How to Make a Homemade Viking Costume: DIY Ideas and Instructions
Make Fabulous Viking Costumes the Easy Way!
Welcome to my warm hearth! You can learn how to make a Viking costume here. Your homemade ensemble will be the envy of any party you decide to crash and plunder. Making these costumes isn't that hard and can be done without a sewing machine. It's the kind of costume that's especially good for large groups. Additionally, you can limit the cost of your Viking accoutrements by carefully choosing materials and accessories.
Here's a point-by-point list of the costume pieces that we'll look at:
- Arm/leg wrappings
- Skirts or pants
- Makeup, face paint, and hair
Making the Vest: Used Is Best
The best way to make the vest is by:
- Using an old suede jacket, fur, or faux-fur coat you own that is no longer regularly wearable, or
- By purchasing a used suede, fur, or faux-fur coat, preferably from a thrift shop.
You can find excellent, inexpensive specimens at your local Goodwill/thrift store or on eBay. Once the coat is in your possession, turn it inside out and remove the sleeves by cutting the seams with scissors or a special thread-cutter (available at craft stores).
If the jacket is lined, you'll have to remove the lining of the sleeve before you can remove the outer sleeve. If that's too much work, you can always simply cut the sleeves off. The vest only has to last for one night, after all!
A furred vest can usually stand on its own. To make a leather or suede jacket more interesting, use hot glue or a sewing machine to attach craft-store and thrift-store finds such as metal braided wire, shiny bits of metal, or additional bits of fur or leather.
While you're at the thrift store, keep your eye out for interesting jewelry, belts, or scarves that can be used as belts. You may even find helmets or plastic axes. You'll be amazed at what you can find!
Viking Shirt Options
- Go Bare-Chested: If you're really bold (or if your vest closes all the way), then you won't need to wear anything under your vest.
- Opt for a Plain Brown Shirt: If you do want to wear something, it's easy enough to create a simple covering. The easiest thing to do is to wear a dark brown t-shirt. You can typically find plain t-shirts at craft stores such as Joann's or Micheal's—or you may even score one while searching at a thrift shop!
- Repurpose a Fleece Blanket: Another easy way to cover your chest is what we did in the picture above: we purchased inexpensive brown fleece blankets from Walmart (they were cheaper than the same yardage of brown fleece at the craft store, though that would work too). Then we folded them in half and cut a small hole for the head to create brown ponchos. Once you cover them with a vest and tie off with a belt or scarf, you won't even be able to tell it's not a real shirt!
The Viking Belt
Any sort of black or brown leather belt will work; even a leftover piece of fabric will do. This part of the Viking costume is very important, as it makes your vest look more like a vest and less like a leather coat with the sleeves cut off.
However, you will definitely get bonus points if you have a belt with any sort of embellishment or designs. You want to look like you're the toughest Viking on the block, don't you?
Don't forget when purchasing the belt that you'll need a larger size than you usually use. After all, it needs to go over your vest, which will add several inches to the required length.
Making Viking Arm or Leg Wrappings
- To make the wrist guards (vambraces) or calf wraps (greaves), measure and cut a trapezoid of faux-fur fabric (make sure to keep the calf bands loose so that they can be put on easily; you can wrap string over them to keep them on).
- Turn the fabric fur-side in, then sew or hot-glue down the matching trapezoidal sides.
- Turn inside out, so the fur is on the outside, and slip on!
Above is a close-up picture of the faux-fur leg wraps. I made long strips out of the leftovers from the cut-up leather jackets (with a little bit of sewing), and these were wrapped around the leg coverings in a criss-cross pattern for a little extra flair.
Faux Fur Is Your Friend: You can use faux fur for all manner of accents, from bands that go around the wrists and calves to a cape—your budget is the only limit! Save money by using faux-fur only as an accent or by finding faux-fur items in a thrift store and recycling them.
Making Pants or a Skirt (Brown Fleece Works in a Pinch)
You can use faux-leather fabric to make an easy, wrapped skirt for girls. Or you can sew or hot-glue the material onto an old pair of pants for a guy's Viking costume (that's assuming that you don't have any suede, leather-looking, or leather pants). Alternately, there are tons of great fabrics out there in shades of brown that look close enough. If you're extra adventurous and haven't done the vest part yet, you can grab a few extra yards of the fabric and make your own homemade Viking vests out of this as well.
