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Guest Post: Lydia Mondy on Viking Fashion


Quick Message From Kerry:
So what are the excuses? Having an Etsy shop? Looking after new kittens? Work? Well whatever the excuse of course I apologize for not writing a post in a long time. I don't know why I let myself get so behind, I love my blog and writing. Anyway, you are in for a treat today, because I've got a fabulous guest post from Lydia Mondy. I love her style of writing and it is always really fun and informative. 



The Oseberg Ship at an Oslo museum
Over time, most early civilizations and cultures are subject to some pretty rampant stereotyping:  ancient Egyptians only cared about pyramids and mummies, Mayans were bloodthirsty cannibals and Vikings were roughhousing barbarians in horn hats.

Nah, man. Nah. The myth of the “horn hat” is the one of the most perpetuated ideas in Scandinavian lore. It’s been hypothesized that the Vikings were depicted this way by more contemporary European Christians to stress that they were brutal and ‘devilish’ Pagans (though Wagner operas have also shouldered some blame). As the great and mighty Cher Horowitz once said…whatever. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few things the Vikings actually did wear. Specifically, the ladies…

The Vikings were actually quite groomed… 
Like Scandinavian magpies, Viking women were all about the accessories. To be fair, these solid materials stand the test of time and are more likely to be successfully excavated than woven textiles and fibers. Suffice to say, jewelry and other accouterments played a big role in their appearance.
Beads from the Jorvik find. 

Amber, in its rainbow of hues, was made into pendants, beads and rings. Rings were also constructed of metal, glass, walrus ivory, antlers, even silver. Decorative armbands made of iron and pewter were discovered at the Jorvik archaeological site in the UK. Semi-precious metals turn up as well, but less often. Ornate beads in a wide variety of materials were likely used for necklaces; many were multi-colored with intricate motifs of waves and spirals.
Fascinating, fastening brooches. 

A modern interpretation. 
Elaborately carved pins made of bone have also been uncovered over the years, likely to function as dress fasteners or hair pins. Copper alloy ringed pins served as fasteners on cloaks and other garments, and the style and composition of these are thought to determine social class. These clasping brooches were one of the most prominent trimmings in the Viking woman’s wardrobe. Necessary, everyday items like keys, scissors and knives were dangled alongside their bevy of jewelry between the brooches.


This Viking woman’s hood is evidence of the silk trade
Clothing was worn ankle-length, typically a linen under layer and a woolen outer layer. Paneled apron or pinafore-type dresses were common. Long, floor-sweeping cloaks and shawls were also usually made of wool. The shoulder brooches were used to hold up the harness-type dress, a widespread style. Just like today, the upper classes were regarded as fashion plates – bright colors and patterns, dressy silk ribbons, applique work, fur, even golden threads – all have been found at home and burial sites.

Some historians have doubts about the frequently-depicted kerchief head-coverings, but a silken headdress hood with linen chinstraps was discovered in a 10th-century pit, likely worn by one of the wealthier citizens of the time. Belts were likely made of woven fabric, some with opulent detail, instead of the leather variety worn by men.
A thousand-year-old boot found in York

Knitted wool socks were worn under functional leather boots. Quite a few Viking-era boots have been excavated, and in my opinion, they look awesome! I want a pair of the modern replicas. The booties were usually fashioned out of one solid piece of leather, with a variety of styles: some feature metal clasps, wraparound seams, straps or ties. Their shoes were a rather unisex item.

A scene from the History Channel’s Vikings
Eventhis little kid looks like he doubts the authenticity… 
Joan Bergin, the costume designer on the History Channel’s Vikings miniseries, cites a multitude of influences for her imaginative designs, from Scandinavian museums to Daniel Day Lewis. Creative liberties are a no-brainer in historical Hollywood adaptations, but her attention to detail and luxurious accents create an aesthetic that’s beautiful, even believable.


The clothing and accessories of Viking culture featured both functional and extravagant, highly artistic touches…but unfortunately, no horned helmets. You’re more likely to find one on Fred Flintstone or Flava Flav. For further, comprehensive reading – check out The Viking Answer Lady’s page…

I hope you enjoyed this post. Keep an eye out for a few more 'Viking' inspired posts this month. Also if you live in the UK I would highly recommend you check out the Viking exhibition at The British Museum. If you'd like to do a collaboration or guest post please let me know! Don't be shy!

xxx

Lydia Mondy is a part-time blogger, lover of history and descendant of Scandinavian fore mothers. She, like Viking women, has been accused of wearing too much jewelry.

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