Avoid synthetic fabrics. Stick with cotton, linen, wool, and silk or fabrics that look like them.
Fabrics were generally solids, stripes, or plaids. Ornate embroidery was common for upper class as well as woven brocades. Avoid brocade flowers, animals or scenes that look real though. They didn’t have that technology.
Avoid all prints as these were not available at the time the design should be woven into the fabric.
Avoid crushed velvet – stick with regular velvet
Avoid lace- they had lace but not the styles we have today.
They didn’t wear sunglasses or carry cell phones
Everyone wore hats or snoods, men and women. It was improper to be seen in public without a head covering. At festival you can get away with braiding hair instead of a head covering.
Shoes were simple fabric or leather mary jane style for women. Boots or a leather shoe for men.
Necklines could be very low for women although every other part of the body was well covered. There were fully covered styles as well.
For women the typical outfit consisted of a long sleeved chemise as the bottom layer. It looks a lot like old time night shirts gathered around the neck and bottom of the sleeves, a lot of fabric. White for upper class or off white if you are a peasant. Stay away from colors or lace for your chemise! No short sleeves even in hot weather. It was immodest to show your arms. The chemise can be blouse length or knee length. It doesn’t matter since it is covered by a skirt and only part of the top will show.
A corset was worn over the chemise and under the clothing by the upper class. Peasants can skip the corset! The corsets of the time were to make you have a flat chested look and were not the waist cinching corsets that were popular much later. No part of your corset should be visible so it doesn’t matter what type of material it is made of.
Hoop skirt. Upper class women wore hoop skirts. Peasants also get to skip this. There are some advantages to being poor. These are A shaped hoops not the bell shaped hoops that came into fashion later.
A bodice was worn over the corset and chemise. For a peasant stick with solid colored wool, cotton or linen. Higher class can use brocade, velvet or silks. In cold England sleeves were always attached to the bodice and a lady would never have just her chemise sleeves showing. In our warmer climate many people do skip the fancy sleeves and use the bodice more like a vest.
Underskirt – the underskirt usually was not the same color as the bodice. It peaked out from under the over skirt which was open in the front in middle class to upper class fashion. It was often very ornate.
The over skirt was usually the same color and fabric as the bodice for the upperclass. A peasant can get by with wearing only one skirt and the bodice and skirt don’t need to match for a peasant.
Peasants wouldn’t have been able to afford jewelry so skip it unless you are upper class. The higher your position the more jewels and jewelry you would wear to show off your wealth. Diamonds as we know them were not available so skip them. Stick with precious and semi precious stones. A wealthy lady might wear rings on every finger, several necklaces and a jeweled belt. Pearls were extremely popular and would be used in jewelry and sewn onto clothes. Jewels were also sewed onto clothes of the nobles.
These dogs were extremely valuable – more valuable than a peasant. They would have fancy collars and even coats. The same fabrics rules would apply as with people above. There are many ornate brocade and embroidered martingale collars that are available that are perfect. Leather collars also work well. Avoid nylon leashes. A simple leather leash is more suitable. When considering a coat remember that anything with a print is not period appropriate. You may be able to get away with a solid color fleece but a print fleece coat is obviously modern looking. You can see examples of acceptable hound gear in our photos.
Acting and Talking the Part
Any time someone of higher rank enters the room men bow and ladies curtsy. A peasant might throw themselves down on the floor to show they are unworthy. The noble may say “Recover” at which point you can rise and resume whatever you were doing. It is fun to teach your dog to bow as well.
Get out a King James Bible or watch Monty Python movies. Pepper your speech with thee and thou. Refer to the restroom as a “Privy”. Instead of “No” say “Nay” . Instead of Yes say “Indeed” or “Aye”. Say “Good Day my Lady or my Lord” as a greeting instead of “Hi”. Goodbye would be “Fair Thee Well” or “Anon”. “Huzzah” was a common cheer of the time.
Now that you have a costume and have done a bit of research on the time consider being a part of history by performing in costume at the Carolina and Georgia Renaissance Festivals with the Hounds of East Fairhaven.