Garb/Clothing Myths of the SCA


  Myths about:




Myth: Pink isn't Period

Facts: There are numourous examples of pink garb throughout the SCA period.

Pink dyes can be produced on natural fibres using a variety of methods, including madder.

One point of confusion is that pink as a word wasn't used to describe the colour until mid-17th century (Mirriam-Webster Online). Other terms such as carnation (in English) were used. (Submitted by Sarah)

There are lichens that produce very bright magenta pinks, when fermented with ammonia, and these were traditionally used in *at least* Britain. And I believe safflowers can produce a bright, bubblegum pink. (Submitted by Sinech)

14th Century German:

Early 15th Century France:

Early 15th Century Florence

Late 15th Century Florence:

Mid 16th Century Florence

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Myth: Orange isn't period


In an Icelandic manuscript from Stjórn there is a depiction of a man in an orange tunic. The manuscript is dated to ca 1350 an it is heavily influenced by english contemporary work. There is also a woman with a yellow dress , with what seems to be an orange sash and a dark pink cloak, lined with blue. On another picture there's a screaming orange cloak worn together with a green tunica. Source: "Illumination in a manuscript from Stjórn", by Selma Jónsdóttir, colour plate IV and VI (Submitted by Eva).

Madder - Rubia tinctorium has been used for many years to produce a variety of colours of dyes. Roots are the source of the best and most enduring red/orange dye for wool, cotton, linen, and silk. Roots and leaves of this traditional dye plant yield pink, red, orange and brown dyes depending on the mordant used.

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Myth: Linen isn't Period

Facts: Linen is one of the earliest woven fibres used by man and the earliest plant based fibre. It has been in common use since earliest times and many examples exist from earliest Egyptian times.

Some more info:

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Myth: Wool isn't Period

Facts: It is, alas, uncertain who was responsible for looking at a sheep and realizing that its fleece might be useful. The earliest dated surviving textile, found in a Danish bog, originates from 1500 BC, while the oldest fine woolen fabric dates to the fifth century BC and was found in a Greek colony. (

In the tombs and ruins of Egypt, Nineveh, and Babylon, in the barrows of early Britons, and among the relics of the Peruvians, fragments of woolen fabrics are found. The Romans as early as 200 BC began to improve their flocks, which became the progenitors of the famed Spanish Merino sheep . The Britons kept sheep and wove wool long before the Roman invasion, but the establishment by the Romans of a factory at Winchester probably improved their methods. William the Conqueror brought into England skilled Flemish weavers. Henry II encouraged wool industries by laws, cloth fairs, and guilds of weavers. Edward III brought weavers, dyers, and fullers from Flanders. (

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Myth: Buttons aren't period


Buttons have been known to exist as far back as the Bronze age when they were worn as ornamentation. They were used to decorate belts and other metal objects. Primitive man used thorn and sinew to hold clothing together. Bone stick pins were also used. With the introduction of metals came metal pins.

The Eqyptians used cloth ties and broaches or buckles to hold their clothes together.

The Greeks and Romans are thought to have worn buttons to actually fasten clothes.

The 13th century saw form-fitting clothes come into vogue and buttons became necessary as fasteners.

For a long time buttons were a status symbol and men competed to see who could have the best, the largest or the most intricate buttons. They were used by the nobility and made of silver and gold. Buttons were made with exquisite paintings on them. They were carved, inlaid, stamped and covered. Craftsmen were hired just to make buttons.

Francis I (1494-1547) had 13,600 gold buttons on a single costume. (

English 12th-15th Century

The Museum of London books (Textiles and Clothing, Dress Accessories), are all based on finds in the London area, from 1150-1450. According to the Textiles and Clothing book, pg 168, buttons were introduced during the first half of the 13th century, when they were used more for ornament than fastening. By the early years of the 14th century this changed, and buttons were used widely and sometimes extravagantly... such as using 46 cloth buttons in a space of 315mm. (Submitted by ...)

People in Herjolfsnes (originally Vikings, later Norse) were also using cloth buttons at the same time... around the 14th century. In a translation of Poul Norlund's 1936 study on the findings there, a knee-length man's dress used buttons up the front. (Submitted by ..)

Brief History of Buttons by Century -

Extant Examples:

  • Irish bog finds - the Moy gown - buttons to the waist, and buttonholes on the arms.(14th-16th Century) -
  • The Kilcommon costume find contains fabric buttons as well. In similar finds, found early buttons made of silver wire balled up. Used as closures. (16th-17th Century) -
  • Burwell, Cambridgeshire: In 1867 a Bronze Age hoard was found in Hallard's Fen about one mile northeast of Reach. It consisted of 11 socketed axes, 2 chisels, 3 gouges, a hammer, 5 knives, 2 swords, a chape, 7 socketed spearheads, 6 buttons [emphasis by M.N], 2 bugle shaped objects and a number of rings and other items.
  • Newcastle upon Tyne Journal (17 December 1997 p19): `High-class burial' - Eight 4,000-year-old bodies have been found at the Ingleby Barwick site which is being developed. One of the burials appears to have been a woman of high-status as she was buried in garments fastened by jet buttons [my emphasis - M.N.] and with bronze cylinder beads and ribbed bronze bracelets. The burial was covered by a mound topped with a timber structure. (Submitted by Margaret N)

Myth: Pastels aren't period


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Myth: Buckles aren't period


Buckles of various forms have been used for centuries. While styles et may change, they have been in use.



Myth: Illuminated Manuscripts Don't Really Reflect Clothing Colours

Facts: One dye used to create two colours often said not to be period (pink and orange) is madder. This dye was also used in the art of illumination. It was prepared the same way it is for dyeing. A piece of linen was overdyed and small pieces of the fabric was put in a small dish. When the artist wanted to use that color they used a little water to get some color out and
then it was mixed with a binder.(
So there is a direct connection between what is seen in manuscripts and available dye colors. (Submitted by Slaine)


Contact Details

Have you ever been told that something you spent hours making isn't period? Did you do research to double check and found that you were right? Share the knowledge - send me your most annoying myth and what you found to debunk it. Full credit will be given.

Jane of Stockon - [email protected]

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