Vikings costume designer Joan Bergin and her wardrobe crew have the seemingly impossible task of designing an enormous array of individual costumes to fit the ever-growing cast. As Bergin explains, “What you do always with costume—whether it’s their day clothes or armor—is you try to have and have the costume tell another bit about the character.”
A few of our favorite looks from Season 1:
Creating each of the principal cast’s wardrobes in the workshop on set is a mammoth task. For Viking day clothes, Bergin looks for fabrics in what she calls “Cabbage Patch” colors—shades of dark green, brown and beige. Of all the characters Bergin has to design for, her favorite is Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), who forces her to create an ever-shifting wardrobe.
We took a visit to the wardrobe room on the set and took some pictures of their incredible work.
Just some of the over 1,500 costumes on set:
Wardrobe department in action:
With even more battle scenes planned for Season 2 of Vikings, costume designer Joan Bergin and her wardrobe team have been busy in their workshop designing and making armor for the cast and hundreds of extras required to make up the various armies the Vikings come into contact with on their raids.
Historically, Anglo-Saxon armies and their leaders would have all worn very grand and sophisticated armor. Vikings would’ve had armor of a much lower caliber and no proper head protection. The show matches this—the Vikings wear designs that look like they’ve come from their village and the Saxons feature more high-class looks, as well as helmets. Like their shields, each Viking has unique armor.
In their era, the Vikings may have worn a lot of red, blue and gold dyed leathers, but Bergin believed these colors didn’t match the tone of the show. To better convey a picture of fearless and savage warriors, the costume department focused on shades of brown, burgundy, grey and black for Ragnar, Rollo, Floki and the rest of the Vikings.
On set, there are 50 copies of each type of armor and roughly 1,500 costumes in total.
Vikings were very devoted to their gods and fully believed that their lives were fated. They charged into battle without fear, knowing that if they were slain, they would go to Valhalla to feast and prepare to fight alongside Odin, the Allfather, at Ragnarok, the end of the world.
When it comes to worshipping Odin, there’s no better Viking than Ragnar, who feels a very personal connection with the god. Like Odin, who sacrificed his eye for wisdom, Ragnar is driven by his thirst for knowledge. He also embraced the image of a raven, a symbol of Odin, by incorporating it into his armor last season.
The gods have been featured in many episodes of Vikings—in different forms. In the Season 1 episode “Sacrifice,” we see Odin, his son Thor and the god Freyr as three towering monuments inside the temple at Uppsala.
The statues are now in storage, but we were able to sneak a peek at them to give you a closer look. While the statues look like they were carved from thick tree trunks, Vikings art director Jon Beer explains that they were actually carved out of polystyrene to make them lightweight and easily movable for filming purposes. They were then covered in a plastic hard coat and paint finish to make them look like wood in each scene.
Odin stands tallest as the God of Gods:
Thor and Freyr:
An up-close look at Thor:
Jessalyn Gilsig (Siggy) talks about being compared to Lady Macbeth, what she is most excited about in Season 2 and the similarities between Glee and Vikings.
Q: Following the events of Season 1, what’s Siggy’s mindset like heading into Season 2?
Jessalyn Gilsig: What I like about Siggy is she’s sort of the definition of nothing left to lose, you know? She’s a person who even when everything they love is gone, they still have a drive, an ambition and an ego that sustains them. So, she is just trying to find out how to remain relevant, how to regain a lot of what she’s lost and she is trying to figure out if Rollo is the path to that goal.
Q: Fans have been comparing Siggy to Lady Macbeth. Do you feel this is a fair comparison?
JG: I think she and Earl Haraldson were great collaborators and incredibly political. They had a vision, which was really in contrast to Ragnar. I think if things were in her way and she wanted something, she could certainly stoop to some very low places. I wouldn’t say she’s good, but I wouldn’t say she’s evil. I would say she would unapologetically go after what she wants, just like a Viking!
Q: You have worked on a lot of big budget television shows. How does Vikings compare in terms of production and scale?
JG: I see a parallel between Glee and Vikings where I feel like Glee established a world and a vocabulary that didn’t exist before and there was a big risk there. I feel like Vikings is doing the same thing where it’s either everyone jumps in or we risk underachieving. I think what we’re trying to do here is honor a culture that has just never been given a chance. What we’re finding is that part of why this history has been buried is because it really challenges a lot of what we take for granted in our cultures.
Q: You recently produced and starred in Somewhere Slow. How was your experience as a producer and do you look forward to spending more time behind the camera?
JG: I absolutely loved it! I was really proud to make that film. It’s a lot like Vikings in the sense that it was really exciting to watch the different departments shine and for me to create those opportunities for people. So, I’d love to do more of it, absolutely.
Q: What are you most excited about in Season 2?
JG: I’m mostly excited to give it to the audience and for them to see how the characters’ relationships deepen and are challenged. What I’ve learned from the audience is that they really understand the characters and I think it would be really rewarding for them to see how, as much as it is a show about battles and big themes, at the end of the day it’s about love, betrayal and hope.
One of the great advantages of filming in Ireland is the amazing view that greets us every day on set. There is no shortage of natural beauty, so it provides a great backdrop for a historic epic like Vikings.
As Vikings location manager, Manus Hingerty scouts out the most unique and visually interesting locales, which so far have included an abandoned mine, a deep valley, several beaches, plenty of large fields and a waterfall.
While you can expect Irish weather to often be cold and rainy, for Hingerty, the weather has become an important stylistic factor for the show itself. “Rain and the resultant mud are facts of life. The directors and director of photography love the bleak, raw look of bedraggled grim Saxons and Vikings battling their way through a quagmire of muck and blood,” he says. “I’m not so sure about the costume department, though, as they have to repair, clean and dry the costumes for the next day’s onslaught.”
But finding the right locations can be difficult. They need to be large and free of incorrect period features that can’t be camouflaged or hidden by props. There’s also the painstaking task of ensuring that the plants and foliage in that location would have grown in Scandinavia during the Viking age, as it is not uncommon in Ireland to find foreign plants imported by the Victorians from South America and Asia.
A few more of our favorite settings:
Lough Dan in County Wicklow:
Luggala, also known as Fancy Mountain: