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Renaissance Festival Garb/Attire/Costume/Ensemble: Assemble!

How to dress for comfort, the elements, and most of all -- for your best self.

By Tinka Boudit She/HerPublished about a year ago Updated 12 months ago 7 min read
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2017, 2016, 2018, 2019

Before adopting the moniker/pen name of Tinka Boudit, I was a ten year attendee of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. I go in garb. I shop, see shows, I made friends with cast members, vendors, and other attendees. I go every weekend for seven weekends. Even after attending the festival since 2006, I still find new things to experience every year. Those of us who do this are known as 'playtrons'. As in we play along, but we are patrons who pay the ticket fee to be there; we do not work there. I've also volunteered my time in a booth for three other seasons. I officially joined the cast in 2019.

***The opinions and experiences expressed in this article are solely my own. No paid endorsements were made in the writing of this article.***

Over all look: TL, DR: I refer to my garb as 'historically-inspired' not accurate; yet natural colors and fibers will make you look more 'correct'. Dress for the weather elements to be comfortable. Piece together your outfit from different sources for the one-of-a-kind look and be your most authentic self. Be mentally prepared for everything you wear to be lost, damaged, or rotated out of your wardrobe in time.

In all my years of attending, I've made exactly one shirt and one pair of pants. I can fix things that tear and follow directions for dying clothes. I am no tailor or costume maker. I put things together on myself. If I can do it, you can do it.

Here is an Amazon list of items to build a basic costume.

Footwear: "When our feet hurt, we hurt all over." -Socrates. In the years attending the festival, my footwear has gone through several evolutions. Leather side-zip boots, to surprisingly quality pirate leather boots from the thrift store, to my current incarnation: rubber Chelsea rain boots.

I wear these because they keep my feet dry. I can add good insoles. I can go a size up at any given time for a reasonable price. I wear compression socks and can wear wool socks on cold days.

Many of the long time attendees and cast have very nice boots like Willing Soles, or Son of Sandlars, or others. These are wonderful boots! My current incarnation of my footwear shows only the toes of my boots. The craftsmanship of these gorgeous boots would be lost on me with my current garb. Rubber boots suit me well for all my needs right now.

Base Clothes: Skirts, shirts, blouses, chemises, pirate pants, leggings, et cetera are all pieces, much like underwear, that get washed and changed at the end of the day. Some of the best pants to start with for men or women: MEDICAL SCRUB PANTS: They're inexpensive, have draw string waists, come in cotton, natural colors, have pockets, come in tons of sizes, easily hemmed, tuck into boots, and found at thrift stores. Any of these pieces also get disposed of after they get too worn out or don't fit anymore.

These pieces are less about high price and more about fabric, color, and comfort. These pieces aren't going to be seen as much. They are your under clothes. Sure, you can spend a lot of money on these pieces, but you don't have to. COTTON, NOT POLYESTER: I can't say this loud enough. Check labels for natural fibers. Do not be fooled by rayon - this is also synthetic and doesn't breathe as well as you think. You might be sweaty, but you will be more comfortable than the person in synthetic fibers. Most of my skirts and blouses are thrift store finds for less than $10 a piece. Early on, I was lucky that Old Navy had lots of plain skirts like these and was able to get them at a good price.

Want to look more historically accurate? Make sure your sleeves are long. Your sleeves can be pushed or tied up for comfort; long sleeves are historically correct.

Trick of the trade: 'Superman-ing,' period panties, or Goldbond. Between hot days and needing to use privys, the clothes that happen under my skirt between my waist and my knees are for comfort and even survival. 'Supermaning' is taking cotton leggings, cutting them off at the knee, and cutting out the crotch area, and wearing underwear over them. This way when I go to the privy, I don't have to peel off leggings and have to put them back. They absorb the sweat and keep my thighs from rubbing against each other. Period panties function similarly; they absorb excess sweat. Goldbond, NOT the kind for feet. YEOWZAS!

