My goal, as everyone’s goal should be, is to put together not only a rockin-sauce awesome suit of armor that would honor my ancestors; but to put together a suit of armor that is an accurate representation of the time period we are interpreting. That means ensuring that all the items in my kit are coherent and concurrent with themselves, the location, and the time period. The hard part, in general, is defining those perimeters narrowly enough to get some quality research done. I am lucky enough to have most of those things already laid out ahead of me. My ultimate goal is to portray an English gentleman and knight of Cheshire, England; 1396 to 1420. I will be using effigies, manuscripts, artwork, and extant pieces of armor as close to these exact dates and regions as possible, without re-creating any one individual person (more on that in a different post which I’ll link to whenever it’s written.) My primary source at this stage is effigies, at least to create the general feel of what I’m looking for. I think that will make it considerably easier to sift through other visual references and separate artifacts and images that compliment the look I’m going for and not distract from it.
Back to effigies. If you haven’t heard of it, Effigies & Brasses is an amazing website that, true to name, has all the pictures of effigies and brasses you could ever want. Even better, they are all tagged by date and region, so you can search for exactly what you want! When I plugged my info in (England, 1396-1420, martial, male effigies) I expected five or six images to return in the search. I am excited (and a touch overwhelmed) to report that I am privileged with 149 images to use. Even though that means I’ll have a lot more work to do, and it will take more time to analyze them all, the larger a pool of data the better than “average” result you get. I will also be consulting Douglas W. Strong’s analysis of English Effigies to keep my choices in line with what was reasonably used during my time period. I am confident that using just these two things alone, even without artwork and artifacts, I will be able to commission a suit of armor that is not only unique, but completely representative of what was in contemporary use.
And that’s a very important part of this whole project. It’s about more than just looking good because lets face it, even if you do it wrong, you still look pretty damn good. It’s also about looking correct. If you were to hop in the time machine and wander onto a battlefield in 1406 wearing your kit (side note: I don’t recommend that) would you stick out or blend in? While I suspect everyone has an item or two that they will inevitably have to “explain away” why it’s part of their impression; as a whole it is important to me to display in my appearance what could be considered the typical look of my region and station. Movies and TV and the SCA have done enough damage to what the general public thinks a 14th century knight looks like. We who do living history have taken it upon ourselves to take the high road, so to speak, and set the bar far higher than many others who play adult-dress-up. It takes a bit more work, and time, and money; but it’s worth it.