(Re)dressing a Beorning - or, 'Aistan 2.0'

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(Re)dressing a Beorning - or, 'Aistan 2.0'

Post by Udwin »

As you can see from my recent new impression thread, I’ve been working on a third kit and as a result have had to do some reevaluation of my existing ones – when your hobby is creating, clothing, and equipping historical persons from multiple ahistorical settings, the threat of ‘garb and gear bloat’ is ever-present!
So. I’ve been interpreting a common Beorning for the last eight years (rebranded from a common Anduin/Mirkwood woodman after a year of research), and for this whole period I’ve been wearing tunics based on that of the Emmer-Erfscheidenveen man bog find (Netherlands, 1200 BCE)…it worked great based on the geography and my initial assumptions that Wilderland was a wild, isolated backwater (and hey, maybe it kinda was, at least pre-Quest of Erebor). However, in the intervening years I have gotten a better sense of the Northmen and decided that Wilderland in the late Third Age was not as ‘primitive’ as I first assumed/hoped it was. For the Beornings and Bardings/Lake-Men, following the Bo5A both groups presumably have access to Dwarvish goods and materials that are now being more widely traded along the East Road between Eriador and Wilderland (HoMe 12Of Dwarves and Men). Aside from the pointy hats of Lake-town (similar to the conical caps seen in the Nordic sphere during the Viking period), we don’t really have any clothing clues from them, and all we have from Beorn is a brown, sleeveless, knee-length, woolen tunic with fringe; however, Tolkien also wrote that the styles seen on the Bayeaux Tapestry fit the contemporaneous-and-also-Northmen-with-more-advanced-neighbors Rohirrim “well enough” (Letters, No. 211).

In light of these fragments, a Beorning wearing a Bronze Age bog tunic (despite perfectly fitting all the criteria of our Beorn datapoint) somehow felt wrong to me – I needed to update Aistan’s wardrobe! Specifically, the Dutch tunic’s lack of tailoring (using wrapped layers to give room for movement, versus gores) and the simple shoulder straps exposing the upper back and chest all felt very old-fashioned.
With this in mind, I looked to example garments of 900 CE ± 100 from our own Northman-analogous areas. The finds from Birka (Sweden, 9th/10th century) and Hedeby (Germany, 10th century) provided a common ‘kyrtle’-type tunic design with tapered sleeves and triangular gores. To switch things up and distance myself from a standard ‘Migration period silhouette’ and better reflect Beorn’s example (as well as improve ventilation) I decided to make my tunic without sleeves. At the same time, using a less-seen square neckhole as on the Viborg tunic (Denmark, 11th century) maintains a similar look to my earlier tunic choice, for a bit of visual continuity.

I actually had a (sleeved) kyrtle along these lines that I made from green-brown suiting wool at the end of 2013, but never had many occasions to get much use out of it, so I removed its sleeves and rehemmed the resulting armholes for a cool-season tunic.
The material is perhaps not as rustic as a Third Age fabric should be, but as I already had it, I might handwave it with the explanation that higher-quality materials would be available after the reestablishment of Dale/Erebor industrial sphere. I can easily imagine wool from Anduin sheep is sent eastwards to Dale in exchange for better cloth than that which their own looms can produce? While the wool tunic is nowhere near as warm as my previous ‘Aistan 1.0’ wool tunics with thicker or more rustic weaves, it is still not nearly as comfortable to wear in Ohio valley summer as a linen tunic, so I went ahead and sewed up a true three-season version using 6oz natural linen, dyed to an ‘autumn maple’ color, similar to that achievable using heather, chamomile, or hedge bedstraw.
Having both a linen and a wool tunic allow for proper seasonal layering as needed, plus my sleeved braintan tunic for real coldweather use.
As my own design instincts tend towards plain and undecorated, I wanted to add at least something that would help visually underline the fact that while the broad-strokes general style may be ‘early Medieval’, Middle-earth in the Third Age is still pretty ancient, and what better way to invoke the ancient world than FRINGE! (The fact that Beorn’s tunic is stated to have a fringed lower hem is just icing on the cake). So my wool tunic has an applied band of linen fringe, while the linen tunic has two rows of fringe. (I first made it as a copy of the wool one, which only comes to mid-thigh, before realizing I wanted it to still be approaching knee-length, so I added an extension at the bottom. This is dyed ‘Chili Oil’ to add some more interest and break up the silhouette).
Aistan2,0_MERF.jpg (247.47 KiB) Viewed 1032 times
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with this upgrade to Aistan’s wardrobe. What are your thoughts?
Personae: Aistan son of Ansteig, common Beorning of Wilderland; Tungo Boffin, Eastfarthing Bounder, 3018 TA; a native Man of the Greyflood, c.850 SA
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Re: (Re)dressing a Beorning - or, 'Aistan 2.0'

Post by Cimrandir »

Absolutely incredible. It looks great! I love the dye, the fringe, everything. Very very well done. Mental picture of a Beorning - updated!
Persona : Cimrandir - late 3rd Age Dunedain
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Re: (Re)dressing a Beorning - or, 'Aistan 2.0'

Post by Greg »

Been looking forward to this. Turned out absolutely fantastic. Can't wait to see it in person!
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Re: (Re)dressing a Beorning - or, 'Aistan 2.0'

Post by Eofor »

Nothing but praise for your reasoning and skill from me.

I think that your thoughts on, and move towards a less primitive impression ring true and the short sleeve and fringe work beautifully with the only description you have to work with.
The bi-colour fringe too is a very clever way to dress the tunic up without going too fancy. It's unrelated but I was just in a part of the world where the traditional folk costumes use the colours of their embroidery to signal marital status and when I saw the fringe it was my first thought.
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Re: (Re)dressing a Beorning - or, 'Aistan 2.0'

Post by Tom_Ranger »

I think it looks fantastic. Direct and to the point, it's exactly what I like, with just enough highlights via color contrast and simple fringe and will be easy to modify and accesorize with under shirt, jergen, cloak, belts, boots, etc.
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Re: (Re)dressing a Beorning - or, 'Aistan 2.0'

Post by Eothain »

The tunic turned out wonderful.
The amount of research, and craft alone shines through. A beautifully crafted piece! Thank you for sharing the process in full, and very well done! 8) As the others have said, I too agree - the fringe, and the subtle contrasts are very striking!
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Re: (Re)dressing a Beorning - or, 'Aistan 2.0'

Post by Elleth »

Very cool! I love the fringe!

An idle thought that comes to mind - I've been looking at (of all things) feudal-period Japanese material culture lately, and one thing that struck me in contrast with western European commoner stuff is a lack of leather, especially cattle leather. (this Tasting History episode has an interesting aside about that - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpBv8H0G6ZY)

ANYHOW, given Beorn's touchiness about animal flesh, I wonder if perhaps the Beornings had at least in some things similar approaches? eg - knife scabbards of wood wrapped in cord, pouches of woven cloth, soles of rope (!!), etc.? Presumably all from their own aesthetic, of course.
Persona: Aerlinneth, Dúnedain of Amon Lendel c. TA 3010.
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