What to Wear to a Renaissance Faire

July 2009
Costumes and More for the Ren Faire.

Garbing for Renaissance Faire

So you want to dress for Ren. Faire and you don't know where to begin? Or maybe you want to join a guild, but don't know how to get started? Starting your costume for Renaissance Faire will get you noticed for guilds and start you on a path to the Renaissance Faire world. It is also a great way to join in on the fun at your local Faire. Here are some ways to help you find the right garb.

The Basics for Garbing Decisions

When trying to decide on a Renaissance costume, the best place to start is what class you intend to play. This will start building character and direct you to what costume pieces to invest in. Also, styles may vary for the kind of Renaissance Faire you may be attending. Faires now have English themes or Celtic Themes. English faires will have the style of 16th century England. Celtic or Scottish Faires will have Scottish and Irish dress as their garb. Class and the faire you attend can be a good starting point for any garb choice.

It All Comes Down to Class

The two main classes portrayed at Renaissance faires are peasantry and nobles. A peasant is your basic Renaissance costume found at most faires. It does vary on whether playing English/Irish/Scottish by what accessories you may have, but mostly there are some common pieces. I will divide this into the male and female categories.

Female Peasant Costume Pieces:
1) Chemise: The undergarment for the costume. Similar to a nightgown. They come in half size and full size. Half size is like a blouse, while full size is like a long nightgown.
2) Bodice: Similar to a corset but worn on the outside of the chemise. They are often laced and come in different colors and patterns.
3) Skirt: A basic cotton or linen skirt. Can be double layered.
4) Snood: This is a hair net that holds back your hair. Most faires are in the summer, and most US summers are hotter than the British summers. Having your hair up helps keep you cool.
5) Belt: Ren. belts have become specialized and have evolved to hold all your belongings as you walk about faire. Some can clasp, others pull through a loop. You can start with a regular leather belt from a thrift store or your closet to get started.
6) Pouch: A place to carry all those bothersome 21st century items. Pouches can be leather, velvet, or hand-sewn from material. A basket can be used instead of a pouch until you can make or purchase one. Any basket with a material napkin to cover the items can be used.
7) Cup: Faires are thirsty work. Mostly all the Ren. Folk you see drinking and looking merry are drinking water as they perform. The cup is your best hydration protection.
8) Leather flat shoes: good starting faire shoes are flat shoes with sturdy soles. Some costumes could be boots appropriate, such as a pirate. But a good shoe is better than a decorative shoe. You do LOTS of walking at faire.
9) Hat: The common hat for peasants can be a bonnet-like hat, called a muffin hat. Other hats could be cotton floppy hats, or can be more style specific such as pirate or straw. It does come down to what character you wish to play. That will dictate hat choice. Most guilds require a hat, and may specify which to get.

Male Peasant Costume Pieces:
1) Man's Ren. Shirt: Sometimes called a Poet shirt. They come in varying designs. Often of cotton, and have a top, draw string closure.
2) Men's Ren. Pants: Often called knickers. They are a shorter pant that comes to the knee. Gathers with string at waist and knee. These days more modern faires are using elastic at the waist.
3) Belt: To hold all of those belongings. This could later include period weapons, such as a sword. Sword holders to attach to the belt can often be found at the sword vendors' section.
4) Pouch: For holding 21st century items.
5) Cup/Cup holder: Often can be purchased at the same place. The cup can be tied to the belt with string to start out.
6) Leather Boots: a non-descript pair of black or brown boots is best. Doc Martin's or Cowboy boots are too stylistic to be used for faire.

If you feel you want to aspire to be a noble, with the lower class noble being the merchant class, do consider how much is in your pocket book. The Noble Costume is the most eye-catching, and if you seek attention, this is the class that gets it. But Noble costumes do require noble prices. But they are a worthy investment if you enjoy and love faire.

Ladie's Nobles Costume:
1) Chemise: Similar to peasants, but may be of silk with lace on collar and sleeves.
2) Gown: of velvet or silk. Often patterns can be found in fabric stores or can be bought on-line through seamstresses, costuming companies, and Ebay.
3) Pouch: Often matches gown.
4) Belt: Called a girdle, made of chain with jewels. Or some gowns have a hook or ring to tie the pouch on.
5) Hat: Can be of several designs from noble hood with veil, to hunting hat design.
6) Fan: Again faires are hot, esp. in a noble's costume. Fans are necessities.
7) Hoop-Skirt: Many gowns look the best when on a hoop skirt. They were actually called farthengales in the 16th century, which had more hoops and a more oval shape. But modern hoop-skirts get the job done.
8) Shoes: good leather shoes are great. Most people only see the very top front of the shoe.

Men's Nobles Costume:
1) Man's Ren. Shirt, could have lace, and be of silk.
2) Doublet: Often of velvet. Some are made of corduroy.
3) Ren. Pants/Knickers and Hose: Usually matching the doublet.
4) Boots: Again, stay away from cowboy and Doc Martins.
5) Belt/Cup/Pouch
6) Nobles Hat: Anywhere from a velvet floppy hat with large plume to hunters hat.

Where to Find Your Pieces

There are many sources on the internet to get started. Before faire season starts, many people buy first from the internet, then attend faires and add to their costumes with each visit. One of the best places to find garb is Ebay. All kinds of different costumes, the pieces, and accessories are available. Just search for which costume pieces you need. Other resources for costumes include Fabric stores that have the patterns and materials. Many people start out with patterns from period movies. Just keep in mind, so may everyone else, so it might not be as unique.

Another resouce can be costuming retailers. There are may on the web, but I've found  these helpful.

Checking in magazines such as Renaissance Life will also give suggestions on where to buy. But the last best resource is going to a Renaissance Faire and visiting the boothies. They often specialize in Renaissance Garb gear and can have specials when buying several pieces from them.

This is just a starting point for you in your garbing quest. The Renaissance Faire world is more exciting when you can join it in costume. Whether going to visit a Ren. Faire, or starting in a guild, a Renaissance Costume can be an on-going project you add to every faire. Happy Garbing!


thank you that was very helpful

By james smith on August 26, 2009

The original Renaissance Pleasure Faire of Southern California (RPFS) was held in the Spring 1966 at the Paramount Ranch located in Agoura, California, focusing on the practices of old English springtime markets and “Maying” customs. In 1967, the Pattersons created a Fall Renaissance fair, with a harvest festival theme, first at what is now China Camp State Park in San Rafael, California, and in 1971 at the Black Point Forest in Novato, California. Both fairs developed into local traditions and began a movement that spread across the country.

By Robertpaymn on August 24, 2019

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