Did Vikings Wear Skirts?

Vikings Wear Skirts

When we think of the Vikings, we might imagine fierce warriors in helmets and chainmail. However, one question that often arises is whether Vikings wore skirts. The answer is not as straightforward as one might assume.

In this article, we will dive into the historical context of Viking clothing and explore the truth behind the question of whether Vikings wore skirts. We will examine the evidence, theories, and cultural influences that may have influenced Viking attire choices.

Key Takeaways:

  • The question of whether Vikings wore skirts is a complex one.
  • While conclusive evidence of skirts may be lacking, there is evidence of skirt-like garments in Viking culture.
  • The practicality and functionality of Viking skirts are up for debate.
  • Viking attire was influenced by various factors, including cultural influences and contact with other societies.
  • Modern interpretations and reenactments offer insight into Viking clothing, including the possibility of adopting skirt-like garments.

Viking Clothing: An Overview

Viking clothing was not just for protection from harsh weather conditions; it was also a means of displaying social status and identity. The garments were made from materials such as wool, linen, and fur, and were often embellished with intricate embroidery and metalwork.

The most common Viking garment was the tunic, worn by both men and women. Tunics were either knee-length or full-length, depending on the occasion and social standing of the wearer. Trousers were also worn, although primarily by men, and often tucked into boots.

The evidence for Viking skirts is less clear-cut. While some archaeologists argue that skirt-like garments, such as the apron dress or kirtle, were worn by Viking women, others believe that these garments were more akin to dresses or smocks. It is also possible that both men and women may have worn skirt-like garments for specific occasions or as a symbol of social status.

Viking Skirts: A Brief Introduction

Before we examine the question of whether Vikings wore skirts, it is important to understand the broader context of Viking clothing. Viking clothing was not just a means of protection, but also an avenue for displaying one’s social status and identity.

The most common Viking garment was the tunic, worn by both men and women. Trousers were also worn, primarily by men, and often tucked into boots. While evidence for Viking skirts is less clear-cut, there are indications that both men and women may have worn skirt-like garments for specific occasions or as a symbol of social status.

Viking Skirts in Historical Context

To accurately determine if Vikings wore skirts, we need to consider the historical context. Viking clothing varied depending on factors such as climate, social status, and gender. Nevertheless, our understanding of Viking attire is often limited by scarce evidence and conflicting sources.

For example, some scholars argue that the word “kyrtill,” used in Old Norse literature to describe a garment, may refer to a tunic or a dress-like garment. However, others argue that it is unlikely that Vikings would wear skirts given the cold and rugged nature of their environment. Additionally, archaeological findings, such as the Oseberg ship burial, contain no evidence of skirts.

Despite this, it is important to note that our perception of Viking clothing may be influenced by modern biases and cultural norms. Thus, it is essential to approach the topic with an open mind and analyze all available evidence before drawing conclusions.

Viking Skirts: Fact or Fiction?

When discussing Viking clothing, the question of whether Vikings wore skirts is a subject of much debate and conflicting theories. While some sources suggest that skirts were indeed worn by Vikings, others argue that there is no conclusive evidence to support this claim. So, are Viking skirts fact or fiction?

Proponents of Viking skirts point to the discovery of several apron dresses and kirtles in Viking archaeological sites, which bear resemblance to skirt-like garments. However, skeptics argue that these garments may have been worn over trousers or as an accessory to a tunic, rather than as a standalone skirt.

One of the main arguments against Viking skirts is the lack of literary sources describing their usage. While sagas and other texts mention other garments worn by Vikings, such as tunics and trousers, there is no mention of skirts. This has led many to question whether skirts were actually worn in Viking culture at all.

It’s important to consider the credibility of sources when evaluating the existence of Viking skirts. Some sources, such as early modern illustrations or depictions in popular media, may not be historically accurate and can contribute to the myth of Viking skirts.

In conclusion, the question of whether Vikings wore skirts remains a topic of much debate and speculation. While there is evidence to support the existence of skirt-like garments in Viking culture, the lack of literary sources and conflicting interpretations of archaeological evidence make it difficult to definitively determine whether Viking skirts were fact or fiction.

Skirt-like Garments in Viking Culture

While conclusive evidence of Viking skirts may be lacking, there were certainly skirt-like garments present in their culture. One such garment was the apron dress, also known as the smokkr. This dress consisted of a simple bodice with straps that passed over the shoulders and tied at the waist. Below the waist, the dress was open and held together by a belt, creating an apron-like appearance.

Another skirt-like garment potentially worn by Vikings was the kirtle. This dress was made up of a fitted bodice and a skirt that flared out from the waist. The kirtle was often worn with an apron or overskirt to add warmth and provide additional layers.

