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Dressing the part
Clothing should reflect the time or era in which it was worn. As a living history organization, each member of Warwick is encouraged to dress in clothing appropriate to the period of history he or she portrays. Clothing is tied to behavior and when you look the part you are more likely to act the part – not only that, but wearing the proper attire lets others know who you are and what you represent (era, social status, etc.).
Before you begin your wardrobe you may want to first do research on the types of clothing typically worn during the period you portray. The Internet, books, paintings, and sculptures are all good sources for ideas. You may also get ideas from other members who may portray a persona from the same era. Study not only the outer garments, such as tunic, breeches, or skirt, but also study the undergarments, shoes, hairstyles and accessories. Keep in mind that nobles and peasants dressed quite differently!
Deciding on a Method
Once you identify garments you would like for your wardrobe there are basically three ways to obtain them: 1. learn to sew, 2. find someone to sew them for you, or 3. purchase ready-made garments.
Sewing the garments yourself can be challenging, but also quite rewarding. In addition, you are able to customize the garment to your specific taste. There are many ‘period’ patterns on the market to reference in designing your wardrobe.
You may choose to have someone sew the clothes for you. The benefit of this is you are getting a custom, hand made garment; however, the draw back to hiring someone to make the garment for you may be the amount of time it takes and the expense.
Purchasing ready-made garments is sometimes the easiest choice. There are many period clothing stores offering a variety of clothing styles from Viking to Elizabethan and they offer a wide range of sizes. If you decide to purchase your clothing, you may not have a custom made garment and there may be limited choices for fabric colour and type. Also, you may not be able to try the item on prior to purchase and the prices can be quite hefty.
Building Your Wardrobe
Building your wardrobe gradually is often a good idea if you plan to spend a substantial amount of money on clothing and accessories. Start off with the basics – a shirt (or chemise), pants (or skirt), shoes, and hat (worn by most everyone throughout history). Build on your basic wardrobe as you can afford it. And don’t forget – accessorize, accessorize, accessorize! Items like necklaces, brooches, and rings can really add to your character.
The following is a list of resources for historical clothing and accessories:
Elizabethan Costume Page provides several resources for research, patterns, costume construction, books, and accessories: http://costume.dm.net/
The Renaissance Tailor offers a variety of 16th and 17th century clothing and accessories: http://www.vertetsable.com/
Renfaire.com offers a costume guide, pattern guide and list of retail clothing: http://www.renfaire.com/Costume/
Museum Replicas Limited offers a variety of historically accurate clothing, accessories, and armour: http://www.museumreplicas.com/WebStore/Home.aspx
By the Sword, Inc. offers fine quality clothing reproductions for re-enactors: http://www.by-the-sword.com/new/index.html
The Renaissance Store offers many clothing and accessory choices for re-enactors and fantasy: http://www.renstore.com/
Medieval-life.net a good source for general medieval clothing information: http://www.medieval-life.net/clothing.htm
Learner.org is another source for research on clothing of the middle ages: http://www.learner.org/exhibits/middleages/clothing.html
Revival Clothing offers fine historic clothing with an online catalog: http://www.revivalclothing.com/
Historic Enterprises offers men’s and women’s period clothing and reenactment goods: http://www.historicenterprises.com/
Note: eBay is also a good source for period clothing, accessories, weapons, and shoes: http://www.ebay.com