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10th c. Norse / Viking Apron Dress

Inspired by my husband, who has a Norse persona in the SCA; and a yearly event celebrating Norse culture, I decided to add a 10th c. Norse women's outfit to my closet.

Viking Apron Dress

I was inspired by and greatly helped by the following websites:

Materials: Wool, wool, and more wool. A little linen, here and there, but mostly wool. ;) The underdress is a lovely salmon-colored wool twill I picked up in Los Angeles a few years ago, and the overdress is an oatmeal-colored wool melton. The embroidery thread used on the seams of the overdress is wool. I used silk for the straps of the overdress, and a band of linen on the interior, across the top of the apron dress as facing.

Pattern: The overdress was patterned using Mistress Genevieve d'Aquitaine's pattern here, and overall it worked out well. On a personal level, the blocky cut feels unattractive - were I to make another one, I'd use the geometric pattern as my base and then fit the seams to help it skim over the body a little more smoothly. That's a personal aesthetic, and probably not historically based at all. :)

Based on my (admittedly, limited!) research, Norse cultures used embroidery to decorate the seams of their garments. ( I decided to use a Vandyke stitch along all seam edges on the apron dress to spruce it up - I like the way the Vandyke lays on the fabric, as opposed to the more common herringbone stitch.

Viking Apron project - vandyke stitch
Detail of the Vandyke stitch used on the seams

Viking apron dress
Here you can see the Vandyke stitch is complete, but the shoulder straps have not been added and the hem has not been cut on either the overdress or underdress. Neckline on the underdress is merely chalked in. Here, I had done a rolled hem on the top edge of the overdress, but it felt/looked too bulky. Later I took that out and added a linen facing, which got flipped to the inside and stitched down. It looks much cleaner and less bulky.

Viking Apron Dress
Here, the shoulder straps are pinned into place with the 'turtle brooches'. The brooches are borrowed from a friend, who made this set out of sculpy. I had originally tried to make straps out of the oatmeal wool, but they were too thick for my taste, so I ended up doing these out of some scrap silk duiponi. Eventually I'll replace them with some inkle-woven bands.

Viking Apron Dress - closeup
Bling! What pulls the Viking look together, IMHO, is the bling. I bought one of those el cheapo glass bead kits from AC Moore, and supplemented that with some nice hand-made glass beads I had picked up over the years. Here, the neckline of the underdress is faced and pinned, but not stitched down.

Viking Apron Dress
The final product! The Frost Giants were kind enough to grace us with their presence on the morning of our event, so we had a lovely dusting of snow to take photos in. :) The coat is an older project that needs to be taken apart and re-done now that I know what I'm doing. The hat was purchased from a fur vendor at the Carolina Renaissance Festival a few years ago.

Viking MySpace Shot
Accessories make all the difference - our event was mostly indoors, due to the snow, so the big fur hat got replaced with the little wool hat and linen coif. I wore a recycled fur collar most of the day to keep the back of my neck warm.

Overall, I'm pleased with the outfit - there are some things that need tweaking, and the underdress needs to be taken in. (It deserves it's own entry, and I'll do that when I take it apart and re-fit it) But it kept me toasty warm, looked appropriate, and was comfy - so I'll mark this one off as a success. Even if I don't feel like a princess. ;)