As I start to base my work and my kit more on evidence and less on what other others are choosing to do, I really am seeing the importance of both looking closely at certain details in order to both avoid reenactorisms and to present the best image of what I think a woman of the Viking era would have worn. During this process, I am finding it very important to look at scale of certain items and equally important to look at scaling back some other things.
Below are things that I am working on or towards in my own upper class Viking kit:
- Trim: Most trim (when used at all) was in the form of tablet-woven bands or silk strips and most of these were less than a half an inch wide. Some of the silk I used in the past was far too wide (and glaringly the wrong patterns).
- Cording: When braid or cord was used to trim the edges of garments, it was only a few millimeters wide (typically 2-3mm with the “coarse” braids being labled as 4-5mm).
- Textiles: The garments from upper class graves were well woven and of fine threads with high thread counts. Even many of the garment textiles from reports that were classified as “coarse” were not thick, rough burlap that one would imagine Dark Ages folk wearing.
- Patterned Fabrics: In my survey of patterned textiles I discovered that plaids used in garments were typically very, very tiny and stripes were narrow. I have used large plaids in the past, but will have a more watchful eye when looking for textiles like these in the future. (Survey can be found here: http://awanderingelf.weebly.com/blog-my-journey/viking-textiles-a-deeper-look-at-plaids-stripes-and-checks )
- Belts: Historically these were much narrower than those we often seen used in the SCA (very narrow in many cases). While I do not always wear a belt (as I think that it was less common for a well to do woman to wear a belt), I have already selected a belt that is less than half an inch wide for when I do need or want one.
- Stitches: In the past I did some very bold rows of running stitches (in contrasting thread) on garments that visibly stood out. I am now looking to use smaller stitches and often it is in the same color as the garment or in a natural color (ivory or natural linen typically if I am using linen thread).
- Loops/straps: Most of the extant loops from smokkrs were less than half an inch, and some were much, much narrower than that. My early dresses were a bit over half an inch, but later garments I made were more narrow and I find them just as comfortable and functional as wider ones and like the look better.
- Sleeves: The extant sleeves we do have all taper towards the wrist. I have a few dresses on which I love the sleeves, and plan to modify that pattern to better match the narrow cuffs on extant pieces.
- Hemlines: I think many of my early dresses are far too full. The lines that would be created by the Hedeby smokkr fragment would slim. The gores found at the same site were also much more narrow than those I often cut for myself. The more recent slim garments I have made still offer room for movement and I much prefer them now. I plan to work more with these layouts to see how I can further improve the design. These also use less fabric, which I find to be an important consideration.
- Beads: Even some of the most extravagant graves have only a few beads or a single strand. Festoons and giant swags of beads were just not common, even among the wealthy. Over the years I have amassed quite a collection of handcrafted beads that I adore, but now I typically choose to wear one strand at a time rather than all of them at once.
I love discovering new knowledge and love the process of recreating my presentation based on that. I look at some of my early works and see that there is little to no evidence to support choices I made, but I still learned a great many things as I crafted each item. I just as much look forward to new directions (and new garb)!