Viking dress – pattern and instruction

I am reconstructing a X century denizen of Truso and I spent last couple of weekends terribly busy on reconstructing:

– Linen under dress

– Wool upper dress

The problem is that nobody seems to be really sure about the exact construction of the Viking dresses, as all the archaeological findings and deduction are being made rather on scraps of cloth rather on full clothing and there is a lot of deduction based on simple practical usage (for example: wedges are a must, if you want to… simply walk).

For both dresses I used the same pattern I found to be the most common and in the same time the one I like the most: long sleeves and 4 wedges, simple round neck. This was my first reconstruction sewing ever and I didn’t have too much experience is sewing either, so – if you are also dreaming about a self made early medieval dress and you don’t know where to start – below you can find an instruction I made (learning on my own mistakes!) and followed for the 2 dresses.

viking dress

Viking dress pattern

All the part of such pattern is very easy to make and, the good news is that, once you have made them, they’re free to serve for all your future dresses! All that needs to be done is:

1. Measure yourself in your “widest area” (remember that you’ll need to breathe!): take a tailor tape, surround around the bust (or any other place of preference), take note of the circuit, divide by 2.

Bust circuit/2 = width of the front or back of the dress  (WD)

2. Measure the length of the dress. My tip is just to hold on onto the arm the ending of the tailor tape and letting it down to the ground, reducing it until the desired length of the dress (LD)

3. Measure the length from your waist until the desired length of the dress: this will be the length of the wedge (We)

4. Measure the length of the sleeve: from top of the arm (no need to be too close to the neck, as the dress shall be wide enough so that the sleeve starts at the height of the armpit). Measure or estimate the width of the sleeve (mine was about 20 cm in total)

5. On the paper draw:

– 2 big rectangles: one side is 1/2 of WD and the other side is the length of the dress. Mark with a small line the length of the wedge (from the bottom of the dress)

Rectangle 1 = back

Rectangle 2 = front. In the front cut the notch for the neck (8 cm of radius should do it, but the shape is as per your preference)

– 1 small rectangle: one side is the length of your arm, the other one 1/2 of the width of the sleeve

– a triangle wedge: it’s height is the the We, the base is your preferred width of the wedge (I had 30-40 cm). If you want to, you may also draw a pattern of 1/2 of the wedge (height: We, base: 1/2 of the full base of the wedge), this may help you while cutting the wedges from the cloth to save some work and textile.

– a small square for the armpit: mine was 10 cm x 10 cm

6. Cut all the pieces from the paper and your pattern is ready!

I admit I was struggling a little bit on finding an effective way of cutting symmetrical pieces of clothing and to avoid remnants as much as could. Wedges turned out to be very cloth consuming, but I think I found a way which may help to avoid as many remaining cloth as possible and in the same time permit the pieces to suit to each other.

My best way of cutting all the pieces is several bending of the cloth, just like in the picture below. The stars mark the bend of the material.

Pattern on textile

Pattern on textile

The order of cutting is:

– bending for the width of the 1/2 front, put the paper pattern on, attach by pins (it helps!), cut. While cloth still bent, cut by the middle of the bending till you reach the We.

– bending for the width of the 1/2 back, put the paper pattern on, attach by pins, cut. While cloth still bent, cut by the middle of the bending till you reach the We.

– bending for the width of the wedge = length of it’s base, attach the pattern of the wedge by pins and either take a long drawer and draw a straight line on the material from it’s top point to mark the bases of the other wedges, or attach the pattern of the 1/2 wedge to the cloth and then cut them on. This setting will allow you to obtain: 3 full wedges (to be sewed in the front and or both sides) and 2 x 1/2 wedge (to be sewed together and then sewed at the back of the dress). Cut carefully 😉

– bending for the 1/2 width of the sleeve. 2 x cut the sleeve and 1x the armpit (which – when the cloth is still bent  – cut in the middle for 2 pieces to receive 1 armpit for each sleeve).

And this is when sewing starts. I needle basted the pieces together and then used machine for almost all stitches, just finalizing manually the décolletage and the endings of the sleeves. As for the details of sewing I am planning to make a separate post on it, at the moment I’ll just say that my best order of sewing is: first wedges to the front, both sides and back, then sleeves, then the neck and at the end finalizing the bottom of the dress. Making a full linen dress took me around 3 days, but it was my first try and linen found out to be rather a difficult material, as it was a little bit stretchy and very slashing material. After the experiences with linen, sewing the wool turned out to be very easy and I made the basic shape of the dress (without finalizing the neck and the bottom of the dress and without hemming) in 1 day, so for a new starter I would rather recommend to begin by wool.

Another tip I found out in one of my sewing manuals, is to hang on the dress for a few days or even weeks before hemming the stitches. Because of the weight of the material, the stitches will stretch a little bit.  Hemming the stitches after that will help your dresses to “keep the line” for good.

Linen dress is fully finished (hurray!), the wool requires still few final touches and I’ll show it once it’s done. And this is how the under dress looks like with an apron (all in all it’s under dress 😉 ) made by the amazing Sew-mill

IMG_8159 IMG_8162 IMG_8168

Sources: Freha, Halla Mjolnir, Viking Answer Lady, YGGDRASILL THING forum, Vigdis of the keep blog

Inspiration: Sew-mill, Rzepka – I strongly recommend you to see the amazing work they make