The faire is set in Elizabethan England, and all participants are costumed accordingly. To feel more a part of the "show," wear an appropriate costume. Elizabethan attire need not be difficult or expensive. With imagination and a few simple guidelines, anyone can be "goodly garbed" for a day at an Elizabethan country market.
First establish an Elizabethan personality. Choose a name for yourself. Who are you? How do you earn your bread? What are your pastimes? Let your imagination go. Be inventive and have fun!
Now make visits to closet, sewing box, and thrift store. You can change the shape of a garment by tucking in or pinning up, but try to find the right colors and fabrics. Above all, enjoy both choosing and wearing your Elizabethan clothing!
Choose natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and wool; they are more authentic and cooler as well. Woven patterns are fine, but avoid prints (they didn't have them). Also avoid fabrics such as gingham, velour, seersucker, and polyesters. Choose earth tones and natural dye colors - browns, greens, golds, rusts, and variations thereof. You can dip white garments in strong tea or coffee to give them the right tint. Colors for dying the fabrics were obtained from vegetable sources and consisted mainly of earth colors and muted tones. Therefore, bright or modern-looking colors, fluorescent colors, purple, and pastels should be avoided.
You can increase the authenticity of your costume and make your character more visually interesting by accessorizing appropriately. All Elizabethans wore hats. You can wear a straw hat, leather, fabric, or felt hat bedecked with a feather or ribbons. A "muffin hat" is easy to make and a popular style - simply pleat a 24" fabric circle to fit your head then sew it into a narrow band.
Fasten a belt over your clothing and suspend from it useful objects -- a pouch (a simple drawstring bag is easy to make), a cup or tankard, and tools of your trade. Imagine carrying everything you're going to need for the day on your belt, the way the Elizabethans did, and then have fun.
Wear a peasant or other plain blouse with long sleeves.
Over it wear a bodice, either a traditional one or one you make by altering a pocketless vest (tuck up the two points at the waist and take in the seams until it fits snugly).
Choose a full skirt of midcalf-to-ankle length (not too long or you'll trip) and over it wear either another skirt hiked up at the side or an apron (simply a square of fabric tucked into the waistband of the skirt). And don't forget your accessories - a basket in which to carry your goods, a tankard, and a big straw hat!
For those of you who want more information, visit our participant costume guidelines. For more detailed (and exceptionally good) information, we highly recommend the book Elizabethan Costuming by Janet Winter and Carolyn Savoy (most of our participant guidelines have been pulled from their book). In this book's pages you will find not only excellent guidelines for all classes of Elizabethan society, but also instructions in how to make the pieces, needlework patterns, material sources, etc. The book, published by Other Times productions, is $15 and is available through Lacis in Berkeley. You can contact them at 510-843-7178 or visit their web site at www.lacis.com. The book and many other resources can be ordered on line. Elizabethan Costuming can also be ordered from Amazon.com.
Wear a loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt without tails so you can wear it untucked. If it's not the ideal open-necked style, leave the top few buttons undone or cut them off and lace the shirt with a leather thong.
Over the shirt wear a vest, if possible, cut in a long or loose-fitting style.
To make breeches, either cut off a pair of pants below the knee and run elastic around the bottom or make "leggings" by wrapping squares of muslin over your pant leg and
tying them with leather straps or other lacings. Now you are ready for accessories such as your tankard and pouch!
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