These kit guidelines are intended to replace any previous guidelines or kit specifications we may have been following for Gaelic clothing styles.
Copyright: John Nicholl 1999

Over the last two years our focus as a group has concentrated more and more on 10th century life and crafts. It is also fair to say that we have specialised in Hiberno Viking rather than Gaelic. This has probably been due to the huge amount of material becoming available for the Hiberno Viking period in Irish history and the relative scarcity of sources for Irish kit. The bulk of our displays are rooted in the reports of Hiberno Viking urban settlement digs. To date there has been no report published on a rural Viking settlement. One was located at Brown's Barn near Tallaght during the laying of the Kinsale gas pipeline several years ago but no details are available. There are references in the Annals to Viking settlements such as Dun Amhlaimh ( Olaf ) at Clondalkin which was burnt in 867 AD, with "100 Norse heads impaled on spears" and isolated burials such as the one found near Barnhall in Leixlip in 1788 which might suggest that a settlement was located nearby.

As to how the Irish who also lived in the area might have dressed we have to turn to various illustrated sources for our information. The principal sources for these guidelines are:
1. Cross of the Scriptures at Clonmacnoise
2. Cross of Muiredach at Monasterboice ( 923 AD. )
3. Cross of Durrow
4. Cross of Kells
5. Book of Kells ( 8th century )
6. Shrine of St. Moedoc ( 11th century )
7. Giraldus Cambrensis ( 1183 - 1185 ) and other various texts, annals and reports for references to colour and textiles.
8. Durer's drawings in the 16th century of Irish poor men and soldiers.

If we take the Book of Kells as a start point and Durer as an end point, it is a fair conclusion to say that there was a continuity of dress style over several centuries with a gradual process of change from the Hiberno Viking period onwards. Gaelic society during our period seems to have been quite stratified and governed by rules. Clothing was important as a sign of rank and wealth and was even regulated by rules as in 'Leabhar na gCeart' The Book of Rights.

Book of Kells ( 8th Century )
Beginning with the Book of Kells there appears to have been two distinct dress styles in use which are replicated on each of the succeeding sources and may have indicated a class structure or a division of labour. The commonest style shown is the Leine and Brat. This type of dress along with its distinctive fastening mechanism, the pennanular brooch, seems to have been introduced into Ireland in the late 4th and early 5th centuries by settlers from Romano Britain. The pennanular brooch itself is a Romano British invention of the 4th century ( if not earlier ) and the leine and brat are quite obviously derived from the Roman dress styles. It should also be borne in mind that this was a dress style which was probably associated with the aristocracy or high status members of Irish society at the time. That it should have lasted for such a long time is perhaps a testimony to the impact it made on peoples' social consciousness as much as its associations with the founders of Gaelic ( Goedilic ) society as described in the Gaelic saga sources. Virtually all of the illustrations are of Christ, the Virgin and various saints and may be an indication of a high status dress style. However, there is one illustration of a woman with a goat which is obviously intended as a negative comment. She is depicted wearing Leine and Brat but no headcovering. The wearing of a headcovering or caille was a requirement of Brehon Law. It could be concluded that the leine and brat were not confined to high status but were in more general use with her lack of head covering indicating her lower status.

All of the illustrations agree on the following details:
Leine: This was a garment worn by both men and women and was made of linen. For women it reached to the feet and for men to about ankle length. It was either made from bleached white linen or else a single bright colour which was described as 'gel'. It is possible that the white was reserved for ecclesiastical clothing with the bright colours or plain linen being preferred by everyone else. The Book of Kells shows leines of various colours e.g. red, green and blue. The sleeves were wide or loose at the shoulder and tapered to a tight fit at the cuffs. There are no illustrations of wide loose sleeves at the wrist so it is a case of snips, needle and thread for any wide sleeves. The 8th century illustrations show the leine as a loose fitting, single coloured garment decorated at cuffs, neck and hem with bands of braid or embroidery. There is no pictorial evidence for two or multi coloured leini. The neck opening was usually circular with an occasional v shape being used. The plates of the Shrine of St Moedoc could possibly represent pleated leine as the folds seem too regularly defined for a representation of normal folds in cloth. As the shrine is 11th century it could possibly indicate a fashion or style change influenced by the Scandinavian pleated kyrtle. The leine was secured about the waist with a crois or belt. This was made of either tablet woven wool or leather and would also serve for hanging a pouch, knife or other articles. In warm weather or when engaged in work or fighting the leine would be 'pouched ' over the crois to allow greater mobility. The depiction of Cain and Able on the Cross of Muiredach at Monasterboice shows the leine being worn in this manner. Likewise a warrior depicted on the Cross of Scriptures wears his leine gathered. It should not be confused with a kilt for which there is no evidence.

