In Search of England: Costume spotting

Been busy this month so here’s a quick roundup of the one activity that unites all my October weekend experiences – costume spotting. From 1066 to the modern day to “out of this world”, I’ve spotted it all.

Armour and weaponry at the Battle of Hastings

A Norman knight re-enactor

A re-enactor shares his research with eager listeners.

I attended the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings re-enactment at Battle Abbey on Oct 16. There a Norman knight re-enactor told us the story of how the horse of William Duke of Normandy, a black Friesian gifted by the King of Spain, had its head lopped off by a Saxon warrior with a battle-axe. This was why the Normans briefly feared that their Duke was dead. What I appreciated most was the commentary delivered throughout the day, from the falconry performances to the battle re-enactment itself. One update to my primary-school-knowledge of the Battle of Hastings was that the long pointy shields, called kite shields, were used by both sides.

Brighton’s Snowdogs by the Sea

Snowdogs by the Sea is a street art exhibition from Sept 24 to Nov 27 which features 45 Snowdogs, “dressed up” by various artists, schools and other institutions. They are accompanied by 20 Snowdog puppies and will be sold at auction to raise money for St. Martlet’s Hospice, which has a store on Western Road minutes from my workplace! I saw my first Snowdog at Churchill Square, had to photograph one as part of an Apprentice-style teambuilding challenge, and found one with my name at the train station on Oct 21. Find them all on the Snowdogs by the Sea Trail before the exhibition closes!

Snowdogs by the Sea

Street art to raise awareness for St. Martlet’s Hospice.

Cambridge gowns

Cambridge University Tudor Bonnet

A black tudor bonnet with a claret cord and tassel from Ede and Ravenscroft.

I found to my dismay that Cambridge academic dress is much more interesting than Oxford’s when I was given a walking tour of the city by my friend on Oct 22, a day when a graduation ceremony was taking place and gowned students thronged the streets. My friend Charles explained that undergraduates wear gowns of different styles depending on their college. BA gowns have slits through which ladies’ can show off the outfits that they wear to formal dinners. PhD and MA graduates can wear festal gowns with strips of scarlet cloth on ‘Scarlet Days’. PhD graduates also wear a Tudor bonnet at Cambridge instead of a mortarboard (see inset). So much choice and variation, and to think that the only gown I own is a commoner’s one.

MCM Comicon at the ExCel in London


Cosplay peeps strike a gameplay pose.

The Comicon I went to with my friend Charles on Oct 30 exceeded both our expectations. Having failed to look up where we were supposed to get off the DLR, I asked a family with a child dressed as Iron Man, but we found that there would have been no need – by the time we got off most people taking the DLR were in fantastical costume, to the extent that we couldn’t even tell if the policeman was a real one or not. I spent the day staring in awe at characters from Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Trek, Star Wars, Warhammer (I almost got trampled by one giant mutant!), Overwatch, Team Fortress, Legend of Zelda, Suicide Squad, Deadpool, other Marvel Superheroes, DC Comic Superheroes, Disney Princesses, Assassin’s Creed, Pokémon, Sailor Moon, Doctor Who…but strangely not Game of Thrones. People in costume let you take photos with them too – who needs Disneyland when you can have photos taken with your favourite characters for free (with a £15 general entry ticket) here?



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