Later Anglo-Saxon Dress

Editor's note: This article is for those of you who wanted something on later 'early' period.

"Wifecrudes" (women's outfit)

Most of our information on the dress of later Anglo-Saxon women comes from ~manuscript illumination with a few exceptions, such as the Frank's casket (drawings of figures from the Frank's casket are used at the beginning of this article). They are most frequently shown wearing sleeved gowns with of mid-calf length or longer (Fig. 1). The necklines are hidden by the headdress. The sleeves varied from elbow to wrist length and in shape from form fitting to wide. The later in the period the garment is, the longer the sleeves. Some depictions show sleeves so long that they cover the hands, a good way to keep warm, and others with sleeves knotted to keep them from touching the ground. Fig. 2 shows the variety of sleeve styles used. "Cyrtel" seems to be the Anglo-Saxon word most often used for the outer gown. Belts are not seen, but are indicated by pouched garments. No belt ends or hanging tools or personal ornaments are seen. One illustration does show what appears to be a wide belt that passes through the garment in the back (Fig. 3), but could be an artistic error.

The gowns frequently have an underdress showing at the hem and arms. Th. sleeves usually have a wrinkled appearance. They could have been cut long and bunched on the arm, or they could have been pleated like the Norse dresses of approximately the same time period. The Norse are believed to have formed the pleats by sewing lines of basting stitches. After drawing the thread tight to form pleats, they wet the fabric and let it dry. The basting was removed and the pleats stayed in until the garment became wet again. This technique is called 'plisse'.

Cloaks were rectangular like those of the men, although closures are hidden by the headdress. Sometimes, however, they are shown in a sleeveless, concho-like over garment that covers the hands. This garment was circular or oval in shape and longer in the back than the front.

Women's heads are covered both indoors and out. Headbands are worn in conjunction with the head coverings. They would make a good base for pinning the head gear down. Some head coverings appear voluminous and are wrapped 'around the head many times, others to be more tightly fitting hoods (see Fig. 4). Some headbands or fillets were of great length, with the ends hanging down the back to the waist, under the head covering (Fig. 5). Some manuscripts appear to show a hat under the veil. Hair may have been plaited and wrapped around the head as own it appears in one illustration, or this could have been an attempt to draw a Byzantine headdress (see EP, Issue 5). Other options include braids and chignons of various sorts, although no braids are shown hanging out of the headdresses nor are there any projections on the backs of the veils to indicate chignon; so what actually went on under those headrails remains a mystery. Objects interpreted as hairpins have been found around the skulls of females in Anglo-Saxon graves, so some type of pinned up hairstyle has the edge.

Women probably wore stockings cut from fabric or made with the single needle knitting technique. There is evidence of bands wound around the legs with the ends hanging down to the shoe tops. Shoes were flat-soled and came up to the ankle. In the pictures they are usually black and plain with an occasional strip of trim running down the front of the shoe. The toes are slightly pointed. "Scoh" is a shoe, "wining" for binding around the lower legs.

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To construct:

The underdress is an "A" tunic. See the article in this issue. The sleeves should be cut extra long and fit tightly at the wrist. See Fig. 6 for cutting instructions. The overdress is also an "A" tunic and Fig. 7 shows several different cutting methods to achieve different sleeve types. The over-garment is a long oval with an offset hole for the head (Fig. 8). The headrail is a long rectangle of material approximately 2 to 3 yards long and about 24" wide. Hem all edges by hand. To make the slightly fitted hood as shown in Fig. 4, cut a rectangle of material 24"x 36". Fold to form an 18x24" piece. Seam the side opposite the fold. Now mark the top edge 7 to 8" from the fold. Sew a curved seam from the mark to the seamed side (Fig. A). Trim, hem the edges. Put on as shown in Fig. 4, with the seam line at the top of the head. See Early Period #4 for instructions on constructing stockings from fabric. I use a pair or to soft cloth house slippers with a band of trim sewn over the front seam for shoes.

Men's Costume:

The long gown was introduced for wear by kings in Britain during the reign or Edgar (957-75). Germanic rulers were using this garment as early as Charlemagne. The gown was ankle length and loose fitting (Fig. 9). Sleeves were long and either smooth fitting or wrinkled with a decorative band at the wrist. The waist was belted with a broad belt or sometimes with a sash wrapped a number of times around the body. There is evidence that a White undertunic was worn with was the gown, and trousers may have been worn under it.

