This post will show you how to make Anglo-Saxon costumes which are perfect to go along with a homeschool Anglo-Saxon unit study. You will use materials, blankets and rugs you have lying about the house. These are pretty much no-sew, although there is a little bit of threading of cord.
Anglo-Saxon Clothing for Women
Let’s keep it simple…Burial graves have offered a lot of information about clothing, particularly women’s clothing. In general, women wore stockings or leggings for warmth, a plain under-dress, an over-dress attached at the shoulder with pins or brooches, a belt from which spoons, knives and other personal items hang and simple wooden necklaces.
Anglo-Saxon Clothing for Men
Men wore leggings, over which cloth stripping was wrapped for extra warmth. They wore a tunic and wrapped a belt around their waist to hang personal items for use throughout the day. Archeologists have found belt buckles in graves. Anglo-Saxon men wore an over garment of a rectangle piece of cloth. They fastened this at the neck with a brooch.
Using Dolls to Design Anglo-Saxon Costumes
Firstly, to play about with some ideas, I had the children use scraps of material and cord to dress their dolls. This was a great idea to help them to discover how to make their own Anglo-Saxon costumes:
Anglo-Saxon women wore a long ankle length under-dress. You can see this in the picture above. The girls made a similar underdress using a rectangle of cloth with a slit cut into it as a hole for the head to go through. We stuck the sides together with a hot glue gun (yes, I know, not very, very authentic!).
Over the top of the underdress, women from teen-age onwards wore a long peplos type over-dress. To make this we folded over a piece of material and wrapped it around the doll’s body. We used two safety pins, one each side, to hold the material together at the shoulders. You can see this below with the blue material. We also ripped some blue material and tied it around the waist which pulled the material together to prevent any gaping sides 😉. The Anglo-Saxon women would have hung essential tools and spoons from this belt.
Accessories included a simple head-dress, wrapped material for stockings and occasionally glass beads around the neck and/or a brooch.
The doll below shows a cloak fastened at the neck, a head-dress, and a more decorative belt around the waist:
These had been surprisingly easy to make. Would making some full-sized costumes be just as simple?
How to Make Anglo-Saxon Costumes for People
Now we needed to transfer this play-knowledge to attempt to make some full-sized Anglo-Saxon Costumes. In similar fashion, we gathered all the material we owned, wool rugs and wooden spoons and knives to be hung from the costumes.
Lillie’s was the easiest. I folded a sheet in half, cut a slit for her head to go through. The green linen material was part of an old dress, so it was already sewn down the side seam, a bit like a huge tube. Lillie stepped into the tube and we attached it at the shoulders with two nappy pins. We finished the look off with a piece of material for a belt, and Lillie hung a knife and a wooden spoon from it:
The great thing about Anglo-Saxon clothing is that simple is good. Obviously, you can finish the costume off a bit neater than ours. For example, feel free to hem each garment. For me, I’d rather create something than feel so overwhelmed by getting it perfect, I end up creating nothing. And the children were only using this for their Anglo-Saxon presentation, so it did not need to hold up for very long.
For Charlotte’s costume, we used four rectangles of cloth. One large rectangle for the under dress, in white linen, with a hole for the head. We used the second rectangle for the over dress. This we cut a slit for Charlotte’s head. Another third smaller rectangle in ‘wool’ (we used felt which is inexpensive, requires no hemming and looks and feels a little like wool) created a top for extra warmth. Charlotte would be using this for a smaller over-over dress 😁. I cut a ‘too long’ slit longwise for her head. We added a small rectangle of cloth with a slit cut out of the same size as the over dress. I cut out holes in both and used some string to pull the edges together. Lastly, we added a belt which pulled in all the garments at the waist and hung a knife and a spoon from it:
These costumes do not have to be perfect! Have fun, try out different materials, styles and patterns. It just needs to look authentic, it doesn’t need to be authentic…unless of course you want it to be, then, go at it!
How to make an Anglo-Saxon costume for a boy? Well, we began with an old t-shirt of Gary’s – it was a muted colour and over sized. Thomas found a pair of trousers in the dress up box, which he threw on. Any trousers would do as they are mainly covered up. We gave him a belt, and hung some knives and spoons off it.
He wrapped some bandages around his lower legs…you could use strips of cloth. These gave the wearer extra protection and the bindings could be made higher of lower and cover the feet for extra warmth in the winter.
To finish off, Thomas used the picnic blanket we had in a woven wool which had the perfect pattern for an Anglo-Saxon costume. We used a nappy pin to fasten the rug at the top, around his neck.
Are these Authentic?
Always think of what you would like your children to learn from any activity you do. My own goal for these costumes was that firstly the children learn the types of clothing the Anglo-Saxons wore. And, secondly, I wanted them to create a costume to wear for their Anglo-Saxon presentation! Using what we have on hand, we created these costumes to the best of our ability. We poured over this article and we did our best. Having this kind of attitude towards making dress up means the process stays stress free and enjoyable. Just like homeschool should be ❤️