Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Renaissance Magazine needs you now!

Renaissance Magazine* has announced the publication of it's Special Directory Issue. This special issue will include Faires, Guilds, Merchants, and Performers in the Renaissance, SCA and other Medieval related communities.
If you work in anyway with the Renaissance market, they are asking for you to provide them with your correct listing by filling out the form at
Please also share this exciting opportunity with any other merchants, performers and guilds by forwarding this email.
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*Not a Chivalry Sports Renaissance Store Publication.

Originally published June 27, 2006 by Gael Stirler

Dressing the Part

For Fun and Comfort at the Festival
by Kim Matzke
Kim It seems that every year there are more and more people who dress in costume when they attend their local Renaissance Faire. Is it really more fun? What do you need to make your costume great? Well, let's find out.

I attended my first Renaissance Faire about 11 years ago. I took my two boys (then ages 6 and 8) with me. We all had a blast!!

The costumes were fabulous! The shows were wonderful! The shops were fantastic! The games were genius! The King and Queen's Court was impressive! And, the jousting was amazing! The only thing that would have made it better would be if we had been in costume, too. But it was my first Faire and what did I know?
Well, you can rest assured that the next year when we went to Faire, we were all dressed in costume. And you know what? We all had an even better time than the year before!

Hail and well met!
The Royal Welcome
at the Colorado Renaissance Festival

As we approached the entrance, the minstrels and players acknowledged us as Lords and Lady and complimented us on our appearance. It was wonderful to see my boys beam with pride as they were recognized by the performers.

Because I was dressed as a “wench” in skirt, bodice, and chemise, I must say that I truly enjoyed the attention that my costume garnered from the players during the shows and even the merchants as I ogled their wares and they, in turn, ogled my .. um .. assets.

The boys had a great time attending to the period games and rides and seemed to feel much more comfortable interacting with the game attendants and wandering minstrels. It was as if they had almost transformed into true medieval lads romping about a medieval village.

I must say that it was a magical day for us all and we were, all three, reluctant to leave as the sun began to set on the Faire. We all vowed that we would return again the next year and the vote was unanimous that our return absolutely MUST be “in costume.”

Keep your choices simple and functional

If you decide that you'd like to attend your local Renaissance Faire in costume, here are some tips to help you with your costume.

Children laughing
love to dress up in garb

When shopping for children who have the pesky tendency to just grow right out of their clothing, try to buy the clothing a bit larger than what they need right now. The Child's Commoner's Vest, Little Lady's Chemise and Little Lady's Irish Dress are designed to be size flexible to accommodate several sizes through a child's development. The natural fiber fabric and tough seams ensure that they'll grow out of these clothes before they wear them out. That should give you a good idea of the quality of these clothes.

Our ancestors wore hats and veils for a reason. Aside from the fact that they didn't want to mess with their hair everyday and hats would easily hide their untidy locks, hats are also good for keeping the sun off of your head, and brimmed hats, like the Elizabethan Cap, will keep the sun out of your eyes. Hats like the Muffin Cap hide modern hairstyles and are versatile enough to wear a number of different ways. Ladies can also use a snood or a veil to keep the sun off their head or conceal a modern hairstyle. The right hat not only completes your costume, but it will also help keep you comfortable whether it is hot or cold at the Faire.

Some other ways to “battle” the weather during your day at the Faire are to bring an umbrella or a parasol to provide shade when none other is available. And while it distracts a little from the ambience, please either protect your eyes with a brimmed hat or sunglasses.

Good advice to help you put together the perfect costume

What to wear under
Wear natural fibers like cotton and linen

The proper Lady should start with the correct undergarments for maximum comfort. Start with a chemise and bloomers. A chemise is usually a full-length under-dress made from a light fabric (like cotton) that is easily washable. This garment is designed to sit next to your skin and absorb any sweat that might soil your outer gown. Bloomers are wonderful for preventing chafing if you happen to attend the Faire on a warm day. Hoop skirts hold big skirts out from the legs at an attractive angle and have the added benefit of allowing air to circulate under the skirt to keep you cool on a warm day.

Next you will want to find the perfect gown, dress or bodice and skirt. These items are usually made from more elaborate fabric since they will not need to be cleaned as often as your chemise and bloomers because they rarely come in contact with your skin.


Tapestry Cap
Elizabethan Cap
worn with a lace snood

Finish off the outfit with a few accessories like a hat, snood or veil, a belt with a pouch and one or two tankard straps (these are great for holding your keys) with a tankard, and any jewelry that will compliment the outfit.

