Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ren Faire and the Garb Snark: A Treatise on How to Play Well with Others

I belong to a Yahoo! Group for Margo Anderson's Patterns. I would dearly, dearly love to own Margo's patterns, as they are the Holy Grail of the Elizabethan Costuming world, but they are too expensive for me right now (car, car, car). Clothing made with her patterns is head and shoulders above the rest, and stands out from the crowd.

Now, awhile ago, last week before I even left for Nebraska, there was an ongoing thread about Garb Snarks/Authenticity Mavens (and another nasty name which I will not share here). People were sharing stories about being snarked, and how awful it made them feel when they were first starting out to have their lovely-to-them garb cut to pieces by someone who thought she knew it all. Many of them were so incensed that they flung themselves into research to prove the snarks wrong (and some did indeed prove the GS very wrong). People were sharing witty comebacks, stories of helping others who were snarked, and so on.

But then things started getting ugly.

A certain person kept trying to get the last word in, basically telling the people who had been snarked, and stood up for themselves, backed up with research, that they were the rude ones, and that the snarks were only trying to help.

Except they usually aren't being helpful so much as wanting to appear superior to the newbies, or even more experienced costumers. I doubt anyone would mistake a nasty comment in a snide tone of voice for a helpful suggestion.

It really made me sad that a lovely, helpful listserv degenerated into a slugfest over who was right and who was wrong. It is a fact that there are people (women, usually) who take it upon themselves to be the authority on garb, even if they don't know a quarter of what they think they know.

Things get passed around as gospel, with no sources to back up the "truth," and the myths are perpetuated among the ren-faire/SCA world for decades sometimes. But some people hear it once, and never think to question it, even when the truth is staring them in the face (i.e. portraits and other paintings).

I had a great time talking about costuming with some of the other ladies at the Nebraska Faire. I saw a lot of garb that wasn't "period correct" but everyone looked like they were having a wonderful time, so who cares? Nicer people I have never met!!!! I saw some ideas I want to test, for comfort, as well as a gorgeous Margo worn by Lady Giles, who was nice enough to explain to people the clothing she was wearingm and the purpose of it. And yes, she was very accurately gowned (in a Margo!), and did not stint on the accessories (I recognized a Sapphire and Sage girdle, and other jewels).

Now, not everyone can afford to dress noble. And honestly, it is a LOT of fun being a Pirate/Privateer. So much, that I will probably only do the noble thing if I am paid very well by others to do it for them, or for a costume party where I want to feel gorgeous and win the prize.

Was I period correct for this faire? Heck no!!! But I like my costume quite a bit. I know that I can sew gorgeous gowns, but when I put on a ladies gown, my personality changes to match. Faire is more fun as a pirate - trust me!!!!

So, to all of the snarks and the snarked... count to ten before you speak. If you want to help someone, make sure that they WANT to be helped first. I would never comment on a person's garb unless I saw that it had been ripped, in which case I would offer my help and a sewing kit to fix it pronto. People go to faire to feel good, not to be perfectly accurate. How much fun would the faire be without pirates, Saxons, trolls, fairies, and the like?

Not fun at all.


Kimba said...

hi! Stumbled across your blog today, and found it very interesting...though I have to disagree with you. RenFaires would be sooooo much better without fairies, trolls, and other fantasy characters (including pirates that are dressed in the wrong century) running around. The point is to entertain AND educate. People in the USA have such little knowledge of history to begin with, why perpetuate myths and fantasies when history is so interesting on its own? And while some people do get extreme about criticizing others sewing, if they have the knowledge & talent to back it up, do they have the right? Just my 2 cents (...from someone who has been a performer and management with renaissance faires fo 14 years.)

jennifer said...

I prefer the term "privateer" to pirate, as there were privateers employed by monarchs to raid other contries ships during the renaissance (which covers many years, across many cultures).

I like the fairies and trolls. They are legends and folk tales come to life, and their stories were part of the culture we are attempting to portray. Faires and Festivals are not strictly for adults, and the fairies and pirates are part of what brings people back, in addition to the "history".

The faires would be a duller place without the fantasy aspect...