Difficulty Levels Explained

From the very beginning of the SCAIowa Garb Guide resource our intention was to aid those who are beginning their journey towards historic clothing. From its earliest incarnation the Garb Guide was made for beginners. One of the tags that you can search by in the SCA garb guide is a difficulty rating. This may be the most arbitrary number or tag assigned to these projects, but we do strive to be consistent with this numbering system.

1 – A garment with a designation of 1 represents a garment that a beginner who has very little or no sewing experience has a reasonable chance of being able to construct. So this would include garments such as the often reference two seem SCA t tunic or a basic tunic dress. Such projects often have few decorative components, few individual pieces to the garments and often represent projects that can be completed in a short period of time.

A basic tunic can be considered a difficulty of 1 on our scale

2 – An item listed with a difficulty of two is likely to have a few more decorative elements, take slightly longer to complete or require slightly more skill and knowledge in order to successfully finish. An item with a difficulty level of two should be within reach of someone who might be new to the SCA but who has even a little background in sewing modern projects, but this may come with some challenge.

3 – An item listed with a difficulty of three would likely be an average example of clothing used within the SCA and has a moderate level of decoration or difficulty in its construction.  An item listed as a difficulty of three should be within reach of someone new to the SCA if they also have previous experience in sewing modern clothing and following modern patterns.

4 – An item listed with a difficulty of four is going to have more complex decorative elements, require greater skill in patterning and have a slightly more complex method of construction. An item with a complexity of four may be quite challenging even to a new member who has a lot of experience in sewing modern clothes.

5 – Our difficulty level of five represents highly decorative elements or extremely complex construction techniques as well as an extended length of time needed to complete construction. Garments with a difficulty of five on the scale likely represent the high end of historic recreation examples.

A difficulty of 5 may be richly decorated and consist of many pieces coming together to form the final garment

 It isn’t easy to simplify all of the complexity of the various aspects down to a simple one to five scale. This oversimplification likely leaves out many nuances in the realm of historic clothing reconstruction. For instance a simple tunic in an Anglo-Saxon style may have a complexity of construction of one or two, but when you factor in decorative elements including narrow band weaving and embroidery, the complexity of the entire project may be raised to a four or five.

The choice to machine sew or hand sew a garment can also affect the complexity. Machine sewing a basic tunic leaves it at a complexity of one, hand sewing and hand finishing the same garment likely raises it to a two.  Some garments by their very nature are more complex. So a very intricate example of a tunic based garment may be a four, but a very simplified version of an Elizabethan gown may also be a four.

This rating scale was primarily included to avoid people becoming frustrated when they attempted to recreate very complex garments for their first pieces.  We again recommend allowing yourself the time to learn and grow as you continue to participate in our hobby.  Costuming is a complex subject that can take dedicated members many years to become proficient at.