Tunics ("cyrtel" or "tunece") were of the A-tunic variety and about knee-length with some variations from mid-thigh to mid-calf. It was usually belted at the waist and was sometimes pouched over the belt (Fig. 10). Necklines were rounded and probably fastened with a drawstring or tie, or they were V-shaped. The sleeves were either long and smooth fitting or long and wrinkled, as with the gown. There is some controversy about whether this is caused by long sleeves pushed up to fit or it is actually a representation or multiple bracelets. Some sleeves are so tight fitting it is believed that they may have been slit at the arm seam and stitched on the body after they were put on, like the women's sleeves of the 13th century. Some varieties of tunics may have had shorter sleeves, which would explain the decorative bands at mid-upper arm in some depictions (Fig. 11). In both cases, an undertunic the same shape as the tunic but with long sleeves was worn. Trim on the outer tunic consisted of decorative bands at the wrist, neck and hem. In a few examples there is what appears to be embroidery on the skirt of the tunic. Normans in the Bayeaux Tapestry are shown in tunica with skirts split up the center front and back, but the fashion is never seen on the Anglo-Saxons.

There were two kinds of belts, one type fitted at the waist and the other type was worn at the hip. Swords were hung from a baldric-type sword belt.

The words "braccas", "brec" or "hosa" referred to tight fitting leg coverings which mayor may not have been actual pants (i.e. joined at t the crotch into one garment). They were probably cut on the bias and tapered to fit the legs. They appear to have had feet attached to them. Cross gartering was used over the hosa to hold them tightly to the legs. Some garters were wide they completely covered the hosa (fig. 12).

Knitted socks made in the "single needle knitting" technique were sometimes worn over the hosa. Baggy foot coverings known as "soccas" were also worn. Men's shoes were the same designs the women's.

The cloak was either square or rectangular, and fastened with a brooch. If worn with a short tunic, it fastened on the shoulder, usually the right but occasionally the left. The excess material was pushed back over the shoulder (See Fig. 9). When worn with a long tunic, the cloak was usually fastened at the throat and pushed back over each shoulder in a symmetrical arrangement. The size of the cloak varied with the length of the tunic; the longer the tunic, the longer and wider the cloak. Cloaks were occasionally lined.

Men's hair was worn short. They wore mustaches and sometimes a full beard which could be divided into forks (fig. 9). While Owen-Crocker doesn't think Saxon men actually dyed their beards blue as it appears in some manuscripts, it was done by earlier inhabitants ot Britain and may have been a holdover. As anyone present at the Meridian coronation where Orrick ot Romney dyed his hair and beard blue to honor the new king will tell you, it makes a lasting impression!

Hat styles included the Phrygian style cap, a pointed hat and a short hood.

To construct:

See the article in this issue on A-tunics for tunic construction. For long wrinkled, fitted sleeves see the directions for cutting them in the section on women's clothing above. To construct men's "broc", use a pair or mundane pants and cut a pattern as shown in Fig. 13. You will need to add about 3 inches in the crotch area and then re-cut the pattern. You can treat this pattern two ways:
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Re-sew and remove the excess material. Try the hosa on again and fold over the excess material at the waist as shown in Fig. 15. To make sure you have left room in the seat, bend over to make sure the back of the broc don't slip off your rear end. Adjust the pins to allow enough room in the seat and then remove the pants. Trim the pinned over material to 1" all around. Turn the edge under " and stitch down to form a casing. Leave about 1" unstitched so that you can insert a drawstring (more period) or elastic (more practical). To attach feet, mark the center-back of each leg and then follow the directions for constructing and attaching feet from the article on leg coverings in Issue #4.

For a rectangular cloak to be worn with the shorter tunic, buy a 2 yard piece of 60" wide wool. Hem the edges and trim if you choose. Fasten as shown in Figs. 9 thru 12.

See the article on Phrygian caps in this issue for construction.

Cross garters can be a pain. They tend to fall down about the ankles if you aren't used to wearing them. They should be cut on the bias, or be from stretchy material. This helps. Also, the garters and hosa should not be made from a slick material. If all else fails, put on the garters over your hosa and mark where they cross. Remove them and the hosa and sew loops of material to match the garters at the crossings (fig. 16). When you put on the garters, thread the. construction. through the loops, which will help hold them in place. You will also need a couple of loops where the garters wrap around the legs at the knee. The ends of the garters were decorated with tags rather like belt ends, and sometimes had buckle for fastening. If you are and cut a making the cross-garters that cover the entire lower leg, either dye Ace bandages (nice and stretchy), or cut your garters on the bias.

Children seem to wear the same types of clothing as adults. Infant are shown wearing long gowns and either bare-headed or with a hood such as those worn by women.


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