Links to the papers for the International Medieval Congress gatherings.
For some time there has been a rather comprehensive thesis available online about clothes from the Netherlands in the early Middle Ages. I saw that the book, Clothes Make the Man: Early Medieval Textiles from the Netherlands, that came out of that project was finally published last month and I posted a link for it on my FB page. A friend then shared the open access link for the work and... well... go right now and pick this one up.
This book has VERY detailed information on the textiles from the finds (many of which, while not Scandinavian, are still Viking Age). The later part of the book gives detailed analysis of what the costumes of these people might have been like, including drawings for male and female garments. If someone was interested in building out a persona/kit for this time and place, this document is likely the best resource you could hope for. It is pretty amazing.
Oh, and as a side note, if you want hats with "seam embellishments", this area actually has evidence of that practice in the Netherlands on high status items (note though, there are still no sprawling, giant herringbone stitches... this is compact narrow work comparable to Sutton Hoo and Mamman pillows). Just thought I would toss that out there ;-)
Recently on the Viking Clothing forum on Facebook (the rather "hardcore" forum I have mentioned before in some of my posts), there was a discussion about necklines on women's Viking Age caftans/coats. Quite often I see coats with a very deep U shaped cut out. There is no real evidence for that cut, though I do understand why reenactors opt for that shaping. It allows for one to see the impressive brooches and bling.
There is some scant evidence of a straight edge opening, so when I made my own coat, I opted for something between the two. I choose a deep V neck that has only the very slightest curve to it. Unfortunately, my entire coat came out too large, so that neckline opens up too much and the whole thing wants to slide off my shoulders. (Fortunately, I already have cloth with which to craft a new outergarment at some point.)
I think the most brilliant reconstruction I have seen so far is offered by a reenactor named Louise Archer. She gave me permission to share her work here. Her coat is which is made from a Herdwick diamondtwill wool and in her detail photos you can see she has a Dublin scarf. That is made from Manx Loghtan wool! (I cannot express how much I love her choices, and how lucky I think she is to find these wools to work with.) Her coat comes to the neckline, as would a straight-opening male caftan. She can fasten it at the top for warmth, OR just use the brooch further down, which allows it to open at the top around her brooches and bling. This is practical the similarities to the proposed male garment make it make a great deal of sense. Beyond that, this construction (or anything with a straight edged front) also makes it somewhat similar to items from nearby cultures (such as Frankish or Saxon women's coats).
Beyond her wonderful coat, I also wanted to point out the photo of her Dublin style cap. This very will illustrates one of the points I made a few days ago in my article on the facts we have about headcoverings from the Viking Age (that being that all of the extant examples are actually very, very tiny).
I really love this work and look forward to seeing more from Louise.
"Notícias Asgardianas: Boletim do Núcleo de Estudos" is a series of publications that looks to have some fascinating topics contained within. The issues are available for free for download online. Below is the google translation of their about section:
The Asgardian News Bulletin publishes material relating to the studies of Medieval Scandinavia highlighting the areas involving Mythology, Religiosity, Literature, History, material culture, iconography and Archeology. In particular, we highlight the impact of the Nordic world of the Viking Era in the West and its repercussions to the present day, especially on art and the popular imagination. The newsletter is open to contributions from the academic community and the general public. The periodicity, starting in 2016, will be annual. Eventually, we publish special issues. The newsletter Asgardianas News was originally published between the years 2003 to 2007, being resumed from 2012 by the NEVE (Nucleus of Vikings and Scandinavian Studies) in a new format and with a new editorial team.
I cannot wait to further explore these documents!
You can find them here: http://neveufpb.wixsite.com/noticiasasgardianas
Vikings e Escandinavos (NEVE)
I love doing research, and love compiling documentation. Yes, it actually might be one of my favorite parts of doing what I do. I always learn new ways to improve my documentation every time I produce something, and I want to share one item that really changed now only how I document a project, but how I THINK about a project.
Mistress Ragnveig Snorradottir shared with me some of her documentation for a pentathlon competition. At the end of her documentation there was a chart, a decision making matrix (which was actually suggested to her by Mistress Sigrid Briansdotter). It allows you to readily lay out all project details for the benefit of the judges. I have discovered that using a chart like this actually helps me to organize a project, and keep track of the most relevant details. This allows me to not only have a quick reference for my own work, but it sometimes makes me stop and thing about my choices as I work.
Below is the chart as I used it in a competition entry for Atlantia's Kingdom Arts and Sciences Faire in 2016. This specific one is from a woven Norse headcovering that I entered. A link for the full documentation can be found below the chart.
