Thursday, 30 October 2014

The side-pleated skirt is finished

Here is my entry for HSF challenge 20: Alternative Universe.  This is an alternative to the pattern proposed by Bernice Jones in her 2012 article The Construction and Significance of the Minoan Side-Pleated Skirt, featured in the latest Aegaeum book.  To recap my thinking on this, I hypothesize that there were two methods of making side-pleated skirts: one way is a tube of fabric pleated and tied at the waist as Dr. Jones has described, and the other is the two piece pattern I've used, which is essentially an A-line skirt with what we would now call organ pleats up each side.

The reason I think there were two patterns in use is that there are two different skirt shapes depicted in Minoan art.  Some skirts are clearly tubular like the one Dr. Jones reconstructed, while others appear to be fitted at the waist.

So did my pattern work?

Overall, I think it was reasonably successful.  Here it is from the side, showing the side pleats:

My pleats are held together at the waist with two little ties.

And here it is from the front.  As you can see, it could use an underskirt to help it keep its shape:

It does, however, have the flat, A-line shape that we see in Minoan art.  Here's my inspiration picture again for comparison:

Bronze female figure Cretan Late Minoan I 1600-1450 BCE Metropolitan Museum
Late Minoan bronze figure, image from Pinterest.

I think my pattern does a pretty good job of replicating the sculpture's skirt, but of course I'm biased.

Like the original, my reconstruction sits slightly south of the dummy's natural waist (though you can't really tell with the loose heanos underneath), and I found this was really helpful in terms of getting the thing on and off.  The original has no visible closure, but it would be easy to conceal a slit in one of the pleats and the ties holding it shut would be hidden under the belt.

Speaking of the belt, I've photographed mine with a strip of wool tied around it to emulate the rolled belt Minoans wore with their side-pleated skirts:

What would I do differently in future?

If I was making this skirt again I would make the side pleats deeper - probably 10cm instead of 5cm.  As I mentioned before, the skirt also needs more structure.  This could be done by wearing it over an underskirt, but if it was made of heavier, stiffer fabric an underskirt might not be necessary.  I don't think it would need a boned undergarment like a farthingale or panniers.

The Challenge: Alternate Universe

Fabric: 2.5 meters of purple coat-weight wool.

Pattern: I drafted it myself based on various Minoan bronze and clay figurines.

Year: 1600 to 1450 BCE.

Notions: Linen thread.

How historically accurate is it?  As this is a speculative reconstruction, it's hard to say.  It's reasonable to assume the original was made from wool and of course it would have been hand-sewn, but otherwise there isn't a lot to go on.  My fabric is machine-woven, but I doubt it's all that different from Minoan fabrics.

There's no way of knowing whether the colour I chose is appropriate for one of these skirts.  I chose it because I like it, and because the Minoans liked purple too.  Purple cloth was apparently being produced on an industrial scale in Minoan times*, so purple cloth would have been available.  However, this garment had ceremonial significance and it's possible there were rules about what colour it should be.

Hours to complete: About 5 hours.

First worn: Directly after pleating it, to see how it drapes.

Total cost: $52.

* Apostolakou, V. et al,  2012, ‘The Minoan Settlement on Chryssi and its Murex Dye Industry’ in Kosmos pp 179-182
Barber, E. 1991, Prehistoric Textiles.
Brogan, T.M. et al, 2012, ‘The Purple Dye Industry of Eastern Crete’ in Kosmos pp 187-192

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