How Viking Clothes and Jewelry were Made
How Viking clothes were made
The two main materials used for Viking clothing were wool and flax, though other animal and plant fibers, such as hemp, played a minor role. Wool was ideal for the Scandinavian climate because of its durability and warmth. Sheep were mainly white at the time of the Vikings, so most of the wool was white.
Vikings generally wore several layers of clothing because of the local climate.
- Linen was probably the favourite fabric for underwear because it was more comfortable against the skin than wool.
- Silk was an imported luxury that only the rich could afford.
- Fur was also used, but for things such as coats and collars.
The Vikings dyed their clothes to make them more colourful, but the dyes they used were of poor quality and would fade quickly.
Viking Men generally wore:
- under short
- tunics over shirt
To hold their pants up, they used belts with silver or bronze buckles. They would also attach a bag to their belt to carry various small objects, as well as secure a knife or axe.
To protect themselves from the cold, the Vikings also used long, thick and heavy cape-style coats. These coats were attached to the right shoulder with exceptionally strong straps or a pin, leaving the right hand free to handle a weapon or tools.
Viking women usually wore:
- a long linen or wool shirt
- a wool over-dress
In the colder months women also wore a cape or shawl to protect them. Like Viking men, they wore a leather belt, to which they secured a bag and a knife. They would secure their over-dress with pins, and sometimes would hang useful items from these pins as well.
What's left of the Viking clothes?
Since the materials from which the clothing is made deteriorates easily, archaeology has unfortunately not been able to provide us with a single complete example of Viking clothing. However, enough fragments have survived and, combined with the surviving literary evidence, we have a pretty good idea of how the Vikings dressed.
Jewelry, of course, tends to survive better over time, so we have better evidence for the jewelry that the Vikings actually wore between the 9th and 11th centuries.
How Viking Jewelry was Made
First of all,
Here were the 5 main functions of jewelry in the Viking age:
- aesthetic ornamentation
- accessories for closing clothes and/or attaching items
- symbol of belief and protection
- social or economic status indicator
- means of payment for trade exchanges
Throughout the ages, people have always liked to enhance their look. The Vikings were exception. All Vikings, from farmer to warrior and from all social levels, wore many styles of jewelry. But not only that! Their jewelry also gave them an outlet for honoring their gods and invoking them.
The social class to which an individual belonged largely determined the material from which their jewelry was made. The wealthy might have jewelry made from bronze, silver and gold, sometimes ornamented with pearls, crystals and precious stones.
Poorer Vikings were more likely to have jewlry made from base metals and ornamented with amber or glass.
Most of the metal used to make Viking Jewelry did not come from Scandinavia, but from various foreign countries through trade. Silver was the most common metal used to make Viking jewelry.
The Different Types of Jewelry
Viking Pins / Brooches
Pins were the main means of keeping clothes in place. Used by all Vikings, they also become a means of distinction. Their main function was practical, but their design could make them into symbols of wealth, status and religion.
In the 9th century and the early part of 10th century, brooches were generally oval shaped, though those worn by women were more varied than those worn by men.
During the 10th century, disc-shaped brooches replaced the oval domes.
Viking Necklaces and Amulet
The Vikings used both necklaces and neck-rings, similar to the Celtic torc. Neck-rings were generally made from solid metal and were often used as currency, with pieces of the metal broken off and given as payment. Necklaces on the other hand often featured pendants with symbolic designs. These amulets had more spiritual connotations and were probably designed to lend protection and support.
"Bronze neck-rings (Torc) from the Moesgaard Museum - Denmark"
Archaeological finds suggest that Thor's Hammer was by far the most popular amulet design in the Viking age. Other symbols do appear, though notably less often. These include:
- Round pendants covered with circular motifs that symbolised the solar star
- Pendants in the form of miniature tools, symbols of activity and fertility
- Cross-shaped pendants appeared with the evangelization of the Vikings
- Stick-shaped pendants which may be references to Odin's spear Gungnir
- Rifle-shaped pendants that symbolized the purifying fire and source of life
- Cubic seat pendants representing the thrones of Thor and Odin, the main gods of Nordic mythology
- Pendants in the shape of women holding a horn, represent the Valkyries that help Odin take dead warrior to Valhalla.
"Various Viking jewels found: Armrings, earrings, Amulets, Thor's hammer... Picture of the Stockholm Museum "