This page will attempt to give you a beginning overview of basic festival clothing for men, women, & children. It is by no means definitive. You do not need to be a billionaire to have great garb. There are a few things that you will wish to consider as you are building your garb. Yes, you build it, piece by piece, and layer by layer, for the most authentic, rich, and complex character wear. Comfort, wearable, and ease of care are of utmost importance! Cotton, linen, flax, gauze, suede, leather, and wool are the materials that will give you the most authentic look. Modern poly-cotton blends (think sheets) can give you the look with great wash and wearability. Absolutely no print patterns, ever! Never No Never purple! or spandex or metallics, neons, or pastels. Comfortable natural-looking colors for everything, but not “matching” say a beige shirt, brown trousers, burgundy jerkin, or a green skirt with an orangey overskirt with a natural color shirt and a brown bodice, see what we mean? If you sew or know someone who does there are patterns aplenty. After you put together your basic layers then you can really have some fun with your additions. Do you smoke? Pipe and tobacco pouch. Ladies, how about a fan?
Part of the fun is your garb so build, personalize and enjoy!
VILLAGE WIVES and LASSES. She has a muffin cap on and is wearing a bodice over a shirt. The best of her two skirts is tucked up off the ground, and she has added bells to her belt and pouch for a festive touch. Carrying her basket, she is ready to go marketing!
Basic Female Garb/Costume consists of the following:
* Bodice or fitted over vest
* Long skirt (women did not normally wear pants during this era) – Skirts must be full and worn just below the ankle. Wear two skirts and tuck up the overskirt for the proper silhouette. Skirts should be monochrome: no prints, ruffles, tiers, parti-color.
* Chemise (underdress/blouse) – A chemise is essentially a nightshirt, cut much like a man’s shirt at the top, these can be as short as mid-thigh or to the floor. Use a long shirt in a pinch. Never wear your shift off the shoulders. (Unless your character is a doxy or a bawd or of other low repute.)
* Hat, scarf, roundlet or snood
Mens garb always starts with a cap. A simple vest over a traditional bag shirt, and loose knee or long breeches. His shoes look comfortable, and for a festive look he has tied bright ribbons around the tops of his hose, his upper arms or around his hat . Holding his walking staff and carrying his valuables in a pouch on his belt, he is ready for a day at Faire!
Basic Man’s Garb/Costume consists of the following:
* Shirt – should be long sleeved and full bodied. Drawstrings, high collars, drop collars, and no collared shirts are appropriate. No buttons! Peasants may also wear a jerkin – a loose fitting vest, generally sleeveless. Nobles wear a doublet – a tight fitting vest, sometimes with detachable sleeves.
* Trousers or tights or slops – should be full with lots of volume, not form-fitting. Length can be above the knee, or below the knee. No zippers or pockets (unless you can hide them). Wear knit hose or woolen socks if your legs aren’t covered by pants. (Look for sports socks) Only Scots and Irish show bare legs!
* Hat – yes, by Royal Order as only pagans and heathen men go about with a bare naked head, tis scandalous!
Make your character more visually interesting by adding some indication of what you do for a living. You should at least have a belt and a purse/pouch. Woe be unto thee shouldst the keg burst and thou be without cup. And wilt thou starve without a bowl whenst the serving wench comes?
Unisex Items Worn and used by women, men, and children.
Tankard – The drinking vessel, generally wood, pottery (alas remember this one is breakable) or pewter.
Shirt – Off white or dyed, often with full bodied sleeves.
Cape – Distinguished from a cloak, by reaching only to the small of the back or thereabouts, capes are decorative items.
Cloak – Often ankle length and hooded, designed more for warmth than show.
Muffin Cap – loose cap with a floppy top.
Biggins – close fitting hat to keep the head warm or other hats clean. So called from begins as the first hat a child wears. Appropriate for everyone!
Belt- leather or rope
Pouch or two
Clothing always reflected the social status of the wearer. There would be no doubt in one’s mind about the nobility in any given crowd. Clothing was a direct indication of wealth and status, much in the manner of imported suits and haute couture in the present. Processed fabrics such as velvet or corduroy were costly, as were satin and other fine weaves. Flax and wool were the more common fibers. Flax (a plant called flax) is made into linen, which is expensive now & which is why we usually use cotton. Wool fabric of all weights, including tweed.
Because it would look a bit odd to have a vendor who is selling his hand made walking sticks attired as a noble, or a fine jewelry vendor wearing rustic farmers clothing, choosing the right character and dress to fit your activity is most important. Here are a few ideas to help the character and period clothing you choose fit your station. There were three great social classes in Europe at the time, and everyone knew their place. Laws were passed which defined just what you could or could not wear. This readily announced your station in life and insured proper social etiquette between the classes, with no more than a look you knew who was who.
