If you have never worked at a renaissance faire before I can tell when you are about to get pulled in- I see you, you are the one wearing a poets or peasant shirt with a drawstring collar and jeans. Or you have a Halloween-style costume on with sneakers. Or you made a gorgeous kirtle-but out of satin. And I can’t forget, you are wearing a piece of armor randomly on your body.

I just want to give as general a set of advice as I can to you and tell you not to listen to the haters because I want you to enjoy the faire. If you don’t plan to work at one-wear anything you want, seriously, you want to wear a chain armor bikini and a hat with ox horns-you paid to come in, work it!

But if you want to get a look together that will let you scrape by and eventually lead to a better outfit-keep reading.

First, pick a time period-not because we are so concerned with your historical outfit but because it will limit your choices. This helps with the paradox of choice and will give you ideas.  Once you have done that, think about what you will be doing at the festival because we are not going to invest in a super-expensive outfit to serve corn dogs or work the mud pit. If you decide to go with medieval-then I always recommend peasant or middle-class clothing. This will serve two functions-first it will keep costs down because one can make t-shirt tunics or hide modern pants in a set of boots, or heck transform that Halloween costume just enough to slide by inspection.

The second is to sort out your environment and the people around you. I have found it is an excellent indicator of those around you, if they are professionals they may offer help or tease you a bit. If they are too wrapped up in the outfit, they may well give you fair warning of *exactly* who they are. If you watch long-term performers you will note they are often dressed in (sometimes somewhat faded,) high-quality clothing that fits them very well. Unless someone is royalty, they have chosen the style and type carefully to fit their needs. (basic medieval suggestions– Feel free to google more) But the best advice generally comes from the people around you. Our ad hoc costume directors in Phoenix Swords can whip together something amazing from the Salvation Army and we have a lot of loaners. Chances are the folks around you will as well.

So you’ve decided to commit; first investment-good footwear. Not biker  boots, not women’s winter boots-boots or shoes from a reputable maker. At the end of this entry I will share a page with the folks from whom we buy-because I think good merchants should  be rewarded.

At this stage you will have a wide variety of advice from others but I will share mine; A good, vest, dress, doublet or coat. And now you can start changing up time periods-you’ve had some exposure. These things will hide lots of cheap shirts, tights and pants. And you should have at least two because-accidents happen. And  they will need to be dry cleaned, hand-washed or spiffed up with vodka and water in a spray bottle. I understand that many people will tell you to use those fragranced odor hiders but don’t.  They are short-term covers, long-term use will not cover body odor or hard sweat. You will clear a path at the faire but it will not be with your charisma. Just because you can’t smell it doesn’t mean others can’t.

Now the fun part, accessorize, accessorize accessorize-feathers, stick pins, hats, belts, frogs, scarves-but not so much that you cannot do your job. I love seeing this part of the journey with our troupe members because initially they make fun of the older members for being so plain-but mugs, scabbards, cloaks and capes are an issue in a running, jumping sword performance. (Fire outfits, if we could go out in a black bodysuit, we would) It’s important to find that balance between looking fabulous and getting the work done. Also, the first time you have to take off more stuff at the end of a long day, that will be lesson one.

And I put this at the end because it may not be something one thinks of as “costume”  but is still important.
Hygiene-just because we play early periods doesn’t mean we need to reenact them. Keep wet wipes in your car in the event of no shower.

Sunscreen, you laugh but sunburns under a heavy costume are not a mistake to make even once.

Makeup, yes, even men wear this. And you put the makeup on over the sunscreen to told everything in place. Even-seeming skin tone does a lot to enhance appearance.

Backup Buddy, we expect that we can walk up to one another and get a critique, a sniff, a warning about malfunctions and even sometimes a reality check.

From my own experiences: I tend to wear fairly plain first-layer clothing and dress it up with a vest or doublet (or overdress, or bodice) my boots have gel soles inserted and I can get in and out of the whole outfit  in less than two minutes. (Faster if motivated)  I wear a belt with a hard-sided pouch and accessorize with a hat.  I carry a cheap watch, money and breath mints. (Breath mints, not just for you!) Wearing swords seems really cool, but not having them while walking around off stage is less to carry, less to watch and less enticement to idiots. And don’t even get me started on people who wear them in a position to poke out the eyes of little people and toddlers.

In the end it’s about your personal style and comfort. As I recently said on a facebook post, Renaissance faires are not historically accurate, otherwise they’d be reenactments.

As always, feel free to add more in comments or email me.

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