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Dressing in Costume for Renaissance Faire

By Kate Maloney

The Renaissance period spanned the years 1400 to 1600. During this time, people were developing a new awareness of the world of art and music, and these new interests had an impact on virtually every area of their lives. Instead of following ancient feudal systems based on chivalrous and romantic ideas, people expanded their ways of thinking and embraced new and daring ideas. Nowadays, attending a Renaissance faire can be both educational and entertaining. These events often span a number of days, and they include vendors selling culinary fare of the age as well as entertainment of the era. People often dress up as knights, lords, serfs, wenches, rogues, and even court jesters to attend a Renaissance faire. Learning about the period and the characters of the Renaissance can help you plan costumes that reflect the age accurately.

Key Figures of the Renaissance
As you explore different costumes you could choose for a Renaissance faire, learn about important figures of this era to understand the cultural influences that were present.

Renaissance Faire: What to Wear? (PDF)
What people wore during this area depended a lot on what they were doing, as even the nobility might wear less ornate clothing if they weren't doing anything special that day.

What Did the Renaissance Man Wear?
Pictures of an upwardly-mobile German man in the 1500s have helped historians learn about men's fashion during this time.

Leonardo da Vinci (PDF)
The Renaissance impacted not only art but also science and religion, as people pursued a broad expanse of intellectual achievements and studies.

Gender Roles of Women in the Renaissance
Learn how women lived during this era to more accurately portray one yourself.

Costume Guide: Bristol Renaissance Faire
Choosing a Renaissance costume offers plentiful options. The peasant class dressed simply, while middle-class people added embellishments and jewel-tone fabrics to their outfits. If you decide to attend a Renaissance faire as a peasant, you won't be able to wear bright colors like purple or other jewel tones. Focus your garb on earth tones such as brown, green, rust, and gold.

How to Dress for a Renaissance Faire
You might decide to go to an event dressed as a famous person of the age, such as Michelangelo, Donatello, Galileo, or Queen Elizabeth I.

Choosing a Name and Creating a Persona
This guide for people joining the Society for Creative Anachronism provides useful tips on how to create and portray a character from the past, like one you might find at a Renaissance faire.

Renaissance Faire Survival Guide
If it is hot at the faire, choose a costume made out of natural fibers so you won't overheat. The multiple layers of fancy costumes can be very uncomfortable in hot weather.

Print fabrics didn't exist during the Renaissance, so make sure you don't dress up in fabrics with prints or designs. Accessorizing your costume will give it more authenticity, so add a leather pouch to a peasant's costume or a feathered hat if you're dressing as nobility.

Renaissance Faire 101: The What Not to Wear Episode
Renting a costume is a simple way to choose exactly the garb you want, from peasant to knight to wench to even a court jester.

Renaissance Faire Event Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Travel Back in Time
Brush up on your Tudor-era English before you attend a Renaissance faire so you can really get into character. Sprinkle words such as "aye," "nay," "hark," "alas," "thee," and "thou" into your speech to participate in the era.

A Quick and Easy Guide to Dressing for the Maryland Renaissance Festival
A simple wench costume might include two gathered skirts in different colors, one tucked under the other to show both colors. A loose blouse with gathers at the neck and dropped sleeves is ideal, and add a laced bodice to complete the look.

A man's peasant costume could be as simple as black sweat pants, a cream-colored long-sleeved cotton shirt, a thick leather belt, tall boots, and a pouch hanging from the belt.

Fooling Around the World: The History of the Jester
Jester costumes are often some of the most colorful at the faire, but where did these foolish characters come from? Learn more about them before trying to play one yourself.

Renaissance Study Guide (PDF)
Learn about the people and culture of this era, then make your own Renaissance-era jewelry out of gold or silver wire, twisting and bending it into necklaces, bracelets, or rings. You can also make a henin for a lady's costume. A henin is a cone hat with fabric streamers attached at the point.

Costuming for the Lower and Middle Classes (PDF)
Most people of the Renaissance era were peasants, with only a few of noble class. When men met on the streets, they would pat each other on the back, which was a furtive way of making sure weapons were not hidden under clothing. Adhering to common colors, fabrics, and accessories of the era makes costumes more consistent and accurate. Clothing reflected the station of the person.

Staying in Character
If you want to speak in the King's English while attending a faire, look for ways to make your sentences more flowery. Avoid using contractions, and don't use modern slang.

Easy Costumes
Don't ruin your entire costume by choosing a pair of athletic shoes for your feet. To keep up the entire appearance, men might choose boots and women could wear a pair of sandals or ballet flats.

What Basic Outfit to Wear at a Renaissance Festival
Noble and merchant class ladies of the Renaissance wore colors such as plum, blue, and red because they could afford to have their fabrics dyed. A costume for this class might be made of silk, velvet, brocade, or taffeta.

Renaissance Women's Clothing
Artwork from the period helps us learn how women dressed during the Renaissance.

How to Dress for the Faire
A peasant blouse or poet's shirt with a long peasant skirt would be ideal for a woman's costume. Linen would be an authentic fabric.

Do's and Don'ts of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival
Dive into the ambiance of the era when you attend a Renaissance faire.

Public and Participant Costume Guidelines
Kids of this era dressed the same as adults, so get your kids into the spirit of the Renaissance, too.

What Is This Faire Thing? (PDF)
Adopting basic faire speech can be a fun part of going to a Renaissance faire. Speak clearly and distinctly, saying your words slowly to sound authentic.

Renaissance Clothing and Sumptuary Laws
How people dressed during this era depended on things like their income, their daily duties, and even laws in place at the time.

Renaissance Fashion: The Birth of Power Dressing
Even in the Renaissance, fashion sometimes trumped function, especially for the upper classes.