Step back 450 years to a time of romance! Shakespeare is in the prime of his career, Sir Francis Drake has circum-navigated the globe, the New World exists as a boundless frontier, and thank goodness the Dark Ages are over. Renaissance (French for “rebirth”) perfectly describes the intellectual and economic growth that occurred in Europe from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries. The Renaissance was also an age in which artistic, social, scientific, and political thought turned in new directions. To celebrate this period in history, Renaissance faires have sprung up across the country, and with it, so have centuries worth of ideas for the perfect renaissance costume.
If you’ve never been to a Renaissance Faire (Ren Faire or just Faire), you’ll be amazed at the sheer number of things to see. Colorful ribbons and flags wave in the wind, the sound of bells, lutes, and ocarinas fill the air, along with the lilt of foreign accents, and the smell of food. A Faire is a combination of many things— partly a craft fair and partly a performance featuring historical reenactments. Everyone working there dresses in a medieval renaissance costume (or garb) typical of the late Elizabethan period. People work at Faire to have fun, to entertain; they want to socialize so don’t be afraid to talk to them and ask questions about what they are doing or their renaissance costume. Typically, there are many booths selling both crafts and food. Parades wind their way through the crowds. Jugglers, musicians, magicians, and other entertainers perform throughout the day. Simply wander about, examine goods for sale, sample foods and ale, and enjoy plays and performers.
There are no dress codes at Faire (other than for those who work and entertain there), but if you really want to get in the spirit of the time period, wear a renaissance costume (available for men, women, kids, and plus sizes). In general, clothing during the reign of Queen Elizabeth always reflected the social status of the wearer. It would be easy to spot nobility in any given crowd. Clothing was a direct indication of wealth. The cost of clothing was related to the type of fabric and (in the days before synthetic dyes) the color. Purple dye was extracted by crushing thousands of tiny sea snails. Crimson dye was obtained by crushing a certain type of beetle. Processed fabrics such as velvet or corduroy were costly, as were satins and other fine weaves. Cotton was an expensive fabric until the 1800s, therefore, flax and wool were worn by common folk or peasants.
A typical man’s renaissance clothing costume would include boots, breeches (pants), a shirt, a jerkin (vest), and a hat. A typical woman’s outfit would include shoes, an over and under skirt, a shirt, a bodice, and a hat or snood. Long hair is generally braided. Starting at about age three, children were dressed identically to adults (albeit smaller).
With over 180 Renaissance Faires and Festivals across the USA, you’ll never be without a place to wear your renaissance costume! And, once you have it, you’ll never have to worry about a Halloween costume— you’ll always have a renaissance themed Halloween costume just waiting.