A long while back, my first year at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, I began looking at Norse trousers. We were bringing in an exhibit from Parks Canada on the Norse at L'Anse aux Meadows and they were going to provide costumes for our interpreters to wear.
Well let's just say I stuck my nose in a little where the costumes were concerned and changed some things up a little both at the Provincial and Federal levels. The costumes they were going to send down looked to me to be early 1970s SCA Viking clothes, and I knew there had been more research done in that area. I went to my boss and asked if I could make two outfits for the museum for the exhibit. I would buy the fabrics, make them on site and the museum could wear them for the summer, after which I would get them back...first steps in becoming their head of wardrobe, at the time I was working front cash and interpreting the Robertson's store.
So I looked at the Hedeby trousers recreated by the Viking museum in Haithabu. I made a little paper pattern of the pants to figure out how they went together, and then I made a pair in a silk wool blend. And I quickly realized they were a huge suck up of fabric and thought, self, if you were weaving this cloth, you wouldn't be wasting so much of it! I am a huge fan of zero waste clothing methods, so this really grated on my last nerve. So I wrote a paper about it and brought the trousers and paper to Great Northeastern War that summer. I have no idea where that paper is now...somewhere out on the internet...
As our SCA family grew, with boys looking for comfy clothes to wear that they could make themselves, I thought more about these trousers. Then Parks Canada contacted me about redesigning their interpretation clothing collection. So I spent some time that winter making pants, researching the Norse and ended up sending them a four inch binder of stuff along with paper patterns for new clothes...and recommendation to buy the book Woven Into the Earth. My theory is that instead of short pants like those worn at the museum in Haithabu, the puffy Norse pants were adaptations of earlier thorsberg trousers, morphed with the style of pants still worn by nomadic tribes in the Middle East today. Once my guys tried the short pants, they quickly realized that wicklebander, or the leg wraps will not stay on the leg with short pants. So Parks got the longer version, that came to the ankle. Further still, the long pants rode up, under the leg wraps, making the ankle cold and exposed.
So Rave comes into our lives through the SCA, and he too wants the cool clothes of the Norse, but wants to do his own research, not wanting to just take my bible and go off with just what I was telling him...good researcher that he is...
He kept coming to me, each week at our weekly fight practice and arts gathering, telling me that he'd found me once again on the internet and that my research was pretty cool. He did take the bible of Norse things, and he did make some really cool clothes from the research, but he wanted to try out something. Feet.
Rave was looking at the Thorsberg trousers and noticed they had feet in them, we both agreed that feet would make the trousers stay down around the ankles better, and also keep the leg wraps on better. Whoot! Success! They did.
So Pierre is still wearing that first pair of Viking Museum trousers, only because I haven't had the energy to rip them apart and remake them, but I am so happy that my younger Norse guys are all experimenting with my first thoughts and are helping me to experiment with new ideas on how they were made and worn...now if only I could figure out a better way of cutting the damned things to make better use of cloth, then I would be a happy costumer.
Thanks to Garth for finding this article http://urd.priv.no/viking/bukser.html it's a great look at a broad range of the trouser styles. I'm probably going to be doing some experimentation in the near future!
Norse: the people
Viking: a verb to describe the process of travelling the globe on trade and other missions
Haithbu: the place in modern Germany where the museum is located
Hedeby: the period word for the above place.
Thorsberg: a place where a fully fashioned pair of closer fitting trousers, with feet were found, these trousers date from roughly 600ad, about 400 years before the L'Anse aux Meadows site, but fashion changed pretty slowly then.