Brat: ( Cloak ) Again the brat was worn by both men and women and the pictorial evidence is quite consistent. All show the brat worn around the shoulders. It was secured with a pennanular brooch on the right shoulder for men and below the chin for women. There are no illustrations showing the brat being worn across the body as in 'Braveheart' or in the style favoured by some Welsh groups. The length of the brat was a symbol of wealth and status although by our period it seemed to have been a standard length roughly equivalent to the wearer's height. There is no clear evidence for a hood attached to the brat although some illustrations show the brat worn covering the head and secured as usual with a brooch. If the brat was at least the same length as the wearer's height it would be possible to form a hood and still secure it with a brooch. The brat was usually rectangular in shape, of a single colour with a contrasting border. It could be lined with a contrasting colour which wrapped around to form the border. Another decorative device was the addition of a tablet woven fringe or braid, again of a contrasting colour. There is no evidence that the fringe was an integral part of the brat itself. In Henken's Lagore Report he illustrates a method for tablet weaving a fringed braid. When making a brat it would be best to cut a large piece of cloth into narrower strips of material which are then sown together to simulate the cloth production of the period. Strips could vary between 24" and 36".

Mantle: ( Fallaing ) The mantle is closely related to the brat but differs in some major ways. It was made of wool but unlike the Brat, it appears to have had a hood and to have been somewhat shorter in length and more close fitting. Illustrations show what could have been a mantle as falling to waist length or to just below the knee. It seems to have been closed down the front to about waist level and to have been put on over the head of the wearer as it is not shown with any brooches for fastening. There were two openings down either side to allow arm movement. The mantle was also decorated with braid around the hem.

Ionar or Tunic: The ionar could vary in length and was again worn by both men and women. It was a woolen, sleeved garment which was put on over the head. The sleeves, which seemed to vary in length from elbow to wrist were fairly close fitting but not as tight as those of the leine. Decoration seemed to have been confined to hem, cuffs and neck opening and to have consisted of bands of braid. The Shrine of St. Moedoc shows three women wearing short ionar over a leine. Illustrations of male figures from the same shrine also show layers of garments being worn under a brat. A second distinct style of dress consisted of an inar and truis ( jacket and trews ). It seems to have been worn by soldiers and is depicted in the Book of Kells as well as on the High Crosses.

Inar: (Jacket) The inar was a close fitting woolen jacket which reached to the waist and was secured across the chest with a brooch, probably kite shaped. It could have long close-fitting sleeves or else be completely sleeveless. It was generally decorated at the cuffs, hem and neck opening. It seems to have been worn in combination with truis. These varied in style. Illustrations in the Book of Kells and on the Cross of Muiredach show soldiers wearing short truis which reached to just above or just below the knee. Those illustrated in the Book of Kells are of a single colour, tight fitting and end below the knee while those shown on the cross panel are loose fitting, striped and gathered just above the knee. The difference could be explained as an evolution of style and fashion. Also illustrated in the Book of Kells are long tight-fitting truis which are secured by loops under the foot. This dress combination does not seem to have been worn with a brat but with a shorter cloak. There is a reference to this style of 'Irish dress' in the 'Heimskringla'. The soldiers are shown armed with spear, shield and sword.

