Thursday, June 7, 2012

Inspired Outfits: "Twa Corbies" and "Tam Lin"

There are certain things that most people don't think of looking to for inspiration. Unfortunately, or at least I find it unfortunate, old English ballads are part of that untapped territory. They're not really something people even pursue as literature, and that's a shame. They're beautiful, surprisingly cool, and damn inspiring.

In light of this, I took two ballads, "Twa Corbies" and "Tam Lin," and made outfits inspired by them. The former is a dark tale of two crows discussing their next meal, and the latter is a tale of a young woman rescuing her lover from the fairy queen's decision to sacrifice him to hell.

I told you they were cool.
Twa Corbies - "Ye'll Sit Upon His White Hause Bane"
I wanted to establish a funerary tone for the corbies themselves, being the birds who preside over the dead knight of the story. Gothic Lolita, then, was a natural choice. I also wanted to establish the feathers both in literal feathers and in the fluttering blouse, lace, and layered skirt.

This is, of course, much more of a costume simply due to the raven mask I have included, but the elements would nicely suit a dressier Lolita coord without it.
Ye'll sit on his white hause-bane,
and I'll pike oot his bonny blue e'en,
wi' a lock o his gowden hair, O,
we'll theek oor nest when it grows bare, O,

we'll theek oor nest when it grows bare.

There's mony a ane for him maks mane,
but nane sall ken whaur he is gane,
o'er his white banes when they are bare, O,
the wind sall blaw for evenmair, O,

The wind sall blaw for evenmair.
Yep, you read that right. A couple of crows gloating over the corpse. The colors here are why I went with the blue-black feathered epaulette and gold tone jewelry.
Twa Corbies - New-Slain KnightThis one's for the knight, the corpse of the story. Again, I wanted to establish a funerary tone for the knight. However, this one is a little less Lolita and a hair more straight-up goth with visual references to the military nature of the character.
It's in ahint you auld fail dyke,
I wot there lies a new slain knight,
an naebody kens that he lies there, O,
but his hawk and his hound and his lady fair, O,
but his hawk and his hound and his lady fair".

"His hound is to the haunting gane,

his hawk to fetch the wild-fowl hame,
his lady's ta'en anither mate, O,
sae we may mak our dinner swate
, O,
sae we may mak our dinner swate.
Sadly, I couldn't find anything that was quite right for the hawk, the hound, and the lady to be represented in this outfit, but I certainly found things to match the tone. The new-slain knight is laying there still in uniform or armor, presumably. He is still recognizable as a knight, but dead and dark and cold.
Tam Lin - Janet
Adding a bit more color to the mix is this outfit, inspired by another ballad altogether. I wanted to use the main character of "Tam Lin," Janet, as the inspiration for an outfit, and this is what I came up with.

I forbid you maidens all that wear gold in your hair
To travel to Carter Hall, for young Tam Lin is there.

None that go by Carter Hall but they leave him a pledge
Either their mantles of green or else their maidenhead.

Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
And she's gone to Carter Hall as fast as go can she.

She'd not pulled a double rose, a rose but only two
When up there came young Tam Lin says "Lady, pull no more..."

I took the green kirtle, the mantle, the gold in the hair, and the flat shoes for exploring the forest. The roses, perhaps the most important plot point of the story, had to be represented, too. I wanted this outfit to be lively, if old-fashioned, and practical for a young lady going out to pick flowers in the woods. It's still pretty, certainly, but it's far from over-the-top.

I hope you found a bit of inspiration in this, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you go out and explore ballads for inspiration. Not only do you get some fascinating bits of poetry from the past, but you can feel culturally aware at the same time!

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