Costuming For The Renaissance Festival

If this is your first visit to our Renaissance Festival you probably won’t be in costume, and that is perfectly fine. However, if the Renaissance spirit grabs you, you’ll soon be longing for a costume to be more a part of the fantasy. Starting as a peasant is a good first step, as the clothes are relatively easy and inexpensive to make. Here are some suggestions:

WOMEN – the first layer of clothing was the long-sleeved shift (chemise), followed by at least two long, full skirts. The bodice, or vest, was either scooped or square necked, usually forming a point in front. These bodices were generally laced but could be buttoned. Sleeves are optional.

Accessories that add character are baskets, pewter or clay mugs, eating knives (forks were not common), and lots of leather belts and pouches. Women over 13 years old should cover their braided hair with a muffin or biggins cap. Stockings are optional. Appropriate shoes include leather sandals, clogs or plain cloth kung fu shoes.

MEN – Peasant men wore a whitish shirt, sometimes a shift, tucked into breeches. Over this they wore a vest that either laced or buttoned up the front. This vest (or jerkin) had sleeves optional. Breeches were generally somewhat baggy and ended just above or below the knee. The lower legs were covered with stockings, the coarser looking the better. I often use coarsely ribbed long johns.

The peasant man covered his usually unkempt hair with a biggins hat or cap of some kind.

Appropriate shoes for the peasant male include low or heel-less boots, clogs, sandals or “kung fu” shoes.

If you don’t want to sew your own, you will find all of these costume parts readily available and affordable from several vendors at the festival.

Accessories that add character include an eating dagger, pouch, leather belt, cape, and tools that pertain to his occupation (rake, wooden pitchfork, hammer, etc.). Peasant men were too poor to own swords, so don’t bother.

PEASANT CLOTH Peasants were usually poor, and they worked hard at manual tasks. Fabrics were coarse and rough; wool, linen and linen-wool combinations were common. Colors were subtle earth tones, as most dyes were obtained from natural sources, mostly vegetables. Try not to have your peasant clothes look too new or clean. Coffee, tea and mud stains add a lot of character.

Whether you come to the festival in costume or not, you will enjoy one of the most unique experiences the central coast has to offer.


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