Appearance & Clothing

Overview

Celts were reported to have milk-white fair skin, blonde or reddish hair, and blue eyes. However, the warriors used lime in their hair which bleached it; so in reality, it is likely that there may have been brunette Celts as well. They were also often described as tall and of intimidating stature. All Celts took care of their appearance, carrying around personal care items in their pouches such as combs, tweezers, and scissors. Mirrors and combs were a repeating theme among pictish pictographs as well. Celtic people, especially warriors, practiced weight control and were fined if they gained too much weight.

Celtic clothing was bright and woven out of linen or wool. Sometimes a piece of imported silk was added to a garnment or unraveled and used to embroider a piece of clothing. The woven patterns they created were not what tartan is today- but close; they were checked, striped, "speckled," and some even had a houndstooth or herring bone weave. The earliest sheep were brown and gray, few were white, but after sheep had been domesticated, the white sheep were bred in order to produce more white wool (easier for dying most likely). Plants were used to make the dye for the wool: roots of a five year old madder plant was used for red, whole weld was used for yellow, and the fermented leaves of a woad plant was used for blue. Woad is also what the Celts used to paint themselves.

The most ancient form of a loom was weighted strings that were attached to a straight tree branch that ran parallel with the ground. Loom weights were found in Anatolia that dated back to 700 BCE and the Egyptians had a horizontal loom with a horizonatial warp beam and shuttle. Clothing was sewn by hand with a bone, bronze, or iron needle using wool or linen thread. Seams were indeed on the inside of the garnment, except for those made of leather which were sewn on the outside for better weatherproofing. All clothing was sewn with the exception of the summer cloak and womens' peplos (greek) which was a woven tube secured to the body with a belt and pinned at the shoulders (please read below). It is unknown whether or not they wore underwear, but they did not wear socks or hats. All Celts carried a pouch that hung from their belt that often contained an amulet, comb, personal knife for eating, other items, and was fastened with an antler toggle. All Celts commonly wore a belt, cloak, tunic, and shoes.

There were two cloaks that were used, a lightwieght cloak for warmer weather and a heavyweight cloak for cold weather or rain. The lightwieght cloak was made of linen and attached with brooches at the shoulders. The heavyweight cloak had a hood and two layers. The outer layer was constructed of corse wool woven into a pattern and possibly oiled to repel water. The inner layer was made of a bright, single color piece of smooth linen. These cloaks were worn at ankle length and fastened with a penannular brooch.

Basic jewelry consisted of torcs, pins made out of bone or antler with a decorative head, penannular brooches that measured about one to four inches and were made out of iron or bronze and typically plain, as well as bow-back pins very much like the modern safety pin. Torcs were made of gold, silver, bronze or iron and only worn by those of high status: warriors, land owners, and ruling class members (including their family). Men and women also wore additional jewelry items, please read on below.

Men
Men often wore mustaches and nobility commonly wore beards as well. They wore their hair long and some lime-washed their hair for battle, sculpting it into spikes. Their attire consisted of a long shirt (tunic) possibly embroidered at the wrists and neckline, braecci (trousers), a belt for the braecci and a belt for the tunic, and of course the pouch, cloak, and shoes. Men wore armlets with enameled inlays as well as torcs (if they were of rank or royalty). They carried an iron eating knife with an iron or leather shealth that hung from their belt. Warriors sometimes carried shields and wore bronze helmets, reportedly with crests or decorated with scupltures of birds, other animals, or horns.

Women
Women also wore tunics with a skirt or under a dress, similar to a greek peplos. The dress would have been worn with or without sleeves and was sometimes decorated with braid at the edges or embroidered. The peplos (or peplem) was a tubular garnment that was put around the body under the arms and pinned front to back at each shoulder. Other attire included a belt, pouch, shoes, and cloak as mentioned before. Women wore their hair long, often braided or knotted, and occasionally decorated with combs or other ornamental items. They wore belt chains around their waists sometimes with bells at the end, necklaces, rings (more often toe rings), and bangles. Women also wore makeup, darkening their eyebrows with ruan, reddening their cheeks and even painting their nails!