Part of the fun of belonging to a community of Viking Reenactors is bringing the family along! That means making our 5-year old Viking kids clothes. In fact, we’re up to his third Viking costume. We know precious little about children’s’ clothing in the Viking Age, so really we are just scaling down the little we really know about adult viking clothing!
Excavated remains of textile fragments belonging to garments are staggeringly rare, so it’s hard to drawn solid conclusions about the tailoring. But, we do have significant hints from places like Skjoldeham, Guddal, and Hedeby, where pieced fragments show the general shape and seam treatments. Some things we can glean from contemporary artwork – manuscripts, jewellery etc.
We wanted to approach “Hikke’s” Viking kids clothes in the same way we approach Viking adult clothing, so we read the last costume works (such as Viking Dress Code by Kamil Rabiega), chose the materials carefully, and hand sewed all of his clothes.
Hikke’s first costume was when he was just a few months old. A friend, and member of the group, made a simple t-tunic of linen, and a woollen outer garment based on the shirt from Skjoldeham, Norway, complete with decorative front-neck panel and collar. It’s worth mentioning here that throughout history, children (male and female) wore simple shifts or gowns, with no legwear. This is likely also the case in the Viking-age. Before a child is toilet trained, there may have been a ‘napkin’ worn to collect waste. Again, there’s no evidence in the Viking-age, but we have to collect the poo somehow! 😬 For pragmatic reasons, we did make some wool trousers to cover his modern nappie.
A year later, and growing at pace, he still mostly fit into the woollen clothes as we left significant seam allowed and large hems, but the shirt needed to be replaced. So into the stockpile of clothing hand-me-downs we went! In the hot summer we found a simple linen kyrtle in club kit. It’s a wide-skirted and knee-length tunic. This silhouette is seen in many early medieval manuscripts (on adult figures).
The next year was the pandemic, so with an 18 month break, he needed an entirely new outfit! This time we went for a simple woolen kyrtle and again raided the club-kit for a shabby looking linen undershirt.
The bonus of being in an established group that it has had many families over the years. That means there is an abundance of Viking kids clothing! (Though some would be gently retired from excessive wear, or just because they were made with a different understanding of Viking clothing).
We made legwear, also in wool, based on the cut of the Thorsberg trousers. This cut is very practical, with a large crotch and butt panel, and gussets in the legs. These proved to be remarkably hard wearing, coming through the hardest of pre-schooler trials! We also started to accessorise. We made a hood, again based on a find from Skjoldeham, Norway, and bought a superb belt buckle (which I’ll talk about later).
In 2023, Hikke has once again had a growth spurt so we made him a whole new set of viking kids clothes. This one was a little more well thought out, now that he has properly proportioned limbs. 😅
We made a linen undershirt in a t-tunic style, and a Kyrtle made of a 2/2 twill wool with a bead neck-fastener. We also made with mittens from the same material. The Kyrtle and tunic are patterned with a simple poncho-cut with the neck hole cut into the length of fabric. Sleeves and side gores are then added in. This is a simple cut that creates the look of the silhouette seen in period artwork. Gores are seen from extant garments and fragments.
The Kyrtle doesn’t have the close fitting tailoring (rounded shoulders, separate skirt etc.,) or front and rear gores seen on other period garments. This is mainly for practical reasons. He still needs to be able to grow into it for the rest of the year! The Kytrle is completely hand-sewn using period stitches and seam treatments. Parts are sewn with thread made from the same yarn as the fabric itself!
Once again, we made leg wear. A pair of Thorsberg-style trousers (of course!) and breeches or ‘braes’ – shorts basically. But Hikki often goes around without anything underneath!
The mittens are patterned from a couple of finds. That of the child’s mittens from Heynes, Iceland. These were kept together with a sewn-on lace that could be threaded through their sleeves to stop them from losing them. Second was a mitten from the Lendbreen glacier in Norway and the cut of the pattern is based on it.
The bead is based on the blue bead of the man in grave 511 at Repton. It was worn on a necklace with another bead and a Thor’s Hammer. In this case we’ve used the bead for a neck fastening. It’s a simplified version of the silver-bead fastener and braided loop on the shirt from Skjoldehamn, Norway. The bead was made by Tillerman Beads.
The antler buckle which we bought last year is based on a find at the excavations of Fishamble Street in Dublin (NM E190:6273). It’s decorated with ring and dot incision and the tongue is held in with a metal pin. It was made by Gear and Graith.
Making Viking kids clothes isn’t a daunting task, and with help from a family oriented group, it’s easy to keep your children involved. (Even if sometimes they just need some peace and quiet in a tent with a tablet!) If you are looking for a new family adventure, want to get started in re-enactment, then check out our website for more information, catch us at our weekly training in Leicester, or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!