Historical roleplay in Second Life… a credible look needs braveness!

Second Life is the place where dreams become virtually true, and as for the nature of dreams, they are not really realistic… I know this.

Have you ever seen a wood elf in high heels running through the forest? Or maybe you were in a middle-age tavern staring at your partner zipped jacket? And what about those spectacles over the nose of your servant?

Well, under an historical, or historical fantasy, point of view we all know that in roleplay we tend to be not very close to a realistic look. This happens mainly because more than being in roleplay for exploring characters and history we are there to look … “cool” and when you get to medieval attires coolness is something you should forget.

So women who pretend to belong to a noble family go around with their hair who seems to have been hairdressed by Unabomber, so very cool if you are in 2014 sipping a coffee in a corner bar in New York but so very not realistic for a woman of some wealth in the middle-age. They are showing off their boobs like only was happening to the majority of the women in Venice during renaissance but that was because… those women were actually trying to find “costumers”.

Wanna play a true medieval wealthy or common woman? If there is anyone so brave willing to try I will give you some suggestion here:

– HAIR

WOMEN’S HAIR AT THE MIDDLE AGES :

During the first period of the Medieval era, ranging from the fifth to the eleventh century, women usually had long hair, extended to knee length or sometimes, below, and also with two long braids at the sides of the head or tied in a chignon. Along almost all the Middle Ages period, women arranged their hair to reveal their complete foreheads; often they shaved the hair around the hairline to give an appearance of a higher line. The forehead was at that time considered a very important feature of the face. They used to cover it with artificial flowers, headbands, or precious jewelry, but never with hair. Women’s hair was considered itself, at this period, an erotic feature. In consequence, married woman had to cover it with veils. The married woman’s hair was legally considered as a property of the husband. Near the end of the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church issued religious decrees for the veils were obligatory for all women. One of the most popular hairstyles from the Middle period until the Late period was to secure the braids in chignons at either side of the head, above each ear, held by golden or silk threads. Another popular style in the 13th and 14th century was to make three or four braids and to tie them at the back of the head with fine nettings with ornaments. At the beginning of the period, women used their hair natural, but since the Middle period and up to the end, the public exhibition of the hair was considered unseemly and disrespectful. They also wore high hats and bonnets to attend Church or in public places.

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As the Renaissance was a time of a real intellectual, cultural, philosophic and religious revolution, it also led to a change in costumes, and the hairstyles, in some way, reflected a transition to more independence of thought. It is a period historically classified from the 15th century until the beginning of the 17th century.

There was a rebirth of culture and art in general, and a reunion with the Greek and Latin traditions. It was a time of great painters, sculptors, philosophers, scientists and religious leaders as Martin Luther and John Calvin.

Women started to expose their hair, because at the diffusion of Protestantism, especially in England and Netherlands, the pressure of the Catholic Church and the Pope of Rome would be lesser. There was more freedom in costumes than in the Middle Ages, and men had the choice whether or not to use beard or moustaches, a long hair at the nape length, or shorter. Women still emphasized, like in the former period, in showing their whole foreheads. They preferred taller hairstyles, adorned with headbands or jewels or gem stones. In England, the queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), made popular a reddish-gold hair color hairstyle -which was her natural hair- and tall hear dresses with a very exposed forehead. Her cousin Mary Stuart, queen of Scots, wore a hairstyle with the hair arranged over a heart-shaped wire frame. The queens’ hairstyles had influence, naturally, on women in general

(source http://thehistoryofthehairsworld.com/ )

 

-SHOES

Back then, bright and ornately-embroidered gowns similar to the ones worn in the iconic Arthurian era movie, The Mists of Avalon, were only in vogue with the upper class. Visual cues, such as the color and texture of clothing, usually indicated a woman’s place in society. The same was true for her shoes: the pointier the toe, the more important the woman was.

