Saturday, August 2, 2014

A nice tunic solves everything.

As I've said in recent posts, I love Camlann Medieval Village. They have a terrific location, the look and feel of the place is very inviting, clean, and period-appropriate, and the people are friendly. Going there is a treat, but...

You knew there was going to be a "but", didn't you. I just have one thing I'd like to discuss.

Right as you enter the town gate, there's a clothier. To quote the website: "Here mayest thou rent medieval clothing to wear while during thy visit to Camlann.", and there are many visitors, mostly children, who take advantage of this opportunity to dress up. The great majority of the clothing offered looks like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Disney character clothing: synthetic fabrics, velvet cloaks, and princess dresses abound.

Children love dressing up, and I believe that young visitors would be happy to dress in a linen tunic. Clothing was just as important back then as it is now, and talking about the clothing that people wore would be educational and interesting to kids. A tunic would easily go over (and cover) the child's modern clothes. Add a simple belt and a hood or hat and you have a very nice outfit.

I feel they're doing kids a huge disservice by providing fantasy costumes instead of period clothing. It would be akin to the inn serving "ye olde chicken nuggets" on the menu. If you want to show what the middle ages were like by inviting guests to experience living history, providing nylon capes and plastic crowns is a huge failure.

And this ties in to the other issue I have -- volunteers in odd clothing. The parking lot attendents when we went were wearing modern clothing. That's fine for the parking lot, I suppose, though it would be nice if they had a shirt with "Camlann" or "Staff" on it so they look like they work there. I thought the woman pointing out where to park was just another visitor until she yelled at us.  There were a few volunteers on the archery range that looked like they were wearing LARP fantasy gear: leather tunics with lacing at the neck and tall leather moccasins. There are dresses made out of cotton upholstery fabric. You see a lot of circlets with flowers on them, or tulle draped off the back like a veil. Dave says Camlann's probably just happy to have volunteers and can't really make too many demands on what they wear. But again, by letting them wear these inaccurate clothes, Camlann is presenting a very distorted impression of what the middle ages were like. I can't imagine the people that run Camlann sit around and say "Well, most of our visitors don't know what medieval clothing actually looks like, so it's okay to wear whatever."

Tunics are so easy to make! One can easily be finished in an hour or two if sewn on machine -- I'm not even going to argue that they should be handsewn, that would be awesome but a bit much to expect for loaner costumes, I suppose. I can't think of any reason why there can't be a closet full of assorted tunics provided to make sure that volunteers look reasonably accurate in their portrayals.  This isn't a fun fair-- it's meant to be a living history museum. I think that carries with it a certain obligation for accuracy, and it's up to Camlann to hold to a standard -- especially if they are receiving grants or other financial help by promoting themselves as an educational enterprise.

I've decided I'm going to contact Camlann with my concerns, and see what they have to say. I have a closet full of scrap wool and linen; perhaps I can donate a few tunics to help their clothier offer more period-appropriate choices.

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