What is garb?

Garb is the general term for an attempt at pre-17th century clothing. Garb is worn at events, to create the medieval atmosphere. Garb is not typically worn at practices.

Garb can range from simple tunics (either worn long as a dress, or shorter and worn with pants) to very elaborate and beautiful outfits.

Garb is often only the outermost or visible layers; it is perfectly acceptable to wear modern undergarments (including layers for warmth if needed). Modern footwear is also acceptable – it’s much more important for you to be able to walk and stand comfortably than to have period footwear.

A warm cloak is a good addition to any garb, as are wide-brimmed hats for outdoor events. Belts are period, stylish, and useful for carrying belt pouches (which can serve as pockets).

What to avoid?

Generally, avoid synthetic fibers. They won’t breathe well if it’s hot, may not keep you warm if it’s cool, and often don’t have the right look.

The SCA has very few sumptuary laws (restrictions on colors or accessories); the East Kingdom Wiki has a very good review of these on the “Sumptuary Laws, Real or Imagined” page. While there are few restrictions, there are items (such as belt colors) that traditionally have meaning, so it’s probably best to avoid those if you can. Some symbols (such as a pelican or laurel) are associated with very high order awards, and should be worn only by those who are a member of those orders.

How do I get garb?

Borrowing garb

If you need to borrow a simple tunic to wear to an event, contact the Chatelaine (newcomer officer) at chatelaine@hartshorn-dale.eastkingdom.org . This loaner garb is typically called “Gold Key.”

Making garb

Many – but not all – SCAdians make their own garb. There are many patterns and instructions available online, often for free. (Many period outfits are designed from simple shapes, or are cut to fit the wearer.) You can also buy commercial patterns. You can ask on the Hartshorn-Dale email list, Facebook group, or Discord server to see if anyone is familiar enough with the look or time period/culture you want to help you.

Hartshorn-Dale also sometimes holds garb workshops, where more experienced sewers are available to help with drafting a pattern, cutting the fabric, and going over assembly.


Use natural fibers. Unless you are allergic, linen and wool are both period and comfortable. Linen in particular is good in the summer, as it wicks moisture away and breathes well. Wool is warm in the winter, and will keep you warm even when it’s wet. Wool can also be worn during the summer; it depends on the wearer and the event. Both linen and wool drape well. Unfortunately, both can be pricey.

Cotton is a good introductory fabric. It is good to wear, and cheap and easy to acquire.

Buying garb

Many SCAdians buy garb.  You can ask on the Hartshorn-Dale email list, Facebook group, or Discord server for recommendations for merchants or vendors.

Garb Resources: Instructions and Patterns

Here are some links and resources that folks have found useful in the past.

Basic tunics

Garb overview handout (PDF)

Making a t-tunic (basic tunic): https://dragonsbay.lochac.sca.org/files/2019/06/collegium_sewing_ttunic.pdf

Another version of a basic tunic: http://viking.snapshotstacy.com/underdress.html

An online pattern generator that you can enter your body measurements in for a cutting diagram for a Viking tunic: https://seamstrue.com/generators/970-viking-tunic/