COMMON ARTICLES OF CLOTHING Part One
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.
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.