Women’s clothing in the Viking Age 

Women’s clothing in the Viking Age, as in all ages, varied greatly depending upon the social class of the wearer. 

The clothes of lower-class women, such as the thralls and landless farmers, would have been extremely simple, but little evidence for them exists in surviving sources or the archaeological record. There is a similar lack of information regarding the clothing of children during the Viking Age.

Evidence is much more abundant for the dress of wealthier women. A common formal dress for wealthy Norse women was an overdress woven from linen or wool, cut straight at the top and bottom, possibly with some decorative border work. This dress would extend from the armpits to about midcalf and was supported by a pair of shoulder straps.
The overdress would be worn with a pair of oval shaped brooches securing the straps, often with a string of beads suspended between them. Small articles such as knives, needle cases, grooming tools, and the key to the house could be hung from the bead string for convenience.
Most clothing would be produced at home by the lady of the house, primarily of fibres such as wool. This was a labour-intensive, time-consuming process, which made clothing very expensive.
Such production was performed using warp-weighted vertical looms for larger sheets of cloth, while smaller items such as decorative borders and fastening bands were often made by tablet weaving.
The importance of cloth production to Norse society is well attested to by the large numbers of weaving tools, such as spindle weights and battens made from bone and wood, found in grave sites and sites of Norse habitation.
Fashionable clothing among the wealthy could also come from abroad, either purchased in trade or given as gifts by foreign dignitaries. High class clothing could be trimmed with furs and decorated with appliques, embroidery, metal wire decoration, and plaited borders or tablet-woven bands which could themselves incorporate silver or gold threads. Dyes in a wide variety of colours could be obtained for formal clothing.
Rich, formal clothing would be dyed in a variety of colours, several of which had specific meanings in Norse culture. For example, clothing that was dyed red was a powerful status symbol, closely associated with the wealth of kings and their favour. Blue, on the other hand, was associated with death, being the colour that much clothing found in graves was dyed, while Norse sagas often describe those heroes setting out on an act of righteous vengeance dressing in blue.
Black clothing, made from undyed fibres, was also associated with the act of killing, but in the context of cowardly murder as opposed to socially accepted challenges. Most clothing had the natural colours of the fibers they were made of (wool and linen) – ranging from light and dark brown to white and gray.

Bibliography

Almgren, Bertil, et al. The Viking. Nordbok, Gothenberg. 1995. 

Ewing, Thor. Viking Clothing, Tempus Publishing Limited, Stroud, Gloucestershire. 2006. 

Roesdahl, Else. The Vikings.  Penguin Books, New York. 1992. 

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