Viking costume inspiration: Natural Dyes

Viking costume inspiration: Natural Dyes

Although I’ve read a bit about the wide colour range available before when researching other eras, while I was looking around online, I also found some other information.
The examples below are from and are from the UK, but likely show what would have been available to the Vikings as well (if not native to Scandinavia, then certainly through settlement…)

Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes

In creating the above examples, the author explains that she (?) used over 150 plants, and used roots, bark, leaves, shoots, berries, fungi, flowers, along with alum, iron, copper, urea, salt, vinegar, tanin and lixivation as mordents (fixatives). For instance, for the greens, the original poster used nettles, and then used alum, copper and iron as a mordant, where as the bright orange, yellows, and peaches came from Madder.

Natural dyes used by the Navajo - from the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto

Natural dyes used by the Navajo – from the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto

In North America, plants were also used as original dyes, and when I visited the Bata Shoe Museum, they had a chart of how different colours, ranging from purples and dark pinks to bright yellows were created using natural plants. For instance, Indian Paint Brush gives a dark rose, Mount Mahogany root gives a strong coral, small Sunflower gives a bright yellow, Brigham tea gives a bright orange, Scarlet Bugler gives a light tan, Brown onion skin gives a rich orange-yellow, and Vetch Weed gives a lavender. Sumac leaves Pinon Pitch and Ocher resulted in a dark green, Purple Bee Plant gave a light grey, Red Gilia gave a soft pink, Snake Weed gave a barely there yellow, Cliffrose gave a light brown, Juniper Mistletoe gave a medium grey, and Red onion skin a light olive green. Other plants were also shown (but I cropped off their names… )

So. while more muted colours might ‘look’ more authentic, realistically pretty much any colour is possible!

More natural dye inspiration on the Anjou clothing blog!

August 2014 update

Rather than making up a whole new post, I thought I’d add to this with some of the other examples I’ve found online.
Regia Anglorum, an Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Norman, and British Living History group are taking part in a Natural Dye project. They have produced dyed colours ranging from soft and dull hues to bright, vivid colours on linen, silk, and wool. For example, their members have obtained:

  • strong, bright yellow on wool / a “dark acid yellow” on linen / pale citrus yellow on silk
  • bright, rust red on wool / a “dark copper pink” on linen / dark terracotta on silk
  • grass green on wool / (no results shared on linen) / lime green on silk
  • navy blue on wool / baby blue on linen / (no results on silk)
  • mulberry pink (purple) on wool / (no results for linen or silk)
  • slate brown on wool / “milky coffee” on linen / medium brown on silk

Kristina Gundersen shared her powerpoint presentation “Dyes in Early Northern Europe: They wore color?” Which likewise shows a wide range of colours. Items have been found using different dyestuffs from various Viking Age sites, and the colours shown in her presentation include bright yellow, bright denim blue, peach, lime, dark red, coral pink, brown, purple-pink, & purple.

I also started a Pinterest board filled with various examples of (what I think are reputable) examples of colours available to Viking Age dyers.

Viking costume inspiration: From around the internet

Viking costume inspiration: From around the internet

So the next group of photos are just random photos from around the ‘net.

Viking costume inspiration photo

Viking costume inspiration photo

The first is an underdress, only made interesting by the heavy use of accessories. This would certainly be a less time-consuming costume for me, since I already have a few suitable costume under-dresses. This one is from tumblr, and shows the dress, with one wide waist belt, a torc necklace, another low wrapped belt for the sword, and a bunch of other things. From another photo on the same page, there appears to be a drinking horn and two small pouches hanging from this belt as well. There’s also a fur ‘shawl’ worn over one shoulder, tied with a cross-body tie. In another photo, she’s shown with the same accessories, plus a cloak pin holding the neckline together, a sideless tan apron, broaches with a varied-bead broach half-necklace, and a beaded necklace. It also shows a closer view of her hands, with several rings.

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Viking costume inspiration: Viking metal bands

Viking costume inspiration: Viking metal bands

What fun! So many of the viking/ pagan metal bands I listen to have such cool costumes and artwork. Some of the bands I love/like include:
Amon Amarth






& Týr

and some of them have/had female members and wear costumes of some sort… (if you know of any other bands in this genre that I should check out, let me know in the comments below!) Some of these bands are dressed by Toxic Vision, a Canadian designer, so it’s a site to check out too in the same realm…

Turisas / Netta Skog

First up, accordian player Netta Skog, who used to play with “Battle Metal” band Turisas. The whole band performs in fantastical costumes (I have no idea how much face-paint they must go through on tour…)

Netta from Turisas

Netta from Turisas

Netta’s costume appears to have been a brown tank top, brown skirt made of a stiff fabric (or leather) trimmed with brown fur, brown tights, and then brown fur-trimmed boots. Accessories included a wide cincher/belt, arm bands, fingerless glove, and straps of various persuasions. Fun to look at, but not anything I’d want to replicate! This main photo is from Turisas’ Facebook page, but you can also see another shot, along with the rest of the band in this post on the “at least I’m housebroken” blog.
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Viking costume inspiration: Paper dolls

Viking costume inspiration: Paper dolls

My first inspirational link isn’t exactly historically accurate, but super-cute, and perhaps a neat way of previewing ideas – to research and check for a bit more accuracy. Online electronic “paper dolls” – this one is called “Viking Maker” and just like some of the other paper dolls I’ve looked at in the past, it has a bunch of ideas to try out – different styles, different combinations and different colours. Kind of fun too…

Viking paper doll maker

Viking paper doll maker

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What about a Viking costume?

I’m not a member of the SCA, but I do love the costumes!  While I was brainstorming for the Masquarade Ball costume, I was torn between something Egyptian, something Steampunk, and something Viking-inspired.  Although I didn’t go ahead with the Viking-inspired costume, I did come up with a number of ideas for a Viking-inspired costume, and thought that I would collect some of the inspirational images into one handy post for when I DO want to approach the costume… (or rather, when I have the purpose to make one!)

**Update** I started to think about this a while ago, and then heard that a friend was planning a weekend-long Viking-themed wedding with costumes highly encouraged. I started working on the research and costume in anticipation of the wedding… though I wasn’t able to attend. Still,I thought it would be fun to blog about the “Garb From a Thousand Lakes” costume. Stay tuned!  Continue reading