Western Viking Female guide
9th and 10th century Viking lower status
9th and 10th century Viking higher status
|Context||What cultural group / type of kit is being assessed?||Viking|
|Context||What location does the character originate from||Iceland (10th C only)|
Norway (covers Iceland 9th C)
|Context||What gender is the candidate portraying?||female|
|Context||What date is the kit portraying?||C.800-900 (9th C variant)
C. 900-1020 (10th C variant)
|C.800-900 (9th C variant)|
C. 900-1020 (10th C variant)
Very high status variants:
C. 900-1020 (10th C variant) Please ask for advice!
|Context||What social status is being portrayed?
The status of unmarried women reflects the status of their father, while married women and widows reflect the status of their husband.
|Lower status covers the majority of the population – farm workers, tenants, artisans etc. Freedmen (leysingir) remained dependent on their lord, often for a number of generations, receiving board, lodging and clothing in return for labour. Free men (bondir, karls) varied widely in wealth and status. Some had their own estates and were responsible for their own households, but were unable to sell or bequeath their land, i.e. effectively tenants of their lord.
There is a separate page for very low status
|Higher status (level 3) these are local Community leaders (or members of a leading local family). For raiding Vikings it is most likely the younger sons with no heritage prospects. Level 3 also covers any retinue of the local leader, Master craftsmen and regional traders.
For very high status (level 4) see notes at the end. This covers men of substance, who owned landed estates or long distance business and trading ventures. The spectrum went from ..... through to the most powerful Jarls. It also includes the warrior-retainers who followed these great lords as his companions and bodyguards. Since they ate at their lord’s table, accompanied him to court meetings and lived at his side, they would be dressed and equipped to the best of his ability, to reflect his importance and wealth.
|Context||What is the occupation of the character being portrayed? Is the character typical or representative of those found in the early medieval world?|
|Footwear||Candidate has shoes of suitable design.||Turnshoes, either with toggles (made from leather) or laces Socks are either naalbinded or of unobtrusive modern design. Bare feet are an option for very low status.||Turnshoes, either with toggles or laces. Socks are either naalbinded or of unobtrusive modern design.|
|Footwear||If candidate has hobnails or other grips in their shoes, they are aware that they are an inauthentic safety feature|
|Clothing||Candidate has leg-wear of suitable design||Optional, to be worn under dresses for warmth: Tight-fitting trousers, Winingas, Knee length fabric socks.|
|Clothing||Candidate has underdress and overdress of suitable design.
for basic kit check, one dress is sufficient.
|Long underdress, reaching the ankles and to the wrists. This is usually made of linen or fine wool. Long overdress, reaching ankles and wrists, usually made of wool, but can be linen.
Both dresses should be closed at the neck either with ties, or a loop and bead.
|Long underdress, reaching the ankles and to the wrists. This is usually made of linen or fine wool
Underdress should be closed at the neck either with ties, or a loop and bead.
|clothing||Candidate have belt of suitable design||Belts should be plain cloth or tablet braid but optional.||Belts should be plain cloth or tablet braid but optional.|
|Clothing||Candidate has headgear of suitable design.||9th Century variant: A simple headdress or Linen York style cap is optional.
10th Century variant: After 950AD headdress is mandatory.
|9th Century variant: A simple headdress or Linen York style cap is optional.
10th Century variant: After 950AD headdress is mandatory.
Very high status: Head dress should be of fine wool or linen, possibly decorated with fine tablet braid, silk may be used of the rest of the kit mandates it.
|Clothing||Candidate has a cloak of suitable design. This is optional for basic kit, though encouraged.||A rectangular cloak, preferably a single layer, or double layer in a single fabric, though it may be lined in a different-coloured fabric. (Remember fabric is wealth so depends on status) Secured with a simple brooch or cloak pin.||A rectangular cloak, which may be lined in a different-coloured fabric, secured with a decorative penannular, equal armed, trefoil or disc-brooch.
