My First Costume – Part 1

One of the problems with going to Ren Fairs in costume is:  where do you find the costume?  This can be more difficult than you think.  Especially if you want to actually see and try on the piece before you wear it.


  • For most gentlemen your basic costume, your starting point, is a shirt and a pair of pants.  The pants need to be fitted at the waist with a draw string and made out of some coarse woven material, remember that you want those pants to breath in the summer as it can get hot at some of the fairs.  The color doesn’t necessarily matter but neutral colors are usually best.  The shirt is a little more difficult.  You are looking for something long sleeved and coarse woven.  Open at the neck is better.  No collar is preferable to a modern collar.
  • For the ladies a straight skirt that fits with a draw string at the waist is perfect but any simple, flowing skirt will do.  You don’t want the skirt to fit anywhere but the waist and it should come down past your knees at least.  The same shirt mentioned above will work or a loose blouse that fits at the shoulders or that can be worn on your upper arms will work as well.

(A note on the shirts:  most of the time they are white or off-white.  You liven everything up with accessories later on.)

9842_1_83_pWhere to find:

The easy answer is at a Renaissance Fair.  The second answer is online.  Here is the difficulty with online shopping for you first costume:  You will not be able to try it on.  That being said, if you find a shop online that you really like it can be cheaper than in person and sometimes have a better selection.  Remember though that these clothes are going to fit a little different than your off the rack variety.  And when you get them they will probably feel a little big, that is OK.

So you want to go in costume to your first fair and you want to try the garb on before you go.  Start at thrift stores and vintage stores in your area.  The Ren look was in during the 70s and early 80s.  You can probably find peasant blouses and peasant shirts that will work in a vintage store in your area.  Yard sales are also sometimes good places to start though they are very hit or miss.  You can go to a costume shop but most of the time you are going to be disappointed with the variety and the price that you are given there.  Plus, they are costumes and they are not going to hold up to a day of walking around at the fair.

Here are some ideas:

  • Old Navy:  Sometimes Old Navy has linen style pants with drawstrings at the waist.  This gives you the coarse woven look and the drawstring on the cheap.  They have pockets which is kind of a “no no” but they will work.
  • Any store that specializes in hemp products from shirts and shoes to sandals will probably have everything you are looking for in a basic costume.
  • Also stores that are eco minded or the least bit green tend to carry these kinds of clothes.

Think outside the box and venture into stores that you may not have gone in before you might be surprised by what you find.