Bodice/Overdress/Vest: I dress at the peasant-class. This layer is a piece worth investing in. Even at the peasant-class level, it would be your nicest piece of clothing. Once you have found your personal style at the faire and are ready to make a big investment, let this be a piece worth finding and investing in long-term wear on, along with your footwear. Find a vendor at your local faire: build a relationship, consider custom/tailored work; have a show piece worth showing off.

I've worn quality Irish dresses. I've worn cheap corsets, mass produced corsets, high quality corsets, high quality bodices, and poor quality bodices. The bodices I wear now ranged anywhere between $55-125 and I will wear for years as long as I take good care of them. I have three current bodices I use. They are fully reversible for maximum functionality.

Photo by John Solberg

This bodice I have two of - green & burgundy both reversed with black for maximum options. The bodice below is from Unicornclothing.com obtained at the Arizona Renaissance festival and is one of my favorites.

The reverse of this one is straight teal

Hat: If you work at a Renaissance faire, a hat or some kind of head covering will probably be required. Watch nearly any historical movie or TV show and almost everyone is wearing some kind of hat. If you want to blend in well at your faire, get a hat. It's amazing what you can find at thrift stores like straw hats and berets. The one in the pictures above is from Amazon. More than both of those, don't forget to shop your faire themselves. One of my favorite hats to wear all year 'round is a read leather tam I picked up at MNRF.

Red Leather tam pictured.

Essential Accessories: There are a handful of things that are needed to complete my outfit - A belt, a mug (with strap to attach to the belt), and pouches.

Belt, pouches, mug strap is on my back.

I bought this belt because it could go from renaissance festival to steampunk. In the time I bought it, I lost weight, so I use a silk scarf to cinch it to where I want it to sit on my waist. The pouches are by Scoundrelle's Keep and clip right to the belt. They're big enough to hold my daily essentials and not have to carry a purse or basket. Earlier pouches I wore were converted purses or other pouches purchased from my local faire.

Phil McCupp

Mugs come in lots of varieties. Ceramic are going to be inexpensive and readily available. Leather and wood look fabulous and tend to be more expensive. This one, Phil McCupp is probably my fifth mug over 16 years. It's a pewter variation. It's light enough that it doesn't weigh down my belt when I wear it, but wasn't so expensive that if he were lost or stolen, I would be more upset by the sentimental loss than the monetary loss.

Loss is something else to consider. In the years I've attended the festival, I have lost rings, earrings, scarves, pendants, broken necklaces, lost a hat, a headband, two different fans, had pieces completely destroyed, and more. Do NOT bring irreplaceable things to the renaissance faire. Your favorite lost pin will become someone else's ground-score. While I'd like to believe people are generally good and turn things into Lost & Found, that is not always the case. Everything I wear and carry can be washed, fixed, or replaced; and the things that can't be, aren't of monetary value.

The rest of the accessories: This is where you go from wearing clothes, to wearing garb. There will be little things that speak to you. If you like building ensembles or even putting together a fun outfit, that phrase will make sense to you. Jewelry, scarves, buttons, ribbons, gloves, leather trim, lace, and more will help you find your sense of self on your ensemble.

Remember, we all start somewhere. This was me in 2007. I had visited the festival ONCE the year before and I was addicted.

Before Tinka had a name, she was 21 and just as weird.

The blouse was from an online store. The black skirt, I don't remember. The belt I've had since high school. The bodice and purse are from Charlotte Russe. The dagger was a gift. The jewelry I already had... I felt AMAZING.

I don't wear any of these pieces to festival anymore, and that's okay. None of them would fit if I wanted them too. Your tastes will evolve, and with that, your ensemble. Find what works best for you.

Have fun. Be comfortable. Make good choices. Don't shame anyone else for their garb choices.

For more tips, check out my Top 10 list and my Playtron's Guide.

Find Tinka on Facebook

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About the Creator

Tinka Boudit She/Her

contact on FB & IG

linktr.ee/tinkaboudit

The Soundtrack BOI: WA

FP

Bette On It: Puddle, Desks, Door, Gym, Condoms, Couch, Dancers, Graduate.

Purveyor of Metaphorical Hyperbole, Boundless, Ridiculous, Amazing...and Humble.

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