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Viking Apron Dress
Ook wel Hangerock (hanging skirt), apron-dress, and Trägerrock (pinafore)

Apron Dress Designs

From the research I have done, I have found several main apron dress designs that seem to be
associated with different locations in the Norse world. When I visited Denmark a couple of
years ago, every museum I visited had a different interpretation and therefore a different
reconstruction of the women's garments. So we don't have a "right" answer yet. I am still
researching this and hope to gain more information as it come available. For now, I have
included a possible apron dress design for the major locations in the Norse world.
Denmark 9th -10th Century





I have seen little evidence
to support a hanging front
apron for 10th century
Jutland, though it was
done elsewhere (more on
that later)
Very simple layout and
Gores are set in the side
of the garment
Take the bust
measurement, add 2 to 4
inches for seams and
divide that in two for the
Sew the gores into the
sides of the dress
Add loops for the
The finished garment will
produce slightly pointed
sides, as seen in the
Oseberg tapestry
Choose a fine linen or
wool for the fabric

This design is the design that you will
find on the "Viking Answer Lady's"







It has archeological support
through the study of the loops
on the brooches.
Recently, a complete female
child's grave was uncovered in
Gotland that produced a wealth
of information and supports this
It helps when you make this
design to taper the front hanging
part of the apron so it gets wider
at the bottom.
For the back wrap section
measure from nipple to nipple
around your back and add 1-2
inches for a seam allowance.
For the front hanging apron
measure from one side of your
breast to the other adding for a
seam allowance.
Choose a fine linen or wool for
the garment and decorate with
tablet weaving or embroidery on
the front hanging apron.

This design is derived from the finds where two sets
of loops are found in the brooches.



This is another very simple design. It consists
of two rectangular panels that are wrapped
around the body. (The double wrap apron)
Measure around the bust from the front of your
armpit to the back of the same armpit and add
for seam allowance.
Cut two rectangles for this measurement.
Add loops to each wrap making sure that the
openings are at the sides.
It helps to wrap the panels so that if one is on
top in the front it is on the bottom in the back.
Use fine linen or wool for the apron.

Finland: A complete archeological find



The Finish find is one of the few complete finds for
women's garments, along with the children's graves
from Gotland.
This garment is a peplos held up with brooches with a
half apron held on with a belt.
First make a peplos as follows.
Cut two rectangular peices of cloth that measure 1/2
your bust measurement plus 2-5 inches depending on
the fullness that you desire.
Sew the sides together 3/4 of the way up the garment
leaving room for the overhang in the front and back.
Turn the garment right side out and finish the
overhang and hem.
To this completed peplos, add the apron.
The front hanging apron is a simple rectangular piece
of cloth, decorated at the hem and attached to a cloth

Reconstructed 10th C. Danish Apron Dress

Garment 1 yard long
flared more

Bottom can be

Wool apron dress
with three panels.
Rectangular hole at
waist indicates use
of wool belt
(cording or strip of
cloth could also be
Reddish brown and
yellow were
commonly used

Top had a "tuck" here
and there to help
shape fit.
Make the side panel
narrower if needed
for a better fit.

Look for a diamond weave or chevron type weave if you can find them. The shoulder straps
and loops can be of cloth or of wool yarn finger weave (very easy -- no loom required).

10th century Danish Apron dress

A Viking Pinafore
This document is provided as is without any express or implied warranties. While every effort
has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained, the author assumes no
responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information
contained herein.
Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for noncommercial private research purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission
notice are preserved on all copies. Website mirroring is permitted by express prior
arrangement. Permission will only be granted if the document is posted in its entirety and the
content and format of the document remain completely unaltered by the mirroring site. The
definitive version of this document can be found at
Copyright © 2003 Shelagh Lewins.

The “signature” Viking woman’s garment was a sleeveless overdress worn with a pair of oval
or animal-headed brooches. It fastened the dress like the buckles on a dungaree skirt. We
don’t know the Old Norse word for it, so it’s referred to by a number of names, including
Hangerock (hanging skirt), apron-dress, and Trägerrock (pinafore). The brooches have been
found in wealthy women’s graves across most areas of Viking occupation, and are thought

only to have been worn with apron-dresses. Although the apron-dress became unfashionable
in the later part of the Viking age, it is very popular with re-enactors because it is so clearly
Viking, and allows one to wear nice big shiny brooches of bronze, silver or gold-plated
So what was the apron-dress like? Unfortunately archaeological textile finds tend to be few
and far between. There are no clear contemporary pictures of the apron-dress. The best
preserved find of an apron-dress is from Haithabu (Hedeby harbour), where old garments
were used to caulk ships which were subsequently sunk. Hedeby is now in Germany, and is
near the Danish border. The finds date from approximately the 10th century AD.
Although it is not a complete dress, it tells us a lot about the apron-dress as worn in this
particular time and place, and helps to devise a plausible reconstruction.
The account of the Hedeby harbour finds has only been published in German [1]. The
following article is an annotated summary of Inga Hägg’s report on the Trägerrock. The
report was translated by Rachel Kellett, and the summary written by Shelagh Lewins.
The notes at the end are additional comments by Shelagh Lewins.
Illustrations: Shelagh Lewins, based on those in the original book.
Editor: Alexandra "Raven" Fagelson.
Thanks to: Lena Strid for assistance with translation and further information.

