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Dos and Don’ts for your First Renaissance Festival

So you’ve decided to attend your first Renaissance festival or faire! Congratulations! A “Renfaire” is about as close as you can get time time-travel for now, and it’s a rare occasion for grown-ups to indulge in a little communal make-believe.

How can you get the most out of your Renaissance faire experience? Dress up! It’s really that simple: a little bit of costume can go a long way. One of the magical things about a Renaissance faire is that everyone is playing along, which means you can afford to lose yourself a little bit in the experience. Just go for it. You might feel (and look!) a little silly at first, but so does everyone else, and that’s half the fun!

Ready to take the plunge? Here are some simple dos and don’ts for dressing up at your first Renaissance festival.

Do have a character.

You don’t need a novel of a back story (although many veteran Renfaire attenders do!) but it helps to have a vague idea of who you want to be for the day. On a very basic level, this will help you determine what to wear! Are you a peasant, a noble, or somewhere in between? For your first Renaissance faire, a basic peasant costume is the easiest, least expensive, most comfortable option. Dressing up also means that festival performers and patrons alike are more
likely to include you in the fun: if you know who you are it’ll be easier for you to play along.

Don’t worry too much about authenticity–this time.

If you do a little research about Renaissance costuming online, you might be overwhelmed by the apparent obsession with authenticity than many re-enactors have. For regular faire-goers, this is a serious hobby, and there is a lot of fun to be had trying to get every detail of your costume period-perfect. If this level of detail appeals for you, go for it! If not, don’t worry. Any bit of Renaissance-ish costume is enough to add to your enjoyment of the day.

Do check to see if the festival you are attending has a list of rules for acceptable costuming.

Some Renaissance festivals have rules in place for people who are attending in costume. For example, many faires request that your garb be family friendly, so leave the chain mail bikini at home! Very often there will be a rule against bringing weapons into the faire, or peace-tying any swords or daggers so that they can not be drawn. Some Renfaires reserve certain colors and fabrics for the paid actors playing the queen and her court: commonly purple and velvet.
This is so that patrons don’t get confused! If you’re in doubt about your costume, just check the festival’s website: any rules will generally be posted there.

Don’t think you need to spend a lot of money to dress the part.

It’s possible to spend hundreds and hundred of dollars on a Renaissance costume, but it’s not necessary! Simple costumes can be found inexpensively online, and if you can sew even a little bit, there are many extremely easy tutorials for basic garb online as well. Chances are that you even have something in the back of your closet that could work. Blouse with big sleeves? An old broomstick skirt or patchwork vest from the 90’s? That’s a good start!

Do take the time to find a period hairstyle.

This is a quick, easy and free way to add a little Renaissance flair to your look, and there are loads of tutorials online to help. Simple braids and twists are a great way to hide modern layered haircuts while adding a sweet, romantic touch to your costume. If your hair is dyed a bright non-period color, or if it’s really short, you can hide it under a kerchief or coif: in Renaissance times all women covered their hair, so you’ll look authentic!

Don’t wear too much makeup.

While upper-class people in the Renaissance period had their own, often disgusting, types of cosmetics (Lead? Crushed beetles? Ugh!), makeup as we know it was unheard of. It’s okay if you don’t want to go totally bare-faced, but keep your colors soft, subtle and neutral. No bright blue eyeshadow!

Do have fun!

Relax and enjoy the day. A Renaissance festival is a place to let go of your modern-day cares for a little while. It’s a huge amount of fun to immerse yourself for a day or a weekend in a slightly alternate universe. No matter what you’re wearing, you’re in for a fantastic time. Eat, drink, carouse and be merry. Chances are you’ll go home with a head full of ideas for next year’s costume!


Article by: Amanda Gareis

Resource information by: Costume Supercenter



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