Watch: Joan Bergin aims for historical accuracy in ‘Vikings’ costumes

Joan Bergin faces massive challenges being in charge of the costumes for “Vikings.” She must clothe vast armies of clashing barbarians plus medieval nobles fond of wrapping themselves in finery. All of these outfits must be historically accurate duds that vow TV viewers and, while she’s at it, impress Emmy voters. 

“Episodic television is merciless,” she says in our webcam chat. (Watch below) “You just finish a war on one day and it’s a banquet on a Wednesday. You do have to keep going.” 

What helps to keep Bergin going is a large staff operating a shop devoted to costume creation and research. “History Channel has granted me the great gift of a dye room that we devote to R&D medieval work,” she says. “The colors used back then were so strange. They almost completely marry with what you find in nature.”

Very few artifacts survive from ancient Viking culture, so how does she know what they dressed like? 

“In some Scandinavia graves, you’ll find pins that pinch the tiniest pieces of cloth that still survive,” she adds. “With the miracles of a lab, we can actually examine those and know what berries were used to dye them.

“We strive very hard to get the right look, historically accurate. We take as much is available in terms of research and we run with it. We create variations on a theme.”

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