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Dress in Anglo-Saxon England

Dress in Anglo-Saxon England by Gale R. Owen-Crocker

Or rather, what can be deduced from what evidence we have.

In the earliest period, we have graves, and nothing but graves, except for such analogies as can be made to other societies.  Some of it is useful -- that women typically had two brooches, one at each shoulder, it appears they had a sleeveless gown like the pelops.  (Note, we don't even have an English name for it.)  The author does, however, mention that that reenactors love it, and in hot weather stick to it and forgo the tunic under it.  Glass beads and their colors were common.  Men are worse, because they were more often buried with rich weapons than rich jewelry, giving fewer hints.  And hair styles -- pins have been seriously overly likely to be taken for hairpins regardless of where found in the grave.  Some may have been, but the only real evidence is the abundance of combs, so at least we know it was kempt.  A lack of footware -- the author notes that reenactors find wearing shoes when walking on new-plowed land is too cumbursome.

The advent of Christianity mean the diminishment of grave goods to just about nothing, but the increase from nothing of writing and and even in the transitional era we get a description of writing.  Intended as a denunciation, but still acting as a description.  Then we start to get wills that bestow clothing, and illuminated manuscripts with pictures.  Still, wariness is needed.  Some colors in tapestry are flat out impossible, obviously chosen, and hair cuts in illuminations always showed Anglo-Saxon men with short cut hair, and Anglo-Saxon women with covered hair -- including not only unmarried ones but even young girls.  Vikings had more lavish hair, but then again, moralists denounced men for having fancy, curled hair.  The import of dyes and silk, the making of fabric and clothes. . . .

Lots of interesting stuff.

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