From Stone Age to Middle Ages

Sunday, August 10, 2003

LEJRE, Denmark -- It wasn't quite haute couture and the models weren't exactly Givenchy. But the clothes were chic, or at least fashionable in their time -- thousands of years ago.

Models in hides, wool and coarse linen strutted the Viking catwalk Saturday, showing off the "latest" in prehistoric and medieval fashion at an outdoor museum near this small town, 25 miles west of the capital, Copenhagen.

The designs of ancient Scandinavia were recreated from pieces of fabric excavated from archaeological sites. One model, 20-year-old Galit Peleg, wore a tight woolen blouse and skirt of strings from the Bronze Age, some 3,000 years ago, probably used only on ceremonial occasions.

"It's very tight-fitting and warm, and not very practical," she said. "But the skirt makes you want to dance."

For more than 40 years, the cultural center near Lejre has provided tourists the possibility of experiencing the Iron Age by demonstrating how people lived thousands of years ago.

The 23 models displayed clothes ranging from the Stone Age, some 6,000 years ago, through the Iron Age, 2,000 years ago, to the Viking era. The latest fashion was from the Middle Ages.

Ancient Scandinavian music accompanied the show, played by a three-woman band on string instruments and drums.

"Most people think the ancient times were gray and dull," said organizer Anne Batzer. "In reality, folks back then did a lot of decoration on their clothes, and used bright colors like yellow, lime and red."

"Back then, too, clothes were a key way to display status," said Batzer, who describes herself as an archaeological textile technologist.

In the Bronze Age, women coveted a tight-fitting woolen shirt with a cinched waist. In the Iron Age, fashion changed to a more loose fit, with flowing, pleated garments. The Viking era brought back tight, sexy fits, Batzer said.

Lisbet Kristensen, a 50-year-old model, said her gray, woolen Iron Age dress was comfortable and "only a little bit itchy."

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