“Where do you get your costume?” is a common question reeanctors are often asked when they are at fairs or festivals. I’ll attempt to answer that question.
There are hundreds of websites that sell replicas of historic clothing. Ebay can be another source. The New York Renaissance Fair in upstate New York that takes place in August is another good one. Many of the smaller, lesser known, local historical fairs (like Sands Point) will have vendors who sell period clothing.
The problem is that clothing or garb, as it is called, can be expensive. A medieval gown can sell for $200, a pair of pirate boots go as high as $400. A pirate vest, $125. And we haven’t discussed such accessories as belts, pouches, jewelry or hats.
To avoid sticker shock remember that internet stores have sales and coupons just like brick and mortar stores.
If you are good with needle and thread you can sew your own. McCall’s has some historic patterns. If you think a thimble is something you measure liquid with, then you better hire someone to sew the outfit for you. Many reenactment groups have people who sew and who might not mind doing some sewing to earn extra money.
Sometimes being creative in your shopping can help. I’ve found simple, low heel pumps at Walmart that look like a mediaeval slipper. I’ve found “pirate” boots at Target. I know one woman who found a $5 vest at Old Navy that she wears as part of her pirate costume. Your local thrift store might yield some interesting finds.
If you’re lucky, you might get some free garb. As people gain or lose weight, or no longer like a piece they might give it away.
At SCA events members sometimes sell their used clothing for a fraction of the original cost.
You don’t need to rush out and buy outfits right away. The SCA has Gold Key, which is garb that is loaned out to members who haven’t gotten their look together yet.
It has been my experience that other groups have a less formal set up. If you’re new and don’t have an outfit there’s usually someone your size who will have a spare set of clothing for you to borrow. And if the borrowed clothing is too large, the group’s seamstress can make it fit with the proper placing of pins.
The best advice I can give a newbie is don’t go out and buy anything until you talk to your group first. You need to understand your group’s culture. Some groups insist upon total historical accuracy in clothing, some will accept an attempt at an historic look. Your group will also be able to recommend, based upon members own experiences, where to get the best garb for your money.
In case you’re wondering, the gown I’m wearing in my picture is from an online store called the Tudor Shoppe. I don’t remember the exact price, but I did wait for it to go on sale.