These skirt-like garments were commonly worn by women in Viking culture, but there is some evidence to suggest that men may have also worn apron dresses in certain circumstances. While the exact function and symbolism of these garments is not fully understood, they were a significant aspect of Viking attire.

Practicality and Functionality of Viking Skirts

While the existence of Viking skirts may be a matter of debate, it is worth exploring their potential practicality and functionality in Viking daily life.

One argument for the practicality of Viking skirts is protection against harsh weather conditions. The skirt’s length could cover and protect the legs, offering warmth and shielding from the wind and rain. This was particularly important for seafaring Vikings, who faced the elements during their expeditions.

Another potential function of Viking skirts is ease of movement. Unlike trousers, skirts allow for greater freedom of movement, ideal for tasks such as farming or combat. Additionally, skirts may have been more comfortable for horse riding, allowing for greater flexibility and less restriction.

However, it is also important to consider the drawbacks of skirts in practical situations. For example, long skirts could easily become entangled in equipment or trip in muddy terrain. This could hinder movement and cause injury, suggesting that skirts may not have been the most practical choice in certain scenarios.

Overall, the practicality and functionality of Viking skirts remain a topic of discussion and speculation. While they may have offered benefits such as protection and freedom of movement, they also posed potential dangers and limitations.

Utilitarian or Symbolic: Viking Skirts in Context

While there is much debate around the existence of Viking skirts, it is important to consider their potential practical and symbolic significance within Viking culture. Were they simply utilitarian garments worn for practical purposes or did they hold symbolic meaning?

The utilitarian argument suggests that skirts may have been worn by both men and women as a practical garment, allowing for ease of movement and ventilation in warmer temperatures. Additionally, skirts may have been useful for certain tasks, such as farming or artisanal work, where greater mobility was required. However, the lack of conclusive evidence for skirt-like garments among Viking attire raises questions about their practicality.

On the other hand, some scholars argue that Viking skirts may have held symbolic significance. For instance, some suggest that a skirt worn by a male Viking may have indicated a high social status or acted as a marker of distinction within Viking society. Alternatively, it may have served as a display of masculinity or as a form of religious expression, as evidenced by the apron dresses worn by women during religious rituals.

Regardless of whether Viking skirts existed or not, it is clear that clothing choices in Viking culture were heavily influenced by gender roles, social status, and cultural beliefs. Examining the potential practical and symbolic meanings behind Viking skirts allows for a deeper understanding of the complexities of Viking society and their attitudes towards clothing and identity.

Viking Skirts and Gender Identity

The exploration of Viking skirts begs the question of how clothing choices relate to gender identity. While modern society tends to associate skirts with femininity, it is important to recognize that this was not always the case. In Viking culture, the concept of masculinity and femininity was not as rigidly defined as in modern times.

Recent archaeological evidence suggests that Viking men may have worn clothing similar to skirts, such as the “kilted trousers” found in the Viking grave at Birka, Sweden. This challenges the notion that skirts are exclusively feminine attire. Furthermore, apron dresses and kirtles, which have skirt-like features, were worn by both men and women in Viking culture.

Therefore, it is possible that Viking clothing choices were not solely based on gender identity, but rather on practicality and cultural norms. The potential functionality of skirts in certain activities, such as riding horses or working in fields, may have outweighed any gender associations.

While it is difficult to determine the exact relationship between Viking skirts and gender identity, it is clear that Viking culture had different values and perceptions than modern society. As such, it is important to approach the topic with an open mind and avoid projecting modern biases onto historical contexts.

Iconography and Depictions of Viking Attire

Visual representations have provided valuable insights into Viking clothing. Norse art and runestones offer glimpses into the attire worn by Vikings, including potential skirt-like garments.

One of the most famous representations of Viking clothing is the Oseberg tapestry, which depicts two women wearing what appear to be long garments resembling skirts. However, some experts argue that these garments may have been apron dresses or kirtles rather than true skirts.

Other visual depictions feature what seem to be trousers, tunics, and cloaks, but the absence or presence of skirts remains a matter of interpretation.

It is worth noting that Norse art was not necessarily meant to be an accurate portrayal of Viking clothing. Rather, it often had symbolic or mythological meaning and was subject to artistic interpretation.

Despite the uncertainties surrounding visual depictions of Viking attire, they provide an important source of information for understanding the clothing choices of the Viking people.

Cultural Influences on Viking Clothing

Viking culture was a product of various influences, including migrations, trade, and contact with other societies. As such, it is reasonable to assume that Viking clothing was not immune to outside influence. The question then arises as to what cultural influences may have shaped Viking attire and if skirt-like garments were among them.

