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The History of Traditional Viking Clothing

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The History of Traditional Viking Clothing

Many people associate Vikings with gritty, tough warriors that were usually covered in dirt or the blood of their enemies. The Viking era took place from around 793 to 1066 after the Germanic Iron Age. Contrary to what many people think of ancient Vikings, the people during this period took their hygiene seriously and wore refined clothing.

Traditional Viking clothing encompasses a wide range of items and materials. It was commonly thought during this period that since you never knew when you would die, you should always look your best so you look good when you show up in the afterlife. This belief played a part in what the Vikings wore and how they took care of themselves.

This guide will discuss everything you need to know about authentic Viking clothing. Whether you’re getting ready to go to a festival or want to learn more about the culture, you’ll become an expert on Viking clothing in no time.

Clothing Was Important to the Vikings

There was a social hierarchy that was present during the Viking Age. The clothing they wore reflected where they stood in society. Those of a higher class were able to get better quality materials and jewelry.

Fashion didn’t mean the same to them as it does to us now. Their clothing indicated to others their social class.

The Vikings were a part of the Norse honor culture which placed a high value on status and worth. Historians have found combs and other personal care items in archeological digs that show that the Vikings might not have been the barbarians they’re portrayed to be.

Not a lot of fabric from this era is still intact. Many historians get information about what the Vikings wore from written texts from this time. These sagas give us clues about what was worn and what each piece signified.

There are many places you can shop for historically accurate Viking clothing. You can find Viking clothing here.

What Materials Were Used?

Most Viking clothes were made from wool or linen. While these textiles were commonly used, they were also quite expensive. Other materials that you’ll find include:

  • Animal hides
  • Silk

Silk is typically reserved for the wealthiest members of society. The Vikings wore specific items based on their economic status, age, and gender.

What Impact Did the Environment Have?

Vikings lived in an environment that was unforgiving, harsh, and cold. These brutal living conditions played a part in the clothing that every person wore, regardless of their status.

The Vikings had to wear clothing that could protect them from the elements and keep them warm. Most people had to wear clothes that were flexible and practical. They needed to be able to easily perform their duties.

What Did Men Wear?

Men’s clothing usually started with an overtunic. The overtunic was complicated to create but allowed for a lot of movement for the wearer. Men needed to have the freedom to move their arms, whether they were working on a farm or on the battlefield.

Most men’s tunics had braided decorations on the front. Wealthy men also had braids sewn along the bottom of their shirts. They might’ve also had silk used to trim their tunics.

Men typically wore linen undertunics under overtunics. The sleeves of the undertunic were usually longer and stretched past the sleeves of the overtunic.

There are many styles of trousers that Viking men wore. They could range from baggy to tight pants. The trousers were often simple in design or more complicated.

Their trousers didn’t have flies or pockets. The absence of pockets shows us that they carried around their items in other ways, often by hanging them from a belt. Men’s trousers might’ve been held up with a drawstring waistband.

Men kept themselves warm by wearing cloaks made from thick wool. The cloaks were worn in an offset position. This kept their weapon arm free to grab their sword or knife when necessary.

Viking men wore small caps to keep their heads warm. These caps were typically made from the following materials:

  • Fur
  • Leather
  • Sheepskin
  • Wool

What Did Women Wear?

Women Vikings typically wore one long dress that went to their ankles or the floor. They also wore an apron-style dress, or a hangerock, on top of it. The apron straps were fastened by two brooches on the front.

The brooches included in the apron dress are sometimes called turtle brooches. They’re called this because their shape looks like a turtle shell.

Amber or glass beads were frequently strung between the two brooches. Women also carried frequently used items from their brooches or belts. These items might include:

  • Knife
  • Whetstone
  • Needles
  • Keys
  • Scissors

Some women might’ve worn an ankle-length coat over their dress and apron for additional warmth. Shawls and cloaks tended to be more frequently used. Women used brooches to fasten their clothing’s neck opening.

While leather belts were commonly worn by men, the absence of belt buckles in Viking women’s graves leads historians to believe that their belts were made from fabric. Women might not have worn belts as frequently as men, either. They didn’t need to wear a belt over their dress since they hung their belongings from their brooches.

Women wore head coverings, like a knotted kerchief or a headdress. Viking sagas mention women’s headdresses, which could be very elaborate when worn for a special occasion. Certain types of headdresses were designed to differentiate unmarried women from married ones.

What Did the Children Wear?

Most historical evidence indicates that Viking children typically wore smaller versions of traditional men’s and women’s clothing. Everyday clothing items might’ve included:

  • Tunics
  • Trousers
  • Dresses
  • Aprons

Learn About Traditional Viking Clothing

Traditional Viking clothing was designed to be practical while reflecting the social status of the wearer. Vikings took more consideration into their appearance than we might’ve originally thought. The bright colors and intricate jewelry tell a story of what life was like as a Viking.

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