Clothing in Anieth and Ancient Times

Shoes, Belts and Other Accessories


People today think of shoes differently than people used to. Shoes are ready to wear in many sizes at a store. Most people try on shoes until they find ones that are comfortable and attractive. In ancient times, a person made their own shoes or had shoes made for them. Shoes were made to the foot, so they were usually comfortable. They were made for different weather conditions for there were no roads as we know them until the Roman Empire. People also did not have rubber for soles or boots. They had leather, of course, but more often than not, shoes were made of wood, bark, or grasses like rush. Until recently, most country people wore clogs. They were so widespread, that country people were known by them. The word "sabotage" is from the French word for clogs: sabots. Clogs were universal because they could stand up to the mud. If you have ever walked in a field after it has been raining for a few days, you may know about mud. With the addition of a few nails or a rough texture on the soles of the clogs, they were also good in snow. Most clogs were made of a rot-resistant wood that was also lightweight and split-resistant, like alder wood. Clog soles were made of elm, ash and maple. Sometimes leather uppers were nailed to the clogs, more often they were hollowed out and made of a single piece of wood. They could be large enough so that a person could wear their indoor shoes in the clogs, or several pairs of socks or felt liners. Most of them had heels to make it easier to navigae the mud. Pointed toes were for kicking aside weeds and snow. It is thought that clogs are very ancient; we certainly saw them everywhere in Anieth.


Patens were a form of clog that was used in the ice and snow. Thorns or pieces of rock (later metal nails) were embedded in the wooden sole. They were tied to the other shoe, usually a felt or softer shoe. These winter clogs were in use up until Victorian times, they were so practical. Again, made of a very hard, split-resistant wood, they were tied with leather straps or buckled so that the patens could be left in the mud room or at the stoop. In later times, they were made of metal and looked like skates in their sketetal appearance. I happen to find the wooden ones more pleasing to the eye. They are also less noisy. Goodness knows we've all had to wear patens, for Anieth was like Western France, but much more snowy. Most of the men I knew had large winter clogs which were better for working with livestock.


I had the prejudice against leather goods, but most humans did not. The preferred shoe for summer and winter wear both was the gillie which do not resemble the stiff modern kind worn for shows in Scotland. They were made of deerskin or soft calf skin with a stiffer sole glued to the bottom. Often the sole was thin for a house gillie so it could be worn more comfortably inside a clog. Gillies were not worn very often with bare feet, but made to be worn with felt socks. Treated with wax, these shoes were very resistant to water and good for riding or walking out in the grasses of the Plain. They were made of one piece of leather with a strip that was threaded all through each of the fingers of the leather.


Men liked a lot of fingers to gather up, women fewer so that the top of the shoe could be decorated. Duvan wore his until they fell off of his feet and complained bitterly breaking in each new pair, no matter how soft! But he preferred heavier gillies of thick hide that had to be broken in, for he hated clogs and said that no horse would approach a man who wore wooden shoes. His wife was very adept with felting and made him liners of soft fur felt if his gillies were new.

willow clogs

Another popular kind of clog had a wooden bottom and a woven top. These were summer clogs or dress clogs or house clogs. The base could be made of willow, as these are, or maple, elm or ash as regular clogs. The soles had holes drilled into it to secure the upper weave, or was made in two parts, a lower and upper sole. The weaving was glued to the lower sole and the upper was slipped into the shoe and also glued. This is the way the leather shoes are made today. At times, the bottom sole had a corrugated bottom for traction in mud, but usually it was smooth, for these were clogs worn when it was hot. They are meant to be worn with bare feet. Some people in Anieth made the upper sole of leather. I did not like leather: it was hot, stuck to the bare foot, and never could be glued so that there wasn't some bump in the wrong place to make a blister. These are the kind of shoes I wore when we went across country the summer Duvan went to the Riaffaccii. I continued to wear these shoes even in Coombe Charria although people laughed at me for wearing shoes in summer! I loved weaving different designs into the shoes and attaching pretty decals of different designs.


