Do’s and Don’ts for Your First Renaissance Fair Costume

by | Oct 18, 2020 | Costumes and Cloaks, Renaissance Cloaks | 31 comments

Congrats on your first Renaissance Faire! You are in for quite a day. I have a few do’s and don’ts to share about costumes for the special occasion.

Don’t Buy a Chain Store Halloween Costume

DON’T buy a Renaissance Costume of the type sold in stores for Halloween. These costumes are sewn all-in-one and the fabrics don’t look very good. When I say “all-in-one,” I mean the breeches are sewn to the shirt and vest and it’s all one layer.

DON’T go bare headed. To look authentic you need something upon your head. For women, you’ll want a headdress, wreath or bonnet. If you don’t have one, you can always buy one at the fair. For men, headwear includes muffin caps, flat caps, felt hats, and straw hats.

DON’T worry about wearing tights. Most men choose to wear full-length breeches or half-length breeches with socks tucked into simple leather boots. For summer Ren Faires, tights would be uncomfortably warm anyway.

DON’T dress as a pirate!, Trekkie, mermaid, elf, unless its’ that kind of Renaissance Faire. Some California Faires and elsewhere mix fantasy themes. Others stick to a time period like the Elizabethan Era, so check the website.

DO call your costume GARB, to get into the Ren Faire spirit.

DO shop your own wardrobe, or a thrift shop. In a moment, I’ll talk more about what you can probably source from your own wardrobe, a thrift store, or your friends.

DO dress in layers as some Ren Fairs are in hot or cold settings. If you are expecting a hot day, create a layer to keep the sun off, if you think that’ll be a comfort factor for you. Other Ren Faires happen early or late in the year when it may be cold or rainy and requires warm layers

Do wear a cloak if you are attending an early Spring or Fall event or staying into the night. If you are listening to music in the evening, you can sit on the cloak or use it to keep warm. If you are new to cloaks, draping one over your shoulders can make you feel remarkably confident and elegant or even powerful.

DO take mental notes of what you see as inspiration for your next Renaissance Faire costume. Many faire goers get hooked and enjoy sourcing or creating costumes.

Women's Cloak

Raven Fox Capes and Cloaks premium hooded cloak for women with pockets is ideal for LARPing, Ren Faires, and a variety of costuming events. Available in Noir Black, Riding Hood Red, Ranger Green and Space Wizard Brown and two lengths.

BASIC Peasant Renaissance Costume

You could dress as a peasant pretty easily. Here are the items you’ll want to locate either in your closet, the thrift store or from a friend, if you should be so lucky.

For the male person, dress all in drab colors, except as noted otherwise:

Renaissance Writer

Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Irwindale: Shakespearean Writer

  • a white or off-white poet’s shirt
  • A simple vest
  • Breeches or half breeches
  • Simple boots & belt
  • You’ll want a muffin top or other kind of cap
  • you can add a drinking horn as well

    Note: the muffin top or other cap and the drinking horn can be bought at the Ren Faire as a souvenir.

For the female person, a very similar Renaissance Costume:

Renaissance Faire

Woman’s Peasant Costume, Colorado Renaissance Festival

  • A white or off-white blouse or poet’s shirt
  • A bodice or a vest that can be made into a bodice (avoid bright colors as these are for royalty)
  • Long skirt or two long skirts for layering or a floor length dress.
  • Simple flat leather shoes or sandals
  • Low Necklines: You can change the neckline of your blouse, if you wish by following these instructions.

    Lay it flat, draw a cut line, cut and then stitch with a matching thread or brown thread. If you’ve looked any Renaissance Faire pics or Renaissance art, you know many women wore a low neckline that showed a lot of cleavage! Is that why people go to Renaissance Faires?

    You can create a similar neckline for the vest or overblouse. You want to give the vest a somewhat lower neckline than the blouse, as shown in the picture of the white blouse and purple vest above.

Renaissance Faire Bag Piper

Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Irwindale: Bag pipe player on the main road, playing for tips.

