I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!

Archive for March, 2022



Much of the clothing of the time was unisex. Clothing that was worn mainly by one gender or the other is marked below with (m) or (f). Descriptions are taken from entries in Regia Anglorum’s Basic Clothing Guide.

Dress (f)

Women did not wear trousers. In fact, a woman wearing trousers was a cause for divorce.

The woman’s overdress was generally ankle length with full-length sleeves. The tightness of the sleeves varied with time. The body of the dress was not tailored and similar in shape and construction to the male tunic. It may have been belted at the waist and sometimes pouched over exposing the hem of the underdress. Belts or sashes were usually restricted to the lower classes, allowing them to keep clothing from getting in the way of labor.

The underdress was usually made of linen or fine wool, ankle length. Sleeves were long and tight, and the ends extended to the middle of the hand and were then pushed up to the wrist. Hangerocs were the traditional Scandinavian over-dress, though it has been suggested—because of the disappearance of so-called tortoise brooches can no longer be found after the conversion—that it was a style worn by the heathens. There are several reconstructions of this garment.


Gloves were coverings for the hands worn for protection. There were two purposes for gloves of the time, both practical. First, they could be used to protect the hand against heat, friction, abrasion and dirt while laboring. Second, they could protect the hand against the cold. Practical gloves were generally made out of leather or fur and wool, in three main versions.

Mittens, where a single sheath held the fingers together, was the most common and possibly the warmest. The individual fingered glove such as that common today was less frequently found and was probably preferred for work. The third variation—actually a variation of the glove style—were fingerless gloves where the palms are often padded to provide protection to the hand, and the exposed fingers do not interfere with sensation or gripping. Both glove and mitten have an individual thumb.

Trousers (m)

Trousers were mostly wool and seemed to have come in a variety of styles, both loose and tight fitting. There are few extant trousers—the pre-Viking era Þorsberg trousers are fairly complete—but our notions are mainly based on period illustrations and to a lesser degree on literary mentions. They were apparently held up both by drawstrings and by belts (with belt loops).

Tight leggings were similar to later hose and were apparently sometimes worn in period. They were usually separate and attached to a belt. In later times, garters were attached at the knee and the wearer rolled down the hose to cool the wearer. It is not known whether this was done at this period. The hose, like breeches, might have built-in socks.

Stockings & Socks

Hose was worn both by men and by women, though there is some suggestion that women wore garters. Both sexes did wear shorter socks. We have a few naalbound socks that are extant, but fabric sock tubes and even wrapped socks were also worn. There have been an indication that naalbound socks were thick enough that they could be worn as slippers, and I have personally done this! The naalbound socks are thick—at least at the beginning of their use—and provide excellent pads for the feet.

Plain white or grey socks are acceptable as long as they are mostly or entirely hidden from public view. Socks should not be loud or have designs of any sort.

Winingas—and many other names as well—were leg wraps later known as puttees, which went from the ankle to about the knee. There were several ways of wrapping them, and they were secured either with hooks or with various ties. There were mostly lengths of wool that were between two and three inches wide, about six to twelve feet long. They were probably mostly used by people in active trades or going through overgrown brush and would therefore be very useful for trekking. Evidence is scarce, but it would appear that types of Winingas were popular both with men and women.



Much of the clothing of the time was unisex. Clothing that was worn mainly by one gender or the other is marked below with (m) or (f). Descriptions are taken from entries in Regia Anglorum’s Basic Clothing Guide.


Hoods are about the only way to keep the sun out of your eyes! The hood was often of wool of varying thicknesses. Hoods worn in the heat were much cooler than you might suppose. Not only did the wool breath, but gaps between the face and the hood allowed ventilation.

The big disadvantage of hoods was that the sides often drooped down over the eye on one side of the other, rendering the wearer half blind. It also insulated the ear, so that the wearer was effectively deaf, but the hood could easily be pulled down about the neck so that the blindness and deafness of the wearer could be alleviated.

The cap is a kind of soft, flat hat and comes in many variations down to the present day. Caps of the period did not have visors or brims.

Panel caps were used by the Norse more than for the Englisc. No naalbound caps have been found, so these caps were probably four- or six-paneled woolen caps. The use of furry bands around the outer band of the cap seem to be reenactorisms.

The Englisc had skull caps, made of leather or wool, more like yarmulkes than the panel caps. They fit higher on the head than the panel caps.

Women had three basic styles of headgear, though there were many variations:v

Arming caps, familiarly known as “Baby bonnets” were a later development and were not worn during this period. Straw and slouch hats were not used in this period. Straw hats might have been in use by the end of the period but were not common. The slouch hat, although appearing in non-period illustrations of Oðinn, actually date from a later period. The Phrygian cap was a style from classical times and is found in contemporary illustrations but was probably not found in this era.


A rectangular or semi-circular piece of wool, often thick, secured at the neck with a pin of some sort. Most brooches or pins were on the right should (since the wearer was usually right-handed, and this made it easier to grab the sword), but they were also secured over the chest. Whether this style was used by women and people not armed, we cannot tell. The cloaks were worn both inside and outside since there was often no such thing as universal indoor heat!

The length of the cloak varied from a little below the waist to ankle length. For trekking, the length should probably be short enough for the hiker to move easily but long enough to keep him warn. Hoods were not attached to the cloak, though they were in later times.

Cloaks were not different for men and for women (and for children, except the size). Norse women also wore a triangular or rectangular shawl or cape, fastened at the neck with a brooch.

