Volume 13, Issue 37 ~ September 15 -21, 2005
Be comfortable when garbed in period attire, advises Cindy Andersen, costume mistress for the Maryland Renaissance Faire. Also bring insect repellent and sunscreen.
A Quick and Easy Guide to Dressing for The Maryland Renaissance Festival
Dress up for fun by ransacking your wardrobe, renting or buying
by Kat Bennett

Clothes make the wench — and the varlet, the lord, the lady, the pirate. The Maryland Renaissance Festival is even more fun if you dress up. Ransack your wardrobe, and you may find enough bits and pieces to be queen or king for a day.

To become a wench, start with a full gathered skirt or two in solid colors. If you wear two, tuck one up bit to show the other. A loose blouse or nightgown with a gathered neckline and/or dropped sleeves is next. The retro 1960s’ look is just the thing. Substitute a large plain men’s shirt with the collar cut off by rolling up the sleeves and tying them with ribbons. The last piece is the crucial one: a bodice. Use a close-fitting round or square necked vest, bodice or a very, very wide belt. You can make a one-time bodice by cutting a piece of cardboard to fit around the waist (double it for strength), gluing on a fabric covering. Punch some holes and lace it with ribbons or shoestrings.

Top your costume off with a large straw hat from a craft or thrift shops. Wear it with the ties on the outside so the sides bend down.

To become a varlet, start with loose-fitting pants tied or cross-gartered with leather shoestrings. Add a long loose shirt and a jerkin or vest. If you use a knit shirt, cut off any knitted ribbing; if a dress shirt, remove the collar. Shirt and vest should be long enough to hide the pants’ fly and pockets.

Every man was required by law to own at least one woolen cap. Wear a flat cap to be in style and shaded from the sun.

Varlets and wenches alike wear belts to carry such useful items as mugs, swords and pouches. Women also carry baskets, which are nice for baby supplies and bigger items.

For foot coverings, look for sandals, Birkenstock-style shoes or long boots. Moccasins look okay if the fringe is removed. Come with feet shod for terrain that can be hilly, rocky, dusty and muddy, and remember that you’re joining a society that got around by walking.

Most important, advises Cindy Andersen, costume mistress for the Maryland Renaissance Faire, is to be comfortable and to have fun. She recommends bringing two modern conveniences: insect repellent and sunscreen.

If your pouch if full of gold, you can buy your costume at the faire. Shop Potomac Leather Company for vests and skirts; Son of Sandlar for period shoes; Unicorn Clothing for garments; Kate Cox Designs for chain mail; Fantasia for Tudor bodices and clothing; Purple Unicorn Clothing for clothing for all ages (check their website for a coupon for a free magic wand or 10 percent off a shirt/vest combo: www.purpleunicorn.com/home.html).

Costumes can also be rented, for every faire has a rental booth just inside the main entrance. The lady can be a wench (think St. Pauli girl) for $20 a day or a lady of the realm complete with a hoop skirt and pearls (price varies). Men can dress as a knight, a rogue or a monk for $15 to $25 a day. Outfitting as a lord of the realm is slightly higher. Children dress up for about $10 to $15 a day.

You can’t rent socks, shoes or hats because of health restrictions, so you’ll need to wear that part of your costume to the faire. One person in each renting group must leave a driver’s license, and everyone their street clothes for security.

Chat online about fine points of Renaissance costuming every Tuesday night: www.renaissancefestival.com/costumes.

If you’ve never dressed up before, give it a try — and remember to curtsy to royalty.

Kat Bennett of Annapolis is a freelance writer and occasional wench. Her last story for Bay Weekly — When Will the Bay Flood Again? [Vol. xiii, No. 36: Sept. 8] — gave you the information you need to understand the ups and downs of Chesapeake Bay.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.