Ideas for Other Renaissance Faire Costumes

Perhaps you don’t want to go as a basic peasant.

Or maybe this isn’t your first Renaissance Faire. Or perhaps you’re attending with people who go all the time or you want to impress a certain someone.

Whatever the reason, here are some ideas for creating more unique Renaissance Faire costumes.

  1. Choose the time period: The majority of Ren Faire’s are set in Elizabethan England. However, the one you will attend might be somewhat different, so visit the event website to be sure. Here’s a list of California Renaissance Faires that we update several times a year.
  2. Choose a social class: The options include royalty and nobility, the middle class, and the lower class or peasants.
  3. Add a nationality, if you wish. While most Ren Faires choose to recreate Elizabethan England, the Renaissance epoch occupied all of Europe. You could be French, Italian, Spanish, or another nationality.
  4. Choose a profession: There also trades or professions to consider from cleric to blacksmith to baker!
Larping cloak

Raven Fox premium ranger green men’s hooded cloak with pockets is ideal for LARPing, Ren Faires, and a variety of costuming events. Available in Noir Black, Riding Hood Red, Ranger Green and Space Wizard Brown and two lengths.

Renaissance Faire Costumes List

Here’s a list of some of the kinds of characters you might come across at a Ren Fair to get your costuming ideas flowing. This list was borrowed and shortened with permission from a list of medieval characters created by Holle Abee.

Female

Queen
Tavern Wench
Sorceress
Fortune Teller
Elf
Fairy
Juliet
Lady
Huntress
Scot
Princess
Mother Goose
Mother Nature
Irish Lass
Rapunzel
Snow White
Flower Seller
Shepherdess
Red Riding Hood
Scullery Maid
Queen Elizabeth
Angel

Male

King
Tavern Keeper
Wizard
Court Jester
Elf
Muskateer
Romeo
Nobleman
Robin Hood
Highlander
Prince
Shakespeare
Druid
Irish Lad
Priest
Squire
Farmer
Shepherd
Cardinal
Cook
Henry VIII
Knight

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31 Comments

  1. Should I buy tickets in advance?

    Reply
  2. I am absolutely going as either Star Trek or an elf. If the blogger hadn’t seem so incredibly biased and might have considered otherwise. 🖖

    Reply
    • This is such a prudent and uptight article. These kind of people are actually the worst. Not everyone has money for expensive costumes, and not everyone goes to Ren to dress 100% accurate. Let your hair down, dress as a dragon. It’s all for fun, and no one is going to come up to you with an article checklist like this. Don’t let this stress you out.

      Reply
      • THANK YOU! We just went to the Minnesota Renn Fest – hadn’t been there in years since we moved to Colorado. It used to be like stepping back in time with people in costumes of the era. It was utterly charming, wholesome fun. This time it was SO different …. filled with goth, steampunk, vulgarity. It had a dark dark energy. We won’t be back.

        Reply
  3. Can u bring a dog

    Reply
    • Depends on the faire. Call and adk them.
      I am a 44 yr veteran of yhe faire circuit.

      Reply
  4. Have a question – We attended a Renn Faire Locally (Iowa) there was a beautiful fox in military garb & a tiger also dressed in finery – what is the symbolism of these two characters, please? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Those types of characters are usually just a fantasy beastie

      Reply
  5. DO go to the faire in whatever grade of costume YOU can afford and don’t worry about what other people think.
    And, unless there is a rule against pirate costumes, and you want to wear them, that is perfectly fine.
    More importantly, you don’t have to wear a costume! You can go and take in all the costumes around you.
    MOST importantly, have fun!

    Reply
    • Thank you! Best advice thus far!🙂

      Reply
    • I agree, and I’ve never seen anyone turned away for not wearing an authentic costume. I went as a peasant one year, didn’t dress up other years and am going as a pirate this year. Some of the players in this faire dress as pirates.

