Traveling Through Time In Period Costumes

  • June 05, 2013
  • Jenna Maxwell

Summertime is filled with one of the best opportunities out there for costume fans (like me) as well as you serious history buffs.  Renaissance Fairs are popping up all over the country as well as other fun historical reenactments from time periods such as the Civil War Era, the California Gold Rush or even the time of 17th century Pilgrims.  It’s one thing to learn about history, it’s another thing altogether to experience it vicariously through dressing the part and playing one of these fabulous historical roles.  If you have the chance to participate in such an event, you will not want to miss out on all the fun and all that you can learn by dressing as a character from a bygone era.  Here are a few hints to help get you started as you make your journey back in time!

Know Your History:  During a Renaissance Fair or any other historical reenactment, it’s very important to understand the essentials about the time period you are pretending to be a part of. You must understand the basic daily lifestyle of the people from that time, from how they dressed to how they cooked their food to how they conducted their everyday business. One of the most essential things you must decide on is what type of an individual you are portraying.  For example, during the Renaissance period, over ninety percent of the people were peasants.  If you are going to be a peasant, you must understand that their clothing was plain, woven out of neutral, simple fabrics and was very utilitarian, with little if any embellishments.  Royalty or wealthier folks would be the only ones who could afford any sort of finery, including dyed or brightly colored fabrics as well as jewelry.

Adopt a Persona:  You can’t very well dress up like a dignified knight in shining armor and then walk around saying “Yo, Dude, how you doin’ bro?”  To really experience your character, you must immerse yourself in it completely and try to speak as if you are really that person.  Obviously to do this well takes a bit of practice, not to mention research, but by putting forth a little effort you will be rewarded by having a far richer, and much more authentic experience!  Need some ideas on how your character would speak, act or behave?  My favorite way to really submerse myself in a persona is to watch a couple of movies that feature similar characters from the appropriate time period, imitate them by practicing at home.  Your family may or may not find your new personality amusing, but rehearsing at home really works.  To illustrate what I mean, say for example you were going to be in a Civil War era reenactment.  Watching “Gone With The Wind” and practicing your best Scarlett (or Ashley or Rhett) would be good practice.  Some excellent Renaissance-era films to give you some characterization ideas would be “King Arthur” or “Troy”.  If you are just looking for some fun ideas for a pure fantasy period look, watch a couple episodes of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”. Old time westerns are easy to find, but my personal fave is the original “True Grit” starring the Duke.  (John Wayne) The point is to really get into your character you must immerse yourself in it, which may require a bit more work than just getting a really cool costume.

Ditch The Modern Accessories:  You can completely ruin even the most authentic period look by walking around with your cell phone in your hand or by wearing those cool modern sunglasses you have or even something as innocuous as donning a wrist watch.  Make sure any accessories that you have on match the look that you are trying to obtain and get rid of or hide the rest.  You will survive one day without your cell phone and if you can’t, hide it somewhere out of sight and turn off the ringer!

Dressing up in a period costume for a fair, event or historical reenactment can be amazing fun. You can watch history come to life right before your eyes as you step back into the past while recreating one of these amazing historical figures.  Going back in history to another time and place has never been easier, more educational or so much fun!  Shop our huge selection of historical costume looks to get your piece of history just right--and you don’t have to destroy the drapes to do it!