, If you have stopped by here before, you likely know that I try to leave the Woulda/Coulda/Shoulda’s out of my work. Those phrases tend to lead down long and winding roads into fantasyland. The other thing I strongly dislike is absolutes. The idea that something was always one way is rather off-putting (especially when it is something readily disproven). There is this balance that must be achieved when looking at what bits of evidence we have, while still applying some creativity to sort things out into a reasonable approximation of what is historically plausible.
With that in mind, I want to talk a little about some research I am doing on women’s caps from the Viking Age. There is evidence of an assortment of interesting headcovering possibilities, including the caps, as well as some narrow cloth bands, small scarves and veils. I think that, over all, the caps seem to be the most common item I see among reenactors, and are one of the first that I personally used. I will eventually expand on this post, with full citations and the like, but I wanted to toss what is going through my head out there now.
To start, I will define a Viking age cap as a small item, usually square, though the top might be shaped with a dart, that typically has ties attached. I have found mention 21 such caps/possible caps in my research. There are additional small fragments, especially from Dublin, and one from London, that are thought to possibly be from caps, but I have left those items out for the moment, as I am trying to look few specific details that can help provide a better understanding of these items. The items for which I compiled data range from the 9th-11th century (with 2 being listed as uncertain), with most of them falling into the 9th-10th century range.
All of these items have one thing in common, and that is that the cloth of which they are constructed is a light weight and very fine tabby. Most of them are even described as having deliberate space left in the warp and weft, giving them a gauzy appearance. They are delicate and most have some level of transparency. All of the extant items are wool or silk, though at least one of the author’s who have studied these items thinks that linen was also a possibility, and that the fiber did not survive in the ground.
Fine, gauzy cloth textiles, many of which have been attributed to women’s headcoverings, have been found in a number of graves and sites, and across a range of locations, including York, Hedeby, Oslo, Hørning, London, Lincoln, Kaupang, Önsvala in Skåne, Oseberg and possibly Birka. Each of the caps meets the criteria of being a very fine fabric. Unfortunately, most textiles in graves are preserved by contact with metal objects, and metal near or on the head is not always common. It is entirely possible that there were indeed caps of heavier cloth (there is one from Finland and one from the Netherlands that have some similarity to these items that were not of fine cloth), but I think there are enough caps and cloth remaining to believe that at least for certain circumstances, that there might have been a preference for fine textiles for this accessory.
A further complication concerning these caps is that most of the items that are actually identifiable as headcoverings do not come from graves at all. That takes them out of context and while there is an assumption that they are indeed women’s headcoverings, they also could have belonged to children (or both women and children).
Another similarity in all of these items is size. The finished width of them is very narrow. Of the 20 that I looked at, 14 of them have a definite width, or at least an estimated width applied to them by the researchers. They range from 15cm to 18cm wide, with an average of 16.7cm (6.6 inches). That is exceedingly narrow (far narrower than many reenactors make them and far more narrow than my own first attempts at recreating these items). Simply put, these will cover only the back of the head if worn by an adult.
Of the 20 items, 10 had traces of having had a dart, following the curve of the back of the head, sewn into them. 6 were too fragmented to tell. One of the caps from York had the point created by the dart stitched down to the side.
While many of the caps appeared to have a back seam that went the length of the cap, one from Lincoln and two from Dublin were open below the bottom of the dart.
5 of the caps had patches applied. Interestingly enough, one of them had a patch applied on the inside of the cap (which would leave the damaged area showing). One had patches applied near where the ties were attached, presumably for additional strength. One also showed signs of darning.
I think there is a reenactorism that has developed around the ties on the caps. I have heard statements to the effect that caps have too have the ties set up into the cap (an inch or two, or more, from the bottom corner), as the example from York shows. I have even heard that caps with ties at the bottom corners were only for small children. I think that is odd given that we simply do not have the grave evidence to state exactly who wore these caps. Further, 7 of the 20 examples that I used for this research have the bottom corner of the cap stretched out of alignment, as if there had been a tie there at one point. Only 3 of the 20 show evidence of a tie set further up into the cap, and 10 of them are too fragmented or just do not have evidence of ties.
Beyond the location of the ties, it is very hard to say where or how they were tied. Most reenactors prefer to tie them behind the head or under the hair, but one cannot discount them being tied under the chin like a later coif either. (The tie would be well hidden under certain styles of veil from that time period as well, and there is an image from Kiev that shows such a headcovering, tied under the chin, as well.)