The Peasants were the lowest class. Mostly tillers of the soil or low servants, with handmade, rough, ill-matched, hand me down and much-patched clothing, they gave deference to all.
At the top were the Nobles just below the King & Queen, who wore their fortunes on their backs in velvets, jewels, and ruffs, and had their garments, made for them. Any color except purple, which was reserved for her Majesty, was theirs. Of course, everyone bowed to them! In between were the COMMONERS, what we would think of as the Middle Class, from where we take most of our Villager Look. This covered quite a span between Peasant and Noble. It included all the Professions and Trades, Merchants and Crafters, paid Servants, and all the levels in between. Of course, anyone doing well financially became aspiring Gentry and dressed as well as they could.
The Medieval & Renaissance period was a time of expansion, exploration, travel, and trade. As Dragon Croft is a typical market Faire, this gives you a world of European, as well as British, Spanish, Moorish, Arabian, Viking, and Asian cultures to choose from. Here is your chance to explore your family history and recreate your heritage, or indulge that secret lifelong urge to be someone else. Let your imagination soar!
AN ELEMENT OF FANTASY
All fantasy characters should have their basis in the history and literature of the times.
PLAYING WITH THE PUBLIC
Here at Dragon Croft we use First Person Interpretation, to go along with our character and our costume. This means that when playing with the Public we portray a person from the past who has no knowledge of modern life, who assumes everyone he meets is also in the same time frame, all, hopefully without dropping character.
DRESSING THE PART
For the Dragon Croft villager look, here are some ideas
Keep to the solid, natural dye look, colours in earth tones of faded blues, russet, brown, greens, yellows, rusts, and variations there-of. Strong coffee or tea makes a fine dye for white material that looks too clean or new. Our Villagers would have made their clothes last a very long time. Never use fluorescents, bright red (deep dark reds are fine), blacks unless they are VERY faded, pastels, or bright or modern looking colors. Purple is reserved for the Queen herself and the wearing of it would have had you thrown in prison. Pure white is an upper-class color, it was very difficult to achieve and to up-keep. Avoid prints or shiny surfaces like the plague!. Try not to have two articles of clothing match in colour, dye making was hot and hard work and clothing (except for nobles and royalty ) was not crafted in “out fits” . Keep in mind that pockets and elastic had not been invented yet, you will be surprised at how comfortable draw strings are and pouches hung from your belt do the most amazing job of adding depth to your character and holding your stuff!.
Natural fiber fabrics of course with lots of texture like muslin, cotton, (corduroy for wealthy merchants or nobles), light wool, linen, leather, twill, as long as it’s a solid color. Never blue jeans Use 100% natural fabrics or blends with a small amount of polyester will give you the look you want with exceptional washability. Best looks are from: wool, burlap, woven cottons, raw silk, textured natural fabrics, leather, and linen. Different textured natural fabrics will give you functional clothing, with the realistic look you want and not a costumey one. Don’t even think about using prints, velour, sheers, gingham, seersucker, denim, or such as they would not even exist for several hundred years !. Velvets, satins, and brocades are not appropriate for peasants , working classes and most merchants. And considering the expense most merchants and upwardly mobile gentry would have had it in modest amounts. Corduroy did exist but it was coarse and expensive (it would start as velvet and have the lines individually cut in by hand). If you use it use you should be an very upper class merchant or perhaps you could have some as patches on your jerkin or trousers…be sure you pet it and show it off…remember it was hand cut and expensive it would be a treasure worth boasting on. The best thing to remember is not that you are NOT making a costume, but that you are making clothes to wear and be comfortable in. And never use plastic material instead of leather. It does not breathe, will stretch out of shape, won’t last and will cause you great distress on any warm day!
Until about age three children wore a biggin’s hat and a shift. Children older than three dressed just like adults.
Everybody wore a hat, a belt, and shoes. No Medieval person ever went bare headed in public .It simply was not done! Wear a muffin cap. Or straw, leather, or fabric hat, bedecked with a feather or trinket. Yes everyone wears hats except the Irish and the Scots. Proper hats include the muffin cap, biggins, flat caps, felt, wool, and straw hats. Women wore hair pinned up or braided under their hats and could also wear a roundlet, snood, or scarves (This is another theatrical choice. It conceals modern haircuts and presents more attractive vistas.)
Shoes and Hose In a pinch, a variety of footwear will serve for faire-wear. Given the long length skirts, a pair of Doc Martins, Wool clogs or earth shoes are easily concealed and very comfortable for a daytime of walking. Slightly better are closed-toe Birkenstocks or other natural leather shoes. Peasant men can conceal their normal footwear by wrapping their feet and calves with lashed down rags. This is to be much preferred over Kung-Fu slippers or other thin soled shoes: these will leave you sore.
