

larp costume larp costume larp costume larp costume

 

Enjoy :)

Medieval shoes

The Most Popular Medieval Shoes

Recently I made another pair of medieval shoes. Although they are made as a part of a Bulgarian outfit reconstruction, they are not strictly Bulgarian. In fact, this is one of the most popular shoe models throughout Europe during the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries. It’s pretty simple and comfortable. It covers the front of the foot, encompasses the heel and fastens around the ankle, which makes it very comfortable and hard to slip.

As you can see, this pair of medieval shoes fits pretty tight. That was a requirement for those shoes, because the owner’s previous medieval shoes were too loose and slippery, which makes walking on wet grass a lot harder and more dangerous.

In any case, there are many depictions of such shoes in western Europe. They can even be seen in murals and wall-paintings from the Balkans.

(Serbia 14th century) To see the whole gallery, click the image.

A German gentleman from Frankfurt am Main -1370

The actual shoes are made of 2mm thick upper layer, and 2 soles made of 5-6mm thick calf leather. So, they are a bit sturdier than regular medieval turnshoes, which makes them suitable for various weather conditions and terrains.

I’m proud of the end results. This type of upper leather is very easy to work with, and I’m not surprised that they turned out great.

The original :)

Enjoy! :)

 

 

London side-laced medieval boots

London Side-Laced Medieval Boots

This is a pair of western European medieval boots from the 14th century found during excavations in London. Making these shoes was a joint effort. I made the design, then Sergei from “Chigot” sew them. I did the finishing work of flipping them inside out, and adding the external sole. They are made with double soles for extra comfort and durability. This means that they are not ordinary turn shoes but rather a later type called clump-sole shoes. You can check out the Gallery here :)

14th century depiction of a pair of side-laced medieval boots

I’m pretty proud of the results. They look pretty close to the original London side-laced medieval boots. Sergei did a nice job on them and it wasn’t easy because of the nature of the project. The owner – Vladimir of Chigot, wanted a pair of sturdy combat boots, so he insisted on using tough leather and reinforcements on the weak spots. That’s why the heel is made of 2,5 – 3mm thick calf leather and the rest of the upper is 2-2,5mm also calf leather. The actual leather is very durable and stiff, so sewing it under the skin was nearly impossible. That is the reason why they have these coarse “X” stitches. It’s not a matter of decoration or anything. It’s just that the leather can’t be sewn with hidden underlayer stitches.

In any case, they turned out pretty comfortable and good-looking. Here is a picture of the proud owner and his new medieval boots:

Proud owner bashing palisades :D

Enjoy 😉

a simple but sturdy bench

My First Medieval Furniture Pieces

As a tailor and shoemaker, I can’t deal with wood. So, I asked a friend for a barter – a small table with a bench, for a favor of his choosing. In the end, I had a brand new medieval table and a cute little bench. In return, I promised to make him a sturdy arming doublet for his 15th century hussite costume. You will see it soon enough! 😉

Meanwhile, I sealed the wooden medieval furniture against water damage, and even got to use them at a couple of camps. Here are some pictures:


These pieces of medieval furniture are made by Yasen Nenkov, from “Chigot”, so, if you need a reliable carpenter or tent-maker that won’t rip you off with the money, then I recommend you contact him. You can reach the craftsmen of “Chigot” here.

Enjoy 😉