Im into historical reenactment and and a member of a "knights brotherhood" (couldnt find a percise translation of the term "bractwo rycerskie").

We are trying to recreate the material culture of the past, in our particular case, XIV and XV centuries. We are trying to be as accurate as possible, basing our reconstructions on academic papers and articles, archeological findings etc. We encounter big problems tho.

Findings of complete set of clothes or armor, especially from day to day use are practically non-existant. Most of what we have are single items scatterd around whole europe, often partial, half rusted/rotted away. Iconography and statuses from those times can be misleading, often are symbolic, we dont know what is a true depiction and what is just the artists fantasy.

This makes making a complete reconstruction very hard. We often "borrow" elements of garments or equipments from slightly different places or times ti fill in the blank holes. We also have problems with the "popularity" of certain solutions. For example, we may see a soldier in hourglass gauntlets on an icon. Still, we have o problem - how popular was such equipment among soldiers? Did half of them have those, or just 1/100? I mean in general, not in a single unit. Sometimes documents from the past help us, for example bills from castles for equipment for their guards (sorry, im having problems translating such history-specific terms to english), but still the problem remains.

Question Id like to have some experts advice or scientific articles on how to judge whether borrowing a piece of material culture from another region would be acceptable and result in a trustworthy reconstruction (one that has versimilitude). Can I "borrow" a helmet used in England for a Polish soldier, or should I refrain to using only one of the two (this is only an example ofc) actually found in Poland? How to make a good judgement call on such a matter?

  • So what level of verisimilitude do you need for your costume? I don't think there's an answer to that, just opinions probably based on current practices in reconstruction groups more than anything historical. Perhaps you should focus on asking specific questions about the pervading themes in European armour at the time, for example, and make your judgement from the factual answers you get there. I will say the penultimate paragraph does contain the beginnings of these types of questions. – Nathan Cooper Feb 14 '13 at 15:02
  • Well, im interested in the highest versimilitude possible ;) I tried to write my question this way, hoping that you could show me a scientific procedure that would allow me to determine whats the best fit to fill in blank holes. I feared that asking specific questions would be too localized (example: asking about a specific model of gauntlet in a specific timeframe and location) or too broad (example: what types of gauntlets were used in 1350-1450, by whom, and please include findings and pictures) for Q & A format... We want to do educational shows and need to be accurrate historically. – K.L. Feb 14 '13 at 16:56
  • I think the historiography, and the methodology of the research are legitimate. As @NathanCooper says, the core is in the penultimate paragraph. The rest is just context. – Mark C. Wallace Feb 14 '13 at 17:23
  • Tough break. I hope you find a way of answering your questions. Perhaps on a re-enactment forum. – Nathan Cooper Feb 15 '13 at 10:37

The closer to your area that the "borrowed" item originates, the higher the chances would be it would be known to the people in that area.
That means geographically close but also economically close. Say you're recreating an area that had extensive trade with Sweden, they'd likely have access to Swedish items as well as locally produced goods.
If they're close geographically to parts of Germany, gear from there would be known to them and likely used.

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