- Introduction
- Source Types Explained
- Tailoring Vocabulary
- Website Bibliography

Tailors Pattern Books:
- Burguen MS
  (1618 Spain)
- Freyle MS
  (1580 Spain)
- Anduxar MS
  (1648 Spain)
- Alcega MS
  (1580 Spain)
- Hungarian MS
- Polish MS

Related Articles
- Documenting with Few Sources
- Overcoming Documentation Phobia

Research>Related Articles>Documenting with Few Sources

CAVEAT: The texts used in this demo are copyrighted and cannot be put up on the site without permission. What follows is the handout without pictures. Sorry! It's dry but short.

Recreating With Few or No Extant Sources -

Recreating 'period' or historically accurate clothing is very much like putting forth a theory. The piece of clothing that we make is our 'theory' of what similar pieces of clothing would have looked like in period. We base our theory on evidence in the form of source material. This is fairly easy to do when there's a great deal of source material but can become a nightmare when we can find only one or two sources to work with.

In addition to the availability of source material, we also have to keep in mind that not all source material is created equal. Actual pieces just like the one we want to recreate are best to work with. These usually come in the form of extant garments or pieces of garments. It would also be great if we could handle the extant pieces ourselves but not everyone is able to do that. Most often, we rely heavily upon photographs of extant pieces of clothing.

But what does one do when there is literally no extant pieces of clothing or photographs of extant pieces to work from? Where else does one look for good source material? How well do certain secondary and even tertiary sources rank when we need to use them to extrapolate a theory?

Venture forth, intrepid re-creationist, into the world of secondary and tertiary sources!

Good Secondary and Tertiary Source Materials -

As stated above, extant pieces of clothing or photographs of extant pieces of clothing are the best source, bar none. These are known as 'primary source documentation'. Strictly speaking, in the academic world, photos of extant pieces are considered secondary source material but for the purposes of the SCA and other re-creationist groups, photos of extant pieces are considered primary sources. Let's face it… not everyone can just nip off to the Victoria & Albert Museum and be allowed into their backroom to fondle extant pieces of clothing.

Often times, however, many of us pick a time period to study that has very few if any extant pieces to work with. As an example, take a look at 10th century Central Asia.

Archaeology in this particular area has only recently begun and with the current situation, all work has ceased. Not to mention the high probability that some actual and potential archaeological sites have been bombed off of the map. Archaeology in this area has been done and documented however. Here is where your local University may come in handy. Archaeological periodicals are published several times a year and contain a wealth of information on areas. These are not generally available on the internet - you have to go out and find them. The bonus with periodicals is that they describe in scientific detail extant pieces of goods found in the site being studied. This could include pottery, jewelry, money, other textiles such as rugs and embroideries and possibly clothing.

In addition to accessing the Archaeological periodicals for a given area that you are trying to study the clothing of, make sure to not overlook the history timeline of that area. Central Asia in particular has a long history of being fought over and occupied by several different cultures. Persian, Mongolian and Turkish conquerors all have made an impact on the area. In addition to this military occupation, the Silk Road runs right through the middle of the territory. Trade would have had an enormous impact on the goods available for clothing in the area. Studying this aspect during the time period in question would yield a wealth of facts that could be used to create clothing. For instance, silk of many types from China would be available in the area. Town people in the area would have the money and access for richer varieties; Nomads would generally have used cheaper varieties but it is not inconceivable that they would have access to the same things as the town dwellers.

Another aspect to look at is the arts of the area. During certain time periods, such as the Turkish and Mongolian occupations, illuminated Tailors Books were made showing people in clothing. Recently, there have been many museums that have published books with photographs of those illuminations. Coins of the area sometimes are stamped with examples of people and a look at their clothes may yield some ideas. Pieces of jewelry sometimes depict clothed people. Pottery, tapestries, sculpture, frescos and other arts of the area can yield amazing results.

Lastly, while it can be problematic, one can take a look at the cultures there now and compare them with cultures there previously. For example, say that I have an Archaeological periodical that contains an article on Central Asian clothing found in a grave (grave finds or specific use finds are also problematic to draw conclusions from but that's another discussion entirely) that dates to the 5th century. I also might be able to find a book published by a museum that shows an article of clothing from the 17th century. Both pieces of clothing - being shirts in this hypothetical case - look extremely similar in cut. So I could then extrapolate, based on these two examples that the cut of a shirt in the 10th century would also be similar. Be very careful with extrapolation, however. It's easy to get carried away. The cultural influences of the 10th century were not the same as either the 5th or 17th century so embroidery motifs and maybe even the type of fabric available or used may not be the same.

Conclusions -

To make a long discussion short, when we are faced with a dearth of source material from our chosen time period, we need to broaden our horizons to include other cultural identifiers such as the arts as well as using the sociopolitical history timeline of the area to draw some conclusions about what might have been used for motifs and materials. In looking for information on 10th Century Asia, I would not simply concentrate on the 10th century; I would also look for articles from the 8th through the 13th century. This broadens the base from which to work.

Strictly speaking, this is using secondary and tertiary sources which means that our 'theory' is not as sound as if we were using primary source material. Sometimes, however, it's all that's available until something extant comes to light.

Happy documenting!

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