February 12, 2018 at 9:43 am #23087
As a basis for the divine mother’s outfit for the winter solstice ceremony from The Path of the Spiritual Sun we chose to use the ancient Norse/Viking style as that culture has links to the ancient religion of the sun and the people playing the roles have some personal connections to it as well.
Intact or even partially intact pieces of clothing from this era can hardly be found of course, as fabric as an organic material completely decomposes in the usual case over time. The current understanding of the kind of clothing that was worn at that time then has been deduced from small preserved fabric scraps (preserved usually because they got attached by corrosion to a metal object worn on the clothing), written or pictorial sources, or the few lucky finds where a larger piece of clothing had been preserved intact (a hose from a bog for instance, or a piece of an apron dress coated in tar used as caulking in a sunken ship.
The divine mother’s winter solstice outfit comprised of a full length gown or dress, a simple rectangular cloak, a tablet woven wool belt, a brooch to fasten the cloak, a shawl to cover the head and the headdress of Hathor (the headdress will be covered in another forum post soon).
We wanted to use authentic materials and patterns wherever possible and which would also be relevant to the religion of the sun and the particular ceremony. However obviously due to financial, time and skill constraints not all the details and accessories are 100% historically accurate.
The cloak and gown are based on patterns reconstructed from ancient sources. The belt has been woven using the tablet weaving technique that has been practiced at least from the Iron Age in Europe (8th century BC). The brooch is a replica of an ancient piece of Baltic jewelry.
Both linen and wool were used in ancient Scandinavian clothing, with wool being the more common in older times, and linen and even silk being used more in later times (10th century). Linen and wool were produced locally while silk was imported.
We chose wool for the gown and cloak as it felt like an obvious ’winter fabric’ that would provide the warmth needed to celebrate the solstice and perform the ceremony in cold outdoor conditions.
In The Path of the Spiritual Sun, in the description for the ceremony to celebrate the winter solstice (p. 390) it says, ’… the spiritual Mother … dresses in a pinkish red color (the subtle pink red the Hindu goddess Lakshmi and the Virgin Mary usually wear, rather than a gaudy, bright pink) …’ At first we had a light rosy pink in mind but then understood the recommendation, ’pinkish red’, to mean a red colour that has a pink shade, rather than just pink. We wanted to find two such reds that would go well together, one for the cloak and another for the gown, for the colours to complement each other for a deeper impression.
Archaeologists have been able to determine that ancient Norse woolen clothing would often have been brightly coloured. They used several dyes derived from plants to achieve a variety of colours; madder or bedstraw was used to achieve shades of red. Linen wasn’t easy to colour with historical dyes and was often just bleached or left undyed.
This was a simple tunic style dress based on patterns created from available information on how ancient gowns were constructed. It only uses simple geometric shapes. The body is a long rectangular piece of fabric folded at the shoulders, with rectangular sleeves (not fitted but using gussets to give movement to the arms), a ’keyhole’ neckline (you can find different shapes of necklines from different regions and ages, and the keyhole is a common one) and triangular side gores to provide width and movement to the hem. It is not tight fitting and doesn’t have any laces, buttons, zippers etc. but is only adjusted with a belt.
To be true to the Norse female style a woolen apron dress (smokkr) could have been included to be worn on top of the gown and this would have provided additional warmth too. A smock with long sleeves and hem could have been worn under the gown as well.
The cloak is simply a rectangular piece of fabric, as was the period style, where the raw edges have been finished with a double fold hem. It fulfilled the function of a modern coat or jacket, protecting the wearer from the climate and weather. Women might wear it either by attaching it on one shoulder or in the middle under the neck. Men only wore it attaching it on one shoulder.
It was a versatile piece of clothing as it could also function as a blanket for sleeping or sitting on, etc.
According to some sources, the shawl/cloak was worn by women in earlier Norse times while a caftan (a long coat) replaced it in later times.
The cloak could be brightly coloured and decorated with embroidery or a trim. Due to time constraints, ours were plain.
Belt and Brooch
The belt from an Estonian Etsy shop WICIStore incorporates a swastika design and was woven from wool using the ancient tablet weaving technique, which was extensively used in ancient Europe but especially in the ancient Norse society. We worked with the artist to have custom colours as well suiting our overall colour combination.
The brooch from the Lithuanian jewelry shop Lietis is a replica of an ancient Baltic brooch with a swastika of serpents – the serpent being a symbol of the divine mother and the swastika being used in the actual set up of the ceremony circle we thought this was fitting.
Wearing a veil as a head covering was mostly a personal decision rather than a one based on ancient styles. There is inconclusive evidence of what a Norse woman would have worn on her head but they are sometimes depicted wearing head scarves, though in a slightly different style. The shawl/scarf from The Wool Company was a thin wool and silk blend diamond weave fabric, very gentle dusty pink colour to provide balance to the otherwise bright colours.
We also got light wool gloves from Ebay.
Finding the kind of thick pure wool in suitable colours that would fit our period clothing proved to be difficult as especially the cloak should be of a thicker wool to provide the kind of protection from weather as intended. We spent a lot of time getting samples and looking through different websites and fabric shops, and realised after a while that it’s quite uncommon now for companies to produce this kind of wool as today’s fashion calls for something different. Thus we would often end up with stretchy ’jersey’ wool that was very thin, modern looking (almost like cotton) and more suited for office type of wear. We would therefore recommend, if looking for authentic ‘old-fashioned’ wool, to look for suppliers that specify for LARP, SCA, or reenactment garments.
