Thursday, June 16, 2011

Research tips

When I was working on my undergraduate history degree my thesis adviser gave me lots of good advice.  In addition to "Alcohol lubricates the brain" the other tidbit that has stuck with me and proved to be invaluable is "serendipity is your most valuable research tool."  She was right then, I found many of my most helpful source material shelved next to the book I was actually looking for, and it's still true now in the internet age.  A case in point...

Back in collage when I was active in the SCA the first time around (in Berkeley) I came across a picture of a tomb brass in a book of a lady in a funny loose gown with buttons all down the front, a silly hat, and a little dog.  This gown fascinated me and seemed terribly comfortable for camping, so I worked with one of the local Laurels to come up with a plausible period method of drafting the pattern and made the dress.  Soon after that I stopped playing and put the dress away.  When I became active again, I pulled the dress out, but was unwilling to wear such an odd style without having the documentation for it to hand.  I just couldn't remember where I had seen the picture, who it was of, or any details about it, nor could I find it in any of my own books.  None of the research geeks in my new group had any ideas either when I tried to describe it, so I stuffed the dress away and moved on.

I was surfing around last night looking for images of cloaks and mantles, specifically 14th and 15th century cloaks and mantles, and I came across this site on 14th century ladies fashion, mostly from tomb monuments and brasses.  Scrolling down the page, what do I happen upon but Lady Maylns, from Chinnor Church in Oxfordshir!  The very same tomb brass that inspired my weird gown!  Yay!  So now I can wear my funny loose over gown with all the buttons again, and have yet another excuse to make a frilled veil. 

Score another one for serendipity. 

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