I’m So Sure I Caught Pirate Fever….

At the end of the 2005 faire season, Bristol announced to it’s
cast/crew/the rest of us schmucks that the theme for 2006 would be “nautical….
Be prepared for a surprise!” Well, gosh darn it all if the decision wasn’t
made to add a pack of pirates, replete with a very cute (if kinda quiet) Grace
O’Malley, to the cast that already includes a fleet of fairies and Robin Hood
with assorted Merry Men. Pirates. *Pirates* Consider my timbers duly shivered.
It was a dark period for this little costumer, and I took a few months to go
through the official stages of grief over a personal betrayal – anger, denial,
anger, outrage, anger, depression, anger, hysterical laughter, anger, careful
consideration of the situation, anger, re-adjustment of personal expectations,
annoyance, planning, slight pissiness, plotting, vague glee, deciding that this
could totally work for my personal benefit, and acceptance. (If you just read
that, and you’re not at all italian, you’re probably thinking that I have a
hell of a temper. Ok, so you’re right. But if you grew up with my mother, you’d
know that staying angry is good, because it gives you the energy to plot and
do something constructive with a situation. ;) It’s not evil…. It’s pragmatic.)

So my dreams of belonging to a historically accurate faire suffered
the mental equivalent of a viking raid, mongol invasion, and roman rulership.
No biggie.

From the all that came a new way of looking at the faire situation
— one that included cool, easy to move in costumes for hot days, costumes that
don’t need full corsets, corked drinking vessels so I don’t spill my wine, er,
water when I trot off to something, reversible peasant costumes so I don’t have
to pack two costumes…. I kinda liked all those ideas. I was happy with them.
I wanted to share them with people. I wanted to embrace the new freedom and
get everyone into it, and encourage people to make the best non-elizabethan
costumes they could make. Heh. And the Faire let me, which is pretty amazing.
So 2006 was the first year of the Friends of Faire Costume Contests — a set
of one-day costume contests for non-Elizabethan costumes. We did one for pirates,
one for barbarians, and one for fairies. It was great. It was a hoot. We had
the best MCs in the history of *EVER* for it (the Fairy Godmothers of Bristol),
our contestants were totally cool and wanted to play with the MCs (well, ok,
several of the barbarians wanted to roast the MCs, but that was a simple misunderstanding
about whether or not fairies were Good Eats), and the shows got a large and,
ultimately, totally entertained audience.

Of course, any self-respecting costumer with a costume contest
to run needs costumes to go with the theme, right? ;) You knew there was an
excuse to get more costumes out of this somehow…. So I needed a pirate costume.
And even though I may think that a certain movie pirate is hotter than the inside
of my corset in august, I didn’t want to look like another temporally displaced
Caribbean pirate. I looked around at the (few) period images of lower end nautical
types I could find. I did a little reading. I came to the conclusion that pirates
of most ages wore about what their people would wear, only dirtier, and periodically
replaced worn garments with, well, whatever they found on others. There was
no Pirate Mall, selling the newest Pirate Fashion. Go fig. That was a totally
unhelpful bit of research. So I busted out my handy-dandy Vecellio book, and
looked for period female costumes with a general “pirateyness” to
them. I settled on the Peasant Woman of Gaeta, for a couple reasons. First off,
Gaeta is a port town on the western coast of Italy, round abouts the middle.
Part of my family is from round abouts that region. (Yes, I’m seriously playing
fast and loose with the geography here.) Secondly, I really like the little
coat she’s wearing. It’s close enough to the lines we’re used to seeing in movies
and associating with pirates — the collar is close to the 17th/18th century
lines we’re used to seeing in pirate vests, you get the bit of shirt at the
top (because pirates always have a bit of whatever anyone else would consider
an underthing showing, or are shown devoid of normal underthings…. I think
the idea is to show that they don’t follow normal rules of decency, but the
idea is sort of lost in a society that’s come to associate that “look,
here’s my undies” with sexy, instead of skanky.) I changed out the long
sleeves for the short, split sleeve seen in several of Vecellio’s Venetian woodcuts.
The trim pattern is a deliberate nod towards the accepted “movie pirate”
school of costume.

The shirt is simply an old linen one that I had lying around,
that had too many small tears to work with a good costume. It’s worn over a
very light weight corset. I’d meant to make a lightly boned bodice to go between
the coat and the shirt, but I never quite got there. The pants are a set of
very wide legged, striped one-hour wonders. (Cut two lengths of fabric to length
of pants. With layers together, cut something vaguely crotch shaped out of the
center. Sew crotch. Sew side seams on legs. Use hooks and eyes to make two really
big pleats in front, to a) make pants fit and b) give you a way in and out of
the darn things. Viola. If you’re me, you go back and make all those into french
seams.) I actually wore a heavy red skirt over the pants most of the time, but
the darn thing kept getting in my way. In frustration, midway through the season,
I tore it straight up the back seam, so it was open fore and aft. If you’re
supposed to be portraying a rather rough character who has to get around in
a hurry without a fuss (like, you have to keep jumping over benches, etc), it’s
a solution that totally works, and still looks like a decent skirt when you’re
standing still. My hair is braided and tied up and back with a braided belt
I got on clearance at Target, and I’m wearing a pile of necklaces my friend
Lynn and I made earlier in the day.

The really faboo little ceramic jug came from a potter at the
St. Louis ren fest, and is fabulous. First off, if you’re carrying a little
jug like that, people automatically assume you’re half sloshed at all times,
so you can act a total nut and people think it’s hilarious. Second off, ceramic
happens to keep things cold, and the cork on the jug keeps them in. And, sure,
the jug holds roughly roughly 2/3rds of a bottle of wine, but it also holds
half a large jug of Smart Water (the stuff with electrolytes but no sugar).
Between the two, I’m a happy girl. Oh, right, and if I really want to, I can
wear a proper bra with this, and no one is the wiser…. ;) Teehee. I feel like
such a naughty girl for that…..

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