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In June 2017, I had the honour of stepping up as Queen of Drachenwald with a good friend, Duke Siridean. Siridean graciously offered to dress in 7th Century Persian garb for Our Coronation. This page will briefly discuss the research and design process of this clothing.
The Coronation clothing worn by Siridean Shah and myself was a true testament to the artisans of Drachenwald. Many attendees have commented to me this is the first time they have seen a couple step up in Persian clothing. I have received many wonderful questions about Sasanid clothing. I have gladly taken the suggestion to write this article for the Dragon’s Tale and all who are interested in Sasanian clothing.
The planning for this clothing started within days of Crown Tournament. The creation of the clothing was an effort undertaken by 16 artisans. Mistress Rogned travelled to my home, where we spent a full weekend looking over my documentation of Sasanian (3rd-7th C Persian) clothing, shopping for gems, and discussing fabric and color choices. Unfortunately, there are few extant pieces available for study, but thankfully there is a wealth of silverworks that depict noble men and women alike. One such silverwork is a silver plate held at the Freer-Sackler Gallery in Washington D.C. I had the opportunity to study and photograph this plate myself in 2005. The Museum now has a photo of the item available online. The museum’s photo and further documentation of the plate can be found at here.
Photo credit EM Jones
The plate above depicts what is commonly believed to be a Royal Couple celebrating their Coronation. They wear not only Crowns, but caps with distinctive decoration. The many coins that survive from various reigns depict each King and a few Queen’s with a distinct crown and head wear known as Kulah (Goldman, Tafazzouli). Each Persian King had a distinct Kulah that he designed; this allowed his subjects to easily identify his image on coins and other art. The Kulah is the traditional Persian hat which in it’s most basic form was worn by many Persians, but only high-ranking nobles had such highly decorated Kulahs (Houston, 1954).
As the source is a silver carving, it is not clear how the hats are made, we proposed that the circular bits could be hair coming out of the hats, or that the entire hat could be made of wool with flowing ribbons coming off the back. Some of the tufts depicted on this style hat are drawn as circles made of spirals, which would suggest curly hair teased out of the hat. Goldman (1997) also wrote in his article that the decorations on the top of these hats could be hair or felted wool decoration. Mistress Rogned tested the felted wool theory for Our hats.
When we were looking at the above plate, Mistress Rogned noticed the drape of the fabric was such that suggested the ends might be decorated with metal plates. This was supported by a decorative metal plates held at the Freer-Sackler Galleries. These plates are listed as clothing decotration. We purchase some brass plates, which Mistress Rogned tested. She was not satisfied with her initial tests and decide to pleat the ribbons on these hats. We plan to further test the theory that the ends of these ribbons may have been decorated with metal plates.
Goldman (1997, a scholar on pre-Islamic costumes, identified a variety of women’s clothing items seen in the coins, stone carvings and silverworks he studied. Among these items were robes, as seen on the above plate. I have counted the various clothing items in the Goldman plates and other extant items I have studied in museums. In comparing the frequency of robes versus other outer garments worn by Sasanian women, I found that only noblewomen are depicted wearing robes. Sasanian noblemen, especially Kings are usually depicted wearing said robes.
This may be explained by the custom of Kings and Queens bestowing robes of honor to worthy nobles (Houston, 1954). These robes would be given by a king to someone he highly respected or owed a debt of gratitude (Houston, 1954). Nobles also gave these robes as a sign of fealty between noble and student (Houston, 1954). These robes are described as being highly decorated and were only worn by nobles whom the king or high-ranking officials had bestowed the privilege upon
(Houston, 1954). We chose to include a set of Robes of Honor to be bestowed by Our predecessors as a symbol of Our duty to lead Our Kingdom to prosperity and to foster the arts and sciences.
A number of riding coats were found in Egypt and dated by Tilke (1922) to Sassanid Persia. These coats have a unique construction with no side seams. I have tested the cut of these extant riding coats, as well as using geometric construction for these coats. I find the overall silhouette of the two methods to be quite similar. I believe the riding coats were cut specifically for sitting on a horse and therefore requested my Court Robes of Honor be cut using geometric construction. I am happy to share examples of the riding coats and the coats I have made using the different methods with any interested artisans. His Majesty asked to use a robe that was made for Him by the artisans of Lochac during his second reign. As it is also an early period style robe, it is a very similar style to the Persian robes.
