William Shakespeare, famous playwright and poet, lived from 1564 to 1616. He was the most prominent author during the European Renaissance and was a favorite of England’s Queen Elizabeth I. Dressing up as Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth or anyone else from Elizabethan times is fun at Halloween and at Renaissance fairs. However, buying authentic period garb can be costly. It is possible to make homemade versions of some Shakespearean clothing.
Homemade Shakespeare Costumes
Purchase a large piece of felt in your favorite color (to determine the length, measure from your shoulders to your knee and then double that length); fold it in half. At the fold, cut out an opening for your head and neck.
Put on a plain nightshirt or an oversized plain white shirt. Then put on the felt tunic you just made and secure with a wide leather belt. Tie on a silver-colored cup. Put on some appropriate-sized tights, thermal underwear or plain, loose-fitting, natural-colored sweatpants. Wear leather boots. You may want to use a plain black wrap or blanket as a cape.
For a hat, either buy an appropriate medieval hat from a costume shop or buy some felt in the color of your choice. Cut out two large circles of the same size. Cut out a hole in the center of one circle that is large enough for your head. Sew the two circles together around the outside edges, gathering the stitches together to make a loose sack. For a headband, you may wish to cut a band of felt the length of your head circumference and sew it around the edges of the small circle.
Buy a plain long winter evening dress, a small white tablecloth (or short plain white curtain) and a plain white or lacy handkerchief from a second-hand store. Place the handkerchief over your forehead and lay the tablecloth or curtain on top of your head like a veil. Wear comfortable boots, ballet slippers or ballet flats, depending on the occasion. Carry an elegant fan.
For an alternative headdress, roll a piece of poster board into a cone shape, adjusting the size to fit your head.
Follow the same directions used for the men's costume. Or, take a plain, dark-colored pillowcase that will cover the child’s torso. Measure and cut a head and neck opening at the closed narrow end. Cut apart the long sides and slip it over the child’s head as a tunic. Secure with a belt. Wear close-fitting sweatpants or tights and high, plain leather boots.
Girls may use a long plain nightgown or party dress. Follow the same directions used for the women’s costume. Many stores sell “princess” dresses and accessories that make for inexpensive Shakespearean garb.
Many Renaissance fairs and other venues prohibit weaponry. Check before bringing swords, knives or other weapons, even wooden or toy models.
Make sure each piece of clothing is made of nonflammable material in a size that allows you to walk safely.