Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pskov Re-Creation Project--A Clue About Apron Dress Length?

It occurred to me this evening that the Pskov find may have given the reenactment and costuming world a clue about a topic that some people have wondered about for a long time, namely, how long at least one Viking apron dress actually was.

One of the pieces found was a strip of silk, 4.2 cm (about an inch and a half) wide, that the reconstructors suggest trimmed the hem of the shift. If they're right, the apron dress had to be at least 1 1/2 to 2 inches shorter than the shift. If the apron dress were longer, the silk strip would not show, and it would have been pointless to sew it on to the shift's hem.

If the shift-like garment shown on the Adamklissi sculpture is typical of shifts worn by Russian women, the shift hem fell just above the ankle. If the Pskov shift was that length, the apron dress was at least high enough to show the red silk trim at the hem. (If it wasn't, why bother to sew silk on in the first place?)

Yes, that's a long chain of suppositions. Russian women were likely wearing different shift styles by the 10th century--a long, long time after the Adamklissi sculpture was made. Nor can we be certain that the red strip was part of the shift's hem; it might have been used as trimming elsewhere on the shift, or belong to a different garment altogther (such as the apron dress itself). Even if the silk strip did trim the hem of the shift, and the apron dress was cut to reveal it, we can't say exactly how much of the linen shift showed between the top of the silk trim and the hem of the apron dress.

Other sources have claimed that Russian women wore their shifts anywhere from floor-length to calf-length. (More on that later.) So I will assume, for purposes of my Pskov project, that the Pskov shift was ankle-length, and make the apron dress about 3 or 4 inches shorter--short enough to reveall all of the red strip, and a bit of linen above it for contrast.

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