Our tunics are also inspired by the silver plate. They are made of silk cloth. My tunic is purple because purple and red were the colours of the Persian nobility and military (Tafazzouli, 2000). I wanted to include not only the authentic colours for 7th C Persian nobility but also the Kingdom colours. This drove the choice of His Majesty’s tunic and my robe.
There are tunics visible under the robes in the silver plate above. The woman’s tunic appears to have quite a full skirt and has an oval pattern all over the gown. There are a number of ways this pattern could have been achieved in this period; many samitum (a weft-faced block patterned cloth, similar to damask) fabrics woven with an all-over pattern, have been found, extant descriptions of Persian Kings and Queens describe their garments as heavily jeweled, and I have studied one extant child’s garment from Egypt held in the Clothworkers Centre, London in which the all over pattern was created through resist dyeing. Since Mistress Rogned is an accomplished beader, we chose the jewel-encrusted method for achieving this design. Fortunately, we found a source of gemstones that was having a clearance sale, so I was able to afford amethyst, aventurine, and agate beads. We chose these gemstones because they were a good colour combination for what we were planning and they are native to the lands held by the Sassanid Persians.
I have been using geometric construction for many years. This is based on an extant kirtle and the efficient way that this method uses cloth. The extant kirtle, held in the Neues Museum, Berlin, found in an Egyptian grave, is cited as being of Persian design, dated to the 6th Century (Tilke, 1922).
The King’s trousers and boots can clearly be seen on the silver plate above. The Sasanian Persians also apparently had a taste for long flowing ribbons tied in bows that they attached to headdresses, shoes and any other feasible location (Houston, 1954). Mistress Rogned used the decorations shown on the Persian Kings boots on His Majesty’s trousers to give a similar look. His Majesty’s trousers were made from an existing pattern that He finds comfortable.
Belts were almost exclusively worn by men and Queens because they are a sign of a bond between the wearer and the person who bestowed the wearer with the belt (Encyclopedia Iranica, Belts; 2003). The term used is karma band meaning literally “waist bond” (Encyclopedia Iranica, Belts; 2003). However, women were sometimes depicted wearing belts, though girdles (which are worn higher on the torso) are more common for women (Encyclopedia Iranica, Belts; 2003). These girdles are described as a ribbon high on the torso, with two loops that are pulled through a circular clasp (Encyclopedia Iranica, Belts; 2003). Kings and Queens are often depicted wearing a ribbon tied in a bow around their waist (Encyclopedia Iranica, Belts; 2003). Finally, some nobles are depicted wearing a ribbon belt that is held on by a double clasp (Encyclopedia Iranica, Belts; 2003). I have seen extant remains of belt fittings that are believed to have gone on a man’s leather belt. However, most Sasanian royals are depicted wearing belts that are tied with large bows and the ends appear to float. This suggests the belts were made of rather light, drapey fabric.
The use of belts to signify a bond is the inspirations behind Our use of belts with Our Coronation clothing. We used Our belts to signify the bond between Ourselves and Our Court. We feel this bond very strongly and it is of the utmost significance to Us.
This article on Our Coronation clothing would not be complete without acknowledging a large number of artisans who worked to make this clothing possible. The real honour of these garments comes from the time these gentles spent making it for Us. We would like to thank everyone who worked on our Coronation clothing: Mistress Rogned, Duchess Groa, Lady Elisendre, Lord Eldgrimr, Lady Marina, Cúchulainn, Lord Oliver, Viscountess Susannah, Lady Emer of Kingeslake, Kitte of Kingeslake, Earl William, Countess Isabetta, Lady Pernell, Lady Gytha, Lady Maebhe of Eplaheimr, Emelina of Corofin.
Encyclopedia Iranica. (2003) Belts. Retrieved from http://iranica.com/ on December 20, 2003. pp 130-136.
Goldman, B. (1997) Woman's Robing in the Sasanian Era. Iranica Antiqua. vol. 32. Gent.
Houston, Mary G. (1954). Ancient Persian Costume. A Technical History of Costume: Ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Persian Costume. Vol. 2. Adam & Charles Black. London.
Jones, E Studies at the Freer-Sackler Galleries. Washington, DC.
Tafazzouli, A. (2000). Sasanian Society. Center for Middle Eastern Studies: Harvard University. Bibliotheca Persica. New York.
Tilke, M.(1922) Costume Patterns and Designs. Rizzoli. New York. 2nd Ed.
Jones, E. Sasanian Clothing. http://www.thepurplelotus.org/costuming/sasanian-clothing Please note this article is still in the process of being revised.
Jones, E. Sasanian Women’s Dress. http://www.thepurplelotus.org/sasanianwomensclothing