Category Archives: Research

Research- Sumptuary laws

Sumptuary statute:
None shall wear in his apparel:

Any silk of the color of purple, cloth of gold tissued, nor fur of sables, but only the King, Queen, King’s mother, children, brethren, and sisters, uncles and aunts; and except dukes, marquises, and earls, who may wear the same in doublets, jerkins, linings of cloaks, gowns, and hose; and those of the Garter, purple in mantles only.

The color and materials are the two things that are in question when looking at this Elizabethan law (the first in a long list).

The color purple is not the same modern dye color that can cover everything from plum, to indigo, to magenta.  “Purple” in todays dyes can be anything in the red-blue color spectrum, and is subjective in art, design, dyes, and crayons.

So what was the color “purple” that this law forbade people to wear?  A color modernly called Tyrian Purple which originated in Tyre in Lebanon. The Phoenicians owned the monopoly on this purple dye which was was made by crushing thousands shells of the mollusk, Murex.  This color is actually more red than purple. Tyrian purple “is considered of the best quality when it has exactly the colour of clotted blood, and is of a blackish hue to the sight, but of a shining appearance when held up to the light; hence it is that we find Homer speaking of ‘purple blood’.” 1, 2

Silk was very hard to come by, and only the wealthy could afford it in large enough quantities to create full gowns.

The law:
The law states any silk the color of purple.  It does not make mention of other materials…  One might conclude that the common misconception that “only royalty can wear purple” may be inaccurate, as it generally used as a blanket statement for all colors of purple, all materials, and only applies to King, Queen, Prince/Princesses.  It is clear that ‘dukes, marquises, and earls, those of the Garter’ were persons that could wear silk in purple in various degrees.

How this applies to the gown:
The primary color for the outer sleeves, doublet, and over-skirt is purple, a nice plum/amethyst color.  This color could be achieved via several different dye techniques using lower classed/easier available materials by combining blue and red.

2. History, Shellfish, Royalty, and the Color Purple, Jul 1, 2002 12:00 PM, Dr. Richard M. Podhajny, Ph.D. Contributing Editor

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Posted by on May 26, 2009 in Research


Research-German Artillery

WOOT!!! I have more research and an accurate time line thanks to Baron Jehan of Carolingia, Violet, and Lissa.

I now have the Renaissance Drill Book by Jacob de Gheyn.  It was first published in 1607, which is “technically” just outside of the SCA 16th century cut off.  However, the illustrations were done several years earlier in 1597, and publishing was delayed to prevent the techniques from falling into enemy hands. The book was originally titled Wapenhandelinghe van Roers Musquetten ende Spiessen.  It is a military manual illustrating drills for Caliver, muskets, and pike.   I just need to shift the project timeline from 1580 to 1597.  But the reasons for the change in military uniforms are still correct.  I just have MORE evidence to back up my original hypothesis.

Violet provided another reference book that has a bunch of wood cuts that I am still sifting through (I will remember the title later).

Lissa has been instrumental in finding an ancient map of “Germany” and many pictures showing striped fabrics in use in the region.

I have to say, the research and learning part is turning out to be a little more fun than the actual garb construction. Currently I’m doing the pain staking task of creating linen bias tape for all of the trim.  I am hoping to have that complete tonight to take to Birka for sewing.

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Posted by on May 26, 2009 in Research