Very high status: Cloak should be lined and decorated. Can be semi-circular in shape (royalty only). for very high status a triangular feast cloak or shawl is an option based on figurines.
|Clothing||Fabric, colour and general state of clothing is suitable to the status of the kit.||Fabrics should ideally be un-dyed natural colours (browns and greys for wool), other colours should be light, muted, ideally faded or washed out. All edges are properly finished, with no visible machine stitching. Tear and wear must be repaired or patched to prolong its life.||Fabrics may be in relatively rich colours – though anything which could be described as “day-glo” is unacceptable. All edges are properly finished, with no visible machine stitching. Tear and wear must be repaired or patched to prolong its life. Very high status would most likely hand down worn clothes to people below them.|
|Clothing||Clothing has decoration consistent with the status of the kit, and of design appropriate for the cultural group and date.||Decoration should be limited and is optional; tablet braid would probably have been removed and re-used when a garment was passed down. Decoration should be modest and simple, such as decorative hem stitches. This is not embroidery, but should still be fine stitches as there is no evidence for very large stitches made with coarse wool thread. We discourage the use of coarse wool braids as this is not evidenced by the finds. Braids should be tightly packed and suitably thin wool or linen being used (nothing more than 4mm wool being used,) It should almost be like fabric in how its woven.||Fine-quality tablet braid and brocade braid is encouraged.
Very high status: ask for advice.
|Clothing||Candidate is able to explain to the public how each item of their kit would have been made and worn. The candidate can explain the evidence behind any unusual or typical items. Candidates seeking an advanced pass will be expected to have a greater degree of knowledge than those seeking a basic pass.||While reviewing the candidate’s costume, the assessor will ask questions or discuss items with the candidate, to establish their level of knowledge and confidence.
For a basic pass, the assessor may draw on their wider knowledge of the candidate's understanding and confidence.
|Misc||Candidate has jewellery in a material consistent with the status of the kit, and of design and decoration appropriate for the cultural group, location and date.||
Small disc brooches and cloak pins are encouraged. Optionally a simple Thor's hammer or pendant. For Christians, a cross or crucifix of simple design in wood, bone or metal. Before 950AD very few would be Christian.
|Highly decorated jewellery, semi-precious stones and glass beads on strands either worn as a necklace or between the brooches.
Decorated disc brooches, penannular brooches and cloak pins are encouraged. For pagans optionally a Thor's hammer or pendant. For Christians a decorative metal cross or crucifix is encouraged. Decorated bronze, silver or gold arm rings and finger rings are encouraged. Bronze is not an option for very high status
|Misc||Candidate has a satchel or bag of suitable design.||Encouraged, very useful. Preferred to oversized belt pouch.|
|Misc||Items on the candidate's Belt, such as pouches or other accoutrements, are consistent with the status of the kit, and of design appropriate for the cultural group and date.||Personal accessories can include: a toiletries set, keys, sewing kit; flint and steel for lighting fires (with tinder).||Personal accessories can include: a toiletries set, keys, sewing kit; flint and steel for lighting fires (with tinder).
Accessories can hang from the belt. If a belt is not worn Items should be carried in a satchel. Items hanging off brooches is a Swedish style. Modern valuables should be kept in a draw-string pouch, or preferably a satchel.
|Misc||Candidate has eating utensils of suitable design. Eating utensils are encouraged but not required for a basic kit check – new members frequently rely on group kit as they acquire their own||A small eating knife up to about 4”-5” long, suspended vertically in a leather sheath. The handle should be wood, bone or worked antler (not rustic/natural antler). A wooden bowl or plate, a wooden or pottery cup, and a wooden spoon, are strongly recommended.|
|Misc||Candidate has items appropriate to the occupation and livelihood of the character they wish to portray; items are consistent with the status of the kit, and of design appropriate for the cultural group and kit. This is optional for basic kit.||Agricultural workers and craftswomen may have relevant tools. Cooking is a craft.||Higher-status characters are likely to do spinning, tablet weaving, embroidering, or looking after guests.
Very high status: Only appropriate crafts are looking after guests, supervising many servants etc. They would not be cooking.
Examples and Variations
Most lower status clothing was more natural, browns, greys, creams etc from undyed wool and linen. Anything that is coloured could either have come from the end of the dye bath, be old clothing that has been sun bleached. Even if you are lower status your kit should be in good repair. You don’t know where or when your next piece of clothing will be available!
Very high status
The higher-status kit guidelines are a good starting point for the extremely wealthy and powerful – the mighty jarls and Scandinavia’s increasingly powerful kings. All kit should be made to the highest standard and be well decorated. This may feature gold and silver thread, gold or silver wire inlaid into metalwork, gold and silver jewellery. Any tablet braid should be high quality and can utilise silver/gold threads, silk etc. Thread used for braid should be very fine – no “chunky” wools. The costliest materials and colours may be used, including very deep, rich shades of crimson, purple and bleached white. Silk fabric is an option – though it should be smooth silk (midweight) or fine gossamer silk (but not ‘raw’/‘slubbed’ silk or shimmering two-colour ‘shot’ silk/dupion). All kit must be in good condition – anything damaged or dirty would be passed to a minion to clean/repair, or else given away.