A DOZEN INEXPENSIVE WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR PERSONAL IMPRESSION
This is based on an article by Cal Kinzer for the American Civil War community. To see what it contains, see http://www.authentic-campaigner.com/forum/showthread.php?1094-A-Dozen-Inexpensive-Ways-to-Improve-Your-Personal-Impression-By-Cal-Kinzer
Cal notes better than I could, “Everyone thinks it costs big bucks to have a first-rate authentic soldier impression. However, there are a number of things any Reenactor can do to improve his impression that cost little or no money.” As he directed his list to ACW reenactor, I direct this list to Viking Age reenactors.
DO NOT WEAR ANYTHING INACCURATE THAT CAN BE SEEN
Non-period BVDs are permissible (we will not here deal with the fact that period underwear remains for the most part unknown), but anything that is seen should be documentable. Wearing a kirtle of the proper weave, cut and color does not obviate the need not to wear not to wear farb such as black cotton pants, Harley boots and a cowboy hat if nothing comparable may be found or bought. A person wearing a period style kirtle and nothing else is preferable to the person dressed as a fancy party goer!
IN FACT, KEEP ALL MODERN FARB OUT OF SIGHT
This should go without saying. Do not wear watches, spectacles or shades. Keep any tattoos hidden, as well as most body jewelry (women can wear earrings, but only if they are accurate to what a few women of the time wore). Even if a mobile phone is kept with you (put it on Vibrate and Mute it), keep it hidden and retire to someplace where you are not obvious to use it. Even if you keep your keys with you, keep them in a pouch and unseen. The same with money (especially since it may be needed if there are things being sold at the event). Do not combine modern and period wear in camp or walking around, although that may be permissible on the drive home if you cannot change. You might not be from the period—all living history is an illusion, but good living history is a good illusion!)—but you should look as if you are, an if you are miraculously transported back in time, ideally, those around you will not suspect you are not from their time and culture until you open your mouth!
COMB YOUR HAIR AND TRIM YOUR BEARD
Everyone had a comb. It was used to help strain out fleas and other louses, but it was also used just to be presentable. People took pride in their appearance, and they combed their hair, bleached it often, braided it apparently and had various toiletries that they used to make themselves look better. In fact, the Norse took full immersive baths once a week, a practice that upset at least one English clergyman, who complained that local girls wen after the sweet-smelling Norse youth rather than to the English boys who did not bathe so often!
DO NOT LOUNGE OR STROLL AROUND IN YOUR ARMOR FOR NO REASON
It is a great reenactorism to walk around in full armor, helmet on your head and mail jangling, looking deep and dark and macho. Chances are that this was not done in period and ought not to be done by reenactors. Unless there is a reason–guard duty, coming from or going to the battle), the cumbersome armor was probably set aside, and the warrior would be lounging around in his civvies.
I won’t even mention the old Shield Maiden myth. If a woman dresses in armor and fights alongside the men, she had better look like just another bloke and change into female dress at the end of the battle!
REGULATE YOUR JEWELRY
There has been a pretty good indication that jewelry was gender related. A man wore a pendant for good luck and to do homage to his deity(ies), but he seems to have worn only two or three beads if at all, and some at his waist. It was the women who wore a lot of jewelry, since their bling indicated how rich–and generous–their men were. In fact, if you are a man and wear a lot of beads, it might be advisable to just give it to your woman and take pride in how she looks! 🙂
MAKE YOUR APPEARANCE CONSISTENT
I am referring both to era and status. There are exceptions, but we think that having one piece from another era (just one, and from an earlier era, not anything after the era portrayed) and class (a person in peasant rags carrying a broad sword is just ridiculous, although a person of a lower class might well have one small item that had been given by the lord). The idea that you would be dressed like some kind of scarecrow wearing anything gathered as a souvenir on your travels is either a cinematic affectation or a stark reenactorism!
DO NOT LAUNDER YOUR SOFT KIT VERY OFTEN
Metal and jewelry should be polished and burnished frequently, but unless the material is covered with mud or grease, or it absolutely reeks, brush the wool and launder the linen every once in a while. Believe it or not, many people in the past were not always immaculate and bright!
BE CAREFUL OF WHAT YOU TALK ABOUT BEFORE MOPs
Modern politics, modern religion, television shows, novels, films…anything that does not have a direct reference to your presentation. Talking about a modern folkway or fact is okay if you are doing a third-person impression and are using it to compare or contrast with what is being done today, but take care that it is only a tool—and not over-used—and not the whole reason for talking!
TAKE MIND OF THE SEASON
This a reference not only to clothing but also to what you might eat in public. Know what fruits and vegetables might be available fresh; otherwise, dried or preserved victuals should be used (as well as tack about the Hunger Month if that is timely and appropriate), and meat should be carefully moderated so that it was either salted and preserved or fresh only in slaughtering months. Persons of the time—even the most exalted and wealthy—were dependent upon agriculture, and that differs from today so much, and that should be accurately presented to the MOPs!
TURN THE FUR AROUND
Chances are from extant garments and practical experience, any fur was worn with the fur toward the body and not as a shaggy cloak, hat or something else. It was warmer, and that was as good a reason as any!
DO NOT HAVE THE END OF YOUR BELT HANG DOWN
This was a later style, it seems, and probably was not done in our era because of the slides that are found so often that keeps the end of the belt attached to the belt itself after the buckle. A metal slide is inexpensive and often may be easily found, but slides of leather or even of cod are also acceptable.
DO NOT THINK THAT BIGGER MEANS BADDER
At least if “bad” is a positive, macho term. Amulets, belts and much else was small by modern standards. Belts were thin, and most jewelry and pendants were similarly small. We are trying to portray ordinary people from the time, and not members of the wrestling foundation from the 1980s! (At least hopefully)