I saw such a sad thing online the other day. A woman had found this super cute top by a popular costume shop being advertised on a renfaire based group. The price was low, she bought two. She was so disappointed, she got cheap goods. Didn’t fit, flimsy, poorly made in India. I was disappointed for her. So, I’m going to share my thoughts on quality in renfaire costumes, what to do and how to get it. I’ve been doing this a long time, I think I can share with you and help everybody out.
Back in the stone age when I began in this industry, almost all renfaire or SCA costumes and historical clothing were handmade by independent stitchers or at most a small non-professional hobby group. That started to change in the early 2000’s. By 2009ish, there I was at a Halloween costume manufacturing convention, and there was this guy taking catalogs from folks and handing out his card. He was representing a manufacturer from India and his company wanted to get into the renfaire costume business. Pirates, too. Sure enough within a year or so the cheaply made goods started flooding into the US, from all over. It really changed the market.
It changed the kinds of people who sell costumes too. Now, all you need to set up shop is a good bank account and the ability to get accepted at renfaires that are not particular about promoting art, crafts, and artisans.
How to start?
The implications of this firstly, is that you have to be aware of whom you buy from. Pictures of young cuties with lots of boob showing are not necessarily going to get you something good to wear. Just saying. So, ask where are these made? Do you make them? Be nosy, be curious. A true craftsperson and artist is going to be so happy to talk to you about their favorite thing, you will not regret it. Be sure to ask if its prewashed for shrinkage.
I always advise people who want to dress up and don’t have a lot of cash to get creative and focus on quality. Borrow stuff, ransack the thrift store and find some treasure. Maybe scout around for something second hand from a renfaire online swap and your renfaire friends. You’re going to look and feel so much better than buying a cheapo import. Bonus: recycle reuse remake and you’re making the planet a better place too. Good job mah lil’ sparkle pony!
Natural fibers are important. You are gonna sweat a lot at an outdoor festival. Think long and hard about the implications of wearing a shiny taffeta skirt on uneven ground in 100 degree heat and 80% humidity. Yeah…
This next part is most important to remember. A great festival outfit evolves over time, it does not happen all at once. This means you SHOULD focus on quality, one piece at a time. You won’t have to replace it every few wears if you get the good shirt made of good cotton or linen by a local artisan. Save your nickels for the good stuff, and enjoy yourself along the way. Now you have the cash for an extra beer on your adventure day at the renfaire.
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