Yep, just what it sounds like. At this year’s Medieval and Renaissance Studies Celebration I had a fashion show featuring clothing from early medieval Sweden based on the research I did for my honors thesis. It was a blast, and it was good to finally have my clothing done and know I am nearly done with my thesis work!
We started off the afternoon with everyone changing into their clothing. It was a bit of an adventure, as most of my models had never worn such clothing before. As different as some of it is, I don’t blame them. To top things off, the men’s clothing was made for my little brother Kyle, so before all this began I had to find men small enough to wear that. Now, Kyle is 5’8″ by now, but he’s still pretty wiry and thin at this point in his life. So I recruited three friends of mine to wear the men’s clothes, Thomas, Chris, and Austin, and Karen and Jessica to wear the women’s clothes.
Getting changed was a flurry of questions of “how do I put this on?” and “what is this?” and making sure each person had the right jewelry for each costume and that each costume fit right. It was a bit confusing, but in the end everyone looked great, had the right size shoes, and we had plenty of time for some outdoor photos.
Here we have a timeline of Swedish clothing, from left to right. 850’s, 950’s, and 1150’s. Yes, I know I skipped a century, but I wanted to show a clear difference while still showing that things were somewhat similar.
For the 850’s you probably recognize both costumes. On the far left we have Thomas in Kyle’s old Viking Kit. Next we have Jessica in her normal kit with a pale green linen overdress under her apron dress, which is a more Swedish feature. Norwegians seemed to tend to have just the underdress and apron dress, which is what Jessica usually wears, but we made her look like an early Swede for this!
Next we have Chris in Swedish Men’s clothing from the 950’s. By this point most men of any wealth at all in Sweden wore baggy pants and shorter tunics to show off their baggy pants. Chris here has Kyle’s new Viking Kit on, complete with baggy pants and a short tunic and undertunic. The undertunic is edged with Faeroese cording and has a button and closure made of the same cording at the neckline. The blue wool tunic is edged with red and tan tablet weaving in a fretwork pattern around the collar and cuffs. He’s also wearing my new belt pouch and belt. I’m next, wearing my Swedish Viking Woman’s Kit from the 950’s. I have a pleated white linen underdress, a blue linen overdress with embroidery on the collar, cuffs, and hem in a pattern from the Oseberg ship. (Norwegian, I know, but as it’s a simple variation of a herringbone stitch, it’s something that could have been used throughout Scandinavia.) Over that, I have my red wool apron dress, fastened with twin tortoise brooches and two strings of beads. I also have a tablet-woven belt holding a knife made by my friend Chris Andrews, and nalbinding socks and leather turnshoes.
Next, we have Austin in a cavalry outfit from the 1150’s, just at the time of the Second Crusade. He wears brown wool pants, a long-sleeved linen undertunic and a sleeveless red linen overtunic. In addition, he wears a narrow belt and a antler-handled pattern-forged knife, also made by Chris Andrews. It was quite common at this point in history to have detachable sleeves on overgarments for practicality in warm weather. Karen, last in the line, has similar sleeves on her dress, which is based on some of the garments from Herjolfnes and extant sources such as manuscripts. As we have very little evidence for clothing from Sweden in this time frame, a lot of it is speculation. Her dress consists of a loose white linen underdress and a blue linen overdress with short sleeves, with lacing up the sides to fit it to her body. It’s a lot longer than the Viking dresses, but it is still a work dress– that was just the style.
After we got done taking photos, we had the fashion show, in which I related all of the above information about the costumes. I also won a prize from the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Department for third place essay for my Honors Thesis. It was quite an honor!
The following weekend, I went home and my brother Kyle and I did a photo shoot with him wearing some of his costumes and riding our horse, Rose. Rose is a sweet grey Mustang, and while she has a brand, it is difficult to see because of her color. First, we took pictures with him in his Medieval Kit.
Among other things, we learned that while that style of tunic works perfectly for riding, tight pants like that do not! He managed to completely split out the crotch of his pants beyond repair, first time he wore them! This led us to our next revelation: Baggy pants are great for riding! Carvings from Sweden in the Viking age often shows men riding horses while wearing baggy pants and short tunics, yet that often seems to be overlooked. Once we were done taking pictures of Kyle in his Medieval clothes on Rosie, he changed into his Viking clothes, and my, what a rich-looking jarl he was!
About the only problem we had for this photo shoot was not having a proper saddle. As we seem to have a shortage of Viking Style saddles, we used a modern English saddle. It’s close enough, and looked better than any one of our western saddles would have. We also used a plain English bridle. Before we started taking pictures, I was riding Rose for a bit and I fell off. . .
Overall, however, the shoot was a success! I now have many wonderful pictures of all of my different costumes modeled properly! A big thanks to everyone who agreed to wear these clothes and pose in front of the camera for me!