A costume reconstruction inspired by the grave goods of Burial No. 33 from the Eriswell cemetery, near Lakenheath, Suffolk.
This costume has been inspired
by the grave-goods from Grave 33 at Eriswell Saxon Cemetery, near Lakenheath,
Suffolk. Unfortunately, conditions in this country mean that little or
no textile remains are found associated with grave-goods, so I used other
sources and references where necessary to reconstruct this outfit as acurately
Fig 1. Early (Pagan) Saxon costume, Grave 33, Eriswell, Suffolk © Rosie Wilkin 2004
|Black text - items in the picture; Red text italic - items not made; Pink text - items not visible; Green text - items made but not in the picture; Blue text - correct item, which is different from the one in the picture.|
This undergarment is made
from a decoratively woven linen.
It is a tabby linen with a regular pattern of threads brought to the top
and over the others both in the warp and weft. My fabric is a decorative
weave as the sleeves of the Thorsbjerg tunic were a different and more
decorative weave to the body. Decoartive weaves were known to the Saxons
and both wool and linen variations are found preserved on metal items
in graves (see the fabrics
page for more details on weaves).
is a variety of evidence to use for reconstructing this garment which includes
art, archaeology and anthropology from other countries as, sadly, all we
have left in this country is the grave-goods and the occassional remains
of textile on metal items.
My 'peplos' is about the same size as one found at Huldremose, Denmark - this was 2.64 metres in circumference by 1.68m long and of 'woollen fabric'. The Huldremose garment was reconstructed as a tube with the top folded down to make a cape, clasped at the shoulders and 'pouched' up over a belt.
Textiles preserved on the backs of buckles and girdle attachments suggest woollen fabric for the 'peplos', either in 2x2 twill or commoner tabby weave; 2x1 twill is more rare. My fabric is a fine 2x2 twill wool in a colour that could be obtained from Woad (see the colours page for more detail on dyes). Tablet-woven braids, plaits and fringes have also been found on the brooches fastening the dress.
I have stitched the two edges of the 'peplos' together with a 'flat-fell' seam. (Again this type of seam is evidenced from later finds at Viking York and London.) The thread I have used is a modern wool in a similar colour.
textiles are found on the fronts as well as on the back of brooches and
whilst the majority of the frontal remains are tabby woven linen and possibly
from shrouds or veils; some are of a twill coarser than that on the back
of the brooch. This coarser twill could have been from a cloak.
The brooch often found centrally, could be used as a fastener for a cloak and in one case this was proved where the brooch was found outside and over a string of beads indicating that it could not have fastened an undergarment or secured the gown to it.
My cloak is of a coarser weave to the 'peplos' and is woven in herringbone twill in two colours - pale red and grey - both available to the Saxons. The single cruciform brooch now fastens the cloak centrally.
Linguistic evidence suggests that a cloak was simply a large piece of fabric, suitable to be wrapped round the body. The size of mine is about 3 metres long by 1.5 metres wide, hemmed and folded in half.
may have been worn as evidenced by one sculpture; or socks or bindings.
Linguistic evidence gives us clues about several garments which may have
been worn on the legs, including the leg-bindings evidenced in later manuscripts
and worn by men.
I have chosen not to add leg-coverings to my reconstruction.
There is no evidence remaining
in this country of footwear, but we can deduce from later evidence that
shoes must have been flat-soled, round-toed and ankle-high.
I have chosen to use a
type of lower shoe or slipper possibly called swiftlere. This is
made in 3 sections - 2 sides which stitch up the back and front and the
sole to which the sides are stitched. My shoes also have a lining of dark
brown wool stitched in for comfort. (See the Late
Saxon Shoes page for details.)
|Hair and Headgear|
Hair-styles come from sculptures
and show hair worn loose or tied back. Plaits may have been secured with
small rings which are ocassionally found at the back of the head. Hair-care
seemed to be important due to the number of combs found associated with
brooches, which consist of a ring of wire or flattened metal
with a pin passing over the face, are copies of a pair found in the cemetery
at West Stow. They are 4.5 cm outer diameter, with the ring being 0.9
cm wide. The pin is 6.4 cm long by 0.3 cm diameter. Unfortunately the
West Stow burials were not recorded in context and so we don't know what
else was found with them. These brooches are not quite the same style
as the brooches
found with Grave 33, which were much plainer, but as I am wearing this
outfit at West Stow I thought it would be nice to include pieces which
came directly from there.
evidence for belts comes from preserved leather and textile, in situ buckles
and the discovery of items at the waist or hip which had obviously been
Numerous fragments of leather are found attached to buckles, strap ends and items which had been hung from the belt. Tablet-woven braid is also found attached to objects and strap ends. From the buckle plates we can determine the leather belt could be between 2 mm and 4.5 mm thick. Presumably the width of the belt would match the width of the buckle plate or strap end.
Buckles are relatively common finds in graves and show belts were worn at the waist or hip. Where buckles are not found sometimes beads (which may have been used as a toggle) or a ring has been found through which a fabric belt could be knotted.
As no belt equipment or fastener was found in Grave 33, I have made a simple fabric belt for this reconstruction. My belt is a tabby woven linen dyed with Woad to match the dress (wool and linen take colours differently). It is simply a strip of fabric doubled over with the edge stitched in a matching linen thread.
Could the strange bead found in Grave 33 have been a belt toggle?
A string of beads is a
common feature of graves where other brooches are found as the beads are
usually strung across the front of the body and suspended from the shoulder
brooches. The central brooch could be fastened over the beads to keep
them in place.
|© Rosie Wilkin 2004||
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