Subject: RenFaire Costuming FAQ v.1.1 (regular posting)
From: Gaylene Keene-Bartlett
Date: 1995

FAQ - Costuming for Renaissance Faires (v.1.1)

This is *not* an FAQ on historical costuming, please check the FAQs in alt.sewing or rec.craft.textiles, if your questions are in that area. This FAQ is designed to answer questions about how to dress at Renaissance faires step by step starting with the first question of a total newbie. Please feel free to advance to a question that fits your personal needs.

1. I don't have a costume - I want to make one, can you help me?
If you want a fantasy costume (elf, wizard, princess), please see alt.sewing or rec.arts.sf.fandom for more information. Not all faires are accepting of fantasy costumes, if this is your choice, I'd sound out the participants at the faire to see if fantasy is ridiculed at the faire you plan to attend.

If your intention is to locate a simple "generic rennish outfit" suitable for passing at most faires, not seeking any amount of authenticity, please note: Errol Flynn shirts over tights with leather belt, hat and sturdy shoes (not tennies, please) will suffice for attendance at most faires. Participants (the performers or workers at faire) will "know" that you are a guest, but most other patrons probably won't. Women can wear the same type of shirt with a flowing skirt, and try to rig up some kind of bodice (unless the faire is set prior to 1400) The bodice looks like a fitted vest that laces up the front. Again, please wear sturdy shoes and at least a straw hat. The shoes and hats are suggested for your health. Also bring water to drink; put it in ceramic mugs, or metal tankards or goblets for that period look.

If you're interested in a more authentic costume, start here. If you've already done one step, go on to the next.
STEP 1 - Find out the time period of the faire you plan to attend.
Many Renaissance Faires are set in specific time periods. These periods span many hundred of years - check the advertising for references to a year or monarch that will help you determine the period of time and country for which you need to plan your costume. The staff of the faire itself might be the people to ask. Once you have a year or specific time period, go to the next step.

STEP 2 - Decide on the class of the character you want to represent.
This can be complicated, you could (for instance) do research at the local library to determine an actual person to represent; or it can be as simple as saying, "I think I'll just be a peasant (or farmer, alderman, Mary Queen of Scots, etc.) The word class is a modern definition which basically describes differing economic levels. The three basic levels are: peasant, merchant, and nobility. There was some movement within each class level (a plain butcher eventually becoming an important town official, for example) But there was .00001% movement from class to class, for all intents and purposes if you were born into a particular class, you stayed there. From a faire point of view, peasants don't have to worry about their manners (get drunk on ale, roll around in the dirt) and their costumes are the least expensive to make. The merchant class have better manners (drink beer, don't get drunk, sit on something, don't roll in the dirt) and their clothing is nearly as expensive as the upper class - but usually cooler to wear. The nobility has restrained movement (due mostly to the weight of the costumes) and manners (drink wine politely, sit on chairs) and the cost of their clothing can be sky-high: of course, it's the most beautiful clothing, so make your choice.

STEP 3 - Discover the kind of clothing worn by your class of character during the time period of your faire.
Again, this can be a complicated or simple step depending on the amount of research you are willing to do. Most faires should be willing to give you the names of reference books or even copies of patterns to help you. History of costume books usually concentrate on the fashions of the nobility for a certain time period. If you wish to be a merchant or peasant, look at the clothing of the nobles 50 to 100 years before the time of the faire. It usually took that long for the fashionable look to filter down to the lower classes. (BTW when I refer to merchant class, I am speaking to the center of that class - "*not* the great merchant families - whose clothing inspired the sumptuary laws in the first place) (MAJOR HINT - Anyone with money looked like it - today if someone has money you can usually tell by looking at their car - people used to look at clothing)

STEP 4 ab&c - General information on the class you might pick.

STEP 5 - What accessories would you recommend?

STEP 6 - Finding information about the costume you want to make.
Short answer - SCA - Library - College costuming classes. For more information read the sections below:

STEP 7 - Where can I find sources of historical costuming patterns and supplies, or books that would help me?
Look in the Suppliers-FAQ listed separately. Compiled by Gaylene Keene-Bartlett who is responsible for its content, and who got help and comments from many people including Lara Allen and her FAQ for the rec.crafts.textile.* newsgroups, Anneli, Rose, Georgia, Judy and last, but not least, Cat Okita. write to with comments, additions or corrections
İİİİİİİİİİ Copyright 1995 Gaylene Keene-Bartlett İİİİİİİİİİİ