Catching up with Julian Crooks

Behind the Seams

TJulian Crookshanks to Hollywood movies, some students may think of college professors as being strict and straight-laced and couldn’t possibly imagine them outside the classroom as being fun or interesting.  Julian Crooks, Assistant Professor for Fashion Design and Merchandising and Design Programs Development Coordinator, is about as interesting as a professor can be. Julian is a long-standing member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). It is an international living history group that aims to study and recreate Medieval European cultures and their histories before the 17th century. Founded in 1966, the non-profit educational corporation has about 60,000 participants from around the world.

While attending a Renaissance Faire in Carver, MA, Julian stumbled upon a group of people that were wearing the most amazingly authentic medieval garb. To quote Julian, “They were a shining beacon in a sea of elf ears and polyester princess dresses.”  She learned from a friend that the folks wearing the breathtaking outfits belonged to SCA. Julian immediately researched the SCA and discovered that they host an annual camping event in Western Pennsylvania. With a background in fashion design and a lifelong passion for history, she knew this was something she was meant to do. She immersed herself in research and sewing, eventually creating fifteenth-century Italian wardrobes for herself, her husband, and her two children.

Julian and her family made their first debut at the SCA camping event in 2001. At the time her children were seven- and nine-years-old and they absolutely loved the experience. “It was like a game that everyone was playing, including the adults. Kids in medieval attire are extra cute, too.”

Now, thirteen years later, Julian and her family still participate in the Pennsic War every summer. The “war” is between two large regional SCA groups: the Kingdom of the East and the Middle Kingdom. It is the single largest annual SCA event, with more than 10,000 attendees. People travel to there from around the globe to participate. The event lasts for 17 days with campers dressing in medieval clothing the entire time. The camp Julian and her family belong to has grown to nearly 20 families. She says, “When we meet every year it’s like a big reunion – but in Renaissance clothes.”

Field BattleJulian’s family still looks forward to the Pennsic every year and is excited for the unique experiences. This year, Julian studied Heraldry – creating coats of arms, and took a class on beekeeping. Her son, now college age, expanded his archery skills by learning to throw an Atlatl. “The battles are thrilling. Imagine hundreds of fully armored men and women thundering across the field toward each other, brandishing rattan weapons. You can literally feel the ground shake – then they meet with a thunderous crash.”

Currently, Julian is working on making a period costume from a painting by Michelangelo. She says with any luck she’ll have it done by next year.