Women’s Viking-Age Garb Part 2: Step 1 The Chemise

Step 1: Chemise

Definition: the thinner “gown” you wear closest to your skin and made of light to heavy fabric. It’s ankle length, but the arms can go from nearly sleeveless to wrist length

Optional: yes.
Do you want one?

  • Yes
    • Ankle length
    • Arm length:
      • wrist
      • shoulder
    • Linen or maybe hemp
    • 2 styles
      • Style 1: Plain
      • Style 2: Pleated
  • No
    • Move on to Step 2: Gown

Style 1: Plain

Based on many pieces from Birka and Hedeby. This style is a plain gown, almost what we think of as a t-tunic. It should include gussets (under-arm wedges) and gores (side triangles)

chemise 1

Style 2: Pleated

Pleated chemise. Needle and thread used to make pleats 2 to 3 mm deep. The fabric is then moistened, dried and the threads pulled out.

chemise 2


Patterns for Chemises

Pattern for Plain Chemise

pattern 1.jpg


Pattern for Pleated Chemise

pattern 2


The letters on the patterns refer to my old croquis:

Croquis Ultimate 2.jpg

Women’s Viking-Age Garb Part 1

This series is based off of a class I taught earlier this year.

Introduction and Disclaimers

This class has some over-generalizing of information from cramming together years of clothing from different Scandinavian/Nordic cultures into one hand-out. But my purpose is not to document specific items as much as it is to increase the types and combinations of garb worn by Viking Age SCA’dian women.

I based as much as I could I based my ideas off of extant clothing and artwork. Don’t get fixated on terms. For example, an apron dress is not called that in other languages (even translated) or back in period. Although terms give us a common language to know what talk about, any term is not THE term for the item. For more elaboration on this idea, check out my blog entry: “A Cotehardie by Any Other Name Would Look Just as Lovely – Some Thoughts on Research” [https://maniacalmedievalist.wordpress.com/?p=447&preview=true

Basic Information

In the Viking Age, clothing was worn in layers. Which layers were worn depended on a few things, from the climate to the person’s social status. Although the styles were different in different regions, there are many consistencies from finds from modern day Finland to Germany.

Inga Hägg, one of the leading archeologists for Viking age clothing, identified certain components of the Viking woman’s costume.

Hägg ‘s terms / Terms we’ll use

  • särk / chemise
  • tunika/ gown
  • kolt / large over-gown
  • hängselkjol / hangerok
  • tröja / jacket (open in front)
  • kaftan / coat (closed in front)
  • mantel / mantel (sometimes, you can’t improve on a word)

Step 1: Do you want to wear a chemise?

Step 2: Gown.

  • If you have an undertunic, gown should be
    • Calf length
    • Linen or wool
  • If you have no undertunic, gown should be
    • Ankle length
    • Linen or wool (wool is itchy w/out an undertunic)

Step 3: What to wear over the gown

  • Large Over-gown
    • Calf length
    • Fore-arm length sleeves
  • Peplos (also call Greek or Roman chiton)
  • Hangerok (apron dress)

Step 4: Do you need something to keep you warmer?

  • Jacket (open in front)
  • Coat (closed in front)
  • Mantle (shawl)

Step 5 Accoutrements

  • Wrist clasps
  • Bead strings
  • Brooches
  • Apron