Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Bog Blouse

Egtved Girl's costume*
Borum Eshøj woman's costume*
I just realized that, due to my new employment, I have already missed the deadline for Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #4, the "Under it All" challenge for which I intended to make the wool shift.   Since there are other challenges that the shift will fit into, I will make it anyway, but for now instead of starting it, I should be doing Challenge #5, the "Bodice" challenge, which is due March 15.  Fortunately, my planned project for this challenge is not only simple, but requires so little sewing that it should be quick to complete also.

For the bodice challenge, I plan to make what I'm calling a "bog blouse"; the kind of elbow-length blouse found in the Egtved Girl's grave and other Bronze Age bog finds.  The challenge calls for making a "bodice," and this type of garment is as close to a separate bodice as one gets in European costume history before about 1500 C.E. or so.

The "pattern" is very simple.  All you need is a rectangular piece of fabric.  You make two cuts in the sides, each about equal to the distance between the desired armpit location and the desired sleeve end.  Fold down the top portion of the rectangle to make the sleeves, and cut a suitably-sized slit for the head.  Fold the two flaps created by the cuts toward each other, and seam together for the body of the blouse.  Hem and finish the seams as necessary for your chosen fabric, and it's done! This woman made a blouse based upon the same pattern for an HSF challenge in 2013.

The original blouses of this type were made from wool, but given the poor survival rate of linen in Scandinavian soils, archaeological finds of flaxseed as early as 100 C.E., and recent evidence indicating that linen, hemp and nettle apparently were used to make fabric and clothing earlier and more commonly in Scandinavia than was previously supposed, it did not seem too speculative to make such a blouse from linen. When I got the idea for this project, I had about $13 USD worth of credit at, the web store where I buy most of my linen for Early Period projects.  So I used my credit to obtain a meter of medium-weight linen fabric in a brownish-gray color the seller calls "natural".  A photograph of the fabric appears on the right-hand side toward the bottom of this post.

My fabric (photo by me)
Undyed linen can be different, pale colors ranging from light brown or yellow to gray depending on how it is processed.  The "natural" linen I purchased was shown as a light reddish brown on the website, but looks more gray in reality, which in my opinion makes it truer to the place and period of my costume.  I don't plan to try to copy the Egtved girl's skirt; instead, I will wear a long wool plaid fabric skirt that I made  long time ago which is based on the Borum Eshøj and Huldremose finds. The Borum Eshøj find consists of several graves, one of which is a woman, estimated to have been in her mid-40s, who was wearing a complete blouse and a long wool skirt. There is no blouse in the Huldremose find, but the National Museum of Denmark's page on the Huldremose woman indicates that linen fibers were found close to her body, suggesting that she might actually have been wearing a blouse or shift made from linen next to her skin that has almost completely vanished with decay.

After I complete the blouse, I will try it on with the skirt and post photographs and relevant construction details.  Eventually, I hope to have a sprang hairnet to wear with it also.

EDIT:  3/19/2014  Revised the first paragraph to say what I meant it to say originally (I haven't even gotten to cutting into the wool for the shift, so far).

*All images from Wikimedia Commons unless otherwise credited.


  1. It's a very nice colour linen and I think the slight irregularities in yarn thickness do a good job of suggesting handmade fabric. With Bronze Age wools you get a certain amount of variation in yarn thickness so I'd imagine the same would have been true of linen. If it were me I'd certainly make the blouse in linen rather than wool, for cost reasons but also because I don't like wearing wool next to my skin.

    Besides, I think it's important not to have too closed a mind about what the ancients did or didn't have access to. Researchers once thought the ornately patterned cloth in Minoan and Mycenaean frescoes was a figment of the artists' imaginations, but now we know complex patterned textiles formed a major part of the Aegean economy back then.

    1. I agree with you about the slubs and color suggesting a handwoven fabric; that's why I use

      I will probably make the blouse long enough to tuck into the skirt, because the skirt makes me itch unbearably if I fasten it over my naked waist!

  2. Huh. Looking at the construction of that blouse, the construction of the crotch of pasbyxor (sp? Poofy Viking pants) and Thorsburg trousers makes a little more sense ( I made a bunch of tiny pairs to figure it out, and was just wondering how that construction came to be).