This morning, as I was getting ready to go to an event, I had an epiphany on headgear.
To be fair, I had been stressing over proper headgear and if all else failed, I was just going to stick a couple veils on my head and just be done with it. Until, well, I put a turban on my head, stuck a veil on it, and remarkably, it worked.
Many icons of Mary Theotokos have her veiled with a rather, well, bulbous head. There’s not really a nice way to put it. Her head is not a typical shape for humans. Thankfully, this mosaic shows the wrap under her veil – a wrap that looks an awful lot like a turban.
There has been some discussion on other blogs on the shape of headrails, veils, and other things that go on the head. Some have stated that there’s no way a rectangular veil could have lots of pleating as shown in paintings. Of course the caveat goes that we don’t have photographs to base how things were worn, but we do a few have artistic renditions. We have extant looms. At the end of the day, though, we have few visual records due to Iconoclasm, so we are always conjecturing and experimenting and trying things out. Also, this looks quite a bit like the headcovering of the ladies of Theodora’s court, only with a more sheer fabric to show the hair coiffed and curled and pinned into place, and not a round donut of fabric.
At any rate, the process is simple. I braided my hair into a low bun (two dutch braids gathered together and wrapped together and held in place with a few Spin Pins – while these aren’t period, they work), and then made a turban to go over this. The turban was made from a bit of a cotton sari, which is light and fairy breathable, and was big enough to wrap around my head. It also looks quite a bit like the white wrap around Mary Theotokos’ head, just in coloured form. To make the turban, take the rectangle of fabric, put it on your head and gather the long bits around the back, making sure that the fabric is pulled taut against the forehead. Make sure your hair is covered, and then start twisting the excess fabric. Once most of the fabric is twisted, take the twist and wrap it around your head as tight as you can personally stand. You will then tuck the end into the rest of the twists.
After this, take a pashmina or a piece of fabric with similar dimensions (it’s recommended that you have a shorter width than the length, and place the selvedge edge of the middle of the fabric on your head. Wrap the ends around your neck and over your shoulder.It doesn’t nicely pleat at this length/width, but I tried this same technique with a much larger piece of wool gauze, which gave a better effect.
This appearance of Mary is great for early and mid and I want to say *late*, but don’t quote me on that.
What did I learn here? That it’s possible to create a look for pretty inexpensively. Two, that it’s relatively easy, and that just the idea of adding headgear completes the look. And three: did I mention it was cheap and easy?
So, there you go. Want to be lazy and not worry about your hair (too much)? Try this out for your Byzantine persona, especially if you’re going for a persona from the 6th to late 9th centuries.