Viking Clothing

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Flesh&Blood

Viking Clothing

Post by Flesh&Blood »

Hi All,

Before I start I must stress that this is NOT a wind up OK.

I am totally new to the Viking period, and all I can seem to find out is that the Norsemen carried axes/spears/swords and had nice round shields and nasel/spectacle helms.

Please could someone enlighten me as to what they wore underneath the mail as it is nigh on impossible to tell from some of the photo's.

Some look to be wearing what appears to be almost Celtic trousers (ok they are called brac.....y....things), some with a furry leg wraps like early Iron Age with leather strapping to the knee, is this acceptable? or totally wrong?
Also the top half appears to consist of a knee length tunic? (I take it that most of this would be woolen?).

This is a serious question, and I thank in advance anyone who is patient and honest enough to give me a reply.

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Gyrthofhwicce
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Post by Gyrthofhwicce »

Hi F&B,

OK Firstly, forget the furry leg wraps etc. The basic clothing for a Viking or Saxon of that period, is a pair of trousers,straight legged is best. an undertunic, rather like a dress, made of bleached linen, or linen look cotton, The arms should extend approx 3/4 inches over the tips of your fingers, and the cuffs should be tight enough that you can pull the up to the wrists and they wont move.
The over Tunic, should be slightly shorter in length, approx to your kness, with the undertunic going to approx 1" below your knees, and again should go over your hands. This can be made of wool or Linen.

Be careful about colours that you choose, as many modern materials are to vivid in colour to be of any use. Also some colours afr defiante royalty such as Purple and Deep reds, whilst it is fine to use these colours, you will need the rest of the kit to be something spectacular.

If you look at my Avatar picture, you can get a rough idea, I have a black tunic, but i play a very wealthy thegn as my charachter so can afford it. Also look in the picture forum under the title some pictures of me, and you will see a picture of myself at Hastings, which will help as a rough guide.

If you need any more help let me know.
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Post by Gyrthofhwicce »

forums/viewtopic.php?t=2598

heres the link for the photo's.
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Post by WorkMonkey »

I have never seen a male depicted with an under shirt longer than an over tunic. Even depictions where the over tunic is short, the under tunic never shows underneath. When the under tunics cuffs are longer, I find they bunch up and poke out under the upper tunic, I found this happened so had to hem my under tunics sleeves down abit to stop them showing.
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Post by Gyrthofhwicce »

WorkMonkey wrote:I have never seen a male depicted with an under shirt longer than an over tunic. Even depictions where the over tunic is short, the under tunic never shows underneath. When the under tunics cuffs are longer, I find they bunch up and poke out under the upper tunic, I found this happened so had to hem my under tunics sleeves down abit to stop them showing.
Yes, but you are young and have not llived as long as me, therefore you have'nt seen as much as me. :wink:
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Post by Gyrthofhwicce »

OK, Where are you looking though WM, you have to take into context that the undertunic would have been your underwear, and night gown/dress etc. It was not uncommen in thos days to be sewn into it and wear it until it fell off. It was also documented on how some cheeky Vikings would convert to Christianity just so they would get a lovely new crisp white undertunic, and did this several times.

The sleeves would be longer becaues in the winter these would act as your hand protection/warmers, and the posisiblity of the hem not being seen is when pulled up and belted, it all comes up together.
I'm speaking ona point of view for today, we can shoe what was worn, I.E two tunics, but we cant say definatley how these were worn, it's down to modern interpretation.
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Post by WorkMonkey »

linens no use for warming your hands, I thought the general consensus was that the rumples of the tunics forearm in depictions represented it being cut longer than the arm, and rucked back, being tight at the wrist it doesn't flop back down, but when its cold you can pull it over your hands to keep them warm, I've tried this, and it works perfectly, the ripples on the fore arm created by this method, are an exact copy of depiction. I wont say I have a vastly extensive knowledge, but I've read alot of books, and trawled through many pictures and I cannot recall ever seeing exposed under tunics, in fact the only thing that comes to mind is the Woman and child fleeing the burning house on the Bayeux tapestry, here her under dress is seen exposed at the cuff, but thats a woman. No men.
If you're under tunic was your under wear, then I'd imagine people would have the same reservations they do today about walking round exposing their underwear, which again would suggest it would be cut shorter. I'm only musing, and if anyone can point me towards something more definitive I'd be greatful.
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Post by Sigurd »

I'm with the monkey on this, I can't find any period illustrations showing an undertunic longer than the overtunic. If any illustrations showing longer underskirts (or any other evidence) do exist, I would love to see them.

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Post by Gyrthofhwicce »

WM, Sigurd,
Can you point me in the direction of the illustations you are using, it would be good to see them for myself. Im not saying you are wrong, just want to have a look.

