under-dress is clearly visible on contemporary figures of this period, particularly
those from Rhine Valley sculptures and the Marcus Aurelius Column, Rome.
This takes the form of a tight-sleeved bodice with an aperture at the front
where it is clasped together by a brooch or several brooches in a vertical
row. The tube-dress could be attached to this under-dress by means of a
third brooch as well.
This three brooch arrangement is also commonly found in graves. However, in some cases only the central brooch was worn, indicating that the tube dress might have had stitched shoulders or pins made of a degradable substance like horn or bone.
Also found in graves of this period are the small metal clasps known as wrist-clasps.
The depictions of under-dresses give us no clue as to the length of this garment. It could be long or short, as the outer tube-dress is always long, this obscures what is underneath. It may have been similar to the men's tunic.
Fig 1. The costume of a girl on a sculpture from Mainz, West Germany
an Anglian fashion in England - they were not popular in their homeland
area of Schleswig-Holstein. Brought to England from western Norway, probably
by immigrant settlers, wrist-clasps first appeared in the Humberside and
Norfolk areas, but spread to other areas rapidly.
use in this country was restricted to women,
who wore them in single pairs at the wrist only. They were attached by stitching
through small holes on the edges.
There are three types of clasp:
Fig 2. Drawings of a rectangular wrist clasp (the hook section) made in bronze.
Object courtesy of John Chatwin of The English Companions.
|Each clasp consisted of two pieces designed to hook together, sometimes with a third portion, a 'gusset plate' to cover the gap where the sleeves did not meet. These clasps were quite thin and obviously got broken easily as although matched pairs are the norm, very often only one set is found at the left wrist, with other ways of clasping utilised on the other wrist, studs or beads for example. Where no clasps are found, the sleeves may have been turned back, pinned with bone or horn pins or stitched in place. Button brooches were found attached to leather and woollen textile in one grave.|
|It has been possible to identify fabric still adhering to wrist-clasps and in one instance this is found to be tablet-woven braid of the same width as the clasp. This would indicate that either the clasp was made to fit the braid or vice versa. It would seem that the braided 'cuff' was attached to a tight-fitting sleeve which had the last part of the seam open. The sleeve could then be made to fit the arm snugly when the edges were hooked together. Leather has also been found attached to wrist-clasps.|
| Other fabrics
found in association with clasps give us an idea of what the under-dress
was made of; twill and tabby woven wool seem the commonest.
Sometimes more than one layer of fabric can be identified, for example in one case a coarse twill material edged with a table-woven braid was worn over two layers of finely-woven fabric, the outer being a 2x2 twill. In another case a twill outer fabric with a tablet-woven border was worn over a twill linen one.
For comfort, I would assume a linen garment was worn next to the skin and then the outer woollen ones over the top.
Several words could have been used to indicate the under-dress, although there is no evidence as to which were applied to women's clothing. These are:
|© Rosie Wilkin 2003|