First outing – in Viking Garb

Quick photo after the event of my Viking garb

Quick photo after the event of my Viking garb

Although I started pulling together a Viking garb kit last year in preparation of a wedding (that I was unfortunately unable to attend) I finally had the chance to wear my outfit (as it is so far) to an event in June.


June 13-15, 2014 was the Barony of Montengarde’s Dragonslayer event.  (Website, Facebook event link) which is summarized as “… it is a weekend of Archery, Heavy Combat, Rapier, Arts & Sciences, and best of all: camaraderie.”  In the distant past I attended a few SCA events, and had thought this would be similar, but it was significantly smaller. At other events there were usually several things going on at once, lots of Arts & Sciences classes/workshops, lots of merchants selling neat things, etc… but at this one it was just one area visible to non-participants doing combat, and one tent with leather goods for sale. There didn’t seem to be any classes going on, as I could see everything going on in one glance as the site was so small in comparison to what I had attended in the past.

Still, I stayed for a few hours, watched the Rapiers and Youth Combat, talked to a few people, and for  a big part – checked out everyone else’s garb!

Garb at Dragonslayer

While I was there with a mundane purse and shoes (and my not-so-period lavender & silver hair!), I did take note of some of the deviations from some of the research I’ve been doing in some of the participant’s outfits. In reading some of the SCA groups on Facebook versus some of the more strict re-enactment groups (largely from Europe) it’s clear that SCA events are a lot more flexible on ‘authenticity’. (Which is good.. I have no intention of starting to hand-sew everything I make!) Some of the deviations I saw included:

  • belt-buckles on leather belts for women’s garb (what I’ve read thus far suggests that there are very rare finds from female graves with belt buckles from the Viking Age)
  • trim on hems of apron dresses and underdresses (the reading I’ve done so far suggests that trim was used at necklines and sleeves, as well as front openings of coats, but no finds have included applied trim at the hem – if it was used or not is totally speculative.)
  • belt-hung purses (which there also isn’t evidence for in what I’ve read – though I have heard of framed purses and tiny coin purses from the Viking Age)

I also saw a few things that I think were more SCA-isms rather than undocumented costuming choices – animal tails hung from belts, buttons and pins on a scrap of fabric off the belt, and decorated flag-things off the back of belts… I’m not really sure what any of that was about!

Note, I’m not identifying these things to infer that they’re “wrong”, but rather to remind myself about the difference between what I’ve been reading online, and how they’re interpreted at events by a variety of people. (Not to mention that the idea of “authenticity” should be flexible considering the lack of real evidence!)

Quick photo in my garden of the Viking outfit - taken after the event.

Quick photo in my garden of the Viking outfit – taken after the event.

My Garb

I wore:

  • Brown linen underdress – made t-tunic style with separate sleeves, no shoulder seam, and underarm gusset.
  • Blue linen apron dress – cut, pieced, and fitted style with red silk and blue trim
  • Orange trim belt – some orange trim in geometric designs tied as a belt – I haven’t dyed the other trim for a new tied belt (with no buckle) so I just grabbed that
  • Attempt at tortoise brooches – the ones I made from belt blanks. For some really odd reason I couldn’t FIND my other brooch-options, festoon, or the dangling bits. I have no idea why since I photographed it a week ago, and there shouldn’t be any reason not to find them…
  • Accessories – I also wore a small hammer of Thor pendant (the one I wear almost every day…) and from one of my brooches I hung my stone ‘dagger’ pendant – mostly just to have a dangling bit… with my other ones unfound…

Blue Linen Apron Dress

Top of the blue apron dress with my festoon and broaches

Top of the blue apron dress with my festoon and broaches

I’m blogging a bit backwards when it comes to some of my Viking garb posts – I started off with a purple-pink apron dress (which has a few problems, mostly because of my impatience) and from there made this blue linen dress, and then the dark blue pillowcase-turned-apron dress – but I blogged about the dark blue one first, now this one, and haven’t even taken photos yet of the purple-pink dress… Still…

I started out with this dress wanting to make it quite fitted through the bust and waist, but when I put it on it was just TOO fitted – the back waist area pulled in an unattractive way to my eyes, and putting it on over top of an underdress was challenging – and again, not attractive. I ended up opening up the side seams (which I had thankfully done with wide seam allowances instead of serging them closed) and put in additional panels which gave just a little extra room at the bust and waist… and then since I was already in there, gave a bit more width to the hips and hem (although they didn’t need it).

Yes… I made it all by machine.. which I know isn’t period, but I’m going for the “look”, not historical accuracy. Plus serging linen is a lot faster and easier than hand-finishing unseen edges!

Trim on the blue apron dres

Trim on the blue apron dress

Once I had the circumference of the dress accurate – I found it actually fit really nicely. It pulls on over my head, but still falls well on me – with or without a linen underdress. (Although I don’t plan to wear it without an underdress, it’s at least nice to know that I can….)

close up of the purchased trim

close up of the purchased trim

I chose to do a reverse facing on the top edge with some very plain (not shiny) even-weave silk I had left over from another project. I ‘auditioned’ this red, a darker red, a blue and a purple silk with the dress and my selected trim, and really liked this red best.

The blue and white trim was in a grab-bag from the Grandmother’s Fabric Sale this year. It’s acrylic as far as I’m going to guess, but I thought it at least LOOKED good  – simple stitches over a blue band of cloth. It doesn’t look like tablet-weaving, but rather like an embroidered band of fabric used as trim.

After reverse-facing the top of the dress with silk, then stitching the lower edge of the facing down creating the band of red silk at the neckline, I sewed the blue and white trim down on top of the red silk. Of course, adding in the facing I also sewed in the loops for the straps – long loops in the back, short loops at the front.

I actually made my longer back loops a bit TOO long. I found that I could loop them through the front loops and secure them with a very short pin. Since my “turtle broaches” so far aren’t really broaches.. hopefully this means I can thread them on to the straps, and then secure the straps with safety pins… creating the right look, even if the function isn’t accurate.  I also found that I could cross the straps in the back, and then could use a longer pin to attach the front and back loops… once I get proper pins that is!

Blue linen Apron Dress

Blue linen Apron Dress

After finishing the top of the dress, I hung it overnight, checked the side seams to ensure any slight bias hadn’t stretched and made the hem uneven, then serged and hemmed the dress.

The linen is a hand-dyed lightweight linen (I bought it undyed from Fabricland, not Fabric-store, so I don’t know the actual weight… but I’m guessing it’s probably equivalent to 3.5 oz lightweight linen) I can’t even remember the original colour – I think it was a light blue and then I overdyed it with blue and black dye to get the grey-blue colour I’m much happier with.

In the future I might still add some embellishment (hand stitching) to the seams or hem… I’m not 100% sure on that yet, and I figure it might be better to wait until I have more research on that before I invest the time. I also really like the apron dress the way it is – and if I were to embellish it further I might like it less… so… we’ll see.

I’ve shown it here with my festoon (which has some problems.. but I’m happy with it for the time being until I can correct them) and a tied belt – which actually is a very long belt with a buckle on the end – I’ll end up swapping that out for something different when worn.

What do you think?

If you do Viking reenactment – what do you think of my Apron Dress (aka Smokkr, Hangerock) ? What other suggestions would you have for future improvements? Let me know in the comment section below!