The article has been published in the Archaeological Textiles Review for the Lendbreen constructions. I love that the time needed to reconstruct the garments was included, as it is very important for providing context for the garments. (Yes, I also love that they used Villsau wool!)
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.
(Note If you bring up wool to many people, especially in America, and the first thing they think of is the itchy sweater that their grandmother knit for them (mine was red). These memories can often make people shy away from wool fabric for reenacting purposes, but the reality is that for most of us, that would have been the choice material for our persona. In fact, some very strict groups have requirements that state you have to make your garments out of wool to even participate. Inevitably, this brings up the conversation about someone's wool allergies and what to do about that.
First thing that needs to be understood is that no one is actually allergic to wool itself, unless, of course one is also allergic to the hair on their own head. Wool is made of keratin, just like our own hair and finger nails. There are, however, some people who have reactions to it, so understanding the actual cause of the reaction is important.
There is one other factor, and likely it is the most common one, that can make people shy away from wool. That is the "scratchiness" of the fiber itself. This reaction can be excessively annoying and can happen for a couple of reasons.
Also look for a more fine cloth. Some vendors, such as Burnley & Trowbridge, sell swatch sets of their cloth. I recommend ordering swatches from them and other outlets to see which materials might best suit your needs an level of sensitivity. There are 100% wool fabrics out there that surprisingly don't actually "feel" like wool at all.
Another factor that comes into play is the perception that all wool will be hot and heavy. Much of the cloth from Norse finds is exceptionally fine with very high thread counts. They had lightweight wools! As mentioned above, poke around online and order swatches to see the variety of cloth that really exists. I prefer wool for my veils and headdresses. A wool gauze is no warmer in the summer than linen and my handwoven wool dress is no warmer than a linen of the same weight. Avoid coatings or heavily fulled materials if heat is a concern.
Another option, for those that do not have a chemical sensitivity, or who can wash out the offending chemicals, but still find wool uncomfortable, is to make sure that the wool fabric does not touch the more sensitive areas of your body, such as your neck. For women doing Viking age, this can be simple as you can wear a wool aprondress over a linen underdress. However, if you need a wool tunic you can wear a wool one over linen and then you can add a linen facing inside the neckline and inside the sleeves to prevent the wool from coming in contact with your skin. Tacking it down on the inside with small stitches will leave it invisible from the outside completely and adding a wear cord at the opening edge will further remove it from your skin.
(Note that this post is not an insistence everyone wear wool, but I do know many people who previously shied away from the fibre by working with it and figuring out how to make it work for them. As always, your own best comfort is important so be reasonable as you test your limits!)
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
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