Thus to reiterate, when buying fabrics online it’s vital especially if you’re a beginner to get samples first, especially as some shops don’t accept returns of already cut fabrics. However, as we noticed, without sufficient experience of how different fabrics work, even with samples you can go wrong. Here intuition is probably a great help until experience accumulates.
We did eventually find a wonderful selection of different woolen weaves and colours from the Yorkshire based company Abraham Moon & Sons Ltd.
We got a beautiful Shetland Twill fabric in slightly deeper purplish pink wool for the gown, and a Shetland Herringbone fabric in brighter pinkish red for the cloak. We felt this herringbone fabric was the closest that we could get to the shade of red described in the instructions for the ceremony.
It’s good to start the process well in advance – finding the right fabrics especially wool is very time consuming (depending of course on where you live and what shops are available in person). Then if you’re a beginner it takes time to figure out how the pattern works, measuring, cutting, sewing etc. Leave time for mistakes such as getting the wrong fabric or having to unstitch or redo something. It isn’t ideal to be struggling with it while feeling a pressure of time and the event approaching fast – better to give yourself plenty of time to figure out how it works in a relaxed way. Then again if you have some sewing experience this pattern is really simple and quick.
More About Our Winter Solstice 2017 Outfits
Making an Ancient Norse Tunic (Coming soon)
Making an Ancient Norse Gown (Coming soon)
Making an Ancient Norse Cloak (Coming soon)
Divine Father’s Eagle Headdress (Coming soon)
Divine Mother’s Hathor Headdress (Coming soon)
More About Viking (Norse) GarmentsFebruary 13, 2018 at 7:20 am #23131
Thank you for sharing Laura. I really like the simplicity of the dress pattern, sewn just with the basic geometric patterns. It could even be used to sew a summer sleevless dress I think. 🙂February 13, 2018 at 7:24 am #23132
Great resource Laura, thank you for sharing and it reflects the amount of effort you put into the divine mother’s outfit!February 13, 2018 at 9:18 pm #23145
I love the gown and cloak that were made for this ceremony – the colour chosen for the gown comes very close to matching the red-pink description. Thanks Laura for sharing all the wonderful details on how to recreate this beautiful outfit although it would probably be more helpful if I learned how to sew first before attempting it! Will you eventually be incorporating an embroidered trim to the cloak and if so did you have one in mind that you were planning to use?February 13, 2018 at 9:18 pm #23147
That looks awesome, you can tell a lot of care went into making it.February 14, 2018 at 9:19 am #23160
Thank you Laura! For your essential role to make the outfits happen 🙂
A lot to say. One little thing I noticed how even inside in normal circumstances someone wearing a traditional dress like this just looks so much better and creates a nice environment than modern clothes.February 14, 2018 at 2:58 pm #23170
Thanks for the comments : )
@lucia, I really love this pattern because it’s so versatile – according to historical sources it was also used to sew an apron dress and a long coat with minimal alterations. A sleeveless summer dress based on this pattern would be gorgeous. You can alter the length and width of the sleeves and hem really easily. I’ll be talking a bit more about how the pattern works in a soon to be coming post on sewing the dress.
@patricia, thank you : ) This is actually a lovely project for a beginner I think, both the dress and the cloak as they are so simple and you only need to know two stitches on the sewing machine – zigzag and straight stitch. There are just a few parts and they fit together in a common sense way and yet the end result is very beautiful and feminine.
I haven’t yet looked into a trim for the cloak but I think a tablet woven trim is what an ancient Norse person would have included, similar to the belt actually – apparently it was much more common for them to decorate clothes with woven trims than embroidery. As the cloak is larger such a trim would be lovely to incorporate to it while embroidery stitched straight on the fabric might work very nicely on the dress.
@karim, I agree that there’s something very wonderful in wearing this dress not only in a ceremony but in casual circumstances too. I love that it’s simple enough to be able to do that, and I might even add some simple embroidery to it at some point.February 14, 2018 at 5:21 pm #23172
Ha ha, that’s so interesting what you say Laura about ancient Norse people using the tablet woven trims. I was just thinking lately, that instead of doing a long-term embroidery project for the winter cloak trim, what would work better (and quicker) is just simply order more of the “belt” and make a trim from it. The only thing is that they can be quite pricey (for me at least…), so have to wait a bit…
In general these ancient people seemed to be really smart and practical, using basic shapes and very simple sewing patterns in combination with high-quality fabrics and that was it. For example using just a big square for a cloak (a blanket really), that’s some mighty simplification! 🙂February 15, 2018 at 8:00 am #23182
So much detail Laura. The costumes for the Mother and Father are amazing.
Thank you ever so much for also providing links to source material — you’ve done a magnificent job!February 16, 2018 at 5:55 am #23214
That’s right Ella, it reflects the amount of effort, time, inspiration and interest doing it as nicely she did… and still doing 🙂February 19, 2018 at 12:08 pm #23297
Thanks so much for the kind feedback everyone. I should mention that Ella and Karim did a lot of the work of putting together this outfit in the planning and sourcing stage, I did the sewing.
@lucia I agree, the ancient styles seem really simple and beautiful and also timeless in a sense, that we can still wear them with just a bit of alterations.
Yeah those trims can be a bit costly, especially if it’s pure wool. You could start from just adding a trim to the part that goes around the neck, like on this cloak.
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