Renaissance Costumes

Nerd alert! Zach and I like Renaissance festivals. We first went to the Sterling Renaissance Festival in New York and loved it. Giant turkey legs, jousting, handsome men in costumes flirting with you, what fun! When we moved to Wisconsin we were excited to find out that there was a festival just under two hours away – the Bristol Renaissance Faire. I asked Zach if he would ever go in costume, and to my delight he said he thought that would be a blast. The prospect of making clothing from a pattern was both exciting and daunting. Up to this point I had not done any large sewing projects; it was mostly small alterations or simple straight lines. Rather than work my way up to such a challenging task, I jumped into the deep end. Step one, find some patterns. After perusing Amazon for a while I settled on this one for me and this one for Zach.

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Laying out the pattern

Following a pattern is a bit of a challenge for me, I’m not always great at doing exactly as I’m told. It was also challenging because there were a lot of new sewing terms, thank goodness for google. I frequently had to stop and look up this word or that word. And then I would have to look it up again the next day because I have the memory of a goldfish – I should really work on that. A lot of the fabric used in this project was from my grandma which made it special. The pattern for the skirt called for more fabric than I had, but I played around with it and made it work. Zach pants were actually made with material from an old bed skirt – upcylcing for the win!

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Part of Zach’s pants – made from an old bed skirt

I generally followed the pattern, but I did have to make changes here and there. Zach wanted pockets for his pants so I had to figure out how to add those in. I didn’t love the pattern for his vest so I changed it around. I like figuring out how to change a pattern to make it reflect what I want. It’s a fun puzzle and I LOVE puzzles. I didn’t like any of the corset options that came with my patterns, so I decided to make my own pattern. The internet informed me that this wouldn’t be too difficult, I would just need a t-shirt I could cut up, a sharpie, and lots of duct tape. Step one: put on t-shirt, step two: have significant other literally wrap you up. This was really fun and completely ridiculous – Zach really enjoyed it. I had to keep reminding him that this was not actually the 1500’s and I did actually need to breathe.

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Custom duct tape corset pattern

After the wrapping was complete I sketched out the shape of the corset and Zach cut me out – FREEDOM! Then I divided the duct tape corset into sections, the more the better. A corset is challenging to design and sew correctly because it needs to allow for the curves of the breast. There are different websites that help to explain the technique, I didn’t quite master it, but it was a great first effort. I used interfacing and boning to give it structure. I ended up having to safety pin part of the corset because I didn’t get the curves just right.

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Not too shabby! 

We had a ton of fun and I got a lot of compliments on our costumes. The next year we wanted to go again so I decided to make a few changes to the costumes. I completely redid my skirt, the original didn’t have enough fabric. I also added a zipper to my corset. I should have used a busk, but the zipper was far easier and cheaper and I didn’t care about being authentic.

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A new skirt and zipper in the corset
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Year two – notice our super authentic footwear!

This was a very time consuming project that needed a lot of attention to detail, but it was worth it in the end. There are some amazing renaissance costumes out there and mine don’t even come close, but I still think they’re pretty awesome.

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Let me out! 
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I guess he didn’t mind being locked up

This fall we plan on going to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival which is supposed to be amazing. I’m really excited to use these costumes again.


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