Saturday, 26 April 2014

Birrus Britannicus : More on Cloaks


            After yesterday’s blog on cloaks I came across mentions of a foul weather cloak called the Birrus Britannicus. It seems the Romans associated Britain with cold and wet weather, hence the name. Such cloaks were widely used in Britian by both the locals and Roman visitors.  


            This website has some information on making one with a “bindweed leaf” shaped hood that was often associated with these cloaks. (Note that the page uses the spelling “byrrus” rather than the more commonly used “birrus”. The site has a number of other basic grammatical mistakes so this is probably an error).
            The hood is made out of two pieces described  as “diamonds” -actually kite-shapes with two sides of 55cm and two of 68cm. No information is given on the angle between these sides so you will probably have to construct a mock-up to get the volume right. The two 55cm sides are sewn together to make the top and back of the hood and one of the 68cm sides sewn to the cloak. You may like to make the hood part double thickness or line it. The article mounts this hood on a semi-circular cloak but it seems Birrus Britanicus could also be oval or circular designs, as described in my last post. The “triangle piece at the throat” is not clear in the photographs but is evidently a fly or baffle type piece to prevent drafts at the neck area. I suggest you reserve some material, join the cloak and hood and then work out the shape and form of this piece.
            The most practical fastening for such a cloak is probably one or more hook and loops, with another to secure the throat bit.  
            On the subject of fastenings, I mentioned cloak pins in the last post. I have seen scores of these in museums with no indication on how they were actually used to fasten a cloak. The answer is both simple and ingenious! A functional example could easily be made with some pliers and heavy wire!