Shoes: The early manuscript illustrations show a distinctly Gaelic shoe style of which there are currently two examples on display in the National Museum. These shoes are of one piece construction and heavily decorated. They are associated with finds from the earlier levels of Crannogs. They are well described in Lucas ( 1936 ). However, they would appear to have gone out of fashion by the 10th century and to have been replaced by the more common 'slipper type' and 'short ankle boot' type. Numerous examples of these shoe types have been found in the urban digs and are also on display . It is fair to assume that they would have found their way into the hinterland. There is absolutely no evidence from Irish digs for the wearing of heels or nail studded soles during in the 10th century. Such additions are a modern convenience but totally inaccurate. Heels, as such, did not make their appearance until the 14th century although hob nails had been a feature of Roman footwear. Unfortunately, 10th century towns and roads had no metalled or concrete surfaces so heels and hobnails were not a necessity. It is estimated that the average 10th century shoe would last for about 2 months before repairs were necessary. Two months continuous wear would translate into several seasons for us. The Book of Kells illustrations show soldiers barefoot although all the later images show soldiers wearing shoes. It was frowned on to go barefoot in Irish society so that shoes also became a symbol of rank. Shoes could be rougher and simpler for the lower grades of society and more refined and decorated for high status.

Colour: The most commonly used dyes of the period were madder ( reds, pinks, rusts etc. ) weld ( yellows ) and woad ( blue ). There have been many textile finds from around Ireland showing traces of these dyes. While some of the textiles have been of a single colour, others have been found which have combined bands or squares of contrasting colour in the weave. (There is no evidence for tartan). We know that the Vikings imported large quantities of highly coloured cloth of wool, linen and silk to augment the home produced material. The most common colours found in Dublin have been reds and purples. We also know from annalistic accounts that the Irish deliberately raided Dublin and Limerick for their cloth supplies.

Brooches: The only type of brooch shown in use with the brat is the Pennanular type. It is shown being worn by both men and women. The only difference seems to have been in the positioning of the brooch, with women wearing it below the chin to fasten the brat across the body and men wearing it on the right shoulder and so throwing the brat slightly to one side. As already mentioned, the brooches are derived from the original Romano British designs of the 4th century AD. and have been found in many locations across Ireland. The brooch should be worn with the pin facing upwards. By law, a person could be held liable for any injury caused by their brooch.

Hair Styles: There are several different hair styles depicted some of which seem to have been peculiar to certain occupations. Soldiers, for instance, are shown with long and short hair styles. They would also appear to have worn a heavy moustache with or without a beard. The high status men avoided the moustache in favour of a beard or else were clean shaven. Razors, similar to the 'cut throat' variety have been found at Dublin. There were also rules governing how short hair could be. It was considered indecent to have more than a handsbreath between the top of the ear and the hairline. The illustrations of women show hair being worn long, sometimes braided, but always clearly visible. There does not seem to have been any attempt to keep hair out of sight.

Review of evidence from High Cross panels
Perhaps the best pictorial sources we have are the beautifully carved high cross panels. In particular, the crosses at Kells, Clonmacnoise, Monasterboice and Durrow merit close attention. These crosses have lost the more naive and stylised representations of earlier crosses and their figures are carved more realistically and with greater attention to detail. Some of the illustrations are still remarkably clear despite decades of weathering. I feel there is no reason to doubt the clothing styles illustrated as being representative of the dress styles of our period. There is a great consistency across all the panels and while scholars might debate the meaning of the religious iconography there is little room for division concerning the actual garments illustrated. We may tend to forget that we have a privileged view of the dress of earlier centuries thanks to Art and Archaeology neither of which were available to the stonemasons who carved the Crosses. In order to dress their portraits they had no other guidance than the dress styles of those about them. It should be a fairly safe conclusion that high status dress styles were used for Christ and Saints with more common dress styles for soldiers and workers.

Of the four sites, the Crosses at Kells (4 in all ) can date no earlier than the foundation of the monastery by the refugee monks of Iona circa 810 AD. They were not all built at the same time and it is safe to assume that they represent work spread over several years, if not decades, as the monastery grew in size and importance. Likewise, the Crosses at the other three sites can be accurately dated to the first quarter of the 10th century from annalistic references to the abbots of the monasteries when the Crosses were erected.

