The Northman avaThis fresh historical action movie The Northman shows us rather accurate and cute costumes of the characters. These are traditional Viking costumes, Kyivan Rus’ outfits, berserkers’ clothes, and very curious and unique costumes of mystical creatures and characters, like the Seeress, the Valkyrie, and others. The costume designer and wardrobe team of The Northman made a great effort to create striking show costumes – they even made barefoot shoes for the slaves so that the actors could cope with the cold Scandinavian climate during the filming.

The Northman is a 2022 epic historical action drama film directed by Robert Eggers that features an international cast.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

The story is based on the legend of Amleth written around 1200 A.D. It would inspire Shakespeare's “Hamlet” written about four centuries later.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

While it's a Focus Features picture, it has a lot of themes and horror elements of A24 movies, including Robert Eggers’s projects The Witch and The Lighthouse. Eggers has a penchant for snappy titles.

The Northman is visually stunning and, likely, one of the most authentically created Viking costume designs. The design of show costumes doesn’t have to be accurate to be good but, in this case, it did help create a more immersive experience.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

The design team is headed up by Toronto-based costume designer Linda Muir. You can tell that Linda Muir's team of weavers, embroidery artists, cutters, and sewers put their heart and soul into the project.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

This setting begins in Hrafnsey, island of the ravens, in East Iceland. We flash forward 20 years into the future with the berserkers and the land of the Rus' in what would become modern-day Ukraine. And finally, back in the South Icelandic farming settlement near the Hekla volcano.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

The costumes in The Northman are very accurate, with incredible attention to detail. The only thing a little distracting in the movie was that the main cast was too old when the average life expectancy in the Viking era was around 40 years old.

Both Nicole Kidman and Claes Bang are in their 50s, and we're supposed to believe that, at the beginning of the film, Nicole Kidman is in her 20s, while Claes Bang is supposed to be in his 30s.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Alexander Skarsgård himself is about 15 years older than his character, although it was believable because he would have prematurely aged with all of that hard living.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Another small quibble is that everyone had very white teeth.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

But it was nice to see a display of blondes, brunettes, and redheads and that everyone, except for the berserkers, were clean – as Norse people were known to be well-groomed and care for their appearance.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

The other thing that we appreciated was the lack of leather armor, which is such a trope in Viking shows. Amleth's uncle Fjölnir wears lamellar armor, which is armor made from hardened leather or metal plates, but other than that, we couldn't recall seeing any other leather, other than maybe leather footwear, belts, and purses, etc.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

There is, instead, a lot of homespun wool and linen, the most popular fabrics amongst the Vikings, and some fur for added warmth.

Linda Muir said, “Preconceived notions of Viking garb involve lots of leather, lots of fur and feathers. That was not what we were trying to create. We were really embracing hand-sewn costumes and trim”.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

At one point, Queen Gudrún is tablet weaving, a process used to create trim and woven belts.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Drawstrings, like the ones worn in men's pants, were made by finger braiding.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

It was mainly women who carded wool, spun, sewed, wove, and embroidered, but men were probably involved in some textile tasks.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

The royal family of Hrafnsey is dressed finely in vividly colored tunics, capes, and mantles and, in most cases, with just a length of wool worn as a draped shawl. And there is lots and lots of jewelry.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Wealthier families would wear clothes trimmed and embroidered in silver and goldwork, with wristbands and edges decorated with thin ribbons of woven silk.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Silk would have been acquired through trade.

We see metal helms and mail hauberks or shirts on King Aurvandill, the War-Raven, and Fjölnir.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

They have discovered some mail in grave finds, though it is rare. Like this shirt from 950 to 1000 A.D. from Buskerud, Norway.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

We first see Gudrún in a pleated linen shift, which, according to Linda Muir, would have been very time-consuming to create.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

In the first part, she is literally a trophy wife for King Aurvandill.

Men and women on the island wear a sark or shirt and drawstring trousers made of wool, while the women have the addition of the smock, an apron-like overdress.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

The sark could be cut from one length of fabric from the loom, with little to no waste. Gusset inserts were added under the arms and in the skirts to provide additional fullness and ease of movement.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

At the banquet, Gudrún is dressed in a smooth sark with no gathers at the neck and a fitted smock.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

During the 9th and 10th centuries, high-status Scandinavian women often wore gilded brooches and colorful beaded embroidery.

The oval brooches, like these tortoise brooches, were usually worn in pairs to hold the smock up and joined by rows of beads. Gudrún's many strands of beads denote her status.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

On her head, she is wearing a beaded headdress of Finnish design, intended to be loot from the king's wars. It's decorated with temple rings, like this example from the 12th-century Ukraine from the British Museum.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Temple rings were most popular between the 8th to 12th centuries, possibly influenced by the Arab and Byzantine cultures.

The whole royal party is dressed in vivid shades of red with some blues, as we see in Linda Muir's costume design for young Amleth.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Linda Muir said in an interview, “More than anything, we believe the color denoted high status. To get really rich dense colors from plant dyes, you had to continually over-dye”.

