Viking costume inspiration: Belts and purses
I’ve seen a lot of SCA examples of belt-pouches, and Urweg.com suggests that belt pouches were worn by the Vikings, which were adopted by (or from?) the other cultures they came in contact with. The leather belt bags were hung by one or two straps from the belt (either dangling from, or sliding onto the belt) and were ornamented with various metalwork. They often had a strap to fix and close the pouch. I don’t have any leather pouches like this (well I do, but it’s far too small to be useful) but I do have a fabric one that might be workable. Belt pouches were used to carry things like coins, fire-starting kits, etc. The Hurstwic site shares that keys, however, were worn around the neck rather than carried in pouches.
Speaking of belts…
There seems to be a bit of a contrast between the research on Viking women and belts, and how most ‘living history’ participants dress. In reading different accounts, it sounds like there have not been any grave findings of belt buckles and belt findings in female graves. (These items have been found in graves identified as being male remains.)
This would suggest that women didn’t wear belts (or at least, not the kind with metal buckles). The research suggests that women likely wore belts of fabric (or other materials that didn’t survive over centuries) like tablet weaving and braided fabric.
However, most of the recreation photos that I’ve seen have women wearing belts with buckles. In some cases, like the example on the left of the JorgenCraft example, they’ve styled the outfit with a belt that has a buckle with a prong but no carrier. The belt end is passed through the buckle, secured by the prong, and then the end is passed behind the belt, and through a self-loop created by the passed leather.
Other variations have just a metal ring creating the buckle, where the free end of the leather passes over where the ring attaches to the belt, then behind the belt, and down over the turn, tucking into the bottom part of the ring. I gave this a try with a ring and some ribbon and it seems fussy but effective. With ribbon, I was also able to loop it in a few other ways, but with leather this would be more difficult.
Men’s belts were narrow (about 2cm wide) apparently and the free end was weighted with a decorative end, as the belt end was left to hang. The buckle and belt were also decorated, and from them men would carry a utility knife and a belt pouch. Small weapons might also be carried on a man’s belt. For women, necessary items such as keys, scissors, a needle case, or a wetstone might be hung from the apron broaches, or while pouches and knives would be hung from their belts. For my costume, I’ll have to decide if I want a braid belt or a leather one…
I haven’t really found any examples of purses – or bags carried by hand. Although there are a few examples of drawstring leather bags, almost all of them seem to have been worn on the belt. I don’t know if I’ll really have anything to carry around with me anyways (other than the bare – don’t-steal-these/what-if-there’s-an-emergency things) and that which I do, I can probably put in one of the belt pouches.