About this project
All right, my darlings. I'm finally done with my master's degree and thesis. My brain has been given a bit of a rest and I'm ready to move on to my next project.
I've talked with quite a lot of you in the historical re-enactment, Eastern dance, and costuming communities about my intent to write a book on Central Asian Caftans and I'm ready to get started. I have over 25 years' experience studying and recreating the clothing of ancient and medieval Central Asia. I've been teaching around the US for most of that time and I have learned so much from the people in these communities.
My intent for the book is to focus on the actual patterns and tailoring methods used in Central Asia up to about the year 1700. There are lots of sources available that deal with the incredibly rich and complex fabrics from this region, but the details of garment construction have been largely ignored by academics.
These garments were all created using geometric construction methods. This makes the garments simple to measure, cut, and construct. Although this method is simple and straightforward, it is capable of subtle and sophisticated tailoring. The fabrics used were incredibly valuable and this method results in a tiny amount of wasted fabric. I think that beginning sew enthusiasts and people interested in ecological/environmental sewing will find that these patterns adapt beautifully to the modern body and lifestyle.
My research has led me to the theory that there are about 4-8 main variants on the basic 'geometric' methods of garment construction. I plan to trace the development of the main garment types across both time and space. I'll be focused on Central Asia from Mongolia to the Anatolian Peninsula (modern day Turkey) between the southern border of Russia and the northern border of India. I will be looking at garments from the Paleolithic to about the year 1700.
In addition to the history of the construction of the garments themselves, there will be chapters on how to put together a complete outfit, how to custom fit patterns, how to adapt the patterns for dance costumes, and research methods. I plan to reproduce one of 4-8 extant garments, one for each garment type. Carla Monnich; textile historian, and principal dancer for the band Turku (Turkumusic.com) will be recreating many of the textiles via Spoonflower. The caftans created for the project will remain with me so I can display them at workshops.
Alec Knudson will be photographing the construction of each garment step-by-step. Alison Petrisek will be editing the book and Laura Gosnell will be designing it. I'm really excited to have such talented folks working with me on this project.
I'm also really excited about the prospect of getting over 25 years' research out of my head and onto the page so it can be useful. .
I would be honored if you would consider supporting this project. All reward levels of the Kickstarter project will receive a copy of the book (electronic, print or both) and these will be in the first round of publishing. I won't fulfill any additional orders until the Kickstarter supporters have theirs.
Thank you so much.
Lea Benson known in the Society for Creative Anachronism as Jadi Fatima, OL
The Stretch Goal:
I am so overwhelmed with everyone's wonderful support. I've also been getting feedback that I really appreciate. In talking with some friends yesterday afternoon, I realized that I had not been as explicit with my budget as I intended to be. So let me clarify a bit.
The $5,000 minimum goal is the least amount of money it would take to complete a project I can be proud of. So that covers Kickstarter and Paypal fees, reward fulfillment and all publishing and design costs. This leaves me with a small budget to go to New York, DC and Baltimore to access the extant garments held there. It will leave me with little money for the licensing of images that require licensing fees. (There will be many images in the book that are produced by myself and my team, as well as images that can be used for free.)
The next major milestone would include a budget to fund a trip to the museums in Europe that hold the bulk of the accessible extant garments (Those museums are located in London, Paris, Berlin and Lyon). There is no doubt that this project would be significantly improved by the addition of this data. I do have lots of budget travel experience and have been researching the most cost-effective ways to complete this research.
This milestone would increase the budget for the purchase/recreation of accurate fabrics for the reproduction of the extant garments that will be the heart of the book.
This milestone would also include a budget for the licensing of some images from the relevant museums. Unfortunately, there is no established 'price list' for images. It depends upon the museum and their policies, the particular images, how many copies of the book that can be sold before another licensing fee must be paid, and the purpose to which the images will be put (pure educational versus pure commercial use with a wide spectrum in between).
So I've done some research and talked with museum professionals about how to make these licensing requests, but I won't have firm figures until I know which images I want to use and I negotiate for each individually.
So, as some friends requested, here is my Stretch Goal. If pledges were to reach $15,000, that would allow for the cost of the research, better fabrics and the image fees. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude to all of you and I know any additional pledges that come in will just make this project better.
And please, keep the feedback and questions coming, I am happy to answer them.
Also, I am currently at a re-enactment event (Society for Creative Anachronism's 50th Year Celebration.: 50year.SCA.org) I have internet access, but will probably only be able to log-on once a day, so be patient with me please.
Risks and challenges
Access to Extant Garments:
Much of the research for this project is already completed, but there is much to be done. In a perfect world, I will be able to gain access to actual extant garments to examine and measure in detail. I have some great advice from several museum professionals about how to get permission from the museums to do this. Museums exist to serve the public, and gaining access to collections is something that is quite common. The minimum goal for the Kickstarter will allow me to visit the necessary museums in the United States, but a best-case scenario would be to make a trip to Europe to study items in the collections in London, Lyon, Paris and Berlin. I've already had an opportunity to study the caftans on display at the Topaki Palace Museum in Istanbul.
If, for some reason, I am unable to gain access to enough extant garments, there is detailed information published on many of them, typically in conservator's reports, auction descriptions and archaeological surveys. Those sources, in addition to correspondence with museum professionals and research that I have already completed will give me enough information to proceed.
Extant garments are the property of the private individual or museum that owns them. Any images of those garments belong to the owner as well. While many museums are placing tens of thousands of images online copyright-free, many of the images of the specific garments will still require a fee to use them in a published work. While quite a few historical clothing manuals have been published without these images, I would still like to include as many as I reasonably can. This will depend on Kickstarter funding levels, but I will do the best that I can. If there are images that I cannot gain the right to use, there will be detailed information in the book about how and where to find images of the original garments including publications that show them, the museums that hold them and their Accession Number.
If all goes well, I will be starting a PhD program in the fall of 2017. That will take up a great deal of my time. However, the plan is to have my work on the book complete by fall of 2017. My designer and editor will need time to do their work and I will have to order proof copies from my publisher to make sure everything is as it should be. If everything goes well, I will spend Winter Break (Dec/Jan) fulfilling rewards for Levels 1-3, and then one day per week completing the rest of the rewards by June of 2018. I'm trying to give myself enough extra time at each phase to overcome any set-backs, but I am also keeping Summer Break of 2018 free until all the rewards have been delivered. I know that updating everyone regularly is really important and that talking with all of you about the project will keep my enthusiasm strong.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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