Kit: Cloaks

In Roman times among the German tribes, Tacitus tells us "the clothing for everyone is the cloak… they spend whole days at the fire by the hearth in nothing else". In Wychwood we normally wear some other clothes as well, or else people complain.

But cloaks are still a very useful piece of kit, which keep you warm in evenings, dry in the rain, and can also be used as blankets.

In historical sources, people do not seem to have normally worn their cloaks whilst fighting or doing physical exercise.


Rectangular Cloaks

The most popular type of cloak was normally known as the feldr. These were made out of rectangles (or squares) of material, pinned at the right shoulder so they cover the left side of the body. Rectangular cloaks can be 160 to 275 cms wide, and 80 to 160 cms long. Cloaks can be pictured as floor-length (this is particularly common in Viking sources) or as about the length as a tunic (which is particularly common in Saxon illustrated manuscripts and the Bayeux Tapestry).

Semi-Circular Cloaks

Semi-circular cloaks also existed. These can be pinned at the shoulder like rectangular cloaks, or worn as a slæðr. A slæðr is roughly equivalent to a priest's cope and is a large semicircle of cloth reaching from shoulder to floor (up to 345cm!) and sometimes fastened by two brooches, one at each shoulder. The slæðr can be worn by men or women and some were extremely posh (silk ones with elaborate decoration are described as gifts in several sagas).
It is particularly common as a train for Viking women, attached to the two brooches on the front of the hangerock.



The hekla is a particular style of cloak often worn by people who are disguised, like Odin when he is appearing as a mysterious walker. It is probably something similar to a poncho, priest's chasuble or a roman paenula.
Legio XX have a page which explains what a paenula is and how to make one.

Hooded cloaks

Some people wearing cloaks are described as hooded. These may refer to attached hoods (as shown on the paenula page), or to hoods made simply from the excess folds of material in a cloak, or to seperate hoods.

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