The following is going to sound elitist and judgemental, for the very good reason that it is elitist and judgemental.
Pennsic is not a pagan festival.
It’s not a frat party, either, nor a Gay Pride day, nor a science fiction convention, nor a leather group, nor even a Renaissance faire.
This being the case, there are a number of things that are inappropriate at Pennsic. They include, but are not limited to, the following: public drunkenness, day-glo orange clothing, ray guns, vampire teeth (if not in the context of a play or the like), headdresses with antlers on them (ditto), lightsabers, fairy wings, 18th century pirate or gypsy clothing, cellular phones (if you are not a doctor or someone else who needs to be on call at all times), pagers, instant-message gadgets, small kilts, Victorian corsets, S&M gear, and jack o’lanterns made from pumpkins.
The rules are that Pennsic is an event of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and that you’ve got to make an attempt at pre-17th-century clothing. If you don’t want to follow the rules, that’s fine; don’t come to Pennsic and you won’t have to.
Now, I am not saying that every single thing you posess must be handmade out of period materials, nor that people with glasses or wheelchairs should leave them in camp (though I should point out that I’m pretty damn nearsighted myself, and not being able to recognize a friend at a distance is just one of those things I live with every year). If something glaringly modern is necessary for your health, that’s peachy; if you really feel that wearing fabric that doesn’t breathe is the way to go in a Pennsylvania August, more power to you, though the chiurgeons probably don’t agree with you.
What I am saying is this: if you don’t like the rules, don’t play the game. There are other places where you can get roaring drunk with a crowd of buddies; there are other places where you can wear your Titania Queen of the Fairies outfit. Find them. Stop cluttering up my game with them, because in my game they don’t belong. Any why, you ask, should my game take precedence over yours? That’s easy: because my game is the one the description of the event says we’re there to play.
I suppose I’m just tired of people who treat wearing garb as equivalent to paying the gate fee: something you do to get in, because the inconvenience is worth it, rather than part of the fun.
I should like to point out that I have no problem with pagan festivals, frat parties, Gay Pride days, scifi cons, leather groups or Renfaires. But there are things that are perfectly fine in one context that are wrong in another, and assuming that Pennsic is just like a pagan festival because they both involve camping while wearing non-everyday clothes is going to lead you into a lot of problems–ask me sometime about Cat and Tiger, two of the less compatible campmates I’ve dealt with in my time.
So here’s the deal: a utility kilt and a tie-at-the-neck shirt is not an attempt at garb. Sorry. Neither is a baby-pink satin dress with built-in bodice, black lace trim, and handkerchief hem. Dressing like Captain Jack Bloody Sparrow may look cool, but it’s not medieval (nor particularly authentic to real pirates, though that’s beside the point), and neither are any of the various outfits worn by hobbits, Rohirrim, dwarves, elves, or Gondorians. A broomstick skirt and sports bra are also right out, aside from being immensely tacky. Do not wear your leather loincloth, no matter how ripped your abs. Do not wear your bellydancing outfit out of camp; I don’t know enough to know whether it’s period, but I do know you wouldn’t have been wearing it in the street, not with that much skin showing–unless you’re a whore, that is. Do not wear your Green Man hat, do not wear your pentacle or your triple-moon headband. Do not stop in the middle of the market to make a call. Do not make fun of people who don’t want to try your latest attempt at flavored alcohol poisoning. Do not lead your significant other around on a leash. Do not claim that I am spoiling your fun, as what you are calling “fun” is what I am calling “contrary to the charter of the event”.
(Digression: I was going to give the Tuchux a bye, because they aren’t playing the SCA’s game and have never claimed to, and besides they found the site, ‘way back in the mists of time. But then I thought about it, and it occurred to me that gratitude is great, and is probably a fine reason for them not to get an invitation to the world a few years ago when That Thing With Vlad happened, but there’s an old saying about when in Rome. The Chux can wear all the rabbit bikinis they like…in their own camp. Out in public they should dress like civilized people.)
Some people have said that the SCA’s greatest strength is its inclusiveness, and to an extent that’s true. What perturbs me is that “inclusive” seems to have been defined as “having no right to enforce or indeed posess any standards”, and that’s not OK. It’s time for some standards, and while I don’t imagine that I’m going to manage to change the world (or even the SCA), I’m going to say right now that I’m done looking the other way, making excuses, and tolerating the assholes who are spoiling my fun, thank you very much.
Does this mean I’m going to accost newbies on the street, telling them their garb sucks? Of course not. Unlike the many stories of the dreaded Garb Snark–an extremely rare if not actually mythical beast–I am not interested in going out of my way to be rude to people. Not to mention that most of the people in bad garb aren’t actually newbies; they just don’t care. I’m tired of it. New Age political correctness to the contrary, some things are better than others, and one of the things that is better is playing the game you volunteered to play. If you don’t want to play it, you don’t have to; but if you show up in armor, expect to get hit.