February 27, 2007—Call it the Viking version of a low-cut top.
A modern reconstruction of a Norse outfit (worn above by textile researcher Annika Larsson of Uppsala University in Sweden) is a single piece of fabric held in place by clasps that sit on the middle of each breast.
Such a provocative outfit was probably common among Viking women before Christianity took hold in Scandinavia, Larsson said in a statement. She recently analyzed ancient textiles from the Lake Mälaren Valley, which was inhabited during the "Viking Age," from about A.D. 750 to 1050.
A mélange of Nordic and Oriental flair, the clothing "was designed to be shown off indoors around the fire," she said.
Men also sported lavish fashions with Russian influences, such as this outfit above (left), Larsson said.
In particular the new evidence challenges a conservative view of pre-Christian Viking dress, Larsson said.
Researchers had previously suggested, for instance, that the breast clasps found in the graves of Norse women had moved from another part of the body as the corpse rotted—"a prudish interpretation," Larsson noted.
But any hints of risqué dress faded in the late 900s, as trade routes expanded and medieval Christian fashions hit Sweden.
"It's easy to imagine that the Christian church had certain reservations about clothing that accentuated the breasts in this way," Larsson said.
More Photos in the News
Today's Top 15 Most Popular Stories
Free Email Newsletter: "Focus on Photography"