In summer, we also wore sandals woven of rush. Rush is a water plant, similar to the popular "cattail" or bullrush. The leaves are wider than straw but more flexible than rattan or bamboo. We plaited rush for mats and baskets, and also for shoes. What I liked about weaving shoes is that you could weave in the ties or uppers so that they did not come loose like so often happens with modern rubber flip-flops or sandals. Many people had a knack or a feeling for some particular material. When I was with the Riaffaccii, the old queen, Olwen, was a master of rush weaving. She made thispair of sandals. I love how she deftly turned the rushes around the edges and wove them into a sole. They are flexible, thick, and surprisingly sturdy.


In ancient times, people used an enormous amount of wood. Most of us think of bark as the "trash" part of the tree, only good for burning. However, many, many trees were cultivated for their bark as well as their wood. Birch is one such tree. Birch bark was used in Europe as much as it was used in North America, for many of the same products. One popular item were birch-bark slippers. These were also called one-season shoes, for they did not last very long. Their advantage was that they were cheap, made by almost every family, and comfortable as a pair of house slippers. They were usually worn with a heavy pair of socks or felt liners. These shoes would have been worn in summer, or, in winter, around the house. The art of weaving them is almost lost to modern people, which is a shame, for they are from a resource that is plentiful, renewable, and they can be very pretty. I saw some that were turned and woven so that one almost didn't want to wear them! The ties lace up the calves, usually over pant legs or to help hold up felt liners and socks. The soles are flexible and quiet. Wearing these slippers, also called lapti is not like wearing baskets on your feet, but very much like wearing plastic sandals or the leather hueraches, a Mexican sandal made of woven strips of leather.


Very few people wore boots, most wore laced up trews or long gaiters that laced. People were not as adverse to cold water as we are, so they fished without shoes or socks. The notable exception to the lack of boots were the Champions of the Holly and some of the Holly warriors. They were fond of the linen boot, that was a gaiter sewn into the shoe sole, heavily oiled and then waxed. The linen was stiff enough to stand up, but often wrinkled as you see in this picture. It had the look of a very old leather boot.


Some people in Anieth affected quite the costume. Among them was Lugh Aradarach of the Rowan. Usually the Rowan people where known for the powers of precognition or for their ability to work with stone; Lugh was a Lucky Tree. He wore long yellow boots (again gaiters) with fringe which were laced to his waist over trousers. As people tied wishes to him, his costume got more and more frayed over the years, until he was quite shaggy. He used cords to also lace up his boots once he had pulled them on. His costume was bizarre in order to announce to the Wood Clans that he was not to be harmed in any way or bad fortune would come to them.

birch bag

Bags and belts were usually made of woven cords, leather or plaited grasses. The exception was the plethora of baskets and bags made of wicker, grass, and birchbark. Above is an example of a birch bark bag. Before the Industrial Age, fabric was expensive and made by hand. Most northerners wore clothes of leather or felt. But around the world people made many objects from what was at hand. Birch bark was a very popular material in the north for its flexible strips, which could be woven. Strawberry baskets are still made of birch bark. Bags were made to hold fish, gather foods, or to carry goods.

sheaths and buckles

Like most people who were modern, we believed that leather and metal were most of what was ever used. This is certainly not the case. For centuries before metal people had all kinds of knives. Sheaths were made from birch bark, grass, bast (bark fibers), wood, or anything that could be woven as well as leather. Bags of all kinds could be made from grass or fiber. Belt buckles were not the metal hook kind until Classical times. Even today many belts are fastened with wooden sliders or toggled together or even tied like you can see in this demonstration of a belt knot. Cloaks were often fastened in similar ways, with the simple buckle "locking" the cloak ends in place. Shirts often had the frog fasteners or toggles to button them. Buttons were made of bone up until very recently.


As with most else in the ancient world, metal objects were copies of what had been done in wood. Most pins had been carved of spindle wood (Viburnum or Euonymus) which was hard enough to keep a point and suffer years of use. Metal pins like this one, were copies of the earlier pins of wood.

© 2015, A.R. Stone

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