      Reply
    • Thank you, Laurie. I totally agree. Don’t feel you have to break the bank to get a costume. You could get/buy/thrift a piece a year to build a costume over time.

      Also, if you want to wear a non-renaissance costume, that’s common at a lot of fairs. Please check the website to get an idea of the costumes at the faire you are going to attend.

      Reply
  6. Heading to PA this Fall. Theme is Oktoberfest. What is the best way to search for German inspired wear.

    Reply
    • Hi Amy,
      Thanks for adding a shout out for Oktoberfest in PA. Have a great time!

      Reply
  7. I see plenty of people dressed as pirates at every Ren faire I’ve attended. I don’t think it’s an issue…

    Reply
    • A lot of Ren Fairs do mix genres! But nevertheless, I recommend people check the website to see if your Ren Fair is traditional or more of a fantasy faire.

      Reply
  8. Great info for Ren Faire newbies! Ladies should carry their must-haves in a basket for peasants or cloth bag. Belts are very impressive so you can hang your purse, tankard, etc. I love thrifting to find things that work. Gypsies are very easy to do. Women can also wear straw hats. I’m always amazed at how alot of the clothing we wear today are appropriate for Faire! Especially the boho and hippy style. Go and engage all of your senses 😊

    Reply
    • Hey Maggie, These are great ideas. I totally agree, you can shop your closet first and the local thrift store for costuming pieces. We just added belts, including a two pouch belt to our site. It is an accessory that greatly increases the historical look of your costume.

      Reply
  9. I am going to one this year and bought a bright white chemise…a dark truffle brown long bodice dress type thing that goes over it and a beautiful deer antler flower crown. What could my character be? Can I be a druid? lol

    Reply
    • I feel like the chemise and bodice are totally peasant…what type of character would wear a deer antler flower crown though?

      Reply
  10. Do you have to dress up?

    Reply
    • Hi Jeff,
      1) The general answer is no, you don’t have to have a costume. All Renaissance Fairs know some attendees will come in regular clothes. 2) Many people have more fun when in costume. If that isn’t you, don’t sweat it. Go and have a good time. 3) I do recommend looking at the website and photos of the Renaissance event you are attending as there are differences from fair to fair. For example, some fairs are in warm areas where a hat and light clothing is a good idea. Some fairs are very traditional and people mostly adhere to the Renaissance era. Others are anything goes costume-wise, and include mermaids, fairies and Trekkies and much more!

      Reply
  11. Cool tips! I want to go to Renaissance Faire in Irwindale this year!

    Reply
    • Hi Scott, I hope you get to go! Send us a picture if you do.
      Best, Karen, Raven Fox Capes and Cloaks

      Reply
  12. I have a inflatable dinasour outsit
    Can i wear it to wizard wk. End.

    Reply
    • Check the Wizard Weekend website. Is this occasion strictly for serious wizards or is more of a playful, anything goes kinda day? Ren Faires and similar events vary a lot, so look at the website.

      Reply
  13. What a great and informative article for those who are new to the Renaissance Faire circuit! Your boiled it down and made it simple for people who have no clue where to start! Love the pictures from CRF, those guys and gals are the best!

    Reply
    • Hi Nicole, So glad you found it informative or think it will help newbies. It’s extra fun to go in costume and be part of the scene.

      Reply
  14. What kind of shoes are acceptable for Renaissance theme engagement party during the 1950

    Reply
    • Hi Denise,

      You are asking about shoes for a Renaissance themed engagement party. The 1950’s part is throwing me off, please explain that if you could.

      To answer the question: For men, usually a boot that buttons or laces closed. For women, a slip-on slipper or short heeled shoe. If you have something leather and plain, it might work. Or look at Renaissance footwear for purchase on Etsy.com.

      Reply
      • Just attended Pittsburgh Renaissance festival.
        Plenty of pirate costumes even though it was Celtic week end.
        The costumes don’t matter having fun is what’s important. Plus pirates were around during the Renaissance?

        Reply

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