To become a full member of the Lethbridge Medieval Club you will need to develop at least one complete medieval portrayal, which must be approved by the club vigilation team. The following is intended to be a guide on how to start and what you need in order to become “vigilated”:
The “Stop Light” Principle
It can be difficult to tell what is actually medieval, versus what isn't. Unfortunately, modern media does a terrible job of relating historical accuracy to entertainment – there are very, very few historically accurate movies, games, books, or other forms of entertainment out there. At the very least, you will be looking through museum collections and academic books for your references. The club also has a pinterest page, complete with many pre-vetted examples of medieval artifacts. None
of these remove your own responsibility for thinking critically about the suitability of your sources – beware the Dunning-Kruger effect!
Any time you are looking at something and wondering whether or not it might be medieval, it can be useful to classify it, using the same colours as a stop light:
Green is 100% medieval. No question. An extant, dated museum artifact from right in the middle of the middle ages, would be green.
Yellow is probably medieval. A manuscript illustration might be yellow – there are some artistic conventions that need consideration, whenever looking at a medieval drawings or paintings – medieval artists often depict things in their own contemporary styles, regardless of what the artwork is about.
Red is probably not medieval. Modern reproductions are generally red, regardless of quality. They might even be decent (or excellent) reproductions, but any reproduction is never as good as an extant artifact.
Black (or no colour) is definitely out of the scope of the LMC. Anything hollywood or mainstream entertainment is generally black. This includes computer games, tabletop RPGs, and fantasy novels, with only a few exceptions.
New members should try to start out “in the green” - branching into the late or early middle ages only after mastering a firm grasp of what is DEFINITELY medieval. Those early/late eras can be very interesting and rewarding to explore, but they are NOT a place for beginners to start.
Here are some other examples of the stop light principle, applied to various topics. Note how dates don't necessarily all line up as one might expect. The middle ages were complicated:
When putting together a portrayal, you want something that is as homogenous in time and place as possible. We do not mix items from western and eastern Europe without good evidence that it was done. Likewise, we do not mix early medieval clothing with late. Copying an outfit from primary (extant artifacts) or secondary (manuscript illustrations) sources makes it much easier to keep all of the items of your kit coherent and practical.
What you wear is also related to the social class you are portraying. The LMC does not restrict social class portrayals, so you can choose to portray an insanely wealthy monarch, but your clothing and material culture must back it up! For your first outfit, the best place to start is something simple, which makes it easier to add to or change, if another time and place in the middle ages strikes your interest.
How you put your outfit together is up to you, but as final advice, consider this: It is far easier to do your research ahead of time and then build your kit, than it is to build a kit and then come up with a plausible (or, for that matter, ridiculous) back-story to explain it! Remember that we are exploring what actually happened before our time, and if we end up getting TOO creative in our re-creations, we cease to study history, and instead pursue works of fantasy.
Some members prefer to choose a historical event or period that interests them and build their portrayal accordingly. Others take a more material approach, and select their time, place, and social position around fashion or armour that they find attractive. Still others base their role, garb, and period around skills and knowledge they want to explore. At the end of the day, provided your concept is cohesive and based in fact, there is no right or wrong path to follow when deciding who you want to be.
There is Value in the Typical
As you add to your portrayal, it is important to keep with items that were known to be common in your chosen timeframe. You can have items that would be considered exotic or out of place for your place, time, social station, but you should have a plausible explanation for your choice, and you should also be able to explain why it is unusual. Finally, you should also not have more than one (at most, two) unusual or exotic items on your person. In Re-enactment, there is value in portraying the typical.
For more information on this, Ian LaSpina of Knyght Errant has a very good article on the subject:
Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile - raising the bar only encourages others to do the same. Provided you have the resources to back it up, the whole club benefits when members up the ante!