Renaissance Faire Costume Guide

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The information on this page was taken from the original 1993 LHC handouts to people wishing to work at RPFN/S. If you're interested only in making a costume to suit yourself, then feel free to ignore some of the more draconian requirements and make a costume which makes you happy!

Suggested references: Patterns of Fashion: c1560-1620 by Janet Arnold. Elizabethan Costuming by Janet Winter. Authentic Everyday Dress of the Renaissance by Christopher Weiditz. Vecellio's Renaissance Costume Book by Cesare, Vecellio. Medieval Costume in England and France : The 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries by Mary G. Houston. Out-of-print English Costuming in the Age of Elizabeth by Iris Brooke. Out-of-print Elizabethan Costuming by Janet Winter. Out-of-print Rural Costume: Western Europe by Alma Oaks.

Colors

Use earthtones, browns, greens, golds, rusts, and variations there-of. Do not use flourescents, bright reds, blacks, pastels, or bright or modern looking colors. Purple is reserved for the Queen herself and pure white is an upperclass color. Purple was extracted from crushed snails and crimson from crushed beetles. (In reality, shades of purple can be extracted from many sorts of berries. The interdiction on purple was a theatrical choice by RPFI.)

Fabrics

Use 100% natural fabrics or blends with a small amount of polyester. Best looks are from: wool, woven cottons, raw silk, textured natural fabrics, leather, and linen. Different textured fabrics will give you the look of functional clothing and not a costume. Don't even think about using prints, velour, sheers, gingham, seersucker, etc. Velvets, satins, and brocades are not appropriate for peasants. Corduroy did exist but it was coarse and expensive (it would start as velvet and have the lines individually cut).

Men's Clothing

Shirts, Jerkins, and Doublets Shirts should be long sleeved and full bodied. Drawstrings, high collars, drop collars, and no collared shirts are appropriate. A jerkin is a loose fitting vest, generally sleeveless. A doublet is a tight fitting vest, sometimes with detachable sleeves.
Breeches Pants should be full with lots of volume, not form fitting. Length can be thigh-high, above the knee, or below the knee. Ankle length pants are inappropriate. No zippers or pockets. Wear hose or woolen socks if your legs aren't covered. Only scotts and irish show bare legs!
Accessories Make your character more visually interesting by adding some indication of what you do for a living. You should at least have a belt and a purse/pouch. Woe be unto thee shouldst the keg burst and thou be without cup.

Women's Clothing

Chemise/Shift A chemise is essentially a nightshirt, cut much like a man's shirt at the top. Use a long shirt in a pinch. Never wear your shift off the shoulders. (Unless you're a doxy.)
Bodice A bodice is a fitted vest-like garment (which later evolved into the corset). For the home-seamstress this will be the most challenging item.
Skirts Skirts must be full and worn just below the ankle. Wear two skirts and tuck up the overskirt for the proper silhouette. Skirts should be monochrome: no prints, ruffles, tiers, parti-color.

Children's Clothing

Until about age three children wore a biggin's hat and a shift. Children older than three dressed just like adults.

Hats and Hair

Everyone wears hats except the Irish and the Scots. Proper hats include the muffin cap, biggins, flat caps, felt, and straw hats. Women wore hair pinned up or braided under their hats. (This is another theatrical choice. It conceals modern haircuts and presents more attractive vistas.)

Shoes and Hose

Bare feet and legs are inappropriate (again excluding the Irish and Scots). Most earth tone shoes will work: wallabies, minetonka mocassins, closed-toe birkenstocks. In a pinch, use thigh-highs and black kung fu slippers.

General Comments

Don't wear obvious makeup. Lose the watch. Keep jewelry to a minimum and keep it simple. No sunglasses. Use natural pipes should you smoke.

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