Not only did the cloaks keep a person warm, but they could be used as blankets. They should be tightly woven, which helps them to retain warmth and also protected against the wet.

The cloaks did not seem to be lined, but then few if any of the clothing of the time were lined. There are, of course, people who disagree with this, but we still urge that the cloak and any lining are the same color.

Mantles—essentially shorter cloaks and basically in the words of Regia Anglorum, “an oval shape with a hole in it for the head to pass through. It was sometimes worn over the wimple, sometimes under it”—were worn by wealthier women, and cloaks were often worn over the mantle while traveling.

Tunic (m)

The tunic was frequently worn by men during the Middle Ages. Formerly used as undergarments during antiquity, during the Middle Ages it became an outer garment, and an under-tunic was frequently worn as well.

Tunics of the time were loose and most frequently wool and more expensively linen. They were long sleeved, and the sleeves are usually “fairly loose on the upper arm but tighter on the forearm, often with creases or pleats shown round the lower arm. The skirts are full, frequently made fuller by the insertion of extra triangular panels at each side.” Viking tunics often descended to above the knees while Englisc tunics descended to below. In both cases, a belt or scarf was often used to ruck up the tunic, so that what belts were used at the time were often obscured (see the Julian work calendar).

Brooches or pins could be used at the collar to close the neckline or to secure any wrap-arounds. Buttons were known during the era but were not used to secure much clothing as they were in late eras.

It is worth noting that tunics were always worn; the male chest was not bared because that was a sign of effeminacy, indicating that the female chest could be bared (probably not sexual, just for nursing). Catherine Stallybrass notes, in the “Laxdaelasaga, I think, Guðrún Ósvífursdóttir marries her first husband (Þorvaldr Halldórsson) at the age of 15 and he turns out to be a man she cares little for. She makes him a low-cut shirt. This means that either he will refuse to wear it, in which case she can divorce him for unreasonable behaviour, or he wears it, in which case she can divorce him for effeminacy.” Trousers were taken off to avoid too much warmth; see the workers in the Julius work calendar.



You are not dressing for a royal progress. Dress for practicality and for comfort! Clothing should be made of unembroidered, untrimmed plain cloth. Fancy, expensive clothing should not be worn.

The fabric used should be wool, not linen. Not only was wool more common, but it was less expensive. And more practical than linen because the wool is far warmer and, even when it gets wet, remains warm and comfortable.

If allergic to wool, linen clothes may be worn beneath the wool. I consider it another medical necessity!

Colors are less important, though bright and expensive colors should be used seldom if at all. Regia Anglorum lists the status of colors as:

Lowest Rank

• Undyed Wool
• Cream
• Full range of Browns
• Grey
• Combinations of the above in weaves
• Unbleached linen (probably)
• Faded middle rank dyes

Low Middle Rank

Any of the above plus

• Weld: Yellow, Yellowy-Green, Moss Green.
• Wild Madder: Salmony-pink, Orange-brown, Bleached Linen.

Slightly Richer Middle Rank

Any of the above plus

• More intense madder Red from cultivated plants
• Woad: Blue
• Combinations of the above, e.g. Leaf Green, Bottle Green

High Rank

Any of the above plus

• Small amounts of Kermes Red (Cardinal Red)

High Clergy & Royalty

Any of the above plus

• Shellfish Purple
• Silk garments

The preferred colors for trekking are the lower, less expensive colors since dyed clothing was produced with more expensive dyes.

We will not be discussing jewelry, though we recommend that very elaborate jewelry be avoided. Some jewelry—especially some brooches and probably personally valuable pieces such as rings, armlets, beads (probably no more than three for a male)—will be covered.



Rips, tears and worn areas on your clothing happen and develop at all times. Repairs might not be essential or needed to be repaired or replaced immediately, but they might be very essential. At least you (or one person in your party if there is more than just you) should have carry an emergency sewing kit.

The kit needs not contain such things as a naalbinding needle, yarn, spindle or the like. If you want to use them for a project, that is one thing, but, it is suggested that these items are necessary:

• Linen or Hemp thread (on a period winder, not on a spool of wood or plastic)
• sinew (on a period winder, not on a spool of wood or plastic)
• At least one needle(steel, iron, bone or copper; make certain the eye is larger enough to accept the thread)
• At least one pin (steel, iron, bone or copper)
• snips or scissors
• fabric patches
• leather patches
• awl for leather
• A piece of wax

Contents of the kit should be kept in a period container, for example a small bentwood box or a bag of leather or wool, preferably red.


The accuracy of your clothing does not rely on how fancy it is. Accuracy depends on three different points:

• Whether each article of clothing (and jewelry) has the proper number of documentable precedents, either visual, literary or an artefact
• Whether the majority of the clothing and equipment is from the same culture, time and social status (a single exception per impression is sometimes allowed by a variety of societies)
• Whether all the material used in sewing the clothing is period, namely wool, linen (flax, hemp or nettle) or leather/fur

What you choose the clothing for your trekking impression, realize that you are not choosing costume for a royal progress or for an encampment.

You are traveling by foot or by horse-, ass- or mule-back, not by ship or even by waggon. The gear gathered should be light and not cumbersome, and both easily transportable and furniture should be kept at home or at a major encampment and not carried on the trek. You should be wearing neither a maille shirt nor a helmet. You are out hunting or just traveling from one place to another.

Remember: you are attempting to embody the common everyday non-martial lifestyle of the day!