16th Century Costumes at the Florida Renaissance Festival
South Florida is hot throughout most of the year, so it is a great thing that the Florida renaissance festival occurs between February and March. Renaissance costumes tend to be bulky and cover up more skin than 21st century Floridians are accustomed to; so the timing of the event is perfect because it is not so hot and humid around this time of the year. This alone should encourage attendees to dress up in their best renaissance attire. One of the highlights of any renaissance fair is seeing the elaborate costumes from the 16th century that help create that time traveling feeling. It’s pretty hard to disconnect from the present when you are excitedly watching a jousting duel while Joe Loudmouth chatters away on his smart phone, fully clad in modern wear—ignoring the show! If are an avid renaissance fan, you do not want to see, even less, be that person. The magic of any ren fest is getting the sense of what the world was like in the Golden Age. Every year, Florida Renaissance festival costumes get the attention of serious cosplayers that really take their 16th century fashion seriously. So much, that renaissance fairs are being promoted to fans of comic book and anime conventions. This definitely means that the FL ren fest is headed in the right direction.
As more serious costumers dress up is classic 16th century fashion to attend the event, more people should start getting into the spirit of renaissance costuming. Hopefully, the renaissance fair will one day turn into one big cosplay event where every attendee feels compelled to dress up and truly live in the 16th century, at least for one day. Traditional renaissance clothing may be hard to find at an affordable price, which is why many people opt to make their own garb sets. Men in the renaissance days dressed in very unique garments and their styles of clothing varied depending on the social status of the person. A peasant would maybe wear a plain tunic with puffy sleeves (much like a pirate shirt) along with knickerbockers that would go tucked into a pair of boots. Members of the noble class had more elaborate outfits; they also wore the same type of shirt and pants—of a much higher quality, of course—bet they were topped off with special fancy vests called ‘jerkins’, doubles (a hybrid vest-jacket with padding, typically made of velvet) or long robes made from fine fabrics that helped to establish the wearer’s status. Think of the Three Musketeers. Any combination of these clothing articles would make for an excellent men’s costume for the Florida renaissance festival.
One of the most popular associations with 16th century renaissance outfits for men is a renaissance knight’s battle uniform. You will be hard pressed to find someone, anywhere in the world, that is not familiar with the look. Florida renaissance costumers are quite familiar with the pieces that go into the perfect armored knight costume. It all starts with the chainmail coif. These are closely interlocked metallic rings that form a sort of metallic mesh which was then used to create hoods, vests and even leggings to protect the knight’s skin from sharp, cutting objects. Then, over the coif, sturdy metallic full body armor would protect from blunt impact attacks. Although effective in protecting the knight, plated armor was very inconvenient because of its weight and its restrictive range of motion. Add arm guards, shin guards, shield and weapons, and walking around in a knight’s armor would be the first challenge to overcome in battle. If you plan on attending the FL ren fest as a spectator, maybe it is best to go as far as wearing the coif and no metal plated armor. It will still be a very recognizable look but you will have free range of motion.
Women’s fashion in the renaissance period is the foundation for almost every princess costume that Disney has designed for fairy tale films. Under-bust corsets were very popular at the time as they were intended to shape up the torso to fit into a waist-crinching dress that accentuates the female figure. This style would not fere well in Florida due to the warm climate, but long dresses maintain their popularity at local renaissance festivals because they are the best option for women to keep close to tradition. Just about every woman, from peasant maids to royal queens, wore these types of form-fitting renaissance dresses. Just like the men, elaborate detail or simplicity would be telling of the lady’s social status. Noble women’s dresses were made from fine velvet or shiny satin. They were in essence, ball gowns, so these women were recognized as respectable, powerful women who could afford to wear lavish clothing at all times. The average peasant was a bit more simplistic. Wool and linen were popular among female commoners as they were sturdy fabrics, long lasting and they were fairly inexpensive—regardless of how high-end they are considered today—because these were usually produced by their own families.
16th century costumes are some of the most popular products for costume stores, even in the 21st century. We have renaissance festivals to thank for that. Every year, we receive tons of inquiries for traditional renaissance costumes for the ren fest. We proudly hold one of the biggest selections of classic renaissance outfits in Florida. Dresses for kings, queens, knights, Jesters and peasants are available all year long for any renaissance fair event in Florida. Call us up if you wish for more information at 305-253-5380 or 1-800-288-9916.