I’ve written a popular post about Your First Renaissance Faire Costume but there is so much more to say about Renaissance Faire outfits.
We’ll be talking about 10 different clothing and accessory items: dresses, blouses, skirts, vests, bodices, and hooded women’s cloaks, as well as renaissance belts, shoes, boots, hats, wreaths, jewelry, skirt hikes (I’ll explain), and swords. And we’ll definitely talk about things that hang off of belts!
A huge slice of the fun of Ren Faires is styling your Renaissance Faire outfit! I also plan to write a similar post about Men’s Renaissance Faire Costumes, so stay tuned for that in the near future.
I follow several engaging Instagram accounts about dressing for Renaissance Faires, Cottagecore, Hobbitcore, Knightcore, and more. The Renaissance Faire outfits I’m talking about are FUN, Renaissancey, and affordable. They aren’t authentic per se.
Did I say they are fun? Yup, I guarantee you’ll feel fun. Costuming can be an amazing source of pleasure and diversion. But you probably agree with me, as that’s why you are here.
1. Renaissancey Dresses
Many women start their costume off with a dress…you probably guessed this but I want to start from the beginning! If you want to be more historically accurate, you’ll want a white or cream colored chemise which is a simple dress with an attractive neckline worn under the bodice and dress. You can an elegant chemise or bodice at a Renaissance Faire or on Etsy with our friends at OliveLaneAtelierShop.
However, its also popular for women to choose contemporary dresses that are flowy or boho in style…These kinds of boho dresses can be found in your closet, your friend’s closet, or your thrift store.
Often they’ll add a skirt under the dress or skirt. Two skirts…why?! Well, because they’re going to add a skirt hike on the belt…which lets the under skirt be seen and adds a lot of texture or intrigue. Maybe I’m getting too complicated, too fast. More on this later. I’m going to talk about the blouse now.
YouTube Video Credit: Dress Me Up Scotty; Scroll to 3.5 minutes for Plus Size Dress Suggestions; and 13.5 minutes to see the feminine Renaissance dress styling ideas. And please give Dress Me Up Scotty a follow on YouTube…you’ll be glad you did.
2. Renaissance Blouse or Dress Top with Flowy or Blousy Sleeves
In my humble opinion, its’ the blousy or flowy sleeves on the dress or top that is going to make this Ren Faire outfit look Renaissancey. So focus on that.
Look for a top that has an open neckline (or you can cut an open neckline) and big flowy, blousy sleeves! Often these tops are white or cream, but really it can be a bright top like coral, orange, light green, blue or purple OR it can be a dark color like black, dark blue, crimson red, or rich purple. It all depends on your color preference.
3. Vest, Bodice, as well as Bodice-like
Nearly all the Renaissance Faire outfits I’ve admired have a vest or a bodice and this is one of key elements to get that Renaissancey look. Again, perhaps you have a vest, or you may be able to source one from a friend, or a thrift shop. Oh, and there will be vests and bodice’s for sale at the Ren Faire, so perhaps you can make this your first souvenir. You can also look at sites like Poshmark, and Thredup for dresses, blouses, vests (use the terms boho, milkmaid, or peasant in your search. I’d also look at poet’s shirt.)
About the bodice. Sadly, you aren’t likely to find a bodice in a thrift shop, as they aren’t that common and people hold on to them. It’s not impossible, but its’ not very likely.
Get this though — you can create a bodice-like look with a a tank top and some ribbon. (See this idea at the beginning of the video above.) So pick a tank color that contrasts with your dress or top. Simply place the tank over the dress, tuck it into the skirt or fold it over…you want it to end around your waist. Then tie a little ribbon on the straps to mimic a bodice. It you have a belt you’ll place that around your waist to conceal the end of the tank top.
Last note, you want the tank or vest or bodice to contrast with the dress or blouse and skirt. Contrast really makes for an eye-catching Renaissance outfit. For example, Pink and black, Rose and blue, Green and Coral, Purple and Charcoal or Gold. You’ll see many examples of contrast in Renaissance outfits if you watch the video above.
4. Boots and Shoes
Boots are one of my favorite wardrobe items. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think many people just love how a pair of boots makes them feel confident and transforms their outfit. They just elevate an outfit sooo much.
Most any boot will work well with your Ren Faire outfit. You’ll see Doc Martin’s and punk looking boots in some of our photoshoots, for example. If you don’t own boots, any simple, plain shoe should work. I recently added a post about Renaissance Faire costume accessories that delves more into authentic Renaissance hats, belts, shoes and more.
[Word of warning, you’ll be walking a lot at the Renaissance Festival so be sure to wear comfortable foot gear. If you aren’t sure about the comfort level of your shoes, put a back up pair in the car. Last, don’t wear new shoes…be sure to break in your shoes or boots ahead of time.]
5. Belts and Skirt Hikes
I see belts in the less-essential-but-cool-to-have category for your Ren Faire outfit. And you might not know that people hang a lot of stuff off their belts such as pouches, tankards, horn drinking cups, and skirt hikes (I’ll get to those soon.). Don’t worry about getting in on this at first. These are items you can buy as souvenirs at the Renaissance Fair itself. On our site, (this site) we do carry both vegan belts with double pouches as well as real leather Renaissance style belts.
