Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Vendel Costume--Barking Up The Wrong Tree?

Thanks to pearl's research-fu, I have obtained some additional information about Vendel period costume.  Unfortunately, the end result of that increase in information is to increase my doubts about how I should proceed and, specifically, what items of costume I should make, and how they should look.  I apologize in advance if this post sounds a bit disjointed, but I'm writing it, in part, to clarify my thoughts, as well as to get feedback from you, my readers, as to what I should do next.
Reconstruction sketch from Erika Svensson's thesis

One of the new pieces of information I have obtained is the following thesis:

Svensson, Erika. 2005. "Spännande djur i vendeltida Uppåkra: En komparativ kontextuell analys av ovala och djurformade skålfibulor från Uppåkra" (Lund University).

Among other information, Ms. Svensson's thesis contains the sketch on the left, which is a reconstruction of a woman's costume from the Vendel era based upon finds from a grave in Norway located at Nørre Sandegård Vest.

What is the problem? you may ask. It's this. My original conception of Vendel costume was based upon the many finds of disc-on-bow brooches, which all date to the Vendel period. But many of those finds are from Gotland or other parts of Sweden, while the Snartemo band that inspired my costume in the first place is a Norwegian find. I had assumed that the disc-on-bow brooch was generally common throughout Scandinavia during the Vendel period, but this may well not be the case, and it appears that there was no such brooch in the Nørre Sandegård Vest find.

In addition, there are other reasons why the Nørre Sandegård Vest find would be a more appealing one for me to replicate. For one thing, I would not need to sew an underdress.  Ms. Svensson claims that, in this find, the brooch pins were inserted into the dress, and the fineness of the brooch pins found shows that the underdress had to have been made from linen, not wool. I already have several linen underdresses, one with a keyhole neckline, that I could use for such a costume. 

A second reason is that I would not need a large disc-on-bow brooch for a Nørre Sandegård Vest costume either! A small round tortoise (?) brooch and a pair of slightly larger tortoise-shaped brooches would be all I would need. Absent detailed information on the brooch designs, I could make do with plain bronze brooches with added bosses from The Treasury. Although period brooches were cast, not hammered, there were some plain ones found during the Vendel Period, and I could get the hammered ones cheaply. I would also need a few short strands of suitable beads with spreaders, but again spreaders are easy to come by--much easier than disc-on-bow brooches.

As for the shawl, the above sketch indicates that it was pinned to the straps of an apron dress with straight pins. I'm not sure that I believe that to be credible, but then I know almost nothing about the Nørre Sandegård Vest. In any event, finding suitable straight pins (The Treasury sells some of these, also) and pinning a shawl in this manner would be simple and relatively cheap to do.

Lastly, the sketch above assumes a slightly fitted apron dress. However, I greatly doubt that the find supports anything other than a dress with straps, somewhat like my blue tube-shaped dress.

So now I am now interesting in finding more information about the Nørre Sandegård Vest find, in order to decide exactly what sort of costume I want to make, and ornament with the Snartnemo band I've been given. At pearl's suggestion I've tracked down and read the following article:
Malmius, Anita.  "Cremation grave textiles: Examples from Vendel upper class in the Vendel and Viking Periods" Jonas 13 (October 2002).
Unfortunately for me, the finds Ms. Malmius discusses in her Jonas article are male graves.  Interestingly, these finds are of wool, mostly 2/2 twill, not linen.  But that could be due to a number of factors--including the possibility that cremation may destroy linen fabric while preserving traces of wool.

So it seems to me that coming up with a plausibly Vendel costume would require a greater level of research intensity.  I'm still wrestling with whether I'm prepared for that as yet, though it still looks as though my white wool and blue wool (both 2/2 twill) are good choices for the project.


  1. I'll e-mail you!

    But I'm also grappling with the differences between Norwegian vs. Gotlandic/Swedish Vendel-period dress. It doesn't help that Nørre Sandegård Vest seems to be the only source that is referenced when it comes to Vendel period dress. :(

  2. It doesn't help that Nørre Sandegård Vest seems to be the only source that is referenced when it comes to Vendel period dress. :(

    That's what I was afraid of, though I'd hoped that that conclusion was just my ignorance showing. :-(

    Thanks so much for being willing to help! I'm going to see whether I can ILL the book by Jørgensen et al. and see how helpful it is. If I get to it first, I'll e-mail you.

  3. I'd hoped that that conclusion was just my ignorance showing. :-(

    Chin up! It might just be that neither of us have found the 'right', Swedish/Norwegian/Gotlandic-specific article yet! :-)

  4. Thanks. I hope that's true.

    I have read the excerpts from the Nørre Sandegård Vest book that you sent me. Some of them have fascinating implications. I have begun a blog post about those; hopefully I can finish it and get it posted tonight.

  5. Just a little detail (or maybe not so little in this case) - Nørre Sandegård Vest is _not_ in Norway; it's on the Danish island of Bornholm, south of Sweden. So it's really far off from Snartemo.

  6. Thanks, Arachne, for stopping by.

    You're right about the location of Nørre Sandegård Vest. pearl found the book I mention in this post, and my next post is going to be about some of the textiles from the site.

  7. There is also surprisingly little evidence of tablet weaving on women's clothing in the Viking age, so I figured I might well be stretching a point to use my Snartnemo band on whatever costume I made. However, I did want to learn enough about Vendel costume that my costume would be distinguishable from a Viking age costume--even if it was not clearly from any one part of Scandinavia. However, the material I've seen from the book on Nørre Sandegård Vest appears to indicate that there may not be such a clear distinction from Vendel costume and Viking age costume as I had assumed.

  8. Just to bring to your attention the following book, although you may know of it already and mainly concerns male costume there are references to textiles of the period. 'Nockert, Marqareta, 1991, The Hogom Find and other Miqration Period textiles and costumes of Scandinavia., in Archaeology and Environment 9, Hoqom Part 11, Universitv of Umea, Department of Archaeology, Riksantikvarieambetet.' Martin Rundkvist also has a pdf available online on his work on early 'beetle' brooches.

  9. I have Nockert's book, thanks; unfortunately, it addresses male costume finds. I also have Rundkvist's pdf, and reference it in a different post.