Later when you’ve made up your mind to buy specific shoes for faire, you’ll find that there are two primary choices: low shoes and moccasins of varied height. To be historically accurate, you’d wear low shoes. As beautiful as tall boots are, the Cavalier style is better suited for mid Stuart period and in any case peasants and most merchant classes wouldn’t have the money to cover their calves in leather although rabbit fur, rabbit leather, sheep or goat skin and suede pieces can be used as they were abundant! Bare feet and legs are not appropriate (again excluding the Irish and Scots) you need hose! Footwear should be comfortable. Think low heeled, leather or cloth. Only the poorest peasant wore sandals. Legs were not bared to the elements in Europe. Knee socks, rough stockings or tights work well. Old rag wool hiking socks will fit right in! Most earth tone shoes will work if you try to work them in, you can always wrap them in rags…if you need help, ask the coordinator for your area they will be happy to assist.
Fasten an old leather belt over your clothing and suspend from it all those useful objects needed during the day like a pouch for your treasures, a cup or tankard to drink from, perhaps a knife, a wooden bowl and spoon to eat with, and most importantly, the tools of your trade.
Don’t wear obvious makeup. Lose the watch. Keep jewelry to a minimum and keep it simple. No sunglasses. Use natural pipes should you smoke. The use of “extras” will add all the flourish you need for a memorable look. Small or medium pouches tied to your belt. A feather or piece of beautiful woven ribbon for your hat could be just the extra that you need to go from functional to fantastic!
There is a trick to sounding as medieval as you can, without classes. And the trick is in good diction. Think about how Patrick Stewart, James Earl Jones, sound, how about Data from Star Trek? Absolutely no modern contractions!. Every word clear and distinct. Speak slowly. Speak clearly. Actual Elizabethan, and therefore Basic Faire Speech, is spoken more slowly than modern English; and that is helpful, as it will give you time to think of your next phrase. You will find that BFS,(Basic Faire Speak) takes but a few words and no contractions to have you sounding like a kingdom villager in short order.
MORE TRICKS AND HINTS
Beware of speaking too fast, as we are wont to do in the modern age. Instead, slow thy speeche, and think thee upon good and clear diction. And if thee would further thy Education upon Elizabethan Speeche & Deportment, then do get thee hence to that greatest of Bards, Master William Shakespeare.
REMEMBER TO WHOM YOU ARE SPEAKING?
While at faire, in order to feel comfortable addressing people, you need to have a feeling for your social level and theirs. Fortunately, people wear clothing in accordance with their social standing, making it easy to make a quick judgment. Are you speaking to another Faire Participant? Look to see if perhaps they are carrying the tools of their trade. Is he carrying a wooden mallet? You might say Good morrow, Master Carpenter, or if he has forge tongs, perhaps a fyne day to you, Master Smith. Are you greeting a girl or woman? Then Good day, Goodwife or Greetings, dear mistress or Welcome, little wench. And remember, that to an Elizabethan, wench was simply an affectionate term for either woman or girl. Good Gentles may be used if addressing a group. Sir or Mistress is always a safe bet for someone who is not nobility but who is dressed well. An older man might be addressed as father, or gaffer. Someone of your social standing or slightly above could be called Goodman, Goodwife or by their name or profession as Master Patrick or Master Brewer. A familiar tone may be taken by calling someone Cousin. To children, my lad/lass, or good young sir is appropriate, perhaps erring on the side of safety with my young lord/lady. To nobility, my Lord, or my Lady is safe if you don’t know their exact name or title. The Queen is of course referred to as Your Highness or Your Grace, my Queen . In the third person, the Queen can be called Her Majesty, but this is not appropriate for addressing the Queen directly. Dukes, Duchesses can be likewise be addressed as Your Grace. Puritans refer to themselves as Brother and Sister others might address them as Good Puritan, if they did not know their name. Officeholders, such as judges, constables, or bureaucrats, and knights, or esquires may be called Your Honour or Your Worship . In general, extra words such as Good may be thrown in to add further flattery and pomp to an address. Good day my Honorable Lord Constable!. Good Villagers all! When Her Majesty passes by with her court, let the Goodmen among you make a leg, doff their caps, and bow ! Goodwives and Lasses do bow thy head and curtsey and all raise your voices in a hearty God Save the Queen and a Hip Hip HUZZAH! Vendors, call out extolling your wares! Players, let your voice be heard when greeting fellow Villagers. Join in a rousing cheer at special events
We hope that this has been helpful to you, here are a few other notes on garb…Any store that sells patterns will have patterns for ren garb -Simplicity, Butterick etc… Do not try to put all your garb together at once (it never works very well) your clothes like your character will get better with time and effort…some clothes are standard and the character takes shape in the details… so… whether you wish to be a merchant, fairy, warrior, wizard, wench or something else entirely, come out, explore, get creative and have fun. If you have questions you can e-mail to: info@ALMFF.com
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