Past Projects—Renaissance Edition, part 1

So, as I’ve mentioned before, I started sewing because I love to play dress up and go to the local Renaissance Faire (in Crownsville, Md., if you must know) every fall. I have purchased a few pieces of costume for my faire going, but the vast majority of my outfits I’ve made all on my own with varying degrees of skill and success. I’ve gotten better the more I’ve completed, of course. None of my costumes to date are very fancy—it’s still really hot and humid in the early/mid-fall in the DC area, and fancy costumes would not only be sweltering to wear, but they’d get ruined fairly quickly.

But I take great pride in making my own, have received many compliments on various bodices I’ve made, and I really like the fact that I can create my own style, choose my own colors and materials, etc., rather than just selecting from the commercially available Ren-wench wear.

I do have plans to make—someday—a few fancier gowns, suitable for court wear. More on that later!

Anyway, back in college I started making my own wenchy costumes to wear to the faire. I have no photos of these costumes, for the most part. I’ll try and scrounge up the few I have and post them here.

My first one was an ivory bridal satin bodice that buttoned down the front. The Emma Thompson/Kenneth Brannagh movie version of Much Ado About Nothing really had a hold on me back then, and I so wanted to reproduce the Mediterranean pastoral feeling of the film with an all-white renaissance outfit, such as the main female characters wore. The satin bodice was kind of a disaster, though. I used a pattern purchased from who-knows-where at this point, and didn’t have a very good grasp of how it would fit, or even how it should fit. But as such, it was a very valuable learning experience and I put the lessons learned then to good use on my next attempt—and the lessons learned from that one went into the following costume, and so on and so on!

Eventually I got the process down and managed to make wearable costumes that I felt comfortable in and that expressed my personality. It’s so much fun playing dress up, pretending to live in another era for just a day. And pretty pretty dresses!

If I can find some of those photos of my older costumes, I’ll add them to this post. **Update: Found some pictures of my old costumes!


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2 thoughts on “Past Projects—Renaissance Edition, part 1

  1. I just watched Much Ado About Nothing and I too have fallen in love with Emma Thompson’s dress. I’ve been looking for patterns similar and can’t find anything. I’m a fairly novice seamstress so do you have any recommendations or suggestions on where to find a pattern? I would love to see your rendition of that dress. I am actually thinking of how I could adapt it to wear as a nice dress. I think it is beautiful and very feminine. Just because no one else is wearing that style doesn’t mean it can’t be mine. Thanks in advance for the suggestions!

    • Well, if you want to make something faire-worthy, you could purchase a basic Renaissance bodice pattern, skirt pattern, and chemise pattern, add a little ruffled peplum to the bodice back waistline, replace the front lacing with buttons (but lace it at the sides or else you’d never get it fastened!) and make it all in white fabrics, and that would reproduce the film costume’s look. I actually don’t have the bodice I made way back when anymore (it was at least 10 years ago). But I intended to reproduce the film costume exactly. I used bridal satin for the bodice, and it worked okay.
      But if you’re wanting to make an easier to wear, more modern version that sort of references the film costume without copying it, you might look into Folkwear pattern company’s Dirndl dress pattern. The bodice of the dress has a vaguely Renaissancey look, it comes with a pattern for a puffy little peasant-style top to wear underneath, and the skirt is full but only knee or tea-length. Make it in white or cream linen and make the top underneath in a sheer white gauze, batiste, voile, Swiss dot, or eyelet.
      Good luck!

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