So what’s a skirt hike? A skirt hike, skirt lifter, or skirt garter, helps you to hike up your skirt and show off the lower one. During the Renaissance Era, women’s clothing typically consisted of layers including a chemise (a loose undergarment), a corset or bodice, and a skirt. Skirt hikes lifted the skirts for dancing or walking and preventing them from dragging on the ground.
Many of the skirt hikes I’ve seen are leather and incorporated into a leather belt. You can see the skirt hike on the belt below, though it isn’t being used. However, they don’t have to be leather.
To use the skirt hike, you pull up some fabric from the bottom of the top skirt and pull it through a ring. Then pull it tight. Some Renaissance belts come with skirt hikes or if you have a belt, you can buy a skirt hike on its own. Shirt hikes are available from Etsy makers and at your local Renaissance Faire.
6. Women’s Cloaks
Our company, Raven Fox Capes and Cloaks, sells a lot of high quality cloaks to people going to Renaissance Faires all around the country. The mid-weight women’s cloaks we sell are ideal for Spring, Fall, or Summer Evenings. If its’ hot you can also use the cloak to keep sun off your arms and décolletage.
You can also use a hooded velvet cloak as protection from wind or cold…and still show off your Renaissance costume. On summer evenings, you can use it for eating outdoors or listening to music. You can even sit on it. It’s certainly a great accessory to have, though I’m very partial.
Additional Renaissance Faire Outfit Items:
7. Renaissance Hats and Flower Head Crowns or Wreaths
Most Renaissance Festivals take place during Elizabethan times. At that time in history, everyone over the age of thirteen by law had to wear a hat in public. These hats kept off the sun, but also signified class and rank.
The fashionable wore high crown hats with brims. Women of fashion favored a snood to cover their hair. Additionally, there were multiple kinds of hats and coverings for middle class and peasant class women such as a turban-like head wrap, small caps, and more. Wide brimmed straw hats were also very popular, a trend that started with English women. I’ve shared more about hats, belts, shoes, in a post called Renaissance Faire Costume Accessories, which talks about what hats, belts, and shoes looked like in the Renaissance Era.
And this is a sweet festival tradition! Young girls wore flower garlands. Floral head crowns and other headgear are sold at Ren Faires; and, you can also make a floral head wreath at home. You’ll need some wire, floral tape and either live or artificial flowers. You’ll find instructions online.
Hats can be handy to keep the sun off as many Ren Faires can be sunny and hot. I have a liking for large felt hats, but muffin hats, or floppy hats are also options.
8. Renaissance Jewelry
Jewelry was definitely a part of Renaissance fashion! Jewelry another way that Renaissance people showcased their wealth and social status. Other Renaissance costumes, such as a noble woman might have a large jeweled necklace. For example, the noble woman in this photo has a pearl choker with a large jeweled cross. And the bodice of her dress is adorned with embroidery and jewels.
People wore necklaces featuring pendants, cameos, or gemstones. Pearls, coral, and semi-precious stones were commonly used. Designs ranged from delicate chains to more intricate pieces with multiple strands. Earrings included hoops, drops, and dangles with pearls, gemstones, or intricate metalwork. Rings were worn on various fingers, including multiple rings on one hand. Gemstone rings, signet rings, and intricate metalwork were common.
Brooches and pins were decorative and used to secure clothing and capes, and they could also serve as decorative pieces. Bracelets and armlets were worn on the wrist and upper arm. They could be simple metal bands or more elaborate pieces with gemstones and intricate detailing. Renaissance hairstyles were also often adorned with jewels and accessories. Hairpins, combs, and tiaras embellished with pearls, gemstones, and enamel were commonly worn. Lastly, chains with medallions or pendants were worn around the neck or as part of a belt. These could feature religious symbols, personal emblems, or family crests.
9. Swords and Daggers
Since Renaissance Faires are family-friendly events, safety is essential.
SOME Ren Faires allow play or fake weapons. You’ll want to check the website of the Faire you plan to attend. Weapons sold at faires typically are authentic looking but designed for costumes. Want to read more about the types of swords and dagger that were popular in the Renaissance, visit our post Renaissance Faire Costume Accessories.
In any case, a fake sword or dagger is definitely a fun accessory and you can hang from your belt for rakish look.
10. Horn Drinking Cup or Tankard
More practical and fun things to add to your belt! Traditionally, horn drinking cups and tankards were used for ale or mead but you can drink whatever favorite beverage you’ll like. You’ll want to buy a souvenir at the fair, so perhaps an artisan-made horn drinking cup or tankard will tickle your fancy.
Horn drinking cup are made from cattle, sheep, or goat horns. The horns are cleaned, polished, and treated so they can hold liquids. You can buy a rustic looking drinking horn or one with intricate carvings, engravings, or metal accents in different sizes and with a leather strap to attach it to a belt.
Tankards are crafted from wood, metal (like pewtar) or ceramic. Most have a handle and sometimes a lid. Tankards often feature ornate designs and engravings. These decorations can depict scenes from mythology, chivalry, heraldry, history, nature, or everyday life during the Renaissance. They definitely make a great conversation piece.
Have More Renaissance Faire Outfit Ideas?! Please Add Them in the Comments.
Ren Faire fans, if you attend many renaissance festivals, please share your knowledge.