Hägg Pages 38-42 (The fragments)
The two fragments from this garment were of fine, repped cloth which had been dyed brown
[2]. Figure 1 shows the weave of the cloth.

Figure 1: weave
The top seam of Fragment A (1 on Figure 2) was made by turning a selvedge over and sewing
it down (see Figure 3). There is a hole in the seam with a felted area around it.
Both side seams (2 on Figure 2) show regular stitch holes where this fragment was attached to
other panels of the garment.
A dart runs most of the length of the garment, from 7 cm below the top seam, down to the
Fragment B (3 and 4 on Figure 2). Over it is sewn a piece of braid, now 1-2 mm wide, which
extends beyond the dart up to the top edge [3]. It is made of six threads, three red and three
yellow. This braid has deteriorated considerably, but seems to have been made up of six

threads, three red and three yellow. These have been twisted together in pairs and the three
strands plaited. See Figure 4 [4].
The dart’s widest point (5 mm) is about 15 cm below the top edge of Fragment A, and at this
point there is a hole worn in the cloth. There is a band of felted cloth across the fragment at
this point.
Fragment B is torn top and bottom, but the sides show the same stitch-holes as on the top
piece. There’s no braid on the section of the dart which appears in the lower piece.

Figure 2: the cloth fragments

Figure 3: top seam

Figure 4: decoration on dart
The shape and cut of the pieces identifies them as coming from a pinafore-style dress. From
the dart and the way the top seam is made, this was the outer layer of the garment. The shape
of the dart, deeper in the middle than that the edges, shows this was not a sleeve or other item.
The widest point of the dart would sit on the waistline (see Figure 5). From the felting and the
hole, it seems that a belt was worn over the dress.

Figure 5: possible location of the fragments when worn

The hole at the top, probably caused by wear, may have been used to attach the shoulder
strap. This strap may have been passed through the hole and knotted.
The dart, and the narrowness of the upper part of Fragment A, suggests that this was a closefitting garment which flared out over the hips. These fragments are probably from the back of
the garment, since the dart is so shallow, and because the front section of the apron-dress in
other finds has a different shape [5]

Hägg Pages 168-170 (about Trägerrocks)
The Haithabu harbour fragments are among several similar Viking-age finds: the others are
less well preserved. Women’s graves in Vernes, Sandanger and Kaupang in Norway, and
several sites in Sweden (mostly Birka) have yielded fragments of woollen pinafores, and also
linen fragments, though these are in worse condition. The biggest and best of the older finds is
a woollen piece from grave 597 in Birka (see Hägg 1974, and 1983).
The Scandinavian finds have also provided the remains of a hangerock of fine pleated wool,
and perhaps also of pleated linen. These finds usually have a simple folded and sewn seam at
the neck, or may have decorative braid and loops or tabs for the shoulder straps. These
fragments have almost all been accompanied by metal jewellery[6], showing them to from the
front of the garment. However, they don’t show any shaping such as in the Haithabu find.
Agnes Geijer (1938) thought that the Birka pinafore was a simple rectangle of cloth, worn
with straps or tabs sewn to the upper seam. These would have been laid over the shoulders
and fastened with oval brooches. This is a generally popular view, and holds that the pinafore
was very similar to the Ancient Greek peplos, being a garment made from a piece of cloth
unaltered after leaving the loom.
However, looking more closely at the Birka fragments, the sides of the woollen dress could
have been closed, and the pinafore might be descended from the Huldremose Iron Age dress
(see Hägg 1974). This would suggest that the pinafore is not of the primary-clothing type[7],
and that the form was determined by the function.
The Haithabu fragments, being larger than previous finds and tailored, allow us to make some
further guesses about the pattern which was used to make this garment. The garment would
have been made from several pieces of cloth, and brought in at the waist by the narrow cut,
the dart and a belt. This shows that the Viking woman’s dress had advanced beyond more
primitive styles of draped cloth, and that the tailoring techniques were by advanced by this
time. The close-fitting panels suggest that the garment may have looked like those from the
high Middle Ages, such as the clothing of the Danish Queen Margareta (died 1412). However,
her dress had integral shoulder-pieces (see Branting 1911).
Decorated seams are also known from Birka (especially on the pinafore, see Hägg 1974), and
clothing fragments from Herjolfsnes (compare Nørlund 1924 [8]). The strands are generally
twisted, and more often plaited. The most common are very thin six-stranded plaits whose
diameter is approximately. 1 mm.
Sadly the Haithabu find doesn’t tell us much about the side seams. Geijer thought the dress
hung as loosely as a bib from its brooches (Vierck, 1981), so the side seams would have posed
no problems to the wearer. However, a dress as close fitting as the Haithabu pinafore seems to

