What did Viking Women Wear? by Rob Shackleford
For more on Vikings, check out the links of previous Viking Blogs below:
Like today’s men and women, the Vikings dressed according to sex, age and economic status. Most important – their clothing was hard wearing and warm!
The men preferred trousers and tunics, whilst the women dressed in strap dresses worn over undergarments. Ordinary Viking clothes were made of local materials, like wool and flax, woven by the women. Also there appears to be widespread use of animal skins.
The Vikings were skillful weavers and made their own clothes. Women, with the help of children, made the wool into yarn and used natural dyes from plants to give it colour.
While not as ornate as the costumes created for TV, Vikings of both sexes wore colourful clothing with patterns. Red and blue were especially popular throughout the Viking Age.
Women would typically have worn a linen undergarment covered by a long woolen dress or skirt that came down to the feet.
Archaeologists have found numerous belt buckles in women’s graves, located on the skeleton’s shoulders. This indicates that the women wore so-called harness dresses, which were held together with a strap over each shoulder. Other findings show that women also wore dresses with built-in sleeves.
Because they lived in cold climates, the clothes were double-layered. On the inside, Viking women wore a linen base – a sort of petticoat, which was soft and had a cooling effect. The outer clothes were usually made from wool, which is a warm, but also a durable material.
Some dresses featured fitted sleeves that appear to have been added as fashions changed.
In some cases, skirts of the wealthy were pleated while threads of silk, silver and gold were used to embroider and decorate dresses.
The women would also have worn a cloak, closed around the front of the chest, with a hat or headscarf.
Women’s jewellery changes through the Viking ages with the design of chains and different types of buckles altering with time.
Iban Fadlan keeps describing Viking fashion:
Each woman wears on either breast a box of iron, silver, copper, or gold; the value of the box indicates the wealth of the husband. Each box has a ring, in which there is a knife. The women wear neck-rings of gold and silver. Because when a man owns ten thousand dirhems (An Arabic currency) he makes a necklace for his wife.
As for Viking women warriors and shield-maidens? That’s for another Blog.
Some links for your own Viking research:
There is a resurgence of interest in Viking clothes even today:
About the author:
Hi, I’m Rob Shackleford. I am author of a number of novels, though so far only Traveller Inceptio and Traveller Probo have been officially published. As Traveller Inceptio looks at the fates of modern historical researchers sent to the early 11th Century Saxon world, Vikings do feature.
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