Finally, I recommend socks and comfortable shoes or boots. I place heavy stress on the word “comfortable.” Sandals and open-toed shoes are probably not a good idea when attending a Faire and heels are simply impractical for the sometimes rugged terrain. Even a pair of black tennis shoes would be better than uncomfortable shoes since they will rarely been seen from under your gown or skirt.

The gentle Lord will need either a hat or a biggen. The benefit of a biggen is that it can be wetted at the water fountain and then placed on the head to cool off on a hot day.

Next, he will need an undershirt of light fabric (cotton and other natural fiber fabrics breath well while polyester doesn't breath at all and can make it seem like you are wearing a plastic bag), an over-tunic like a doublet, jerkin, or a vest (this can be removed if the weather gets too warm or put back on if it cools off). Again the over-tunic can be made of a more elaborate fabric because it will rarely touch your skin. Don't forget pants, of course.

with a belt, pouch, and tankard strap
Finish the outfit with a belt and pouch, a belt-knife, a tankard, one or two tankard straps, and any “manly” jewelry that will compliment the outfit. Perhaps a chain or a ring. For men, I recommend socks and comfortable boots. Boots make every man's costume that much more dashing. And if your Faire allows, you may want to wear your sword.

A child's costume is less involved. Girls need a chemise and a dress made from fabric that is machine washable. Boys need a light undershirt and a pair of pants and possibly an over-tunic that is easily cared for. Both will need a hat or a biggen, a belt, and socks and shoes. I also highly recommend that you hang a favor (small scarf or tie) on their belt that bears the child's name and contact information should they be separated from the family.

One thing to keep in mind is that clothing layers are your friends. If you dress in layers, then you will be prepared for whatever the weather may have in store for you. You may even want to bring a cloak or two in case it turns chilly or if you're planning to stay after dark.
A Few More Tips

For those who might be attending their first Renaissance Faire, make sure that you bring some water with you and keep yourself hydrated through the day. Water will be available on site too, so you can buy it there if you forget to bring some with you. Sunscreen and hand sanitizer, however, will probably not be available at the Faire. Definitely plan to bring your own supply and use it, use it, use it. You also may want to bring or buy canvas tote bags. This will help you keep the ambience and hold your purchases, excess clothing, and other essentials throughout the day.

knight charging
Jousting at
Bristol Renaissance Faire

And finally, in each of our newsletters, we provide you with information and links to Renaissance Faires throughout the country. Check out the website of the Faire you are planning to attend and get information about the site. What will it cost to attend? Are there fees for parking and how much are they? What merchants will be in attendance and what do they sell? What kind of food is available and does it fit within your eating plan? Are you allowed to wear a sword, or should you leave it at home? These websites can be a wealth of information and are designed to give you the answers you need to make your day at the Renaissance Faire a great and grand adventure.

With these tips, I have every confidence that you will be able to select a wonderful costume to wear to Faire and have the most magical day possible.

If you need more help choosing the perfect costume, feel free to call The Renaissance Store and talk with one of our helpful sales people. They would be more than happy to share their wealth of knowledge with you.

Vivat my Lords and Ladies! And have a grand time!

