We use period Viking costumes to give a sense of immersion to the live performance of Sundown. Our costumes include a mixture of home-made items, custom-commissioned pieces, garments from reenactment and costuming shops, and items we purchased but modified ourselves. Details about the costume design process, as well as our sources, are discussed below.
In designing the costumes for our human characters we strove for historical accuracy as much as possible, duplicating the clothing and fashions of the ninth through twelfth centuries, Snorri’s lifetime and the period right before. We focused on linen and wool fabrics, and historically accurate dye colors, gentle, natural dyes, with expensive deep colors like reds and blues reserved only for the wealthy. For the men this means linen or wool tunics decorated with simple geometric or knot work trim, narrow leather belts with buckles and long tails, and rectangular cloaks closed with pins. Since the character Saemund is supposed to come from the south (England or Ireland perhaps) his tunic is an Anglo-Saxon cut, trimmed with a cross pattern suggesting the Christian influence on his homeland, and his shoes are of a more southern design.
For the human women we use signature Viking apron dresses with cast metal oval brooches on the chest, or simple kyrtles with shawls pinned with period trefoil brooches, accented strings of glass beads with period pendants. A few concessions have been made for comfort and practicality, such as the exterior soles on our leather turn shoes, but for the most part the goal is to present an honest feeling of the plain and simple styles and technologies of a world where the battle against the elements meant that even simple materials like cloth were hard-earned treasures.
For the gods’ costumes we are creating more elaborate pieces, with opulent colors and gold decoration usually reserved for kings and queens, and variations to reflect each character. Frigg’s lavish blue dress and purple overcoat are of queenly luxury, while her necklace contains replica pendants depicting a Valkyrie, Odinic imagery, and the keys to the gods’ household which she carries. Odin’s belt is studded with runes, and his tunic a princely blue decorated with gold and silver horses, while his fur vest and leather bracers show his signature ravens, and his gray traveling cloak reflects descriptions of his journeys in disguise among humans, and his titles “Graybeard” “Hood-wearer” and “Disguised-one”. Loki’s tunic is a hybrid of Viking and Burgundian styles, with a square hem, intended to suggest the ethnic difference of his Jotun background, while his belt features monstrous beasts in hammered copper.
Hella wears a traditional apron dress but half black and half white to match her inhuman coloring, and beads of bone instead of glass. Baldur wears gold and white, decorated with gilt embroidery, with a studded belt depicting the rising and setting of the sun. The Seeress’s costume is directly based on a description of a visiting seeress from the Saga of Eric the Red, which describes her strange wooden belt and pouch, her leather hood and decorated mantle, her brass-tipped staff decorated with stones, and other details.
The whole costuming process was overseen by our Viking costuming consultant Christina Krupp (see her original guides to Viking clothing here). Christina’s expertise was indispensable in helping us sort through the masses of inauthentic viking costuming available, and to find patterns, fabrics and designs which match real archaeological finds and medieval drawings.
Also indispensable was Marc Dunn of MAD Craft of Vermont, who creates extraordinary custom period and period-inspired leather and metalwork. He created all our most unusual costume pieces, including metal-studded leather belts for Odin, Loki and Baldur with character-specific decorations depicting runes, monsters and the sun, and accessories for the Seeress, including her leather hood, wooden belt, and her staff (which, following Marc’s clever design, comes apart to fit in a suitcase.) Marc’s services are very affordable, and he can be reached at madcraftofvt [at] gmail.com
The vendors who supplied our costumes and materials:
Period shoes of exceptional variety, accuracy and affordability, including shoes directly based on those found at archaeological digs. (Supplied our basic Viking and Anglo-Saxon shoes)
Raymond’s Quiet Press
Great source for historical cast metal pieces, including period jewelry, belt buckles and fittings, at great prices. (Supplied our brooches, fibulae, pendants, cloak pins and some of our belt fittings.)
Extremely accurate period clothing, Dark Ages through early Renaissance, with focus on period accurate fabrics and dyes. Great documentation of sources, and hand-woven items. (Supplied many of our men’s tunics, women’s apron dress, six-panel hats, and our winingas (viking leg wraps).)
Also very accurate period clothing, Dark Ages through Renaissance, with many excellent hoods and accessories. Broad, lively color selections. (Supplied Viking trousers, round Viking hat, accessories).
Top quality fantasy, historical and pseudo-historical costumes, specializing in elaborate and highly-decorated pieces for LARP and fantasy as well as reenactment. Their shoes run tight, so order a size up. Supplied most of our Viking trousers, Frigg’s costume, Odin’s cloak, and Odin, Loki and Baldur’s decorated shoes.
Specializes in linen fabric, in many weights, styles and colors in smooth and rustic weaves. Supplied fabric for Loki’s cloak, Odin’s mantle, and Hella’s costume.
Source for pre-made fabric trims in Celtic, Viking and Renaissance designs. Machine made, and many a little too complex to be period plausible, but beautiful. Supplied the trims on most of our costumes.
Continental Stitchery Trims
Another fabric trim shop, with many extremely affordable designs, including fancier ones but also a large selection of simpler patterns more within plausible complexity for Viking weavers.
Museum Replicas Limited
Mostly weapons and fantastical invented costumes but fun, and with a few choice items including an affordable and fairly accurate pair of viking tunics. Supplied stagehands’ tunics.
Period weapons including Stage Combat safe unsharpened period accurate Viking sword, axe and scramasaxe daily-use knife.
Dark Knight Armory
Scabbards, frogs, baldrics, pouches and highly realistic-looking latex LARP weapons including several Viking-type swords, daggers and axes.
Focus on unbleached linen accurate tunics, and accessories inluding accurate Viking Hats made from the rare Nailbinding fabric-construction technique.
Informational links about Viking costuming
- The Viking Answer Lady
- The Calafian Costumer’s Guild
- Simple Viking Clothing for Women (SCA handout)
- Viking Resources for the Reenactor
- Fjellborg Viking Resource List
- More archived at Riverhaven’s Garb for Newcomers
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