I think that these caps (and possibly the scarves as well) were a base layer for additional headcoverings. A cap tied in place (whether under the chin or back under the hair) makes for easy of pinning a veil in place and can help to keep hair out of the face or out of the way of tasks. The manner in which a few of these are patched (with little care for a visible hole, in the case of one patched on the inside, or in case of a visible patch for reinforcement on another one) makes it seem as though the appearance of the item itself was not terribly relevant (even in the case of a costly import such as silk).
I think it possible that the cap was a common item worn daily, and perhaps a veil was donned on top of it if one was leaving home or receiving guests. I do not consider the cap alone to be “outerwear” for harsh outdoor climates as the size of these items do not allow for much protection from the sun and the diaphanous nature of the cloth itself does little to provide warmth. I would not necessarily consider it “formal wear” at this point either. I believe that, especially later in the Viking Age, that women were using veils as a symbol of status and that these caps might well have been worn under those. In fact, a small wool gauze veil or scarf does a great deal to make a veil less likely to slip around on slick hair.
The dart itself is fascinating to me. I find that a soft cap of wool gauze with a dart) lays exceptionally well under a veil (the peak of the dart naturally folds over, without leaving much of a point at the back of the veil. I linen cap with no dart, tends to leave a more visible point under the veil. I definitely plan to experiment more with a variety of options.
I think that some details about the caps varied greatly, such as whether there was a dart (though I lean towards more having had them historically than not) or the location of the ties. Those with an open back bear some similarity to the proposed uses of the scarves, in that one could wear the rectangle of cloth and tie it on back under the hair. This type can slide further forward on the head than a cap with a back could. It could be regional or just personal preferences when it comes down to it. There are so many variables.
Heckett's work with the headcoverings from Dublin includes diagrams that show ways one can wear the caps, but I think that a more recent item in an article by Penelope Walton Rogers gives a more interesting view (both can be seen below).
ART has always had a number of issues available, for free, to the public. Now, however, they have expanded that offering considerably. There are some fantastic items in here for people interested in a variety of cultures and time periods!
If you feel like digging around in Swedish this site is a gold mine.
I have wonderful friends who gifted me with a copy of Bundled Up in Blue last fall. It is a great museum exhibit book that covers many details of a Viking grave find in Iceland. I was very happy last night to see the dress information now available online. You can find it here!
Often people ask me how to improve upon their wardrobe or over all look. There are a million individual responses, but I think one of the most universal things one can do is to eye each component critically and ascertain exactly how "common" it might have been in period. In my article about Viking age plaids, I talk about how small the checks were and how narrow the stripes. What is also key about it is that in all of the materials I have, I could only find those few references. Certainly they used this cloth, but it does not appear to have been common practice when compared to the overall number of finds.
Another example of this is in the use of tablet weaving. In the article "Tablet Weaving on Reconstructed Viking Age Garments – and a Method to Optimise the Realism of Reconstructed Garments," by Lise Raeder Knudsen (from the book Refashioning Viking Age Garments. SAXO-Institute, University of Copenhagen), the author has a chart that shows the prevalence of tablet weaving in graves from different time periods. During the Migration era, it ranged from 20-30% of graves in various parts of Scandinavia, but during the Viking age less than 5% of graves have evidence of this practice.
What I take away from that is that this form of trim should be used sparingly, if at all. Not every edge of a kit should have it, and perhaps it should be used only for high status personas. If I use a tablet woven band, which would have been rare, then I would perhaps not also use plaid in the same kit (another less common item).
Another, earlier example of trends, is in this fantastic article on early cloth by Karina Grömer. Textile Materials and Techniques in Central Europe in the 2nd and 1st Millennia BC.
In this she has a fantastic chart showing how common things such as weave structure, use a dye, plaids and embroidery are. They are displayed as being important techniques of the period down to single evidences. It generates fantastic food for thought for the reenactor.
I dance, race cars, play video games and am on a fantastic journey to recreate the past via costume, textiles, dance and food.
Blogroll of SCA & Costume Bloggers
Below is a collection of some of my favorite places online to look for SCA and historic costuming information.
More Amie Sparrow - 16th Century German Costuming
Gianetta Veronese - SCA and Costuming Blog
Grazia Morgano - 16th Century A&S
Mistress Sahra -Dress From Medieval Turku
Loose Threads: Cathy's Costume Blog
Mistress Mathilde Bourrette - By My Measure: 14th and 15th Century Costuming
More than Cod: Exploring Medieval Norway