The red comes from common madder, one of the oldest dyestuffs, and the blue from dyer's woad. However, madder didn't grow in Scandinavia, it was cultivated in other countries, such as France, and probably imported. Plants such as dyer's rocket were used for yellow.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

In one important scene, the king gives Amleth a silver neck ring or torque with a hanging medallion as a gift, saying that he took it from a prince during his recent conquest. Amleth wears this into adulthood until he must disguise himself as a slave.

Here is an example of a silver torque from a horde find in Sweden.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

One of the king's many silver rings is discovered by Amleth years later in his mother's bedroom. It's similar to the silver ring in the form of a lancet-shaped plate with twisted ends from a grave find in Uppland Sweden.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Also, we should mention that there are very few helmets from this period, but here’s a rare example of a nasal helm – the helmet of Saint Wencesias, similar to the one worn by King Aurvandill.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Linda Muir said in an interview with A-Frame that there are no buttons in this region, although we do see them worn later by Amleth in his linen shirt when he becomes a berserker. For this reason, all of the clothing worn in Iceland has to be fastened with brooches.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Some are very small, like the ones worn at the throat to close the opening of their tunics, while others are weighty, like the brooches that fasten their mantles.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Penannular brooches are a type of pin worn by both men and women to hold their clothes into position, usually singly at the shoulder by men and on the breasts by women. These brooches feature a long pin attached by its head to an incomplete ring.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Linda Muir said that parts of Heimir the Fool's costume are based upon the Orkney Hood, the only complete piece of clothing from this time.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

And she said that the woolly cloak or “varafeldr”, worn by the king's brother Fjölnir when he ambushed the king, is perhaps the most authentic piece of Viking clothing in the film.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

She said, “I came across this image, that was just gnarly and crazy and thought to myself, ‘What is this? This is just too amazing’”.

According to textile historian Carolyn Priest-Dorman, the varafeldr is a type of shaggy-pile cloak with woven in locks of wool. References to pile cloaks abound in the Icelandic sagas, although they are frequently and inaccurately translated into English as “fur” cloaks.

Fjölnir’s cloak is rather unique, but we immediately recognized his helmet. It's inspired by the Gjermundbu iron helmet made between 950 to 1000 that was discovered by accident in 1943 in a burial chamber in Norway. The helmet is the best-preserved Viking helmet in the world. It is now on display at the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

In the movie, the king's brother is wearing it with an aventail that protected the lower half of the face and neck, although in this case, it's used to hide his face.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Young Amleth escapes and we meet him again in 914 in the land of Rus' or Ukraine.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Amleth and the berserkers or raiders are wearing linen shirts and pants and many of his fellow berserkers, including Amleth himself, are wearing silver armlets on their upper arms.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

This caught into thinking that they could be used as sleeve garters to hold up their sleeves while they are doing work.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Linda Muir said that Alexander Skarsgård wore the same style of boots throughout the film. He had many, many, many pairs of boots, they were in varying levels of distress.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

She said, “We actually made boots that looked like they had wraps of leather to make it look like the character was trying to keep them going”.

In one pivotal scene, the berserkers who were said to have fought in a trance-like fury are performing a drug-addled ritual dance with the berserker priest around the fire, wearing wolf headdresses.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

And before you say, “but wait, I thought there were no horned helmets in the Viking era”, that scene appears inspired by this helmet plate with a weapon dancer and a bear warrior from Sweden.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

While the Old Norse form of the word “berserker” likely means “bear-shirt”, historians also interpreted the meaning as “bare shirt” and went into battle without armor. For the sake of the movie, it appears that they went with this interpretation with the berserkers attacking the Rus' village with their shirts pulled down and tied around their waists.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

It's reported that Robert Eggers wanted some of the berserkers to be completely naked but he did not pursue this because he feared it would be too alienating to the audience and give the film too high an age restriction. But all of that graphic violence is okay!

But why the wolf headdress, you may ask. The frenzy warriors wearing the skins of wolves were called “ulfheðnar”, meaning “wolf coat”. The first Norwegian king Harald Fairhair is mentioned in several sagas as followed by an elite guard of ulfheðnar, wearing the pelt of a wolf when they entered battle. They are sometimes described as Odin's special warriors. “Odin's men went without their mailcoats and were mad as hounds or wolves, bit their shields… they slew men, but neither fire nor iron had effect upon them. This is called ‘going berserk’”.

Unless weapon of choice, is this short poleaxe, like this example here.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Tommy Dunne, weapons master for HBO's Game of Thrones, created all of the Viking replica weapons.

For the Slavic costume of the Rus' villagers, like those worn by Olga (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), Linda Muir said in a featurette with Focus Features, the women's clothing was embroidered at the wrist, hem, and neckline with different motifs, which all had different meanings.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

The word for “embroidery” at the time was the same as for “writing”. They were writing on their clothing their wishes for their family and for themselves, be it prosperity, children, health, good crops, etc.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Here's Linda Muir's costume design for Olga.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

The designer said that unmarried women in the village wore a tunic overpiece called a “zapona”, meaning “tabard”.