Summary of Gaelic Kit Requirements

Leine Mna : ankle length linen dress decorated at cuffs, hem and neck, close fitting sleeves, one colour.
Ionar Mna : over dress or tunic, woolen, shorter than leine.
Brat : rectangular cloak made of wool, single colour usually fringed and decorated with embroidery at hems. At least same length as the wearer's height. Keep embroidery patterns simple for lower ranking individuals.
Caille : veil or headcovering. This would appear to have been a fashion item worn by most women. Could be of fine linen or silk. Young girls would probably not have worn veils as a rule.
Crois : Belt of woolen tablet weaving or leather.
Mala : Pouch or small bag worn on the crois.
Broga : Shoes of leather or hide, derived from the Old Norse word "Brok".
Pennanular Brooch
Accessories to include drop spindle, small knife in a truaill (scabbard), wool snips.

Leine Fir : Long linen tunic as for female
Ionar Fir : Tunic made of wool
Brat : Rectangular woolen cloak, decorated with embroidery or tablet woven fringe. Length approximately same as the wearer's height.
For soldiers and lower ranking civilians: As above but also: Trius : Knee length trousers, could be striped
Osain : Tight trousers similar to hose, with a stirrup under the foot.
Inar : Jacket which was short and could be sleeveless or short sleeved.
Short cloak : Should only reach to below the waist. Full length brat should not be combined with jacket and trews.
Broga : Leather shoes, usual 10th century patterns, but no added heels or hob nails. Either one piece or else sole and upper.
Brat : Long cloak, about same length as wearer's height, keep decoration simple, tablet woven fringe of a contrasting colour can be added
Leine Fir : Which seems to have been worn gathered about the waist when working or fighting.
Crois : Belt, usually of leather but could be of woven wool.
Accessories to include: Knife in a truaill, leather pouch. Leather shoes of some form are an obligatory requirement for all Gaelic members as to go barefoot was frowned upon in Gaelic Society of our time frame.

Where possible, modern Irish spelling applies. This list is compiled from an article in The Irish Sword on "Native Irish Arms and Armour".
Knife : Scian
Mailcoat : Luireach
Helmet : Clogas or Cathbarr.
Spear : Sleagh, but the words, Ga, or Gaoi could also be used.
Shield : Scath
Darts : Birin
Sword : Claiomh, usually traded or taken from Vikings. (Very expensive).
Multiple layers of waxed linen shirts are referred to as a form of armour also leather coats
Battle Dress : Erred
Norse Lance : Manais Lochlannach
Arrow : Saighead
Bow : Boagha
Quiver : Bolgan Saighead
Axe : Tua
Sling : Boagha Cloch

(Images of some of the crosses will be uploaded soon)

Description of sources
Monasterboice: West Cross Centre Panel: Scenes of the Passion: This panel consists of two soldiers with a central Christ figure. Costume detail on the soldiers is not clear. However, the soldier on the right seems to have a conically shaped head suggestive of a helmet. On the left arm of the cross, the scene would appear to depict the Crowning with Thorns. The soldier on the left of the group is more clearly delimited. There is no evidence for a cloak or mantle on the upper body. His tunic is gathered at the waist by a belt, leaving his legs free. The soldier on the right would appear to be wearing a close fitting jacket and trousers. Both figures are wearing helmets. On the right arm of the cross the scene appears the portray Judas kissing Christ. There are three figures in this panel. The figure on the right is depicted wearing a cloak over a tunic which seems to be gathered at the waist. There is no clear detail on the central figure. The figure to the left of the group is depicted carrying a round shield and sword. On the bottom panel below the central boss there are two further soldier figures. Both would appear to be wearing helmets, close fitting jackets and short trousers gathered at the knee. Any fine detail has weathered away. The detail is quite good on the central panel figure of Christ. He is depicted wearing a highly ornate, close fitting costume consisting of a short waist length mantle with openings for the arms. Beneath this, a tight fitting garment reaches to the ankles with decoration at the hem.

