Påsbyxor aka “Viking Rus Pants”: Background and Research

Diary started June 4, 2010.
Copied a pattern from a friend’s pants (simplified modern construction). Made first and second pair of pant on July 1, 2012.

I’m making Påsbyxor for Fearghus. These are the oversized Viking pants. Pants that say “Look at my mobility WHEEE I ain’t never tearing out the crotch on these” and “I’m RICH RICH RICH!! You can obviously tell because of all the fabric in my PANTS!!! You know you want some.” I set aside a nice chunk of rusty-red linen. The linen was a guard gift to him from Eilis when she was Queen. Normally Fearghus won’t be caught dead in red.. but he’s agreed that it’s ok as a pair of pants. The red is so nice I just want to sit around and pet it.

Technically I believe the pants should more correctly be made of wool.. but I’m using what I have on hand.. and the red is just -so- pretty.

Up until now I’ve used my QnD Peri-oid Pant pattern for Fearghus.. but I wanted something different for these pants. Oonagh suggested this style of pants and I decided to try them out. She sent a link to the Historic Varlder site. Their pattern is nice but I was displeased about the lack of background information. How did they come up with this (rather complex and non-intuitive) pattern? What is it based on? How do I know they aren’t just making it up?

After hemming and hawing about this “perfectly period” pattern I finally gave up and copied a pattern for these from a friend. I’ll post it as soon as I remember to take pictures of it. The first pair of pants took two days to make (I had to remove/reattach a few pieces to get it right). The second pair took 2.5 hours.

Background and Research

This style of pants can be seen on the redrawings of the Oseberg Tapestries and on a few Runestones (Tängelgårda (sometimes called Lärbro) and Smiss are shown as examples) (see: Inspirational Pictures).

Arab ibn Rustah in c950 wrote: ‘They wear full trousers (about 100 ells of fabric a pair), and when they put them on, they roll them up to the knees and fasten them there.’ (Brøndsted 1980, 269)

From New Varangian Guard, Miklagard Garrison: Rus Trader Trousers:
“Fragments of a pair such trousers were recovered from the harbor of Haithabu, and are dated to the 10th century. The remains consist of a wedge-shaped front panel of woolen ‘rep’ fabric, and parts of the seat and legs, which were made of double layers of crepe-weight wool tabby. The fabric was probably treated by immersion in hot water, causing it to shrink and wrinkle.”

From An Archaeological Guide to Viking Men’s Clothing by Carolyn Priest-Dorman:

The tenth-century caulking rags excavated from Hedeby harbor yielded some garment fragments believed to be the remnants of the crotch of a pair of baggy men’s trousers, also known as “knickers,” “plus fours,” or Pumphose. (In the East Kingdom these are also widely known as “balloon” or “Viking funny” pants.) The fragments from Hedeby were of fine wool tabby in a crepe weave. They suggest that the pair of trousers were of two colors: some of the fragments are dyed yellowish, others red. The similarity between the Hedeby fragments and the crotch cut of the Thorsbjerg trousers is what allows for their identification as trousers (Hägg 1984, 31-2). Unfortunately, not much can be deduced about the overall shape of these pants from the fragments that remain.

The remains of one pair of trousers found at Birka were probably of the short and baggy variety. The trousers were of linen (or lined with linen) with little metal eyes set into their lower edges; the stockings were wool, with little hooks sewn onto them. The stockings were hooked to the lower edges of the trousers just below the knees. These little hooks used to connect the trousers and stockings, called “garter hooks” in most of the literature, show up all over Northern Europe in early period, from Birka to Winchester (Owen-Crocker 1986, 93) and even in Jorvík (Hall 1984, 121); they seem to have been most consistently used in Saxon areas. It is not always certain how they were used, however; often they were used not on trousers but on the garters that cinched them. This undisturbed and unusual example of their use is one of the things that makes the Birka find so valuable.

Inspirational Pictures

Redrawing of the Oseberg Tapestry

Runestone Tängelgårda, Lärbro parish, Gotland, Sweden, Statens Historiska Museum

Smiss Runestone, Statens Historiska Museum


Exhibit from Haithabu museum
musuem_pants

Closeups from Michelle Height Flickr.  Image taken Feb 2004.

Closeups from Michelle Height Flickr. Image taken Feb 2004.

Closeups from Michelle Height Flickr.  Image taken Feb 2004.

Closeups from Michelle Height Flickr. Image taken Feb 2004.




Closeups from Michelle Height Flickr.  Image taken Feb 2004.

Closeups from Michelle Height Flickr. Image taken Feb 2004.

Closeups from Michelle Height Flickr.  Image taken Feb 2004.

Closeups from Michelle Height Flickr. Image taken Feb 2004.


Other re-enactor recreations

From Historic Varldar LINK

Peter Beatson's reconstruction LINK

From the site Lore and Saga LINK


Reconstruction

See: Påsbyxor aka “Viking Rus Pants”: simplified modern construction


Resources

Historic Varlder: Påsbyxor
An Archaeological Guide to Viking Men’s Clothing by Carolyn Priest-Dorman
New Varangian Guard, Miklagard Garrison: Rus Trader Trousers
Shelagh Lewins: Thorsbjerg Description and Thorsbjerg Construction
Viking Men: Trousers by Hilde Thunem

Brøndsted, Johannes and Skov Kalle. 1965. The Vikings. Penguin Books.
Hägg, Inga. 1984. Die Textilfunde aus dem Hafen von Haithabu. Berichte über die Ausgrabungen in Haithabu, Bericht 20. Neumünster: Karl Wachholz Verlag.
Hall, Richard A. 1984. The Viking Dig: The Excavations at York. London: The Bodley Head.
Owen-Crocker, Gale R. 1986. Dress in Anglo-Saxon England. Wolfeboro, NH: Manchester University Press.

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