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Roman underwear, or "A wool bra? Are you NUTS?"

Posted on 2007.08.13 at 21:42
Hello, there. Again I resurface. If you are a reader of my regular life LJ, you'll know that the grad school wiped me out completely, and I haven't been doing much of...well, anything... lately. Catching up on TV shows I never watched before, mostly (Farscape? AWESOME)

Anyway, I taught a class on Roman Women's underwear at Pennsic. I had over 20 people, and I know, because I only brought 20 handouts. I suspect that a decent handful of those came i because it was thunderstorming and the tent was dry(ish), but everyone seemed to have fun (including my very own peanut gallery).

I started off by talking about panties, and how I didn't think it was de reguer wear for women during the roman periods. There are a handful of images of women in the process of getting undressed and they are not wearing underpants. It is the opinion of jduac that underpants for women is a recent development, and while there might be a strap/loincloth method for menstruation, as a rule, they were not worn. (as a practical experiment I went without one night, and was perfectly comfortable.)

Someone asked about chaffing and honestly, modern panties don't help with the thigh chaffing thing, so you either use powder, or just get used to it.

We talked about the Museum of London bikini briefs (and honestly, that's what the MoL calls them, and who am i to argue with them? Nobody, that's who.) and how I (and the MoL think they are acrobatic wear, and used to cover up bits when nothing else (like clothing) was covering them.

So that took like, five minutes.

And then we got to the meat of the class- how to make and wear a strophium. I wore a chiton that I could uunclasp at the shoulder, and tied a linen stropium over a tank top so they could see it on without compromising my modesty (ha). so mostly I stood there and talked with my dress hanging off my waist. it was awesome.

Before I went to Pennsic, most of my strophia were made with muslin, because it was cheap and I am poor. HOWEVER: you get what you pay for in bras and shoes, and this is true in strophia as well. I made a couple of linen, and one in summer weight wool and wool flannel. And I gotta tell you, the wool ones? MOST COMFORTABLE EVER. (Wool is by far the most common fabric found in the Roman world. It is not even a stretch to say that the majority of women wearing a strophium would be wearing one made of wool.)

The wool is not itchy, because it's tied tightly, and doesn't move (or shouldn't). It stretches, and holds things in, and it wicks away sweat (the linen ones do not do this much, and the muslin ones NOT AT ALL). I did not have any problems with brusing on my ribs. For a cold Crown tourney, this is gonna be a good thing.

i demonstrated how I tied them (In the front) and how I'd arrived at that (I tried tying them in the back, and that was a fail, tucking the ends in, and that was an epic fail, and pinning, but that places a lot of stress on a few points in the fabric, and didn't hold well). Someone asked about the center seaming I had in the one I was wearing and that's simply because the fabric was too short to go around.

Someone asked me how active I could be while wearing a strophium. I told them I'd helped set up camp wearing one. then they asked me to jump. They didn't move. :D

At that point it was 23 minutes past noon, and I was done. But we hung around anyway, because it was storming really badly. It let up just in time for the next class.

The hand out (which was written before the experiments with the wool strophia happened) will go up tomorrow- it's on my work computer.


(Deleted comment)
redsbragbook at 2007-08-14 03:09 (UTC) (Link)
It's confessional night in the brag book. I talked about boobs for 23 minutes and had my underwear over my shirt, so...

I had another woman asked about later period underwear, or if I was interested in the study of underwear, and I said that no, I am interested in the study of Roman-ness, which includes underwear.
alphasarah at 2007-08-14 02:47 (UTC) (Link)
0) C'mon, you love the peanut gallery.
1) Dammit, must've forgotten to unfriend this journal. :^P
2) I'm in the going-regimental-at-Pennsic camp. If nothing else, it makes portajohn negotiations a billion times easier.
banchomarba1 at 2007-08-14 11:24 (UTC) (Link)
Are you cutting the fabric on the bias?

Have you looked into anything about the physiological differences between modern boobs and Roman boobs? There is a study that was done several years ago- and yeah it was for corsets- but it talked about the difference in body shapes over time(especially for American women) and how historical clothing followed form which then followed function, etc. There was a brief discussion there about how chafe is kind of a modern issue given our higher BMIs, etc.

Might provide some interesting asides for your class.
redsbragbook at 2007-08-14 13:13 (UTC) (Link)
Nope, I just cut (well, tear, actually) it straight. Most Roman clothing was woven to shape, and I doubt that anything was done on the bias. The wool stretches and breathes enough just by the virtue of being wool that it doesn't need any more.
banchomarba1 at 2007-08-14 18:59 (UTC) (Link)
This is also an issue with winningas(or wikelbande, as the case may be). They were likely woven to suit, but we can't easily get wool like that now. I have made them out of various materials, and the wool is best, but I find that doing the bias thing seems to give Mr. Man better luck at keeping them up without cutting off his circulation.
patrikia at 2007-08-14 11:54 (UTC) (Link)
Can we have the link to the web page where the handout will be posted? I'd love to see it!
redsbragbook at 2007-08-14 13:15 (UTC) (Link)
I don't have a web site. It'll be posted here.
soteltie at 2007-08-14 13:13 (UTC) (Link)
One of my campmates from the West attended your class. She was eager to hear more, so she was disappointed that it was only 23 minutes. But other than that, she loved it.
dreda at 2007-08-14 13:38 (UTC) (Link)
Regimental rules. Also, Body Glide Skin Protectant saves my life every Pennsic and every summer.

Did you find a substantial difference between the summer weight wool and the wool flannel? Also, how do you plan to wash them, and will the comfort level change if they felt up at all?

I totally have to try this plan. Also, the practice-makes-perfect strophium learning plan evidently takes one Pennsic. I did not have a single failure or even displeasure this year, and I never had to re-tie. Must've had a good instructor.
redsbragbook at 2007-08-14 13:42 (UTC) (Link)
dernelof suggested Body Glide as well. I need to get some.

They were both prewashed in warm, on a regularly hot dryer. I tend to be fairly harsh on my wools, so I prewash them hard. I had to taper the ends of the flannel one because the knot was really bulky and tumor-looking. But both held up quite well.
dreda at 2007-08-14 13:50 (UTC) (Link)
And you can taper, because the washed wool won't come apart when you cut it! All hail the sheepies!!

(They have Body Glide at the EMS in Harvard Square, I am certain.)
Letters Worth the Postage
chargirlgenius at 2007-08-14 15:53 (UTC) (Link)
For 14th c., I go regimental as much as I can. For the first time in years, I did break down and wear braies on the third day, but I'm fatter than I should be, and Pennsic is much hotter than 14th c. England.

I'll have to check out body glide.
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