Also i think it helps to specify which period we are looking at as well, Early Viking -had much shorter tunics than late period, and by 1066 it would only have been language that sepreated Viking Saxon and Norman clothing.

The problem we have, I beleive is we are open to modern interpretation, and whilst my Description of what to wear and how is based on my society, yours may well be different.

Would you agree that apart from the undertunic length the description i gave is enough to help FlkeshandBlood get started, then we can carry on the argument until we all grow old, fat and bearded, (Thats me out then, already there)
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Post by WorkMonkey »

Gyrthofhwicce wrote:WM, Sigurd,
Can you point me in the direction of the illustations you are using, it would be good to see them for myself. Im not saying you are wrong, just want to have a look.
Any period illustration of a male.

Also I thought single leg hose were becoming increasingly popular by this time? That's what I've read, I dont know how it can be backed up cus theres no material evidence for them? In england anyway, I dont know about on the continent.
The only evidence for trousers is the Thorsburg trousers? They're like 400AD.
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Post by Gyrthofhwicce »

WorkMonkey wrote:
Gyrthofhwicce wrote:WM, Sigurd,
Can you point me in the direction of the illustations you are using, it would be good to see them for myself. Im not saying you are wrong, just want to have a look.
Any period illustration of a male.

Also I thought single leg hose were becoming increasingly popular by this time? That's what I've read, I dont know how it can be backed up cus theres no material evidence for them? In england anyway, I dont know about on the continent.
The only evidence for trousers is the Thorsburg trousers? They're like 400AD.
Exactly, there is no complete cloth clothing found, everything is curcumspect, there fore i could say under tunics 1" longer, you can say no its not, but who is right?

What books are you getting your illustrations from was what i meant.
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Post by WorkMonkey »

any book!
most warrior pics are duplicated in every book,

With the absence of hard evidence, I'd rather believe period illustrations drawn by period people then baseless assumptions made up by modern people, but maybe thats just me? :?
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Post by Aelfric »

Anglo Saxon images are pretty much unanimous in showing no sign of an under tunic showing beneath the outer garment, a selection can be found here, also neither the Julius nor Tiberius calendars show any sign of longer under tunics, though both of these do date to the 11th century. I’m not sure about Scandinavian evidence, I’ll try to have a root through my books when I get home.

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Post by Gyrthofhwicce »

Ok the powerrs of evil are against me, i shall go home, and throw out all of my Kyrtles, and join another period that doesnt need dresses.

WM i bow to your superior knowledge, you are the monkey god.

I was only trying to help :cry:
:(
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Post by Aelfric »

No offence intended, just disscusing a question. Opinions clearly differ on this one.

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Post by Gyrthofhwicce »

Aelfric wrote:No offence intended, just disscusing a question. Opinions clearly differ on this one.
Aelfric,
None taken, i was joking when i said i would get rid of my dresses. :lol:

Like you say opinion differ, as do society guidelines, I'm guessing that we will never answer this properly.
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Post by Aelfric »

Gyrthofhwicce wrote: I'm guessing that we will never answer this properly.
Till a chap in a blue Police box appears and no doubt proves everyone wrong :lol:

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Post by Gyrthofhwicce »

Aelfric wrote:
Gyrthofhwicce wrote: I'm guessing that we will never answer this properly.
Till a chap in a blue Police box appears and no doubt proves everyone wrong :lol:
In which case i'll be first in, cos i like my longer undertunic :lol:
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Flesh&Blood

Post by Flesh&Blood »

Hi All,

Firstly, Thank You everyone who has answered my question, I do appreciate it very much. The main reason I posted it was that I could at least look somewhere near whilst standing with other Vikings, and no be a laughing stock (more than usual that is).

Only one clarification, with the undershirt,I get the cuff thing, and yes it does make sense that it would keep the pinkies warmer in winter, but how is the neck cut? Is it a simple cut with a hem like a t-shirt? or with a cut and hem down the front like my medieval type?

Thanks again, it's nice to meet good honest people on a forum.

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Post by Gyrthofhwicce »

Flesh&Blood wrote:Hi All,

Firstly, Thank You everyone who has answered my question, I do appreciate it very much. The main reason I posted it was that I could at least look somewhere near whilst standing with other Vikings, and no be a laughing stock (more than usual that is).

Only one clarification, with the undershirt,I get the cuff thing, and yes it does make sense that it would keep the pinkies warmer in winter, but how is the neck cut? Is it a simple cut with a hem like a t-shirt? or with a cut and hem down the front like my medieval type?

Thanks again, it's nice to meet good honest people on a forum.
Hi F+B,
Mine is cut with a hem at the front, basically a round neck with a 4" split down the front, the same on the undertunic. This is held shut by a brooch, but you can use a period hook and eye fastning. although i'm sure Work monkey will now chastise me.
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Post by WorkMonkey »

You can have round, square or keyhole neck holes.
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Post by Gyrthofhwicce »

WorkMonkey wrote:You can have round, square or keyhole neck holes.
See, i told you he's be along to correct me. :x :roll: :lol:
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Post by Aelfric »

Hi F&A, have you had a look at the websites of the societies that cover the Viking period? Most of them have plenty of photos of members in kit and several also have clothing guides available online.