have been, would have required an opening in order to put it on. The Old Norse laced dress or
dragkyrtill was laced together at the sides (laz ar siðu, Falk 1919, p 158), and our dress may
have been similar.
It’s hard to find definite references to the pinafore in Old Norse: Falk suggests the word
“smokkr”, from the Old Norse smjœga, “to cling”. Rigsm. 16 says “the sleeveless garment
was fastened on the shoulders with brooches” (Blindheim 1945 interprets dvergar as
brooches). But this is still open to debate.
Blindheim sees the smokkr as a definite tailored garment, ankle length or even dragging on
the ground. This idea of the length comes from the pictorial representations, and is not
supported by the archaeology, which suggests a shorter, sleeveless dress with brooches,
although there is no conclusive proof.
Although diamond twill is the most common weave for women’s dresses, the repped fabric
found here is not unusual. For example, some of the fragments of loops in tortoise brooches
(Birka grave 835) are similar to the Haithabu fragment. Geijer’s classification identifies the
Haithabu fabric as the W25-W28 type.
The Haithabu find was clearly upper class, as indicated by the dye, the fabric quality, the
tailoring and the fine stitching. It shows no trace of having been mended, and the dress was
worn for some time after the hole was made in the top seam. This type of dress is thought to
have been worn with bronze tortoise-brooches, which are found only in the richest graves.[9]

1. Berichte über die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu: Berichte 20, Die Textilfunde aus dem
Hafen von Haithabu, Inga Hägg, Neumunster 1984.[back]
2. I gather that it was dyed with walnut shells, and that this is stated by Helmut
Schweppe, Appendix 2: Analyse von Farbstoffen, page 289-290 of the same book,
although I have not checked this myself. By “repped”, Hägg probably means a warpfaced tabby weave which has lower thread count in the weft system than the warp
system. It may also be a plain weave fabric with a prominent weftway-rib effect, made
from two warps and two wefts, with both the warp and the weft threads arranged
alternately coarse and fine.[back]
3. The braid is definitely on the opposite side of the fabric to the stitching of the top
seam. Assuming that the braid was meant to be seen, this means that the selvedge had
been turned to the inside. However, it’s not clear to me from the article whether the
dart is on the inside or outside of the garment. A modern person would expect it to be
on the inside, with the braid sewn over the seam on the outside, but if the dart were on
the outside, it would be more comfortable to wear and the braid might stand out more
dramatically, and this does seem to me to be more consistent with the original
4. The drawing in the original article looks more like a 6-way plait to me, and it’s been
suggested that it’s possible to interpret the text as describing a 6-way plait in which
each thread consists of two z-spun plies which have been twisted together in s-form.
See sketch below. One thread has been marked to show its course through the braid.
The text does not specify which are the three red threads.[back]

5. Hägg doesn’t say what shape. There may be an implication that they weren’t shaped at
the front at all. Bear in mind that they were from different geographical areas.[back]
6. Contact with metal can preserve fabric which would otherwise have decayed.[back]
7. The earliest clothing is made by wearing rectangles of cloth wrapped and/or tied
around the body, with no further sewing or shaping.[back]
8. I am told that Nørlund should be quoted with caution, as the finds are under a
9. There is some speculation that apron-dresses were not worn at the very highest level
of society. For example, the Oseberg queen did not wear an apron-dress. So although
they indicate wealth and status, they may not be associated with aristocracy.[back]
De drie volgende artikelen zijn reconstructies naar aanleiding van hetzelfde stukje stof…

The Viking Apron-Dress: A New Reconstruction
By Ellisif Flakkari (Monica Cellio)
Copyright 1995 Monica Cellio

The Apron-Dress
A site at Hedeby contained rags that had apparently been used for caulking ships; these
included an oddly-shaped piece that appeared to be part of the apron-dress layer of women's
garb. The fragment is wool, straight on one side and straight part-way and then flared on the
other, with stitch-holes on both sides and a hem at the top. There are signs of wear at the point
where the flare begins, indicating the presence of a belt; the bottom of the piece is torn
approximately 25cm below this point so the length is unknown. There is a felted hole at the
top which is the probable location of a strap.

