Twelfth Century Costuming: General Guidelines for “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd: A Play in Three Acts”

queenly-12th-century-ensemble

Fit for a 12th century queen! Heavily embroidered bliaut, cloak, veil, coronet, and wimple.

Bore da! Good morning and welcome to your journey as a medieval re-enactor, actor, or producer of one of the Legendary Women of World History Dramas.

As a historian, history is my passion.  I love few things better than seeing a period-correct drama where the costumes are accurately rendered.  But what do you do if your budget is small or you are playing scenes from either “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd” or “Empress Matilda of England” stage dramas? What if you don’t have years of expertise researching medieval gowns?

The following is a general guide for productions of “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd: A Play in Three Acts” and for general re-enactment of 12th century characters/personae:

WOMEN: Floor length tunic dresses and early stage bliauts, both worn with long belts that are knotted secure around the waist. Bliauts (when worn) are side-laced. Cloaks are worn at night and during the winter months.  A continuation of the ancient wrapped and pinned style of cloak called a “brat” is worn by the Welsh.

 

bliaut-1

A simple bliaut showing the side lacing.

bliaut-pattern

A simple bliaut pattern

as-veils

Anglo-Saxon veils and wimples (600-1154)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most adult Anglo-Saxon and  Anglo-Norman women in this period wear veils and wimples on their head, neck, and shoulders.

MEN:  Knee to floor length tunic shirts and simple trousers. Belt is knotted secure at the waist. Cloaks are worn at night and during the winter months.  A continuation of the ancient wrapped and pinned style of cloak called a “brat” is worn by the Welsh.

 

For both women and men rank is displayed through the type of fabrics worn and ornamentation with elaborate embroidery along the neckline, sleeve, and hemline on the hemline of clothing worn by the royals. Jewellery also establishes rank with elaborate rings and necklaces worn by the rich and powerful.

 

Note:  livery collars (which lay flat against the body instead of hanging freely from the neck) were first worn in the 14th century and therefore are out of period.

 

Special costuming suggestions for “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd: A Play in Three Acts:”

Prologue: Gwenllian’s Ghost wears a pale blue bliaut with white roses and yellow daffodils embroidered along the hemline.  This is the same gown Gwenllian wears in Act I, Scene VIII.

Act I, Scene II:  Mud covers Hywel and Prince Gruffydd’s cloaks and boots.

Act I, Scene VII: Gwenllian wears a beautiful gown and embroidered cloak.  Her red hair is braided neatly down her back.  A simple circlet of nobility conceals her true status as the king’s daughter.

Act I, Scene VIII: Gwenllian wears a pale blue bliaut with white roses and yellow daffodils embroidered along the hemline.  On her head she wears the royal circlet of a princess of Gwynedd over her otherwise uncovered braided hair.

Act III, Scene: Lady in waiting puts a heavy cloak over Gwenllian’s simple tunic dress. Servants put heavy plate armour onto Prince Gruffydd over which they fasten a heavy cloak.

Act III, Scene II: Prince Morgan’s armour, clothing, and face are covered in blood, mud, and soot.

Act III, Scene V: Farmers wear old and mostly worn out tunics and trousers. Gruffydd ap Llewellyn wears modest armour and is armed with quality weapons. Morgan and Maelgwn wear very fine plate armour and weapons.

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