Saturday, June 19, 2010

More Research on the Viking Apron Dress

I learned today that Hilde Thunem, who did an excellent summary of current research on the Viking underdress, is working on a similar research article on the Viking apron dress. Although her apron dress essay is still very much under construction, I have already found much material in it for thought. It was particularly interesting to me because she has summarized Inga Hägg's work on this subject, most of which is written in Swedish and German, and which I have not been able to read. Based on the underdress article and the incomplete version of the apron dress article, I commend Ms. Thunem's work to anyone interested in Viking women's costume.

One thing I observed is that, to the extent we know the colors of the surviving apron dresses at Birka they are either dark blue or brown. According to the survey article about Viking age Latvian costume in the latest issue of Medieval Costume and Textiles, most of the outer garments from Latvia during that period were either dark blue or brown. Ms. Thunem notes that the apron dress fragment from Hedeby is a "reddish brown." How much of this information indicates true color trends, and how much of it is misleading because the specimens have not been tested for dyes and have faded over the centuries, is an interesting question. (On the other hand, the Latvian survey states that the fabric finds discussed have been tested for dyes, though no testing details are given.)

N.B. On Sunday, I will be leaving on a road trip, during which I do not expect to have much time to update this blog. I will not be home until July 1. Please be assured that I do not intend to abandon this blog! I enjoy it very much, and intend to keep writing, even when I do not have time to do much actual sewing (as as been the case so far this year).


  1. Hello,

    thank you for those links :) I have to read them very carefully (since I want to sew an apron dress sometime this year).

    For the matter of colours: I do not think this can be interpreted as an colour trend, if the dyes are nor tested. Most archeological textiles are brown or turn brown shortly after excavating. The only textiles I know of that were excavated and kept their original colour are from Halstatt (and they were conserved in salt, so they do not really count).

    Have fun on your road trip :)
    Greetings Sanne

  2. Hi, Sanne!

    I'm glad you find my links useful. Part of the reason I blog about such things is so that I will be able to find the URLs again and can re-read them at my leisure; it pleases me to see that other people are getting the same kind of utility from what I'm doing.

    As for the color issue, I agree with you if the Birka and Latvian textiles have not been tested for dyes. I don't know whether any of the Birka textiles were tested, and I can't consult the MC&T article to confirm my recollection about the Latvian ones until I get home. However, I'm aware that the present-day color of an archaeological textile may bear no resemblance to its original color, particularly if it was dyed. NESAT X has two good articles that address this issue in different ways; I blogged about them here.