Monday, March 16, 2009

Viking Apron Dresses--Wrap Around Styles

My next experiments in apron dress design were with "wrap around styles" that consist of a flat sheet of fabric with three sets of loops attached. With these styles, there are three loops on each brooch pin; some actual finds show three loops.

The dress on the left, in orange, has two short sets of loops and one long set. The dress wraps around the body from back to front, with the long loops coming over the shoulders and the short loops in front; the open end is in front, near the side of the body.

The dress on the right, in green, has the opposite arrangement; it has two pair of long loops and one short pair of loops, and wraps from front to back, with the opening on the side in the back.

Both of these dresses are made of linen, and are completely hand sewn, though they use commercial trim.


  1. Having tried both the overlaps-at-the-front and the overlaps-at-the-back style, what do you consider the pros and cons of each?

  2. Great question!

    Let me take that a dress at a time:

    Front Overlap Dress

    * The dress stays put, and doesn't slip around while you;re wearing it, which to me makes it the most comfortable dress to wear of all the styles I've made.
    * The straps look fairly tidy in wear.
    * Because the overlap is right over one leg, the dress never constrains you as you walk.

    * The overlapping part in the front hangs at an angle, which might look ugly or graceless to some people.

    Back Overlap Dress
    * Like its front-overlapping cousin, it stays put during wear.
    * Because the overlap hangs in back, the front is smooth and graceful-looking.

    * It's difficult to put on, because of the back overlap.
    * The straps tend to splay out and look unattractive from behind (though perhaps a Viking wouldn't care how she looked from behind, because only nithings would see that part of her!).

  3. Naturally, I forgot a few points:

    The front-overlap dress is the easiest to put on of all the dress styles I've tried--a definite plus.

    Like the front-overlap dress, the back-overlap dress is not constraining and allows a good stride.

  4. These are so neat! I love the colors you chose and I love the simple styles - very authentic!

  5. Glad you like them.

    My passion is to learn as much about historic styles as possible, and to make garments that are as historically correct as possible without...bending my life out of shape too much. :-) Viking costume fascinates me so much because Viking art was so stylized that almost any reconstruction is heavily speculative. Figuring out plausible reconstructions is a game played by ferreting out information on textile remnants dug (literally!) up by the archaeologists and reviewing their theories in light of logic and practical experiments.

  6. How neat! I love that you research an era that I know almost NOTHING about - every project you do is such an eye opener!

    And great choice of colours!

  7. Thanks for the lovely compliment!

    My color choices were driven partly (but only partly) by what was possible/plausible in period. There's growing evidence that the Vikings may have worn more linen than the gravefinds show, so I feel pretty comfortable buying more from On the other hand, linen is hard to dye with most vegetable substances, so color is an issue. Blue's pretty safe, because the dye chemical in woad (indigotin) works well on linen, and I'm told madder works pretty well, but other than that, there's a problem. I *think* weld (a common yellow dye in period) works on linen, so I talked myself into orange (overdyed red) and green (overdyed blue). In addition, madder can produce orangish colors.

    Even though green could have been produced in period (on wool, certainly), it's far from clear to me how much of it Vikings wore. For Latvia in the Viking period, green-dyed fiber has only shown up in digs as a component of tablet-woven trim, and that's true of the only (pre-Viking) Scandinavian find I know of with evidence of green-dyed fiber.

    On the other hand, I like it, and most of my apron dresses are experiments to see what might have been plausible in period anyway. :-)