Though upper-class ladies had the financial freedom to express themselves through their clothing, their styles ultimately proved restrictive, as the long gowns and uncomfortable shoes hampered easy movement. However, those who could afford it had “turned shoes” made. This footwear had been sewn inside out before being turned around the right way. This technique made shoes stronger and more durable. Men also wore this style of shoe, which was known as the crakow. In fact, the point (which was also called the “poulaine”) was even more extravagantly and exaggeratedly pointed on men’s shoes. This type of footwear reached the height of its popularity in the late 14th century.

So where did people get these shoes? Royalty and other wealthy people visited acordwainer. These luxury shoemakers belonged to trade guilds and tended to settle in together in a larger city. They crafted shoes out of a variety of materials, specifically tailoring the size to the customer’s feet. Clergy and royalty wore expensive shoes made from leather or dyed wool. During times of battle, knights wore armored shoes, but in peaceful times, they preferred comfortable shoes made from wool or leather, or sometimes even fur boots.

Peasants and other commoners relied on cobblers, who were itinerant workers traveling to various manors and villages, taking on whatever work they could find. However, if commoners could not afford a cobbler’s shoes, they often had to improvise by wrapping their feet with scraps of cloth like large bandages.

When commoners did buy shoes, they were made with naturally-colored gray or brown wool, as they didn’t have the means to indulge in expensive dyes. Their shoes tended to be functional and sturdy – boots were a popular choice, especially with peasants who worked outside. These work shoes were often roughly constructed of durable fabrics like leather or wood so they would last a long time. This practical footwear was paired with loose tunics and woolen trousers – all told, these were more comfortable outfits than those worn by the upper classes, but obviously lacked style or any form of self-expression.

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(source http://blog.jildorshoes.com/history-of-shoes-medieval-footwear/)

– CLOTHING

Most people in the Middle Ages wore woolen clothing, with undergarments made of linen. Brighter colors, better materials, and a longer jacket length were usually 
signs of greater wealth. The clothing of the aristocracy and wealthy merchants tended to be elaborate and changed according to the dictates of fashion. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, men of the wealthy classes sported hose and a jacket, often with pleating or skirting, or a tunic with a surcoat. Women wore flowing gowns and elaborate headwear, ranging from headdresses shaped like hearts or butterflies to tall steeple caps and Italian turbans.

Most of the holy orders wore long woolen habits in emulation of Roman clothing. One could tell the order by the color of the habit: the Benedictines wore black; the Cistercians, undyed wool or white. St. Benedict stated that a monk’s clothes should be plain but comfortable and they were allowed to wear linen coifs to keep their heads warm. The Poor Clare Sisters, an order of Franciscan nuns, had to petition the Pope in order to be permitted to wear woolen socks.

– Peasant Clothing
Peasant men wore stockings or tunics, while women wore long gowns with sleeveless tunics and wimples to cover their hair. Sheepskin cloaks and woolen hats and mittens were worn in winter for protection from the cold and rain. Leather boots were covered with wooden patens to keep the feet dry. The outer clothes were almost never laundered, but the linen underwear was regularly washed. The smell of wood smoke that permeated the clothing seemed to act as a deodorant. Peasant women spun wool into the threads that were woven into the cloth for these garments.

– Fur and Jewelry
Fur was often used to line the garments of the wealthy. Jewelry was lavish, much of it imported and often used as security against loans. Gem cutting was not invented until the fifteenth century, so most stones were not very lustrous. Ring brooches were the most popular item from the twelfth century on. Chaucer’s prioress in the Canterbury Tales wore a brooch with the inscription “Amor vincit omnia” (“Love conquers all”), not a particularly appropriate slogan for a nun. Diamonds became popular in Europe in the fourteenth century. By the mid-fourteenth century there were laws to control who wore what jewelry , and knights were not permitted to wear rings. Sometimes clothes were garnished with silver, but only the wealthy could wear such items.

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(source: http://www.learner.org/interactives/middleages/morcloth.html)

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