Monasterboice: Cross of Muiredach 927 AD. The panel depicting the Arrest of Christ consists of three figures. A central figure of Christ flanked on either side by two soldiers. The detail here is really very good. The figure on the right, a soldier, is depicted wearing a tight fitting, sleeveless upper garment. There is just enough detail to suggest the possibility of mail. Across his chest he would appear to be wearing a kite shaped brooch, perhaps as a fastening device. This particular garment extends below the waist and ends at mid thigh. This garment is secured tightly about the waist with a belt. Below this can be clearly seen a representation of short trousers. They are fairly close fitting and reach to just above the knee. There is just a hint of detail to suggest circular links arranged in rows. Each hem line is clearly defined. It is unclear whether the rest of the leg is bare or whether shoes are worn. The soldier is armed with a double edged sword and would seem to wear a moustache but no beard. His companion on the left of the panel is also armed with a sword. The body detail on this figure is not as clear but his costume would appear to be similar. The short trousers are clearly defined but other detail is lost. The left leg of the trousers would appear to show a vertical stripe. This figure also favours the moustache and no beard. The third central figure depicting Christ wears a highly decorated costume which seems to consist of; a) a mantle, with arm openings, secured on the right shoulder with a pennanular brooch. b) a long ankle length leine decorated with embroidery. The embroidery motifs seem to be circular s shapes. There is also a possible third garment reaching to the figures waist and represented by inverted v shaped double lines. This parallels some of the detail on the Christ figure on the West Cross where the embroidered motifs are more clearly visible as the mantle is raised by the outstretched arms.

Cross of Muiredach: Murder of Able: The two figures in this panel are depicted in contrasting dress styles. Cain, on the left, has the long hair and moustache of a soldier. However, he appears to be wearing a leine which is gathered at the waist and folded over a belt. It falls to just about knee length and has clearly defined hem decoration. He would also seem to be wearing a short jacket over this leine. Able has less clearly defined upper body detail but is obviously wearing a leine which has been pouched over a belt. This leine has a broad band of embroidery at the hem. He is also depicted as being barefoot.

Cross of Scriptures: Clonmacnoise: The first panel from the east side of the cross shaft would appear to depict a chieftain swearing an oath. The costume details are quite clear. He is not wearing the short trousers of the other military figures. Instead he wears a leine which is pouched at the waist over a belt. The hem embroidery detail is clearly visible also. He wears a sword in a scabbard and the baldric strap is visible under his left arm. There is possible detail to suggest a short sleeved jacket. He also wears a moustache and long hair and would appear to be barefoot. The other figure in the panel is depicted as being of higher rank. He holds a ceremonial staff and the placing of his hands ( above those of the other figure ) suggest that it belongs to him. He is dressed in a long Leine which falls to his ankles and has an elaborate embroidered hem. Over the leine he wears a short cloak which is open at the front through which his arms emerge. This is clearly not a mantle with arm openings. The cloak has a well defined hem and would appear to be embroidered. It also seems to be gathered on the shoulders suggesting it may actually be longer than it is being worn. The foot detail clearly shows him to be wearing shoes.

Cross of Scriptures: Two Kings: Both figures are similarly and richly dressed. Both have long hair and plaited beards. They are wearing long leines which fall to just above the ankles. The hems are embroidered and there is a suggestion of lateral zigzag embroidery parallel to each hem. Each figure wears a long cloak over the leine and has it secured on the right shoulder with a pennanular brooch. Each man wears a sword in a scabbard. The scabbard worn by the figure on the left would seem to show a mount half way along its length. It is not clear whether the scabbards are worn over the shoulder or hang from a belt. Some detail about the feet might suggest that shoes are being worn.

Soldiers Guarding the Tomb: There is very little clear detail on this panel. However, both guards are shown wearing helmets and armed with spears.

High Cross of Durrow ( Co. Offaly ) Soldiers Guarding the Tomb: This is a very similar panel to the previous one but the detail is better. Again, both figures wear helmets and are armed with broad leaf headed spears. It is also possible that these spears are winged. The figure on the right seems to be wearing a short sleeved jacket which reaches to waist height. He wears a belt over this. Lower body detail seems to suggest short trousers.

