Let’s face it - one of the most exciting parts of attending a Renaissance fair is getting to dress up and immerse yourself in a historic - or even fictional - fantasy world for the day. Yes, the mead and the crafts are great, but what feels better than swanning around a large festival in a form-fitting corset and peasant skirt? Not much.
But if you’re new to Renaissance festivals and not sure where to begin, we’ve put together a simple guide on our dos-and-don'ts when it comes to Renaissance fair attire, with expert tips on everything from weather-proofing to comfort. So - what to wear to the Ren faire? Let’s take a look.
For the uninitiated, a Ren faire is a cultural event that recreates the historical setting of the Renaissance period, complete with costumes, crafts, vendors, food, theatrical performances, and games typical of the era. As we mentioned briefly above, costuming is an integral part of the affair, and attendees will usually dress in period attire - think corsets, peasant blouses, and romantic puff sleeves. But there’s no obligation to follow the Renaissance theme; some guests take inspiration from the medieval as well as fantasy and science fiction, donning everything from pirate costumes to elf costumes.
It’s also important to note that there’s usually no “official” dress code - while attendees are encouraged to get creative with their costumes (and there’s often a set theme), there’s no rules explicitly obliging you to get dressed up - even the largest renaissance festivals in the US allow casual clothes.
So, if you’re wondering how to dress for a Renaissance fair, here are just a few examples of popular, fun costumes:
If it’s your first Ren faire and you’re looking for a trusty choice of outfit, you can’t go wrong with a traditional Renaissance dress! Renaissance dresses often feature rich fabrics like velvet, brocade, and satin, and can be accessorized with things like beaded necklaces, feathered hats, and leather pouches. Obviously, you can style yours as you please, but if you want to get the authentic look you’ll need at least a corset, draping skirt and puff sleeves - and you can even add some artificial flowers in your hair for a truly Pastoral, Shakespearean finish!
If you don’t feel like wearing a Renaissance-style outfit, that’s ok! There are thousands of costume ideas from the realm of fantasy and historical fiction; think elves, fairies, dragons, and your favorite characters to play on Skyrim.
Not everyone at the fair needs to be draped in finery! Many attendees opt for the simpler attire of peasants and commoners, which are both aesthetically pleasing but also have the added bonus of being comfortable (trust us, you’ll be walking a lot at the Ren faire!). With tunics, breeches, and simple cloaks - and don’t forget a basket or a pouch - you'll be the new face of peasant chic in no time.
While dressing up is all part of the Ren Fair fun, do know that wearing a costume isn’t strictly mandatory, and there’s no medieval doorman who’s going to turn you away if you’re not dressed to the nines in a gorgeous corset. After all, your priority is going to be comfort - if you don’t feel comfortable wearing something extravagant, don’t! You should, however, dress for the season, whatever that may be. And don’t forget some trusty sunscreen and an umbrella - you never know how the weather might turn, so you’re going to want to be prepared.
While there’s not going to be anybody double-checking the accuracy of your outfit, it's a great touch to add some features or accessory pieces that reflect historical accuracy, whether you’re dressed as a real historical figure or simply a symbol of the period.
As mentioned above, remember that you'll be walking and standing a lot - Renaissance fairs tend to go on all day! While period-appropriate shoes are ideal, you’ll want to ensure they’re comfortable, or consider wearing modern shoes that blend well with your outfit. And if you really want to be safe, throw a pair of comfy ballet flats in your bag.
No matter the time of year, weather can be unpredictable. Layering allows you to adjust for temperature changes while still maintaining your ensemble's aesthetic; you can layer with shawls, scarves, or even pirate coat jackets.
Okay, so we’re not saying don’t bring your cellphone, but there are certain fashion accessories that are best left at home if you’re looking for the authentic Ren Faire experience. While it may be tempting to wear your favorite watch or modern sunglasses, they can end up breaking the immersion experience for both you and others - if they look odd when paired with your costume, just keep them at home.
Remember, while it's a fantasy setting, you still have to bring your manners and good sense with you! To ensure that the Ren faire remains an inclusive and welcoming place for it, it's really important to be respectful and avoid costumes that might be considered culturally insensitive or offensive.
While it's fun to make your costume as accurate or detailed as possible, remember that the purpose of the Ren faire is to enjoy yourself. If you can't find the perfect accessory or piece, don't stress about it or worry that someone’s going to somehow rat out your supposed inauthenticity. The primary goal is to have fun, so make sure you’re immersing yourself fully in the event and not worrying about your outfit the whole time.
Ultimately, self-expression reigns when it comes to Renaissance faire fashion. While attendees do love to see other guests in historically accurate costumes, don’t forget that your comfort is important. And above all, don’t forget to have fun!