So, as you might have noticed on my Facebook page the past few weeks, I’ve been making a new apron dress for my Iron Age/Viking kit. I wanted to try out a new model and one with some actual evidence from archeological finds. I’ve also seen a bunch of recreations of a model that sparked my interest because of its details. So I decided to do… the Køstrup dress.
During an excavation in Køstrup, Fyn in Denmark during the beginning of the 1980’s, a grave was found with several preserved textile fragments. The grave was dated to 850-1000 AD with help of the style of the two tortoise brooches. A 1993 dating was made of a bead, to 960-990 but it was later dated by another expert, in 2017, to 850-860. The remains of the dress come as fragments that had been in contact with the metal brooches. The fragments were of woolen tabby and had been dyed blue.
The special thing with this example of an apron dress is the pleating. One of the fragments is pleated from one end with tiny pleats, about 2-3 mm deep and 3 mm wide. The section is 7,6 cm long and 4,3 cm long from the top of the dress. But without a full fragment or a fragment where we could see the pleating stop, we don’t know if it was gathered only at the top, all the way down or somewhere in between.
The pleating starts at 11 cm from the vertical seam and it’s probably made with a gathering thread, although no such thread is found in the grave. But it could’ve deteriorated.
The fragments also include the 4 loops that hold up the dress together with the brooches. They’re all made of woolen tabby, as the dress, but one of them of a coarser tabby, not the same fabric as the dress itself. Also, one of the longer loops had a linen core. Linen cores help to stop the wool from stretching, but it’s interesting that only one of them had this core. Why not all of them?
The front loops also had a decorative band attached to them, the band was tablet woven. The band was probably about 20 cm long. The band also had 2 woolen strings attached to it. I have not decided yet if I want to add such a decoration to my dress.
When I started planning for my dress, I got the pattern pamphlet “Sark and smokkr” from Susanna Broomé at Viking Age Clothing, and decided to use that as my base. As fabric, she advised to use diamond twill, diagonal twill or a tabby. Even though the original is a tabby, I went for diagonal twill, since I had a very pretty one already. I followed the pattern for my size, but it became a little too big for me, so I had to do a bit more pleating than I planned for at the start.
Because of lack of time towards the end of the project, since I wanted to wear the dress at Medieval week in Visby, I did a shorter section of pleating than the original 4,3 cm. My pleating is only 2cm in the moment of me writing this. So I think I’ll do a few extra rows of stitches and double the amount of pleating length.
The second thing I’ll correct is the length of the loops. Not because of the finds, but just because they got a bit too long for my taste, the dress comes down a bit too low on my chest. But that’s an easy fix! Hopefully I won’t have to take in the dress because of that change.
Even though it’s far from perfect, I’m quite happy with the results! I really like how the dress moves, the colour of it and how the pleats create a very pretty flow at the front. I’m also very happy that I bought the brooch that I’m wearing in the pictures, to hold together the neckline of the shift. It’s a replica from another danish find, so it matches the dress area-wise! The tortoise brooches are from a norweigan find though, so I might have to get new ones for this kit… I love a good excuse for more shopping!
All of the information about the finds comes from an article written by Hilde Thunem, which I really recommend you to read in whole here. There’s also a good bibliography for further information!