One possible cultural influence on Viking clothing was the influence of the Franks, a neighboring society with whom the Vikings had frequent contact. The Franks were known to wear garments similar to skirts, and it is possible that the Vikings adopted this style of clothing through trade or conquest.

Another cultural influence could have been the Sami, who inhabited the northern regions of Scandinavia. The Sami wore clothing made of animal hides, including skirts and aprons. The Vikings had contact with the Sami through trade and may have incorporated elements of their clothing into their own.

It is also possible that Viking clothing was influenced by the Byzantine Empire, a major trading partner of the Vikings. Byzantine artwork depicts individuals wearing garments that resemble skirts, and it is possible that the Vikings were inspired by these designs.

Overall, it is difficult to say with certainty what cultural influences shaped Viking clothing and whether skirt-like garments were among them. However, it is clear that Viking clothing was not created in a vacuum and was likely influenced by the various societies with whom the Vikings had contact.

Modern Interpretations and Reenactments

Modern interpretations of Viking clothing have gained popularity in recent times, with enthusiasts attempting to recreate and shed light on Viking attire, including the potential usage of skirts. Reenactments provide a unique opportunity to study Viking clothing in a practical context, offering insights into their functionality and practicality.

While these modern interpretations cannot definitively prove the existence of Viking skirts, they do provide valuable information and raise important questions about the accuracy of our current understanding of Viking attire. Some modern Viking enthusiasts argue that the absence of skirts in the archaeological record does not necessarily mean they were not worn, but rather that they were not preserved over time.

Others argue that the absence of skirts in historical artwork and depictions suggests they were not commonly worn and that modern interpretations may be influenced by contemporary fashion trends and biases.

Regardless of the potential biases and limitations of modern interpretations, they provide a new perspective on Viking clothing and contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of Viking culture and society. Through these reenactments, we can learn about the practicality and functionality of Viking clothing, as well as the social and cultural implications of attire choices.

In conclusion, while modern interpretations cannot definitively confirm or deny the usage of Viking skirts, they provide valuable insights and contribute to a better understanding of Viking clothing and culture.


After delving into the topic of whether or not Vikings wore skirts, we have uncovered a complex and nuanced history surrounding Viking attire. While conclusive evidence of Viking skirts is lacking, it is clear that skirt-like garments were present in Viking culture.

Examining the practicality of Viking skirts, we have seen that, if they existed, they may have served a utilitarian purpose in daily Viking life. Moreover, the symbolic and cultural significance of Viking skirts, if they existed, cannot be ignored. Gender roles, social status, and religious implications may have all influenced clothing choices among Vikings.

Through an analysis of historical records, iconography, and modern interpretations, we have seen that Viking clothing was influenced by various cultural factors. The adoption of skirt-like garments cannot be ruled out, but it is also possible that Viking attire was shaped by trade, migration, and contact with other societies.

Overall, the debate surrounding Viking skirts persists, and the truth may never be fully uncovered. Nevertheless, our exploration of Viking clothing has shed light on the complex and multifaceted nature of Viking culture.


Did Vikings wear skirts?

Vikings did not traditionally wear skirts as we commonly think of them. However, they did wear various skirt-like garments such as apron dresses and kirtles.

What other types of clothing did Vikings wear?

Vikings commonly wore tunics, trousers, cloaks, and various types of accessories such as brooches and belts.

How do we know what Vikings wore?

Our understanding of Viking clothing comes from a combination of archaeological finds, historical records, and visual representations in Norse art.

Were skirts considered feminine in Viking culture?

Gender roles and expectations were different in Viking culture, and clothing did not necessarily determine masculinity or femininity.

Can I buy Viking-style skirts today?

Yes, there are modern interpretations and reenactments of Viking clothing, including skirt-like garments, available for purchase.

Were Viking skirts functional for everyday use?

While the exact functionality of Viking skirts is debated, they may have served practical purposes, such as protection from the elements and ease of movement.

Did Vikings have specific clothing for different occasions?

Vikings likely had different clothing for various occasions, such as formal events, everyday wear, and religious ceremonies.

Were Viking skirts considered fashionable?

Fashion trends in Viking culture are not well-documented, but clothing choices may have been influenced by social status and cultural norms.

Are there any surviving Viking skirts or fragments?

Unfortunately, there are no surviving intact Viking skirts or fragments that have been definitively identified as such.

Can we fully reconstruct Viking clothing today?

With the available historical and archaeological evidence, we can make informed reconstructions of Viking clothing, although there may be some variations and uncertainties.

Were Viking skirts considered ceremonial attire?

Skirt-like garments in Viking culture, such as apron dresses, may have had symbolic or ceremonial significance, but there is no direct evidence for specific Viking skirts as ceremonial attire.