Viking Fashion – An Unsolved Mystery

In reflecting on the many mysteries in fashion of ancient cultures, the Vikings jump to the top of that list.  With little written documentation, few images, and sparse archeological evidence, information on Viking style is very fragmented.  Opinions vary on the details of their wardrobe, but it makes for an interesting exploration nonetheless.

From what information is known, Viking clothing resembled that of the Germanic people of northern Europe throughout the Norse era.  As a brief overview, men were seen in tight fighting tunics across the chest with broad skirts.  This look was accompanied by trousers below that were either loose or tight fitting.  Women were known to roam about in long shifts with suspended overdresses.  For protection and warmth from harsh weather, both genders would wear long coats or jackets.

Viking Shirt, Burgundy:

Viking Shirt, Burgundy

When it comes to fabrics and materials from which Viking era clothing was constructed, most of the support is derived from written law, literary sources, and archeological research.  A great deal of evidence on Viking fabrics comes from grave goods, but it is hard to uncover a substantial amount of surviving fabric as much of it has decayed.  Some traces have also been found on jewelry, in which the corrosion products of the fabric made contact with and etched the jewelry in the grave.  These findings have made it possible for the thread count and weave to be deciphered on several occasions.  Other clues of Viking materials were given by the Norse people, who coated worn clothes in pitch and used them to seal cracks in ships and as torches.  The pitch coated fabrics lasted a long time and thus, greatly aided in the mysteries of Viking clothing.

As stated earlier, the tunic was the primary garment for men and some women wore them too.  The Viking tunic slipped on over the head and contained a keyhole neckline (this was the most popular shape, although other shapes emerged as well).  Typically there was no fastener for the neck opening, but sometimes a simple button and thread loop was provided to close the neck opening.  As clothing that showed the chest was considered effeminate, men’s necklines were higher than women’s.  Tunics were decorated with a braid on the neckline and the cuffs.  For the wealthy, there was also a braid on the skirt hem.  These braids were made of wool and possibly silk for the upper class.

Woolen Viking Tunic:

Woolen Viking Tunic

In addition to the tunic worn by Viking men, another garment was the kyrtill, an overtunic.  This piece was crafted from wool and contained very complicated patterns, which required many portions of fabric to be cut and reassembled.  This garment was decently light and offered a good amount of flexibility and sleeves were extended well past the wrist, a contrast from modern clothing.

While enough information exists to put the pieces together for educated assumptions, it is still hard to know exactly what the full extent of Viking fashion was.  However, from what is known, it can’t be denied that this civilization did possess some pretty awesome apparel.  To see our offerings in Viking shirts and tunics, as well as other inspired period clothing, visit:  http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/

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