Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Viking clothing: What Did The Vikings Wear?

While you may enjoy a good Viking movie, replicating or even finding the clothes they wore may not be appealing. However, if you are dressing up for Halloween and Vikings are the vibe, there is nothing out there that could stop you from living the Viking dream. They survived in those harsh environments; I am sure you can too.

Viking clothing was either made from wool, linen, and animal skins, or in most cases, a combination of all of them. The Vikings are known to be skilled weavers and make their clothes. Women typically take the help of children and make the wool into yarn and use natural dyes from plants to give it color. Women wore a long dress with a pinafore over it whereas men, on the other hand, wore tunics and trousers. Women accessorized their outfits with belts and brooches. 

With the limited amount of knowledge and archaeological evidence we have about Viking clothes, we know that it has fabrics and tons of it. In most cases, the materials and fabrics do not do well with time, and when these fragments are recovered, the theory is damaged and too small to make sense out of. However, you can count on the Norse sagas for some amount of concrete proof of what they do wear. If not, you will know what “wannabe” Vikings wear.

During the Viking era, the climate was harsh and unforgiving. The weather dictated what they could mostly wear. The cold and hostile conditions meant any clothing had to keep them warm and protect them from the bone-biting cold in those harsh winter months. However, the outfits also had to be flexible and practical for everyday tasks and allow them to move freely.

Typically, only the Germanic populations of northern Europe wore similarly or the same type of clothing as the Vikings. However, we can distinctly note the difference between a dress that men wore and the types of clothing that women wore. Most importantly, the clothes they wore were always influenced by money and social status.

During the Viking Age, there was a social hierarchy. Those of higher standing, typically those with more silver coins, were able to get the more beautiful and higher quality clothes. Dressing up signified their status in that community.

Therefore, if someone is higher on the social strata, the quality of their garment would be better and would look better. They also dressed to impress the opposite sex.

What Viking men wore:

During the Viking era, layers were significant. It was mostly because it was very cold, and they had to keep warm while they were hard at work. The outfits consisted of base garments that were usually lighter and shorter-sleeved during the warmer months and thicker and longer during cold months.

Above this base layer, men wore a tunic. This was typically made up of thicker materials and draped long to knees. There also certain patterns and symbols are woven into them that made it significant to their era. Men’s trousers were relatively simple and had no pockets and could be loose-fitting or tight. Usually produced by local wool or linen, men’s underwear was made from linen. It was more comfortable.

Another unforeseen and unexpected fashion trend in the 1980s is men who wore leggings or wool wrappings around their knees to their ankles.

What did the Viking Women wear?

On the other hand, women wore relatively the same materials; however, the cut and style of their Viking costumes were completely different. Women, too, required to be warm. Hence they wore a base layer consisting of an under-dress that stretched from the shoulder down to ankle-length, which was either very plain or patterned.

Over the under-dress, women’s Viking outfit consisted of a wool strap dress, which was slightly shorter in length. These two layers were fastened together at the straps by two iron or bronze brooches. If a woman was of very high standing, she might have had gold brooches.

Most of men’s or women’s Viking clothes did not contain buttons. They didn’t have the typical practicality of a pocket. However, they did have other additions like a wool or linen hood that became necessary to keep warm in the colder months.

What Vikings wore as warriors:

The first thing that usually comes to mind when we think about Viking costumes is those huge helmets and the armored men ready to fight a battle. Men wore more robust clothing types during the war, like Cloaks and thicker tunics mostly made out of sheep’s skin or other animals. A strong leather belt around the waist was crucial to keep their weapons in place, and they were also within easy reach, should they need them. 

Men also wore thick, leather body armors for protection and have a shield for protection from sword strikes or blows from axes. Mostly, except for metal helmets, Vikings did not have overly heavy clothing or armor, largely because it was a hindrance to their maneuverability in battle.

What footwear did the Vikings wear?

It is common to see Viking shoes that were of ankle height, though some preferred wearing boots. They were made out of leather via a process known as the ‘turn shoe’ technique. The technique involved a shoe or a book being stitched inside out and then pulled into its final shape. The shoes were then fastened by at least one toggle to adjust for a better fit. However, the shoes did not last for long. They usually wore out after a few months and required replacing.

Viking costume was very practical, with the occasional flare of showing superiority. The materials vastly dictated what could be worn in which season, and in most cases, they wore winter, heat-trapping material for the majority of the year. The patterns and symbols differentiated Vikings, who were rich and ranked high on the Viking hierarchy. They were also differentiated with the occasional use of silk. The uniqueness and ambiguity of the clothes the Vikings wore made their culture a significant highlight. 

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