People have been pregnant all throughout history. How did they stay clothed?!
A Quick Note
Remember that clothing was expensive in period. Unlike in modernity, a full “maternity wardrobe” would have been simply too expensive to have. Many pieces of clothing needed to, inherently, be bump/nursing-proof. Unless you’re joining the SCA now and have no garb on hand, see what happens with your current wardrobe and adjust/augment as necessary.
What To Look For
Each time period and geographical location had ways of accommodating a belly/nursing, but some are easier/more inventive than others. Some things to look for when researching your options:
- Split front garments – Not only is this critical for nursing a child, but it allows you ease as your body grows. There are a few ways to think of enclosures:
- Lacing – Just because the illuminations of the period show the fronts touching all the time doesn’t mean they did so in practice! Lacing allows for structure as well as ease.
- Pins – Safety pins and their predecessors have many uses. These can be used in shifts underneath looser garments for extra modesty if needed.
- Clasps/hooks – Less fiddly than pins or lacing and an easy alteration to existing garments
- Adding Split Opportunity – Look at your current garb and see where splits can be made to accommodate while also feeling good
- Don’t overlook side panels! It may be a good option, depending on the construction of your existing garment
In no particular order, here are some popular styles (though it is a limited list – please email the Chancellor Minor with your suggestions to add here!:
- Celtic Bog Dress/Roman Chiton (early period) – For summer wear, these are light and easily accommodating for both a belly and nursing (and regulating body heat at summer events). The construction is a loose tube that is then belted to give shape. It can easily be belted above and/or below a growing belly. Further, the fastenings at the shoulder can be pinned for easy access in nursing.
- European Cotehardie (mid period) – Don’t be fooled! The kirtle, for common women, was most often fastened up the front and is known to be form fitting. Though the front is meant to meet in the center, there is nothing wrong with showing a bit of the shift through some laces that won’t quite finish lacing across the bust or belly. The kirtle (that you may already have) may still fit for quite some time. To augment this garment, you can consider:
- Sideless Surcote – This will cover your front and hide that your laces aren’t quite fitting. A belt can then be worn as needed over or through the cote. Side openings are then helpful for easy access.
- Burgundian Cote – This garment, similar to the Sideless Surcote, can cover a kirtle whose laces don’t come together but with much less fitting. This garment is known for volumous panels that can then be pleated and belted with an empire waist. If you want to be a little extra, this is a great option. (This style was actually developed after the Plague as pregnancy was in vogue to repopulate Europe!)
- Italian Tabard Dress – Another great option for covering some gaping laces. This style is as if the Sideless Surcote and Burgundian Cote merged together. It is effectively a very long rectangle with a space cut out for the head. It can be worn loose or belted in any number of ways.
The Bottom Line
All throughout the SCA period, babies were born and fabric was expensive. See where your garb can be altered and where your comfort level is. Be lenient with yourself!
If you have any lived experiences that would be helpful in this list, email the Chancellor Minor at firstname.lastname@example.org.