Renaissance Bodices | Renaissance Clothing and Medieval Costumes

All About Renaissance Bodices

One of the most popular pieces of women's costuming for Renaissance faires and similar events is the bodice.  There are so many options and styles on the market that it can be hard to tell which are authentic and which are based on fantasy.  Fitting a bodice can be tricky, too.  We're used to buying modern clothes off the rack.  However, most of our current fashions aren't as closely fitted as a bodice, which leaves a wider margin of error.  The correct fit can make the difference between a lovely historical impression and looking and feeling squished!

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Before you choose a bodice, whether you're sewing it for yourself or buying one from a vendor, the first step is to think about the overall impression you're trying to create.  A wench bodice looks odd when combined with an upper class skirt and hat.  Ideally, you should decide what social class, time period, and country you wish to base your costume on.  Clothes during the sixteenth century changed a lot, much the same as fashions change now, and there were regional differences, too.

Once you have a rough idea what kind of outfit you'd like to put together, you can begin to look at bodice style.  For the later part of the sixteenth century, the part of the Renaissance in which separate skirts and bodices were worn most often, there are a lot of styles.  Lower class women tended to wear bodices that laced up the front, while back or back side lacing was more common for the nobility.

That's because noblewomen were more likely to have servants to help them put on their clothes.  No matter what class you're portraying, it's a good idea to make sure that you'll be able to easily put your clothes on - without some assistance, you could have trouble with some bodice types.  Remember to choose fabric types that are appropriate for the period, class, and nationality you're thinking about portraying.  If you're not sure what your persona would have worn, do a little research!  Paintings of Renaissance life are readily available online.

Don't get a bodice that's too tight!  Many women are delighted by the figure shaping effects of a firmly boned bodice.  However, getting one that's too small won't enhance those effects.  It's more likely to make you look as though you're falling out of your bodice instead.  A well fitted bodice should lace firmly, but without squeezing any part of your body or causing pain.  It should uplift the bust, but it shouldn't smash it.

Many bodices are boned - stiffened with metal, cord, reed, or strong fabric.  This is important for getting the shape of the period.  However, most modern women aren't used to wearing garments that are this stiff.  So, before you wear a bodice to the faire for the first time, spend a few hours wearing it around the house.  You'll find that your balance isn't the same, and breathing may require different muscles.  If you get used to your clothing before the faire, you'll have a lot more fun while you're there.