|Diagram from Timothy Dawson*, modified to show my planned design|
Recently, I had an idea for solving this problem.
I have a number of scraps of dark blue linen available from my fitted wraparound apron dress project. It occurred to me that I could piece together enough of the scraps to make a strip long enough to go around the neckline and sleeves, and down the opening slit of the himation. If I make this strip wide enough (perhaps three or four inches wide), I could just run a piece of the store-bought trim down the center of the strip around the sleeves, and down the slit at the neckline. The part of the neckline that curves would be ornamented only with the blue linen, which should be easy to conform smoothly to the curve.
This idea was inspired indirectly by an article in the following book, which I obtained through interlibrary loan:
Garland, Lynda, Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200 (Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2006).This book contains an article by Timothy Dawson, author of the Levantia website, about women's costume in the Middle Byzantine period. His photographs of reconstructed costumes on the Levantia site inspired my Byzantine costume in the first place, and I have wanted to read Professor Dawson's article in the Garland book* for quite a while. It is fortunate that I finally obtained the book before proceeding with the tunic, because the Dawson article contained several relevant pieces of information of which I'd previously been unaware.
First, it's by no means clear that I should be calling the garment I have in mind a himation. Apparently Middle Byzantine clothing terminology, particularly for women's clothing, is far from unambiguous. Terms for an outer tunic include himation, esophorion, roukhon, hypokamision, while delmatikion (from dalmatica), refers most often to the type of tunic with wide-ended hanging sleeves. Dawson's essay in the Garland book uses esophorion most often for an overtunic with narrow wrist-length sleeves.
Second, it is Professor Dawson's hypothesis that the Manazan tunic belonged to a male. He bases this conclusion--reasonably, in my opinion--upon its shortness (given that it was apparently worn as outerwear) and upon the shortness of the slit giving access to the neckhole. Eva Andersson has made a 12th century outfit with a similar slit for a similar purpose, since she was nursing her infant at the time; pictures of her outfit and her description of how she made it can be found here.
Third, part of the support for Professor Dawson's hypothesis that the Manazan shirt belonged to a male is that the neckslit associated was very short; it was only big enough to allow the head to pass through. He maintains, quite reasonably, that in an age where all but the highest-ranking people owned few changes of clothing, all women's gowns needed to be able to accommodate a pregnancy and the nursing period that would inevitably follow. Professor Dawson observes that these constraints dictated that women's gowns be relatively loose in the body, with very long neckslits to accommodate breast feeding infants. The sketch above, which comes from Professor Dawson's essay in the Garland book, shows the three types of neckline slit that he believes were likely to have been used for women's garments, namely: (1) a slit along the left shoulder; (2) a deep slit down the center; and (3) a deep slit down the left front of the body. These locations are marked on the diagram as "A", "B", and "C" respectively.
I don't intend to re-make my Manazan-style shirt now, partly because I still want to be able to continue to wear it after all of the hand-stitching it took to make and partly because, as an undergarment, its neckslit won't be seen when the shirt is worn under another tunic and I am old enough not to need to accommodate pregnancy or nursing activities. But I can make my esophorion consistent with Dawson's ideas, as his research contains the best information presently available to me on the subject.
I originally thought to place the slit for the neckline along the left shoulder. That would still be consistent with Professor Dawson's ideas, but gives me less ability to display the trim I purchased for decoration, particularly if I don't place the trim along the neckline curve as well as beside the slit. On the other hand, use of a long slit down the front of the tunic will showcase the trim nicely. I think the left-side option labeled "C" is the most attractive option, so I will adopt it instead of the on-the-shoulder placement. On the diagram above, I have highlighted the places on the tunic that I will ornament. The light blue highlighting represents the blue linen I will use, while the dark lines represent placement of my store-bought trim.
The Dawson sketch suggests that the long neckline slits extended down to, if not past, the waistline. I don't see why such a long slit would be necessary. Even if I needed to accommodate nursing a baby while wearing the tunic, a slit that ended an inch or two above my waist would be more than ample to allow me to pull my breast free (if duplicated on both shift and tunic, that is) and would be less likely to gape when the top of the slit is fastened closed. I have already found a bead to use to close the slit at neck level.
I expect to be out of town for a week starting November 7, but hopefully I can begin cutting and sewing either this weekend or soon after my return. If I run into further design issues, I expect to blog about them. Watch this space for new developments!
* Dawson, Timothy. "Propriety, Practicality and Pleasure: the Parameters of Women's Dress in Byzantium, A.D. 1000-1200", in Garland, Lynda, Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200, pp. 41-75 (Ashgate Publishing Ltd., 2006).