Flight into Egypt: In this panel Mary is depicted carrying the infant on her back or possibly tucked under her cloak. The detail is faint but enough remains to show that she is wearing a leine which reaches to her ankles with a wide embroidered hem. Over this she wears a cloak which is secured at the front by a pennanular brooch and at the waist by a belt. She also seems to have her hair plaited. Detail on the Joseph figure is very faint but seems to show that he has his leine gathered at the waist with a belt.

Sacrifice of Abraham: There is very little costume detail but a sword and axe are clearly visible.

Kells: Market Cross: The carvings on the base of this cross show two horsemen carrying large round shields and armed with swords. Unfortunately, no other details are visible.

Castledermot: Cattle Raid(?): Depicts two figures herding a mixed flock of animals. One figure is armed with a sword while the other carries a shield on his back and a broad headed spear in his hand.

References: Allen, J.R. (1887) The High Crosses of Ireland reprinted 1992 by Llanerch Publishers, Felinfach. Dunleavy, M. Dress in Ireland , Batsford, London. Heckett, E.W. (1993) in Textilsymposium Neumunster, NESAT V pp 148 - 156 Medieval Textiles from Waterford City, London Heckett, E. ( 1987) in NESAT 3 Textiles in Northern Archaeology, pp 85 -95 Some silk and wool headcoverings from Viking Dublin: uses and origins - an inquiry, London. Hencken, H. (1950 ) Proceedings of RIA, LIII, C,!. Lagore Crannog: An Irish Royal residence ot the 7th to 10th Centuries A.D. Henry, F. ( 1964 ) Irish High Crosses Lucas, A.T. (1956 ) The Journal of The County Louth Archaeological Society, XIII, 4. Footwear in Ireland McClintock, H.G. Handbook of Old Irish Dress. McClintock, H.G. (1943) Old Irish and Highland Dress and the Isle of Man. Dundalk. O'Rourke, D. (1997 ) Leather Artifacts in Late Viking Age and Medieval Waterford, pp703 - 736, Waterford. Ryan, M. et al ( 1994 ) Irish Archaeology Illustrated , Dublin Walsh, A. ( 1922 ) Scandinavian Relations with Ireland during the Viking Period. Talbot Press, Dublin.

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Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries had its humble beginnings as an idea of a few artisans and craftsmen who enjoy performing with live steel fighting. As well as a patchwork quilt tent canvas. Most had prior military experience hence the name.


Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries.


Vendertainers that brought many things to a show and are know for helping out where ever they can.

As well as being a place where the older hand made items could be found made by them and enjoyed by all.

We expanded over the years to become well known at what we do. Now we represent over 100 artisans and craftsman that are well known in their venues and some just starting out. Some of their works have been premiered in TV, stage and movies on a regular basis.

Specializing in Medieval, Goth , Stage Film, BDFSM and Practitioner.

Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries a Dept of, Ask For IT was started by artists and former military veterans, and sword fighters, representing over 100 artisans, one who made his living traveling from fair to festival vending medieval wares. The majority of his customers are re-enactors, SCAdians and the like, looking to build their kit with period clothing, feast gear, adornments, etc.

Likewise, it is typical for these history-lovers to peruse the tent (aka mobile store front) and, upon finding something that pleases the eye, ask "Is this period?"

A deceitful query!! This is not a yes or no question. One must have a damn good understanding of European history (at least) from the fall of Rome to the mid-1600's to properly answer. Taking into account, also, the culture in which the querent is dressed is vitally important. You see, though it may be well within medieval period, it would be strange to see a Viking wearing a Caftan...or is it?

After a festival's time of answering weighty questions such as these, I'd sleep like a log! Only a mad man could possibly remember the place and time for each piece of kitchen ware, weaponry, cloth, and chain within a span of 1,000 years!! Surely there must be an easier way, a place where he could post all this knowledge...

Traveling Within The World is meant to be such a place. A place for all of these artists to keep in touch and directly interact with their fellow geeks and re-enactment hobbyists, their clientele.

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