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 it’s that kind of Renaissance Faire. Just kidding, people! Times have changed. The Renaissance Faire near you may have a pirate or fantasy weekend. Other Renaissance Festivals 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 require warm layers.
Do wear a cloak if you are attending an early Spring or Fall event. If you are listening to music in the evening, you can sit on the cloak or use it to keep warm. Cloaks are so flowy and swooshy. If you are new to cloaks, draping one over your shoulders can make you feel remarkably confident, 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.
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 a male person, dress all in drab colors, except as noted otherwise:
- a white or off-white poet’s shirt
- A simple vest
- Pants or breeches (end just below the knee)
- Simple boots or shoes & Renaissance 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:
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Choose a social class: The options include royalty and nobility, the middle class, and the lower class or peasants.
- 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.
- Choose a profession: There are also trades or professions to consider from cleric to blacksmith to baker!
Renaissance Faire Costumes List
Here’s a list of some of the kinds of characters you will come across at a Ren Fair to get your costuming ideas flowing! This list is by writer Holle Abee.