The final Lord of the Rings movie had just hit theaters and Beyonce had everyone crazy in love. All the while a woman named Melinda was diving deep into the Medieval and Renaissance realm, joining the SCA. She’d always been a student of history and a customer – making her first at the tender age of 12 – but in 2003 her appreciation took on a whole new meaning. A few years later she took her Camelot’s Closets business to new grounds, joining the world of Etsy. Today she has over 200 designs to choose from and from what she tells us, there are more on the way. Now sit back, and take in what the woman behind these beautiful designs has to say about accuracy, lessons learned and more.
Kendra: Being that you have studied this era, are you a stickler for accuracy when it comes to the pieces? Not just your own, but others as well?
Melinda: No, not a stickler at all. Or as we call them in the SCA, an “authenticity nazi.” First and foremost, wearing costumes should be fun. So I make a variety of ensembles that range from fantasy to Period accurate. I do avoid tacky and ridiculous though. I don’t make corsets you wear as if they are outerwear (corsets are Victorian bras) and I don’t make fur or chainmaille bikinis topped with horned Viking hats.
Kendra: Other than the fashion, what is your favorite thing about medieval times?
Melinda: The medieval era of history can be summed up in two factors: simplicity and unity. Though all the negative traits of humans existed then as now, the majority of people just lived their lives working, singing, dancing, feasting, loving their families, and going about their business without the rules, regulations, oversight and micromanagement of our current era. As a result, I believe that even though people worked much harder to get by, they were happier on the whole.
Kendra: You’ve been at this for about 15 years now and on Etsy about five of those years. If you could go back to 2003 and give yourself some sound advice, what would it be?
Melinda: I’ve actually been on Etsy since 2006 but had to close an account and reopen a new one due to technical difficulties. My advice to 20003 me would be to create detailed full-proof listings like I have now. Ones that explain every details of what a buyer will receive, when, how, content, policies…all of it. The listings I have now were revised 30 time over the first ten years, before I had covered all loopholes for buyers to misunderstand or make assumptions about what they were buying. There are still those who want to know if the $250 belt is included with the $90 gown. So I do have to control myself to just say, “No,” instead of, “No, and the castle and horse aren’t either,” but with age I find it easier to control my smart mouth.
Kendra: What elements of renaissance and medieval fashion do you feel are still alive and well in today’s clothing?
Melinda: Honestly, there is nothing new under the sun. I’d say about 80% of today’s fashions are derivatives of designs first created in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. A tee-shirt, as an example, is nothing more than a Saxon tunic. The fabrics created continue to change. For some years now there are colorfast, washable polyester silks that are indistinguishable to most people from the genuine article.
Kendra: What are your plans as far as Camelots Closets in 2019?
Melinda: I’ll unveil a number of new styles (seven at the minimum) and a couple dozen new listings. That will bring my perpetually-available count to over 300. I hope to get back into more jewelry-making and headwear as well, as I had done in the early years. I have help now so will be able to expand.