How to Make a Woman's Renaissance Festival Costume

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Renaissance festivals and fairs are popular all over the world, and if you ask anyone who's ever attended one, they'll tell you that it's a lot more fun if you're in costume. Despite what you may have heard, you don't have to spend a lot of money to dress up in Renaissance garb. It's inexpensive and pretty easy, although some basic sewing skills help, they're not required. You can often find costume pieces at thrift stores, if you take the time to look. Here are some ideas on putting together the perfect woman's Renaissance festival costume.

Things You'll Need

  • Fabric in earth tones and natural colors
  • Leather or ribbons
  • Grommets
  • Boots, hats, and other accessories
  • You'll need a long skirt. Obviously, women of the Renaissance and medieval periods didn’t run around in jeans, shorts, or miniskirts. Skirts should be loose and flowing, and come down below the knees. Ankle-length is even better, although it might take some practice to walk in a skirt that long, you don't want to trip over your own clothes climbing in and out of a Renaissance lavatory. Multiple skirts worn on top of one another gives a nice full look, and you can kilt up the overskirt to show the ones underneath. To sew your own skirt, get a length of fabric that is the length of your hip to ankle on one side, and twice the length of your waist on the long side. Sew the short ends together and then sew a fold over at the top on the long end. Run a piece of elastic that will fit your waist through the fold. Sew the ends of the elastic together, stitch the channel shut, and you've got an instant elastic-waist skirt.

  • Wear a peasant blouse. Full, flowing sleeves, low necklines, and drawstrings are appropriate here. You can often find a peasant blouse in thrift stores, or you may already have one in your closet. Add a bodice on top of the blouse. Bodices should be snug-fitting and lace up at the front. You can either make a fancier, more authentic bodice with stays and darts, or you can convert a vest into a simple bodice. To do this, cut the front of the vest so that the top edge sits just below the chest. Remove any buttons on the vest front, and replace with grommets on each side. Use a ribbon or leather thong to lace up the front.

  • Wear a cloak or cape if the weather is cool. Not only will a cloak keep you warm, it also doubles nicely as a picnic blanket if you want to take a break during your Renaissance festival adventure. Cloaks are very easy to make, and you don't even have to sew. Measure the distance from the bottom of your neck to your ankles. Cut a piece of fabric in that length. Keep the fabric wide at one end, and taper gently up to the opposite side, so that the narrow end is slightly wider than your shoulders. Attach a ribbon to either end, and use it to tie the cloak around your neck, or sew on a frog closure or brooch.

  • Remember your Renaissance accessories. Women in the Elizabethan times didn’t wear sneakers or pumps. Simple leather boots with a low heel are the best thing to wear, especially since you'll probably be walking a lot at the Renaissance festival. Natural colored sandals or hemp shoes will work as well. If you need to carry a bag of some sort, leave your fancy purse at home. Sew together a simple drawstring bag, or carry a leather pouch around your waist. Wide-brimmed straw hats are appropriate. They not only look good but will protect you from the sun.

  • When you're making your Renaissance festival costume, choose natural-looking materials over synthetic ones. Plain muslins, earth tones, and floral patterns all work well. Plan in advance, and you'll have a great time at the Renaissance fair dressed up in your costume.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have time and some sewing skill, put together a muslin underdress to wear beneath your skirt. It will help keep you cool, and it looks pretty.
  • Although you can often purchase Renaissance festival garb at the fairs, they're typically very expensive and can set you back a couple of hundred dollars. Planning ahead and wearing your own costume will save you a lot of money.

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