I live in the SCA Kingdom of Ealdormere, and one of our baronies, Septentria, held a Twelfth Night event last month. Among the activities for the day was this challenge:
“We encourage those attending to make a period outfit inspired by a cartoon character! Please bring a picture of your inspiration to the event so everyone can see what an awesome job you’ve done of incorporating characteristics of the cartoon into your garb!”
I had already been thinking of making a set of Norse garb echoing Princess Anna’s winter outfit from the Disney movie “Frozen” and this was a perfect excuse for me to get it done.
My goal was to “translate” the 19th century bunad (Norwegian rural/folk clothing)  that Princess Anna wears during the bulk of the film into something more or less authentically Viking-era Norse, but still recognizably “Anna”. I was inspired to do so by Claire Hummel’s Historical Princesses series. This meant not only finding equivalents for the basic garments (eg. smokkr for skirt), but also adapting the details. After all, the beautiful Norwegian rosemaling that informed the floral design on the skirt only came into existence around 1750, centuries after the end of the Viking age. I set up a Pinterest board with reference images, both of Disney’s Anna and of various Norse-related art, artifacts, and re-enactor goods to help me with the process. I’ve since added pictures of my “Mark I” Viking Anna dress … and at least one image for a future “Viking Elsa”
Primary Reference Pictures:
The author wearing her “Viking Anna” costume at Septentrian Twelfth Night, January 2015. Photo by Alex Sears.
I was reasonably happy with how the outfit turned out for Twelfth Night, although I did not get everything done as originally envisioned. I plan to continue working on it and eventually post a “Mark II” version with all the details correct.
Garments for Anna of Arendelle as a Norse Princess
This outfit consists of:
– Apron (forecloth)
– Smokkr (aka “apron dress”)
– Serk (underdress)
… there was also a cap which I am wearing in the photo above, but which is not on the dress form.
The shawl was a thrift store find by my friend Emer. I wanted to make a proper cloak/shawl as are seen on various Valkyrie figurines and a number of the female figures on the Oseburg tapestry. However, having the right colour fabrics was key to translating Anna from a 19th century princess to a 10th century one and yet keeping her identifiable. I have not yet found the right wool for this element, so the gift of this throw was serendipitous.
Embroidery on the apron for Viking Anna
The black bodice with gold trim on movie Anna’s dress, I interpreted as an apron/forecloth. It’s made of heavier “rustic” black linen (left over from making a pair of Rus-style fighting pants for my husband). The embroidery motifs were chosen to echo the general shape of the floral embellishment on the original. The upper swirly bit was copied from an ivory belt buckle (although I later realized the buckle was from the 12th century, the design itself is very close to the Mammen style) and the (unfinished) lower raven was adapted from a pendant made by Alban Depper. My husband did the embroidery on the upper motif and I did the lower one. We used DMC cotton floss simply for easy colour matching. Again, I wanted to match as closely as possible the colours used in the movie in order to make the translation obvious. Actual embroideries from the Viking Age were done in wool or silk. I intend to complete the fill work, but we only got the outlining finished in time for Twelfth Night.
Tablet woven band, showing experiments with diagonals
The yellow edging is card-woven trim that I made from two shades of yellow that taken together give a similar impression to the gold trim on Anna’s bodice. This was my first time playing with “Egyptian” diagonals. I found this page helpful in the learning process. The band was done in crochet cotton because I am still a novice tablet weaver and was unsure my skills were worthy of trying to work in wool or linen. Unfortunately the loom I borrowed to weave this trim did not allow for quite as long of a warp as I needed, so the top strip on my apron is a piece of yellow silk.
I had intended to make a new wool smokkr for this ensemble, extrapolated from the Hedeby fragment. I found a very-nearly-the-right-shade relatively thin repped wool twill at our local mill outlet, and will still make the dress as planned, but ran out of time before Septentrian Twelfth Night. So instead I wore a linen smokkr I made last winter that happened to be the right colour.
The smokkr used for Mark I Viking Anna is a 3-panel version of the Hedeby smokkr.
This one was made using Monica Cellio’s 3-panel take on the Hedeby fragment that is particularly popular among SCAdians (especially since Katla járnkona’s patterning form makes the math so easy). The “running dog” Celtic trim along the top was purchased from Drix of Calontir Trim. I will readily admit that I copied this look from another lady I saw at Calontir’s War of the Lilies two years ago. I would give her credit if I knew who she was, but I only saw her walking away from the battlefield and loved the look of this trim against the blue linen of her smokkr. So I bought some!
I made two additions to the look: First, I finished every seam with herringbone embroidery. Second, I found some long, narrow rolls of wool felt on Etsy in the same colour green as in the trim. I used a photocopier to the enlarge the pattern of the trim, adjusted the head and one leg of the dog (to look better as a non-entwined beast), and used the felt to make appliques on the lower part of the smokkr. Such decoration is highly conjectural for Norse garb (it’s more likely applique in the Viking age was limited to attaching embroidered panels or borders to garments), but such flights of fancy seem to be particularly popular in the East Kingdom these days. In this case, it worked to replace the floral motif of Anna’s winter skirt with a more “Viking” looking embellishment.
Finally, I used a pair of silver strap-end style brooches to fasten the smokkr. I already had these brooches (purchased from Alban to wear with my baronial investiture garb seven years ago) and they were perfect because both the colour and shape echoed the clasp of the skating cloak Anna wears with the winter outfit.
Dress inspired by the shirt of the Skjold Harbour grave find.
I did make an entirely new serk (underdress) for this challenge. I have written a separate blog post about the details, but suffice it to say here that it was inspired by the shirt from the Skjoldehamn find. I’m only aware of one attempted reconstruction of this shirt, by Ekatarina Savelyeva from Moscow, although reconstructions of the hood found with the same body are popular. Ingrid Galadriel (a Norwegian re-enactor) has made a dress inspired by the Skjoldehamn shirt with the “privacy panel” as she calls it, but not the standing collar. However, it was the collar that actually drew me to this garment. The first step, of course, was finding the right colour linen and I was pretty happy with the “Meadow” shade from fabrics-store.com.
Lesley Donaldson as “Viking Elsa” and Elise Kingston as “Viking Anna” at Septentrian Twelfth Night, 2015. Photo by Alex Sears.
I arrived at the event with Emer (who was dressed as Maid Marian from the Disney version with the fox — and who should really write her own dress diary about her amazing 15th century gown) only to discover that my high school friend Lesley was dressed as “Viking Elsa”! It was more than perfect that not only had someone chosen to do Elsa in the same style as I had done Anna, but that it was her. She’s written about it on her own blog here: Do You Wanna Write A Blog Post? (& Viking Elsa Costume Debut)
(For the record, my own filk of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” that day involved spoons.)
To top it off, the judges chose my outfit as the winner of the costume contest!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my Viking Anna garb as much I as enjoyed making it.
1. The webpage Where is Arendelle has an interesting discussion of the use of the bunad style in Frozen and unusual step Disney took of setting a fairytale movie someplace rather specific, namely 1840s Norway.