Ok we are backing up even further on the Designing for Heat wagon here because I realized I skipped a lot of what I consider to be the essential beginning steps last time! Here we go again.
~~Note that as always this is informed by my personal experiences, your mileage may vary~~
My goals: to make period clothes where I can remain comfortable in hot, dry weather when outside for an extended period of time. I’m not talking 10 minutes outside when it’s July in Atlanta and then back inside the AC…. this is for outdoor events where that is not an option.
Here are some lessons I have learned.
1. Having less fabric sounds like a GREAT idea….until you get sunburnt.
I also feel like I (personally) get hotter the more sun touches my skin, so I don’t think a low-neck is the way to go. Not that you should be wearing a turtleneck, either, but I really like wearing a high-necked camicia or hemd to keep my back and chest from getting burnt to a crisp.
See that tan/burn line? That is courtesy of West Kingdom June Crown 2018, which was extremely hot. I did not wear a high-neck camisa and that was a mistake.
2. Maybe don’t have the fabric super close to your skin though
I wore this set to Known Worlde Costume in Atlanta when it was hot and humid, and while that wasn’t awful I don’t think it was the best decision. Less fabric sticking to you==more comfort.
3. Think about where you lose heat from.
Two weird but key places that I think contribute to you keeping cool are your head and, weirdly, your armpits. Tie-on sleeves are remarkably cool and completely removable if necessary!
By period standards this would be considered completely inappropriate (uncovered shirt sleeves?!) but look when it’s really hot I think not getting heat exhaustion is your primary concern.
In terms of your headwear maybe don’t wear a wool hat, but soaking your veil or cap feels AMAZING when it is really hot.
4. Material choices
Ok. There is so much conflicting information about this out there. These are my personal experiences and opinions, so if yours are different, AWESOME! Congrats on not keeling over and looking snazzy while you’re at it!
Wool does not work for me. I know there is a theory that it does a swamp cooler thing where it wicks, but that has never ever worked for me. And honestly if I am sweating enough for that to be happening I’m probably already dehydrated.
Silk does not work for me either, particularly by the time you have a silk that is heavy and opaque enough to actually do some good as clothing. I can see a lightweight silk habotai being super cool and silky….but you can’t wear that outside.
I am a fan of linen, and as fine a linen as you can get. Honestly probably your best option is linen Romans, but I am ornery and really want to wear something a little more structured than that. That’s my own loss, do not feel that is necessary.
The BEST I have ever done at a hot event was wearing a cotton camisa and a 3oz linen dress. I have not repeated that since and I’m not sure it is actually any better than just wearing linen, but I am reporting the data accurately. Definitely stay away from protein fibers. I haven’t tried anything with viscose or other rayon and I can imagine both pros and cons for those.
5. Be flexible.
…did people in period walk around with their turnshoes shoved on their feet like slippers and no hose? Probably not. Have I done that at a hot event…..yes.
Have I bailed from a hot event early because I was dizzy and having cold sweats? yes
Have I gone and sat in my car with the AC on during an event until I felt like I could continue? yes
Have I cut short activities because I KNOW I need to get under some shade and out of the sun? Hell yes
Being stubborn is one thing, but take care of yourself.
SUNSCREEN, I use the spray stuff and douse myself in it before I get dressed so I don’t miss bits because I’m afraid of getting sunscreen on my gown.
HYDRATE there is this stuff called Sqwincher that is a lifesaver. I was introduced to it by someone who used it to stay hydrated while checking solar panel arrays in Death Valley and it both works and is significantly less gross than you might think. That’s from the world’s pickiest eater so you know it’s true.
MAKE GOOD CHOICES. Don’t go to an event if you think it will be harmful to you.