The Elizabethan men's costume consists of a shirt, breeches (knee-length pants), vest, long socks, and shoes or boots.


The shirt was generally un-dyed, as this was the garment that was laundered most often.  Always long-sleeved, though the neckline was often split to reveal a manly chest


Breeches went to the knee and were closed in the front with a codpiece, a triangular piece of cloth that covered the open fly.  No zippers in the 16th century!


The vest was anywhere from hip to knee length, and usually not fastened closed except with the belt.


Socks went up to the knee - no bare skin!

Men's Faire Costuming

Women's Faire Costuming

The Elizabethan women's costume consists of a chemise (a long shirt), a pair of angle-length skirts, bodice (a tight vest), long socks, and shoes or boots.


The chemise, unlike a modern peasant blouse, covered the shoulders and often acted a slip, extending to knee or ankle length.


Skirts were worn layered, with the plainer skirt underneath, and the nicer, more colorful skirt tucked up out of the dirt.  This overskirt would be un-tucked when indoors to cover the plainer (and probably dirtier) underskirt.  Skirts went to the ground, since exposed legs were considered unseemly.


The bodice acted as support garment for the womanly virtues.  This basically looks like a tight vest and was often reinforced with whale-bone stays, or "boning."  Here in the modern day, we've discovered that the spring-steel bands used by home improvement stores to wrap lumber makes ideal boning.


Although not technically historically accurate, our group wears bloomers.  Long skirts tend to flare dramatically during spins, and audiences aren't paying for that kind of a show.






















For the peasantry, colors were simpler earthy tones that could be made with plant-based dyes.  Indigo blue was common, but there was a wide array of other colors, as well.  Russet red, dark orange, dusty green, and brown are all common.  Each individual piece of clothing would generally be all one color, with ribbons or strips of cloth in contrasting colors stitched near hems as decoration.  However, different pieces of clothing rarely matched each other.  Buying enough cloth to make a whole outfit all at once would have been unlikely for a farmer or pig-herder.


Avoid pinks and purples.  Only royalty was allowed to wear "royal purple," and the materials for this color of dye were prohibitively expensive.  This color wasn't the Imperial Purple of the Romans, but more of a fuchsia.  The dye was made from the shells of tiny sea snails, which is why it was such an expensive color.


Jewel tones were also expensive to keep up, as the fabric had to be re-dyed after washing.  Emerald green, bright red, and especially black are all considered upper-class fabric colors.



Only natural fabrics would be considered period, including cotton, linen, and wool.  Stick with thinner fabrics - dancing is hot work, and Southern California does not have quite the same weather as 16th-century England.  


Broadcloth is a common cotton fabric that is great for shirts, bloomers, and vests.  Denim tends to be heavier and so makes a better cloth for bodices and breeches.  


Velvet and its cousin, corduroy, are also period-appropriate, but were much more expensive cloths to produce, so generally are considered upper-class.  Crushed velvet is not remotely period.  Also, it's tacky.


Bubble gauze is a great material for shirts, as is thin muslin.  Since the muslin in fabric stores is usually un-dyed, you can have fun (and be more more period-accurate) using this cloth and dying it yourself.  Keep in mind that these are 100% cotton fabrics, so wash before construction, and construct big.  They'll just keep shrinking.



Hats - Everyone wore hats, all the time, no exceptions.  Leaving the house with an uncovered head was bad for the health and the soul.  Also, hats kept one's personal fauna (you know, ticks and fleas) to oneself.  Wide-brimmed straw hats were common for field-workers, and closer-fitting cloth hats kept hair out the faces of the washer-women or tailors.  There are innumerable styles to choose from.  


Belts - English peasants kept their entire table place-settings on their belts, so they were wide, sturdy, leather affairs.  A knife, a spoon, a mug, and pouches for money, combs, and keys were commonplace.  Strings of bells helped scare away evil spirits.  A dried animal tail, such as a fox or raccoon, was a great lure for those personal fauna, then would be hung over the hearth fire at night so the buggies would jump into the flames.


Shoes - Easier than you think to find these.  Most unadorned, low-heeled boots are perfectly fine for this period.  Paintings and wood-cuttings showed most shoes were very simple, slip-on style.  Many women wore a Mary Jane style shoe.  Buckles and buttons were common closures. Naturalizer and Born are brands that make faire-appropriate shoes.