Linda Muir said that Olga and Amleth’s costumes were hand-embroidered, along with any of the villagers that were near them during the action, while the backroom costumes, like the ones pictured from Perry's costumes in Spain, were machine-embroidered.

One of the most anticipated scenes in the movie is the one with Björk's character, the Seeress.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

It's a really quick scene, like the one with the Valkyrie, but there is so much effort that went into that costume.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

According to the National Museum of Denmark, the seeresses had a high status in society. They were treated with great respect when they came to help a household or settlement in distress.

And in some seeresses’ grave finds, they have discovered metal staffs or wands, so Harry Potter fans can thank the Norse witches for that.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Linda Muir said, “Villagers especially the wealthier ones, that came to ask about their personal fortune would bring her gifts, like her prominent temporal rings and her amazing barley headdress with embroidered motifs on the front and the back”.

During production, there was some discussion about using wheat for the headdress, but Linda Muir learned through her research that it wasn't grown in the area, so they went with barley which, she said, had a better look. It had a more oval seed head and is the same color dried.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Linda Muir said, “Björk as the local witch was the uber-writer and completely covered in embroidery”. But because of the moonlit lighting for the scene, the red and black embroidery of Rus' people “would have gone to black and it wouldn't have any detail at all. So we ended up with pinks, grays, and peachy colors, which all read beautifully in that light”. She said, “If you see her in a colored photograph, it's not the colors at all that appears on the screen”.

Linda Muir also said, “The cowrie shells over her eyes were a fertility symbol from the time and the bells were to ward off evil spirits”. This is an example of unprocessed cowrie snails from the settlement finds in Uppland.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

While we're on the Seeress, let’s make a quick mention of the He-witch character.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Linda Muir doesn't mention the costume in any of her interviews, but he's dressed in a woman's smocker – you can tell because it's fastened with matching tortoise brooches. On his shoulders, is a loosely draped mantle with two metal fasteners. And his hat is festooned with a runestone decoration of some sort.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

The Valkyrie, who in Norse mythology, is a female figure who guides the souls of deceased Nordic soldiers to the afterlife, featured prominently in the trailer and created a bit of controversy because she appeared to be wearing braces.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

But they are filed teeth and particularly common on the isle of Gotland. The principal theory is that the carvings were decorations and filled with color pigment.

Linda Muir said that “A recent book came out that described how bodies found around Gotland, Sweden, had their teeth filed. When Robert came back with the idea of incorporating filed teeth for the Valkyrie, I was, ‘Oh yeah!’”

Here's Linda Muir's costume design for the Valkyrie. The shimmering gold armor and helmet and vivid red cloak of this supernatural character juxtaposed nicely against the more natural settings.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

The designer said, “For her armor, I found a tiny piece of metal in a drawer in Rome during one of our expeditions, and rather than having it heavy like male armor, we tried to make it more ethereal – not like jewelry, but more delicate, that's why her chainmail has gold banding. Her cloak is this glorious red wool lined with goose feathers in three sizes and it gave it this incredible weight and movement”.

The Valkyrie wears a helmet with a bronze swan as decoration. In Norse mythology, Valkyries would assume the shape of swans.

When we arrived back in Iceland, the slaves, including Amleth and Olga, change into plain clothes made of hemp and wool. Slaves would wear undyed wool without trim or embellishment.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Linda Muir said, “Because of the cold, I created barefoot shoes for the slaves, which were basically toed shoes painted to look like flesh. Anya was so up for the role that she often went barefoot despite the weather”.

Amleth fights for the Draugr sword. There is no good picture of the sword from the movie, but the blade appeared to have a watermark, as we see in Damascus steel.

The Mound Dweller costume is practical, with the help of some CGI, and worn by Ian Whyte who is over seven feet tall.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Here is Linda Muir's costume design, although she calls it “the warrior king”.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

During that scene, Amleth fights the Dweller with his long poleaxe.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

The axe portion, like this wide-bladed battle axe made of iron from Uppland grave finds.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

All of the Mound Dweller’s arms and armor, including Draugr, are based on mostly Swedish 7th-century Vendel era finds.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Fjölnir and Gudrún are now living in exile in South Iceland with their children.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Linda Muir said that “Gudrún is a secure, happy farmwife, so her clothing is different. Her clothing now is practical and well-made. But it's still beautiful and has a certain degree of high-status”.

Here is a great picture of the family while attending a brutal game of knattleikr.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

This is a good time to point out that the men are wearing wool puttees, winingas, or wraps with their leather shoes to gather the excess fabric of their trousers. The leg wraps were meant to protect the lower legs from the sting of bracken and nettles.

Fjölnir's son Thorir the Proud is the dandy of the group. His brightly colored costume is lined in thick fur and he is wearing a lot of silver jewelry.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

Gudrún wears a linen cloak during the funeral rite scene. The cloak sports blood splatters of the animal's sacrifice.

 

Viking movie costumes in The Northman

 

After being tortured, Olga restores Amleth to good health and outfits them both with some clothes that she has stolen, before he returns to the village for the final boss battle to ensure that his wife and children will be protected.


(c) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rffUddku_lc

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