Have I mentioned lately that I'm going to the Renaissance Faire on Sunday? Well, just in case, let me say it again: I'm going to the Faire, weeeee! Oh, wait, I'm supposed to strive for a professional demeanor here, aren't I? I can't help it, I love the Faire! It was one of the first dates that my husband and I ever went on, and we've gone every year since. It's so much fun to wander around, shop, and see all kinds of shows. This year, of course, my big priority is to watch some belly dancers and get some more dance clothes!
The first time I went to Ren Faire, I was really worried that everyone would be dressed up, and that my brown jeans and embroidered Mexican Wedding Shirt (which fell somewhere between Renaissance and Hippie) would look kind of cheezy in comparison. But as it turns out, most people go there in normal street clothes. Now, that's perfectly fine, especially in Arizona, where the forecast is 90 degrees for Sunday, but personally, I love to dress up. I take any excuse to wear a costume, and Renaissance Faire is one of the best excuses in the world, next to Halloween and being in a play.
There are a lot of options open to you for Faire-worthy costumes. Remember that although it's usually called a "Renaissance Festival," Medieval-era clothing is just as acceptable. You'll also tend to see people in fantasy costumes (I was a faerie one year, I kept hitting everyone with my wings!), and maybe even Asian costumes from various eras (my husband and our friend Alex both dressed like Chinese martial artists last year, and I heard tell of a group in another state who went dressed as ninja). Don't ever feel that you have to slavishly adhere to historic accuracy. The most important thing when going to the Faire is to have fun! (please note that some historic recreation groups may require accuracy. This column, however, is geared towards the average person who wants to dress up for an open-to-the-public Faire)
If you're dressing up for the first time, I recommend starting small. Depending on your sense of style, you may even be able to cobble together a fun outfit from the contents of your closet (especially if you're a woman, as I imagine most of my readers are). If not, you can hit the thrift stores and/or resale boutiques. Sometimes, you can even find good things at the mall. You want to look for long, full skirts, poofy blouses, corset-esque tops, tops that lace up, shawls and scarves, that sort of thing. Heck, pair capri pants with the right top and a scarf for your head, and you're a pirate!
You can also use a store-bought Halloween costume for Ren Faire, but those can often look kind of chintzy by the light of day, and do not hold up very well. I do recommend them if your kids want to dress up, though. Kiddies grow up so fast that you don't want to put the money into buying or making a more authentic, durable costume that will just be too small when the next Faire rolls around.
If you're the creative sort, you can also sew your own costume. Most of my Faire wear has been sewn by my talented and generous mother (you rock, Mom!). A quick trip to the pattern book section of your local fabric store will show that there is now a plethora of high-quality historical costume patterns for men, women, and children, drawing from different eras and nations. There are also patterns inspired by Lord of the Rings and Star Wars (Jedi robes would not be out of place at a Faire, but lightsabres would). It's a lot of work, but you can end up with a nice, unique look, and make sure that it fits just right, too! Plus you can accent it with cool stuff, like the ribbons and trims from Realm of Regalia.
And of course, you could just buy a costume from one of the many vendors of medieval, renaissance, and fantasy clothing on the internet. One of my personal favorites is The Renaissance Store, which is based here in Tucson. They have a great selection of high-quality merchandise, and the people who work at their storefront are friendly and helpful. I'm also fond of Crimson Chain Leatherworks; while I don't own any of their clothes, they made my dice bag and it is roomy, attractive, and quite durable. If I hadn't taken up belly dancing and thus decided to dress like a dancer from now on, I would have one of their bodices by now! You can also find attractive clothing at Raspberry Beret and Arcane Lore Designs. Even Mechanical Bunny has some nice clothes that while not authentic, have a renaissance vibe to them, and are often more lightweight and hot-weather friendly.
It's oh-so important to accessorize, of course! Most modern handbags look out of place with a Renaissance costume. You can check some of the above links for leather pouches, or for a more lady-like look, you could buy a beautiful drawstring bag from AP2 Creative Designs. And if you want to add an air of mystery to your costume, you could wear a gorgeous mask from Andrea Adams.
Then of course, you might want some jewelry. Much of my jewelry is designed with the idea that it could be worn with a Renaissance or fantasy costume. I like to add that little touch of fantasy to my daily life, after all. Specifically, I like just about any Woven Collar with a costume. I also love to think that Lady Ghost, Queen of Love and Beauty, or The Moss Spirit might someday be worn to the Faire. My Bluebells anklet would be perfect for a dancer costume. Well-to-do lady costumes would be nicely accented by chandelier earrings, perhaps like Enchantment.
If you're seeking more clothing or accessories for Renaissance costumes, you may want to check the website of your local Renaissance Faire. They often have a vendor list which includes links to any vendors who have a web presence.