The Current Reconstruction
At about this point, the two people who’d been teaching me how to sew (and letting me use
their machines) provided a valuable insight: we only know that one piece of the apron-dress is
cut like the Hedeby piece. We then realized that a pattern like that shown in Figure 1 would
be entirely consistent with the evidence and would eliminate most of the problems that my
previous reconstructions had produced. This pattern is also very cloth-conservative; it can be
cut with essentially no waste if laid out as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1

Figure 2
Gores were an addition I had not previously tried, though efforts to lay out the previous
patterns efficiently resulted in enough waste cloth that they would have been feasible had I
thought of them. We know that some dresses during this time had gores (see Hagg, Die
Textilfunde aus dem Hafen von Haithabu, cited and quoted in Krupp & Priest-Dorman), so the
construct was not unknown. While the bias-cut edge of the Hedeby piece might provide all
the flare that was needed, I decided to try adding the gores to see what happened. The result is
an apron-dress with nicer seam lines than I had previously achieved and nice flare. (Someone
with smaller hips than mine could probably get away without the gores.)
We do not know, because the Hedeby piece is torn, how long the apron-dress was. I have
found that apron-dresses that come to anywhere between the knee and mid-calf are
comfortable and attractive.
The evidence from Hedeby suggests strap-holes; the felted hole was probably the hole
through which a strap passed. The strap would then be sewn to itself. I usually make my
straps by producing thin tubes of fabric; straps might also have been tablet-woven. On one
occasion I made buttonholes on the top of the apron-dress, passed the straps through, and
sewed each to itself to form a loop. (The brooch is then passed through the loops.) Most of the

time I simply sew the straps to the top of the apron-dress; while this construction is weaker, it
has thus far been strong enough.
Variatie op de bovenstaande:

Vigdís' Viking Apron Dress:

Sew them together in the above order.
You should be able to pull the dress on over your head.
It should fit around your bust and flare right over your hips.
You may need to take in the waist part a bit, if you have more of an hourglass shape.
Trim the hem a little, so you don't have all of the jaggy edges, then hem it.

Fold the top edge over, and sew down.
I usually end up with this hem about 1 inch wide.
To make straps, take 2 strips of fabric about 18 inches long by 4 inches wide.
Fold them into tubes right-side in, stitch, turn right-side out and press.
Turn in the ends and stitch down so the tubes are closed.
De twee hierboven staande artikelen zetten extra gores (driehoekige stukken stof ), in de jurk
om deze wijder te maken rond de heup. Dit is alleen nodig als je brede heupen hebt, is dit niet
geval kun je ze er voor het mooi beter uitlaten. Het patroon van het volgende artikel laat ze
weg. Una

Apron Dress
The Viking age sleeveless overdress is widely discussed among historians of dress and
textiles. Older research claims that the skirts hanging from the oval brooches are just separate
pieces of fabric, tied together at the sides with ribbons, much like a tabard. This
reconstruction is however not likely, apart from the variety where two overlapping skirts are
worn (see below). Today it is believed that the most common type of "apron dress" was sewn
together at the sides, and hence having a tubular form which in many cases was fitted to the
body. This is for example shown by a find from Haithabu/Hedeby harbour. The dress we
show here represents this type and is made from a hand-woven wool diamond twill. The
reconstruction is aiming at the 10th century, but many things suggest that the apron dresses
more commonly were made of linen during this century.
The "apron dress" is probably a development of the peplos of antiquity, which consisted of
two pieces of fabric pinned to the shoulders. It is likely that there were different types of
apron dresses an that fashion changed. Present research shows that there were at least three
types: A straight tubular model, sewn close at the sides, a similar type, but fitted to the body,
which may be a little later than the straight model and a type that consists of two different
pieces, a front piece and a back piece, which are fastened in the oval brooches so they overlap
each other. This must however be seen as conjecture, since we've only found fragments of
Viking age dress.
The finds from the harbour in Haithabu/Hedeby are of a very different character than the finds
from Birka. When boats were treated with tar, old pieces of clothing were used. After they
were used up they were thrown in the water and embedded in the mud to a thousand years
later be dug up by archaeologists.
The material from Haithabu/Hedeby is interpreted as belonging to the middle strata in society,
while the Birka finds are interpreted as belonging to the elite. There are also Viking age finds
from York, believed to come from the lower social strata.
It is actually not certain that Viking women used these "apron dresses" for everyday wear.
They could, together with the oval brooches, be an old fashioned garment that was used on
special occasions, reminiscent of the way folk costumes are used today. With the arrival of
Christianity the oval brooches disappear from the graves, maybe because people adopted
continental European fashion or because one ceased to place artefacts in the graves.

Overzicht van de mogelijke evolutie van peplos naar apron dress

The Compleat anachronist # 59

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