Viking women had sex appeal

Recent discoveries in a 10th century gravesite in the Russian town of Pskov, Novgorod lead researchers to believe that Viking women dressed more provocatively than previously believed. New research may show that women's garments were open at the front, revealing an underdress with a train in the back.

”One might imagine that the Christian church had some misgivings about a style of dress which emphasized the breast and in addition revealed the front of the linen blouse underneath. It is also possible that this outfit was associated with pagan rituals and was therefore forbidden,” archaeologist Annika Larsson speculates.

Slavic influence?

When I first saw the reconstruction the first thing that struck me was that it looked like a borrowing of the Slavic "back skirt", which even if one doesn't believe has Ice Age antecedents certainly has a very long history in slavic areas. Eastern Sweden, obviously did have a lot of contact with Slavic regions. ( I believe Elizabeth Barber has written on this extensively in English.)

Personally, I have no problem with fashion being both more regional and occassional than we currently present it and see no need to throw out the rule book on everything we think so far about viking clothing. I think it's building castles in the air to speculate that the outfit was forbidden by missionaries. The body of evidence is just to small as yet.

As an archaeologist with more than a passing interest in the north European textile tradions and early mediaeval literature my feeling at the moment is that women tended to keep themselves pretty well covered in public life. (Perhaps not during ritual occassions and during hard work) Partly because of the great emphasis in literature from all over Europe on the mantel/cloak (and the magic woven into it) and the widespread belief in the magic of hair, where adult female hair seems only to be completely free of all restraints for ritual purposes or to underline a character's otherworldliness. I think these ideas are pre-Christian. Germanic regions in particular were very controlling of women's sexuality, see Tacitus.

Was the outfit "sexy"? Who's to say? Maybe somebody dressed like that was just normal, or foreign, or too frightningly full of supernatural power to me sexy. Or maybe it was. We don't know. For myself I don't find it anywhere near as provocative as the Danish Bronze Age string skirts and disk belts.

We scholars are allowed to disagree with another;) The academic emphasis at Uppsala is different from the scholarly tradition I was formed under, so it's only natural that we approach things differently. Uppsala's way of thinking isn't my cup of tea/horn of mead, so what? I'd love to see the original excavation report and specialist assessment, just to make my own mind up.

As a costumer I agree with the critique of the first comment. I think there's alot to be gained from living in costuming and evaluating how it works with the body. Jury's still out for me.

Debunking the "new" Viking dress thinking

It is so close to being unanimous as to make no difference; every Viking costuming expert I have seen or heard comment on this debacle of research has laughed it off. At an extremely basic level, the researcher has managed to see two garments where only one exists in the burial (the silk band sewn on to the end of the linen sleeves became a complete new silk layer). The dress is admitted by the researcher as being a burial gift, and thus not likely to be vulgar wear. The look of the clothing suggests a ceremonial (priestess?) role, not a work-a-day set of clothing that would be impractical given the white close to the ground and the train. Nearly every female has commented that the positioning of the broaches would probably be very uncomfortable. Indeed the researcher mentions that the clothing was probably ceremonial, and thus probably irrelevant to the living historian recreating every day life, unless they happen to have the persona of a priestess. I would also like to see the evidence for early Scandinavian missionaries views on what was deemed "proper" modest clothing for a woman of the period. The assertion that the missionaries may have thought the style of clothing depicted as being overly provocative seems to me to be based on a modern aesthete, and a classic case of anachronistic attribution of contemporary cultural values on another culture or time.

First I must say that Annika

First I must say that Annika is not a "costuming expert" she's an evidentiary anthropologist, and archaeologist that specializes in textiles. Uppsala University is also quite picky about what research is done at the Birka site and extremely cautious about it's findings. I am highly inclined to ignore the laughing costuming experts, and rely on the information gathered by the premiere viking age research team in sweden. Whether its Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, Laila Kitzler Åhfeldt, Anne-Sofie Gräslund, or any other the other working on these projects: they are THE experts.

If you need more evidence or general information Annika can be reached by cell phone: [redacted] or by email: annika.larsson@arkeologi.uu.se