Anna Lövgren wearing the female Viking Age costume which she has reconstructed. (Photo: Museum Gustanavium)
If you have been watching the History Channel Vikings series and movies from the time period you may get the impression that the Vikings dressed in colorless wadmal and worn leather rags. The excavation of the Oseberg grave (834 AD) and other Scandinavian burial mounds reveal a different truth: Women dressed in bright colors with silk ribbons and mirror fragments and used brooches and jewelry as decoration.
Viking trade routes stretched from Ireland in the west to Persia in the east, and inside the Oseberg grave over hundred small pieces of colorful Persian silk with beautiful patterns were found. In the Gokstad burial mound archaeologists found thin strips of hammered gold, probably of Chinese origin.
In the Viking Age women dressed more daring than we have thought, at least before Christianity made its appearance. Oriental details were combined with Nordic style. The clothes were designed to be worn indoors, around the fireplace.
In a modern perspective, the dress hardly looks daring, but it is still much more daring than the dresses we have assumed that Viking women wore.
Based on archaeological findings in Swedish Viking graves, the underdress was visible while the dress had a train. The brooches probably were placed over each breast. This dress style disappeared when the new religion arrived. It appears that the medieval Christian fashion came to Scandinavia as early as the late 900s.
Pieces of silk fabrics from Persia were found in the Oseberg grave (Photo: Museum of Cultural History).
New trade routes were established, and the Oriental influence disappeared. But it was not only the details from the east that disappeared.
The Church had certain objections to clothes that showed breasts and visible underwear, and daring placement of brooches and visible underdresses were not tolerated. It is also possible that this type of clothing was associated with pre-Christian rituals, and was therefore banned.
Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews