Walk into the Borders bookstore in Fort Lauderdale on the right Monday evening, and you're likely to run into an odd assortment of characters holding court. Catch a snippet of conversation, and you might hear them discussing the best way to build an archery quiver or the proper design for a bodice.
One of the women might actually be wearing an example of the frilly, tight-fitting garment popularized in the Middle Ages, but period dress isn't required to sit in on a meeting of the Society For Creative Anachronism. The international group -- founded in Berkeley, California, in 1966 -- is dedicated to re-creating life in pre-17th-century Europe. At least up to a point.
"People aren't dressing in sheets or starving or anything, so it's obviously not exactly like the Middle Ages," admits Robert Beguiristain, the local chapter president, who goes by the character name Alric.
Nor are folks forgoing personal hygiene just for the sake of historical accuracy. Instead, says Beguiristain, members strive to re-create only "what the best of the Middle Ages should have been," including the code of chivalry and period arts and crafts.
Local members are denizens of the Shire of Sangre Del Sol, which is part of the larger Kingdom of Trimaris, the society designation for most of Florida. Group business is handled at twice-monthly meetings, but more important, workshops and events are planned.
Last month, for example, interested members got together at Wolfram's cave (actually a member's home), where they learned how to make an English red ale. Other workshops cover leatherworking, metalworking, period costuming (called garb), and picking a character.
"Everyone chooses their own level of involvement," explains Beguiristain. Some folks show up every couple of months at larger events, while others attend every function and spend hundreds of dollars getting their garb right.
Unlike at Renaissance festivals, where the public merely watches the reenactors do their thing, newcomers at society events are asked to don period clothing and join in the fun.
"Your garb doesn't have to be perfect," says Michael Harvey, a.k.a. Larak, the group's chronicler. "You just have to make the attempt."