Originally published June 27, 2007 by Kim Matzke

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tracking the Tudor Tailor

by Gael Stirler

Lady Anne Boleyn
by Lucas Horenbout
a Tudor fashion trendsetter
Last week I had the pleasure of attending a talk by the authors of the The Tudor Tailor (item CFP62556) at the Phoenix Museum of Art. Ninya (pronouced NIH-na) Mikhaila and Jane Malcolm-Davies kept an audience of costumers and reenactors stitched to our seats for two hours as they interpreted the lives of two women of the early 16th century through their relation to their garments and each other.
Jane portrayed Ann Lauther, a woman of the gentlemanly class who lived in Yorkshire with her husband on a stipend of only £100 a year! With that she could maintain a fine house and 12 servants. Nina portrayed Kat Myldmay, a women of the village, who occasionally worked for Ann Lauther on contract. She would assist the house servants one day a month for a year with the linen washing for the grand sum of 4 pence a year! She also made extra money by mending clothes and assisting in other chores when needed. Between this money and other sums earned by her husband and children, the family lived comfortably on less than £1 a year.
Ninya Mikhaila
as Kat Myldmay
in her Sunday Best
I was surprised to learn that a suit of clothing often cost as much as a Tudor person earned in a year. Jane explained that there were 12 shillings in a pound and 20 pence in a shilling. A yard of inexpensive wool to make a kirtle for Kat Myldmay was dear enough at 2 shillings and 8 pence and a kirtle took 3 yards of fabric. That cost more than a half year's wages for one garment. Kat could only afford one kirtle and had to wear it everyday! But she could dress it up with accessories. She also owned two aprons, two linen head scarves called "yard squares," a pair of detachable sleeves of green wool broadcloth, a partlet of black worsted wool, and a felted knit flat cap. She would only wear the nicer accessories on Sunday when she went to church. Nina explained that the wool garments never were washed in water so they lasted a long time with care, so Kat Myldmay was very careful with her clothing. Everyone worn linen undergarments like smocks, shirts, and chemises to keep body oils and sweat from the outer garments. Kat owned three linen chemises—one to wear, one to wash, and one nice smock for Sunday. The kirtle and sleeves were lined with linen, too, which could be replaced when it became worn and soiled. This was called "freshing" the garments.
Jane's character, Ann, had to dress more elegantly as the mistress of a big household. Even so, she only owned one black silk gown which she wore to church and on special occasions. In the demonstrations Ann asked Kat to attend her while her own maids were not available. As Ann changed out of her everyday clothing and into her finery, the two authors lectured on clothing, economics, social customs, and English history, sometimes speaking as their characters and sometimes as narrators.
Under Ann's loose robe and surcoat she was wearing her chemise and a light wool kirtle. The kirtle, which was also called a petticoat by Tudors, was a combination skirt and fitted bodice with narrow straps over the shoulders that was worn as a foundation garment. It laced in the front. The most amazing fact they discovered was that of all the kirtles mentioned in wills, inventories, and bills of sale, a full 89% were some shade of red.
A French hood
with a gold frill and garnets on the billiment
There was no boning in the kirtle, but the next two garments were boned. According to the authors, boned corsets, called "bodies," were not in evidence in the historical documents for their class until Elizabethan times.
The next garment that Kat helped Ann Lauther into was her undergown of Damask silk. Only the hem, forepart, straps, and the front section of the bodice were of brocade—the rest was plain silk taffeta. This item of clothing was boned from waist to mid-chest all the way around. Because it laced in the back, it tended to flatten the bosoms, nearly pushing them under the arms. This created the typical Tudor sillhouette with a slight mounding above the decolletage. "Rather than," as Kat Mildmay would put it, "serving melons on a platter." The neckline of this gown was decorated with "fake pearls because Ann couldn't afford real ones." Even in Tudor times there was a vigorous industry in cheap costume jewelry.
Blackwork cuffs

Then Kat assisted Ann into her black brocade silk outergown with wide sleeves that were turned back to the elbow. The gown was tightly laced over the midriff in the front. The authors pointed out that the eyelets for lacing were on separate strips of sturdy silk fabric that were boned and sewn on either side of the front. That way they could be easily replaced when they wore out from the strain of lacing. Both of the gowns were fully lined with linen or silk where the lining might show. The skirts were also innerlined from the waist to the knee with a fluffy wool fabric called "cotton." There was no cotton in it at all, but the innerlining resembled the fluffy plant fiber. This innerlining gave the skirts the proper bell-shaped drape without the use of hoopskirts or bumrolls. The last step was to cover the lacing in the front with a placard of matching black brocade silk. Kat Myldmay pinned the placard in place with handmade brass pins. She said that the pins were the same as the ones that Queen Anne Boleyn used to pen her placard in place. Then she finished the process by pinning the shoulders to the undergown so that they wouldn't gap.
Fabric swatchbook
compiled by the authors
After they were done with the dress, Ann put on a lovely French hood that was all of one piece, but she said that was only for convenience sake. A Tudor woman would have worn a French hood that had many parts starting with a linen cap next to the hair and ending with a silk veil pinned to the crescent. Her other accessories included her blackworked cuffs, false sleeves, jewels, a pair of woolen hose, and sturdy leather strapover shoes.
The Tudor Tailor
by Ninya Mikhaila

and Jane Malcolm-Davies
After the demonstration, the authors mingled with the audience at a reception and book signing. They graciously answered questions and invited us to touch and examine the clothing they were wearing. They also made other items available for close inspection, including a child's kirtle made of rough spun wool, a man's shirt of Holland linen, and a reference book of fabric swatches.
Ninya and Jane have headed back to England after a whirlwind book tour of California and the Southwest. Hopefully they will return soon. The talk they gave in Phoenix was only one of six different presentations that they regularly perform. You can read more about them and view pictures from the book on their website, "The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing 16th Century Dress." The other talks cover men's clothing, the upper classes, and full Elizabethan court wear. There is a Yahoo group that you can join, too, to discuss the book. The book The Tudor Tailor includes clothing and accessories for all classes, with facinating background on the lives of these people, many color and black and white photographs, historical examples from paintings, statues, and extant garments, and detailed patterns for all the garments. The 160-page book is available from Chivalry Sports Renaissance Store for $34.95.

Originally published --June 13, 2007-- by Gael Stirler