6 Tips to Make Sure Your Fist Garb Doesn’t Suck

My first SCA outfit was horrendous!

I joined the SCA in the Fall after Braveheart came out and really wanted to dress as a Highlander of the 1290’s just like Mel Gibson. I went out and bought a large chunk of ‘tartan’ material and long socks. I made a basic T-tunic shirt and topped it all off with combat boots that I had at the time. I looked just like one of Wallace’s men. The problem was that it was all wrong! I won’t dwell on the particulars of my errors but they did help lead me to the following tips for new members of any historic group.

1. Do some research

Back in ’95 the Internet wasn’t the wealth of information it is today. Nowadays you can get a pretty good idea of what you want to make within an hour or so of surfing.

WARNING: not everything you will find on the Internet is correct. Be wary of what you read. The more recent the information the better chance that it is going to be correct.

If you know what timeframe/geographic area you are interested in try to find a webpage for a Living History/ Re-enactment group that covers it. They will usually have guidelines and/or picture galleries on their sites.

2. Make sure the pattern is correct

This flows out of doing research. Nothing looks worse than an outfit that is put together incorrectly. Make sure the seams are in the right place, the waist is at the appropriate level, the sleeves aren’t too long/short, etc. There are some great books and suppliers of patterns out there.

For my first outfit I had cut the sleeves too short and wore the belted plaid too high. I looked like I had borrowed my little sister’s school uniform.

3. Make the natural selection

This should go without saying but avoid synthetic materials at all costs! Cotton is good. Linen and wool are better. Whichever group you are joining might also have restrictions/minimum standards on what you can make your outfit from.


Unless you are an experienced seamstress/tailor you should try to keep your first outfit simple. Don’t try to recreate Lord Muckitymuck’s Accension Day outfit on your first attempt. Keeping it simple also has the added benefit of keeping the costs down as well.

Keeping it simple will also save you from ruining that nice new Renaissance or Elizabethan outfit with meters of nasty, cheap, metallic trim.

5. Put your best foot forward

I know I’m probably channelling SJP here but nothing ruins an outfit faster than the wrong pair of shoes. Please no sneakers. This may cost you a bit more money but it will be worth it. The Internet has plenty of sites where you can get decent reproductions or where you can find instructions on how to convert modern shoes into passable pair of historic looking ones.

6. Cover up

People don’t wear enough hats. For most of history men and women covered their heads and you should too.

This is just some of the advice I wished I had been given before my first foray into historic costuming. Do you have a favourite piece of advice for new costumers? Maybe a picture or description of your first attempt? If you do please leave a comment below.

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My First Love?

I have had a lifelong love of history although I didn’t know it myself. Looking back on some of the many family/school trips in my life, my favourite moments have all involved immersing myself in the past.

The best part of my Grade 8 trip to New Brunswick? It was the Carleton Martello Tower.

You would think that West Edmonton Mall would have been a highlight for me but instead Fort Edmonton got me all excited.

It didn’t get any better as I grew older.

While studying English Literature and History at university I became involved in the university’s Medieval Club which introduced me to Living History as a hobby. A hobby that I have enjoyed now for 15+ years.

I am often surprised at how history affects our lives in subtle ways. This is one of my motivations for starting TheHistoryphile.

I’m also an avowed research junkie. I really love to look things up. Something will pique my interest and I just have to find out more about it. My bookshelves at home can testify to this. This blog is somewhere to put my research so that I can share my addiction with others; others whom I hope will appreciate my efforts.

What are some of your experiences with the past? Leave a comment below and we can commiserate.

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Come sail away!

Welcome to my mad adventures through history. It may be a bit of a bumpy ride but it will definitely be worth it.

I’ll be using this blog as a repository for:

  • interesting historic facts as I come across them;
  • the research for projects I’ll be working on or wished I could work on;
  • any ramblings that I may have about how history affetcs our lives even though we may not be aware of it.

I’ll be posting at least a couple of times a week so came back often or you could just use the handy subscription button to the right to receive notifications of new posts.

You could also follow me on Twitter @TheHistoryphile.

So sit down, buckle yourself in and get ready for the adventure!

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