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Submitted on
December 15, 2012
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How to make a viking dress

Sat Dec 15, 2012, 5:46 AM

I used to be a part of one history reenactment group some time ago. Such groups basically reconstruct elements of daily life of people from a selected time period; my group was interested in early Middle Ages, from the 8th to the 11th century, from the Eastern and Northern Europe. Personally, I used to reconstruct a viking woman from today's Sweden areas. Most of you will be shocked, but vikings were not half-naked barbarians with horned helmets. They had no horned helmets. Really.

Anyway, my favourite part of reenactment has always been all the suit making. Buing materials, planning, cutting, sewing (hand sewing!), embroidering. Then, wearing. Generally, viking clothes are very easy to make, though I admit that the materials aren't the cheapest, if you want to make it as much accurate historically as you can.  

Viking by STelari

Our goal: a simple dress, no emboirdery. This is actually my first viking dress I've ever made.

I've prepared a simple tutorial about how to make a typical viking dress. As I've said, it's very easy to make, but it takes time, when you don't use a sewing machine. Up to 4-5 days. What do we need? I'll write about the historically accurate stuff.

Ingredients by STelari
(Click on the picture to view it full sized and to see descriptions)

Cloth: at least 150x300cm. I used 150x700cm only once and it's really the top border. Really. You can choose between linen, wool (100% wool, no polyester!) and silk. Silk is awfully expensive and not so easy to get, therefore I'd recommend either wool or linen. Colours... well, I think you can imagine that medieval people didn't know how to make the eye-killing cyan-green-vivid-whatever dyes. So rather calm colours. Browns, greens, greys. Red, blue and purple are the extremely expensive medieval colours. Now, let's make it more funny – one of the most common dye colour was pink... It was one of the easiest to receive.

Threads: linen, woolen or silk. No cotton. Cotton is historically accurate in the Middle Ages period  reenactment, of course, but only if you reconstruct American history...

We'll also need scisors (oh really?), needle and a measure. And some free space on the floor. Pins would be nice, too, but not necessary.

Pattern - feel free to print by STelari
I've prepared a nice printable version, click to view full size and the description.

As you can see, it couldn't be more simple. Remember that you need to adjust the lenghts to your body's shape. I'm not a tall person, so these measurements are just fine for me (if you're around 1m60, at least half of your measuring is done now). More or less – measure yourself from your shoulders below (not from your head; some help would be nice) and add 10-15 cm. Measure around your chest (not around the waist, we've got leather belts for these things!) and add 10 cm to each side of the back and front dress parts. Measure arms and add 10 cm, measure around arms (not forearms) and add 15 cm at least. Remember, it's better to add too much and then remove some than add too little and waste the cloth.

At the picture above I've also drawn the way all the parts should be put together. And that would be almost all... When sewing in the triangle skirt parts, it's better to begin from the top and go down from one side and then start over for the 2nd side. Don't worry when you'll see a lot of cloth at the bottom sticking below the edge of front or back body dress parts - it's expected and you'll just remove the extras later. You'll be probably able to sew a small bag out of them.

Stichtes. I've drawn my two favourite ones in the picture again, but I use them only for visible places, for example around edges or to decorate the visible parts of stitches around skirts. But when it comes to sew all the parts together, use whatever stich type you want and whatever you feel comfortable with - I don't recommend these two shown, as they take really a lot of time to make, especially the crossing one.

Viking woman by weavedmagicBlue and brown Viking dress by LaeradViking Embroidery by Erianrhodviking frouwe by cornum
Hervor new costume by VendelRus10th c. Norse Women's outfit by silverstahthe Viking by NarenlithViking-age woman by Aspova

For #ArtHistoryProject Artisan Crafts month.
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Hello, I found your fantastic pattern just in time for a Sigyn costume but I had a few questions. Was your dress fairly loose when you finished? How did you get/measure out the height of the splits in front and back? When you put in the skirt pieces are you cutting off a portion of the bottom after you sew it in(since it's not the right shape when first cut)? Did you round off the sleeve heads/tops or leave them as is? How big did you make your skirt panels and were the tops/points even all the way around? How did you sew in the sleeves?

Sorry for the barrage of questions! I just wanted a little clarification on the sewing process. I've gone through many Viking dress patterns the past few days and yours is the best one I've found so far for what I'm making. I'm on a bit of a time limit so I hope you'll answer soon! If not, I'm sure I'll figure something out so no problem.

STelari Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
The dress is loose, as it should be. You can add more than 20 cm to front and back, if you want it to be even looser. The height of splits is up your taste, to be honest - historically accurate can be from waist or up from below the breasts, or anywhere between. I wrote about cutting off the extras from skirt pieces on the pattern print. Sleeves - you can cut the tops round if you want, but it works without that just as well. After sewing a sleeve from a rectangular piece, it's the best to sew it to the rest of the dress with the sleeve stitches facing down. Good luck!
Queen-of-Sorrow Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2014
Thanks! And yeah I saw the part about the skirt pieces after I wrote this. It had been a day or two since I'd read through it completely. Working on the test pieces now!
Tnclas Featured By Owner Aug 25, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
Daughter-Of-Wolves Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm so happy to have stumbled across this!

I needed a Viking age accurate dress for a costume I'm doing and thank you so much for sharing this!
STelari Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
Good luck! (:
Daughter-Of-Wolves Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
kirilee Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is epicly awesome! Thank you for sharing!
STelari Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you! And you're welcome (:
bear48 Featured By Owner Dec 17, 2012  Professional
well done
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