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Post by purple peril »


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Post by Thor Ewing »

Just like to say that many of the issues you've raised here are covered in my new book Viking Clothing, which is due from Tempus next month.
Best wishes,
Thor

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Post by purple peril »

Hi Thor. Hope you and the family are well? Give us some more details of your book and I'll post them on the Vike mailing list too.

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Post by WorkMonkey »

Gyrthofhwicce wrote:
WorkMonkey wrote:You can have round, square or keyhole neck holes.
See, i told you he's be along to correct me. :x :roll: :lol:
didn't correct you dude, a keyhole is what you described, a slit down the middle fastened with a brooch or some such.
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Hell! From the land of the Vikings..

Post by Skallagrym »

Hell!
Let's start with under the Ringshirt. A Gambeson, or padded cloth armour is what anyone who wore ringmail would have worn. This is a hot potato of a subject, or at least one which will cause much debate. There are some people ( and the Gods alone know why..) who believe that they wore nothing undeneath. This, in my opinion, is far from the truth. Of course, speaking from experience as a re-enactor, a hot summers day, and a looong show, aren't good if you are wearing something made of many layers of wool and running around waving a spear or axe! :P The Regia Anglorum members i have met so far seem to have the best handle on this ( again..just in my opinion) for our period. REAL Ringmail is not as heavy and sturdy as the modern copies worn by re-enactors, especially if it's made of fencing wire or something similar ( see my Avatar..That's the 5th ringshirt i made..), and it would have needed something behind it for it to be anywhere near effective. Even the Romans mention [/i]something worn under ringmail and they call it a subarmalis.
Clothing...Hmm. There was mention of the rucked sleeve. This, i think, was an
Englisc thing. The records/ finds here tend to be different. The sleeves are not that close fitting. For a comprehensive guide to kit, including Patterns, try The Vikings! ( used to be NFPS). Go on to 'resources, then 'authenticity', then fill yer boots!. It really is quite good: www.vikingsonline.org.uk ( i think..)
Hope that has been of help. Incidentally, We have a longship and a longhouse here, and would welcome any of our Viking Brothers and Sisters as Guests..
May the Gods favour you!
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Post by WorkMonkey »

The Romans built the Coleseum in Rome, should we assume that because the Anglo-Saxons knew how to build in Stone that they built a Coleseum?
What we should be very warey of is putting our modern pespective and trying to make it fit into people living 1000 years ago.

If I'm correct there is no word in olde englisc for a gambeson, an item such as a gambeson that serves no other purpose would have a specific name, why doesn't it? Why does it only come into use after the First crusade? Seems a little odd to me. I certainly dont think it's giving these people credit saying "just because we can't do it, they couldn't either" I can happily run laps in a byrnie, helm and the whole rig, doesn't mean everyone can.
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Post by Skallagrym »

What is it about Gambesons that cause this flurry of OPINION? Hmm...
The plain fact is we don't know, NONE OF US, and " just because" there isnt a word that is known for gambeson in old englisc, doesnt mean it didn't exist, unlike the Gambesons themselves ( we'll call them that for now..) which, by the standards of common sense, must have, whether or not there's any 'evidence'. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Ringmail without a padded garment underneath whatever you choose to call it would have been pretty blimmin' pointless, in my opinion, and we all have the whole gambeson thing the wrong way round. It is the garment itself that is the important thing, and the ringshirt is an extra protective layer if you have the dosh. And were they suddenly invented for the Crusades? no, i think not. The Romans had something padded to wear under a ringshirt, called a subarmalis. I can't imagine that the technology was simply forgotten, no matter how charming the argument or how many witty comparisons are made. No, to me ringshirts without the padded backing is just a re-enactorism...Metal cool, cloth not. But you know, whatever floats your boat. The frustrating thing is that we'll probably never know!
I've made 5 ringshirts myself, and have been lucky enough to hold a real one, and there's no comparison. Modern materials give re-enactment ringshirts a safer, more solid feel. The ringshirt i saw, and held, was way not going to stand up to anything much, even discounting its age. The people responsible for it ( and heres something else i don't get: re-enactors always know better than scientists and munitions experts) told me that. Therefore there was something backing it, in my opinion,and the most sensible conclusion is a padded/ stuffed garment of some kind, for which there is a word in old Norse, and the modern version of the word in Swedish is 'tröja', which these days is applied to mens tops.
Anyone got an opinion on leather armour? Be interested to hear what y'all have to say...
Skallagrym...

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