Creating a look for a Renaissance Faire or festival provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in the persona of a woman who lived during a period of historical evolution and rebirth. Laws dictated what people could wear, and clothing revealed what class they were identified with. Deciding on what class and social status you want to belong to is the first step in choosing an authentic costume. Look for specialty stores that sell custom Renaissance Faire clothing and unique, high-quality Renaissance costumes. But first, explore the clothing types associated with women from this important period in human history before you decide on a costume type.
Although the Renaissance is believed to have started in Italy, the fashion trends of the period were set by those who had power, money, and influence. Elizabeth I, who historians say was a great fan of fashion, owned over 3000 gowns and headpieces. She was also fond of ornaments on her gowns, including jewels, embroidery, ribbons, and lace. Catherine de’ Medici, an Italian noblewoman who served as queen of France with her husband, Henry II, was the mother of three sons who became kings of France. Like other upper class women of her time, she chose gowns made from silk, brocade, velvet, and satin. Silk was in high demand and, at one point, was the same price as gold. Many of these noblewomen invested a large part of their wealth on their wardrobes.
While clothing for wealthy women was heavy, the lower classes generally wore lighter clothing made of linen created from wool, sheepskin, or flax plants that allowed them more freedom of movement for working, and because they had no servants to help them dress.
Throughout the Renaissance, the basic style of gown remained the same—tight bodice, exposed neckline, and a full ankle-length skirt, although style trends changed throughout the period. Underneath the gowns and dresses, upper class and lower class women wore a smock and knee-high stockings, and added petticoats that served a dual purpose: to fill out the gown and to provide added warmth. Corsets were also created and adopted as fashionable during this time period.
Adding authentic, personal touches to customized Renaissance faire costumes increase their uniqueness while keeping them historically accurate. For additional ideas, visit our website.