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How to Choose a Costume for a Renaissance Festival
Renaissance faires are a fan favorite among people from all walks of life—even people who may not care much for history still enjoy renaissance faires and actively take part in them!
If you're new to these events and don't know what to wear, this guide will help you. Even if you're a seasoned renaissance-faire-going individual! You'd be surprised at how many people attend these festivals dressed according to incorrect time periods or the number of people who don't dress up because they don't know what to wear.
First, Pick a Persona
The renaissance festival is all about being someone that you're not, so who are you going to be? Will you be a person of royalty, perhaps a mighty king? What about a normal peasant? There are quite a few personas to choose from, as you can be an artist, churchman, pirate, knight, and more.
Your persona will directly affect the style of clothing that you should wear -- peasants didn't get to wear elaborate dresses of purple, did they?
If you can't come up with a persona of your own, opt to be someone from the renaissance time period! There are tons of well-known individuals that you can model your style and dress after. This is a surefire way to make sure you're not out of dress code at the faire and are always in character!
Famous People From the Renaissance Period
- Queen Elizabeth I
- Francis Bacon
- Isaac Newton
Making Your Outfit
If you decide to make your own outfit at home, great! Lots of people (if not most of them) choose to go this route and have a blast getting together with friends to cut, sew, and piece together their costumes.
Bodices, corsets, frilly and puffy long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, baggy cotton pants, floor-length dresses, and boots are clothing pieces that you'll be seeing the most at renaissance faires, and there are lots of different fun variations of each!
For those who are going with a lower-class persona (such as peasants), basic linen and wool will make up most, if not all, of your costume. Peasants didn't have much of a luxury wearing jewelry or fine items either, so try to remember that.
If you'll be taking on the character of a middle-to-higher class or lesser nobility, then you'll get to accessorize a bit with jewelry and similar items. You will also get to use higher quality fabrics, though it's unlikely you'll want to tear apart any of your good fabrics for this.
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For royalty, velvet and velour are great fabrics that announce just how rich and royal you are (well, if you were in the 15th to 17th century, anyway). Be sure to use royal and rare colors of the time, such as purple, blue, and red.
If you don't have the time or ability to make your own renaissance outfit, there's always the option of purchasing a ready-made costume. There are many to choose from, and in a lot of cases, they're a much better choice than what you could make at home. (Take a suit of armor for example—have fun making that!)
However, if you can make the outfit at home but need a few extra touches to make it unique, consider looking for handmade items on websites such as eBay or Etsy. You can find lots of great little things to accessorize your costume with, making you seem just that much more real!
What Not to Wear
If you show up dressed out of context, you may come in contact with some unfriendly renaissance faire goers who take it very seriously. You can minimize the chances of this happening by following these rules:
- Make sure that you don't wear a watch or any type of wristwear that doesn't belong in the 15th to 17th century.
- Don't spend a lot of time on your phone, and keep it concealed!
- Try not to wear shoes such as sneakers or flip-flops. If you can, find simple leather or fabric shoes or boots. You can usually find them for sale at the actual faire, but they'll be pricey.
- Absolutely, no fairy or vampire costumes!
- How to Talk at a Renaissance Faire
Learn some phrases and words to use at a renaissance festival.
- A Complete Guide To The Renaissance Faire
A guide to renaissance faire costumes, food, tips, and other information.
pickled lemon on September 07, 2017:
Unless you want to be historically accurate, I believe going as a fairy is definitely acceptable. The ren festival I went to had many fairies. Other than that, this guide was pretty helpful
Riona on August 04, 2017:
The renfaire I'm going to has fairy activities advertised on the website. So the no fairy costume thing is incorrect. I guess a person would just have to look at the event itself to decide whether fairy is acceptable? Everything has a website now so that makes it easier.
Kay B (author) from Tampa, FL on June 13, 2012:
I wouldn't say inappropriate since lots of people attend them dressed normally, but some people who are really into it may look at you as if you're a time traveler :P
Nicole Quaste from Philadelphia, PA on June 13, 2012:
I've never been to a Renaissance Fair, so I was surprised to find this hub. I have really wanted to go, and I live in Lancaster, PA so the Renaissance Fair is very popular. Is it considered inappropriate to not dress up for the fair?