Thinking about having a Renaissance outfit built?
Here's some thoughts to get you started:

How much do I want to spend?

An important question. How much you are willing to spend will have a great impact on what kind of look you can achieve.  Every question you ask or answer can come back to this question. Money is always an object.  You can make a peasant costume more expensive than a noble costume depending on how you plan things.  The labor is only part of your expense.  Fabric and trim especially, are costs you must consider.  Accessories can also push your budget.  It is possible to spend more on a sword than a whole costume.  You can go to faire with nothing more than a pouch to match your costume and be very happy.  Most importantly, consider that a costume can exist as a work in progress.  You don't have to have all the pieces you want at once.

What style within the Renaissance do I want my costume modeled after?  Maybe Tudor, Cavalier, or Elizabethan?

I want a more Cavalier look.
I want a ruff (Elizabethan).
 

Is there any certain nationality or individual I want to reflect?

I want to have a Spanish look.
I need to look like Queen Elizabeth.

How period accurate do I want to be?

I want to look OK, but I don't really care if the buttons aren't period.
I want to be as period accurate as possible--I want laces instead of a zipper and I want a drawstring waist.

Do I have accessories I want my costume to match--sword, fan, hat, shoes?

I bought an expensive feather fan last year, I would like to have it match the costume I make.
I have a William Wallace style sword and will need a costume to work around it.
 
 
 

What accessories do I want to buy or have made to complete my costume?

I want to get a mug. I'll need a drinking strap.
I want a pouch made to match.

What do I want to look like, what impression do I want to make?

I want to be comfortable, I don't want to wear a lot of layers.  I don't want to be a noble.
I'm too conservative to be a wench, maybe a merchant would be better.

Can the size be adjustable?

It is possible that several different people will wear this outfit. I need to fit a range of sizes.
I am the only person who will wear the costume, but my weight fluctuates, I need to be able to adjust the size easily.

Is it a couple or group?

I perform in a singing group. The three of us need to look like a group, but not match.
My husband/wife and I want to match.
Remember that it is not necessary to completely match.  You can use one or more matching fabrics with differing trims or fabric accents to provide a distinctive air within the group.  You can also be linked by color without using the same fabrics.

Where am I going to wear my costume and is weather a big concern?

The faire can get petty muddy or very hot. I want to be able to breathe.
I am going to an indoor event which is air conditioned so weather isn't a concern.

How often do I plan to wear my costume?  How often will it need to be cleaned?

I plan to go to the fair four or five times. I need to be able to wash it each week.
This is my wedding dress, the fabric's attractiveness is more important than its durability. I only plan to wear it once.

What color scheme do I want?

Keep it light, dark colors are too hot for me.
I saw a burgundy velvet I just love, so I am going to plan my costume around it.
Often plaids mean Scottish and black and red tend to look Spanish.  So, whether planned or not, often color can make a costume look like it's connected to a certain country.

Are there any colors I should avoid?

As for colors, purple is typically the first we warn people away from.  Unless you are high royalty,  you should not wear purple.  Other purple toned fabrics--eggplant, plum, etc.--are acceptable.  Gypsies didn't wear bright red since their culture dictated that the color of blood was bad luck.  Black and white were rare as black dye was very difficult to make and bleaching a fabric to white was very expensive.  Kelly green was decreed by Henry VIII to be the harlot's color.

What types of fabrics should I consider?

Firstly, it is important to leave all options open.  Don't rule out discount fabric stores as imperfections can sometimes be worked around or even work for you.  Shop the whole store.  Don't limit yourself to the "garment" type material displays.  Remnant tables can be a treasure chest of possibilities.  Let yourself shop for the right look and often you will find exactly what you're looking for.  Shop as much as you like in as many stores as you need to get what you want. Upholstery type brocades and solids are good to look at.  Heavyweight cottons and canvas can also be used.  Depending on class, you may be able to use lightweight cottons.  Velvet is appropriate for nobles or wealthy merchant.  Corduroy is a less expensive substitute for velvet and very period accurate.

Are there any fabrics to avoid?

Remember while shopping for fabrics that the overall appearance of the garment is foremost.  There are exceptions to any rule, but here are some examples.  Printed brocades are not as period as woven, but can be used.  Upholstery materials with rubber or vinyl backing should be avoided since they melt when ironed.  Sequins, polyester, nylon, lame and rayon are typically not appropriate.  Taffeta and in many cases satin are to be avoided.  Paper ribbon doesn't hold up and can't be used as trim.

Should I wash may fabrics before I bring them in?

Generally speaking, if you plan to wash your costume after wearing it, you have to wash the fabric before cutting.   Another important note is that materials will sometimes shrink or change color.  It is much better to have that happen before construction than ruining your garment in a rainstorm.  We recommend washing for most fabrics including upholstery; however, there are fabrics which can be destroyed by washing.  If you have questions, ask your local fabric agents or ask us.

What are options in trims?

You can use buttons, nailheads, pearls, even inexpensive jewelry as trims or decorations. Some fabrics can also be stripped up and used for trim. Some very impressive trim effects can be achieved with inexpensive trims like home decorating braids.  On the other hand, a very expensive trim can go a long way in spicing up a plain fabric.  Remember that the money you save in trim costs by using a combination of less costly trims can often be spent in labor as several rows of trim take more time to apply, while an expensive trim costs more it can save in labor costs.


This fabric can be striped up and used as trim

After answering all of these questions, you should have a better idea of what you want in a Renaissance costume.  To have a closer look at the different classes, look at the pages below.


 
Noble Woman
Noble Man
Merchant Woman
Merchant Man
Peasant Woman
Peasant Man
Scot Couples
Specialties