RAM Vikings – Embroidery

Interpretation of a man's outfit

Interpretation of a man’s outfit

In my last post I gave a bit of a sneak peek for this post – about embroidery.

There’s  a lot of controversy or discussion around the use of embroidery on Viking age garments between reenactors. There are a LOT of people who love their highly embroidered cloaks and apron panels, but there have been a scant number of textile artifacts that display embroidery.

That’s why  I was really disappointed that the display of two sets of clothing – one with a tablet woven band, and the other with ample embroidery, did not have any kind of signage to indicate the importance of this rare bit of embroidery, the original artifact that the embroidery was found on, etc.

Woman’s outfit

Interpretation of a woman's outfit

Interpretation of a woman’s outfit

The woman’s outfit appears to be a white linen underdress with a pleated blue apron dress (smokkr) with a line of tablet woven trim on the centre front over the pleating – but not extending past where the straps are. The underdress has a keyhole/slit neckline, with no closure at the slit. The apron dress hangs quite low, with the very large turtle brooches basically at breast height – sitting slightly off to the sides because of the breasts.  A festoon of beads hangs from the brooches, terminating I’d guess around waist or slightly below the waist.

Based on the pleating, and the band which appears to be an interpretation of the original extant version, I think this is meant to represent the apron dress fragment found at Køstrup, Fyn in Denmark.

However, I don’t think it’s intended to be a faithful interpretation, but rather a look-and-feel based on the description of the garment from Hilde Thunem. Though the woven band appears to have used the same (or very similar) pattern – the pleating is very different from the extant sample. I also feel that how low the dress is feels impractical and would be awkward to wear the beads that low. The festoon of beads here also don’t represent the beads from the original find, which Hilde reports was only 8 beads in total – two quartz, a reddish brown barrel-shaped glass bead, a white barrel-shaped glass bead, a red & white barrel shaped glass bead, and a black barrel-shaped glass bead. The final bead is a green square glass bead.

Man’s outfit

Interpretation of a man's outfit

Interpretation of a man’s outfit

The man’s outfit appears to be an interpretation of the “Mammen Prince”s clothing – which according to a national Danish museum article, included trousers (depicted as blue), a knee length (or possibly slightly shorter) tunic, and a cloak. Wool was used for all garments, with silk details and gold and silver threads. The cloak was embroidered and lined in marmot fur.

Carolyn Priest-Dorman also describes the Mammen burial cloak, embroidered in two colours of stem stitch with two different versions of human faces and hands, similar to the “gripping beast” art motif. The garment also included a leaf pattern. Gold foil spangles were also used to decorate the cloak.

Interpretation of a man's outfit

Interpretation of a man’s outfit

The “Mammen Cuff” is also represented here – though it’s not from the same grave find, but rather from a burial from Bjerringhøj, Mammen.

I’m not sure of the origins of the pink and white checkered shirt/dickie in this interpretation.

Interpretation of a man's outfit

Interpretation of a man’s outfit

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