Longship Company, Ltd. Viking Period Clothing (aka Garb) Guidelines

The majority of Longship Company voyages take place in casual modern clothing appropriate for the weather and other conditions. (Occasionally, one or more of our  members will wear period clothing for these voyages to add a bit of "color" for guests and observers, and to give guests the opportunity to take photographs showing someone in authentic clothing on the ship.) 

From time to time voyages with an entire crew in Viking era garb are scheduled. And when filming historical scenes, clothing matching with the specific period and people being portrayed is obviously worn. Those members who portray historical characters in living history events or who give demos in costume, also wear period clothing during their activities on land. The following are Longship Company guidelines for period clothing:

Historical clothing used aboard our vessels must balance safety, comfort, and historical accuracy. The priorities of comfort, ease of movement (you must be able to clamber about the ship easily and safely) are actually relatively easily met with the proper style of medieval clothing.

Cloth should look like wool or linen. It doesn't have to BE wool or linen, but that is recommended because wool will keep you warmer when wet than synthetics, and linen will keep you cooler in the summer. Cotton is also acceptable and recommended for its cooling properties in the summer.

Colors should not be obviously modern. When in doubt, keep it simple. However, stripes and checks are a possibility, especially for pants.

For Men or Women:

Drawstring trousers with straight legs. No oversewn seams (such as can be seen in blue jeans). You can wrap strips of cloth, trim, or leather around your trousers from knee to ankle.

Tunic should be long sleeved and fall between mid-thigh and just below the knee. The longer tunics should be cut fuller for mobility. Sleeves, on the otherhand, should not be full.

Tunic should have a belt around your waist. A simple sheath knife (single edge) can be carried in the middle of the back so that it's accessible with either hand, as you hold onto rails, rigging, or rowdies. Avoid flashy daggers or modern hunting knives.

For Women:

If you are wearing a dress on board ship, make sure you can kirtle it up to get it out of your way, or wear trousers and tunic.

A plain full-length dress of a light color serves well for an under dress. If you want an over dress it should be full length (if going Viking) or mid-calf length (if going Anglo-Saxon) and any suitable color. Trim at hem, neck and wrists is correct.

Belt around the waist to kirtle the low hanging skirt up into.

For Viking-style, a tube held up with straps over the shoulders and fastened with two round or oval brooches has a simple elegance. The 'tube' is called an apron and should go from just under the arms to mid-calf. It too can be trimmed at top and bottom.

Any jewelry should be of a sort that won't snag on the rigging and can be tucked down the bodice for safety.


Barefoot is always correct, but beware of splinters, anchors, and dozens of toe-stubbing hazards, as well as safety and/or site rules that deem otherwise. For cooler weather find a shoe that has a rubber flexible sole. Preferably one that doesn't scream '21st' Century. Plain black surfing shoes (the kind with mesh uppers that one wears to wade in the water) or beach shoes work fine. If it's a demo on land, if you can't find, make or barter for more authentic footwear, try a modified 'Inca Boot' pattern, available from Tandy's. Trim off the fringe. There is also a website called Footwear of the Middle Ages, which may be useful.

Avoid obvious tennis shoes in multiple bright colors. If nothing else, make it black; a common color for footwear in manuscripts. Also avoid engineers boots and other heavy modern footwear. Not only are they non-medieval, but they're hard to swim in!

If you have any questions or comments, please email LongshipCo@hotmail.com or call the Longship Hotline at 301-390-4089.

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