Save the remainders from this material to cut into inch-wide bands to use as wraps around the coverings on your lower legs.
Viking Costume Shoes (Unless You Want Bare Feet!)
I wouldn't suggest buying new shoes for a Viking costume unless you really want to. Any brown, black, or tan boots should do the trick. If you absolutely can't find anything, try draping some leftover fabric over your shoes to disguise them.
If you do decide to purchase boots, choose a pair made of material that resembles fur or leather. Make sure that it will suit your activity—whether that be watching Halloween movies, trick-or-treating, or dancing the night away.
Nothing Like a Little Viking Bling
It's hard to find jewelry that is truly "Viking" without taking a trip to an ancient Norse tourist attraction. However, Celtic jewelry is popular; alternately, anything in bronze, silver, or black will do to add that extra oomph to your costume. Chances are you already own some jewelry that will work. Men can get in on the jewelry action too—remember, Vikings used to wear their wealth! Don't go overboard with Viking-themed jewelry, but necklaces, earrings, and armbands are nice.
Here's a quick list of items to consider:
- Mjölnir (Thor's hammer)
- Celtic knot jewelry
- Arm bangles
- Silver or bronze jewelry
How to Create a Cheap Crown or Circlet
Speaking about bling, you'll never guess how we made the "crowns" for the women! This is where real costume-making ingenuity comes in. We went to the hardware store and looked at the different types of plumbing fittings. They had different types of round strips of metal, and we found ones that would fit around our heads (they were only a few dollars each). Then, we simply had to remove a bracket that held the rings together and then wrap some leftover fabric around the joint. Voila! Stylish metal headbands without a lot of cost or work. Not something you'd want to wear every day, but fine for one night.
Viking Hair and Make-Up Ideas
- Makeup: Above is my gorgeous sister in part of her Viking costume getup. We used minimal makeup: a little bit of eyeshadow and mascara. After all, a hard-working Valkyrie doesn't have a lot of time to spend primping and preening. Although she still wants to look her best when she goes pillaging!
- Face Paint: Remember the blue face paint that Mel Gibson wore in Braveheart? Some warpaint like that is also an awesome option for getting into character and taking your costume to the next level.
- Hair: If you can manage it, a braid or two are always best for your Viking costume hairdo. A ringlet, helmet, circlet, or crown will add that little extra pizzazz.
- Beards: If you're a guy planning on dressing up as a Viking, you really ought to plan on growing some facial hair. Seriously, do you really picture the Vikings as smooth-shaven, or do you picture them with awesome beards? If you're not the type of person who can grow a beard fit for a Viking in a couple of weeks, you're a lady who happens to want a beard for the night, or if you just don't think that a beard will fit in with your current lifestyle, you can always purchase one. One note of caution: real or fake beards can be extremely warm and itchy! Don't say that we didn't warn you. However, the irritation can help you develop a characteristically surly Viking attitude.
With the recent resurgence in popularity of Thor, his hammer (or Mjölwernnrlnrrnwjur, as he likes to call it... or something) is one of the most-desired Viking costume weapons.
What Viking Weapon Will You Choose?
If you're looking to create a historically accurate Viking costume, you might want to try producing a weapon out of cardboard and tape, or even wood if you want to get really fancy. However, we found that a plastic sword had a great combination of durability and cheapness for our needs (the cardboard shields we created disintegrated quickly). Again, it all depends on how much time you want to spend on each individual part of the costume.
Great Viking weapons include:
To be safe, be sure that your weapon is made out of
- cardboard, or
Would you dress up as a Viking?
Did Vikings actually wear helmets like these into battle? According to this article from The Straight Dope, they most certainly didn't! However, the "horned helmet" has become the most recognizable symbol of the Vikings, despite this inaccuracy. It's up to you whether you want to be faithful to history or take a little creative license.
Alternately, a metal band wrapped with a bit of leather or brown fabric works as a more accurate headpiece. I actually bought some type of plumbing equipment shaped like a metal circle and bent it to fit my head.
In a pinch, you can build a Viking crown out of cardboard and shiny silver duct tape. Decorate it with odds and ends from the craft store.
There's been some debate as to whether people should wear horned helmets with Viking costumes because it's not technically historically accurate. Shout your opinion in the comments! Anyone can have a say (you don't need to be logged in).