Choosing Women's Clothes For Your Renaissance Event
Women's clothes, just like men's, look different over the two centuries and many countries that made up Renaissance Europe. That can mean that choosing an outfit that doesn't "argue" with itself can be a little tricky. Fortunately, if you take a little time to research and think about what you want out of your costume, you can put together an outfit that does more than just go together. A little time and thought can produce a set of garb that really stands out.
Like any other historical costume, the first step is to decide who you want to be. Are you interested in upper class English costuming (some of the most popular), or do you prefer a more humble origin? Rather than the usual focus on England, perhaps you prefer sixteenth century France, one of the Italian city states, or the Low Countries as a starting point. Each region had its own tastes and fashions, meaning there's a wealth of women's clothing to choose from.
Use portraits and drawings, as well as other people's costuming efforts, to give you an idea of what to wear for your chosen period and area. Remember that there's no such thing as a "Venetian" or "German" gown for the whole Renaissance.
Tastes changed over time in every locale, meaning that the high busted, Empire waist gowns popular in Venice in the 1510s would have looked quite out of place fifty years later, when the ideal was for a long waisted gown that made its wearer look voluptuous and rich. Likewise, England's Tudor styles aren't quite right for an event that's set in the 1580s - the whole shape of women's clothing had changed by then.
A few things remain constant over the entire period. Gowns always have a chemise under them, though this garment might be called a shift, shirt, hemd, camicia, or smock, depending on where your persona lived and when. This garment can be full and billowy, like most chemises we see, or it can be tighter to the body, and shaped more like a long sleeved tee shirt. Not sure which to wear? Look at your over garments. If your dress has tight sleeves with no slashes, you'll be more comfortable in a narrower chemise.
Separate bodices/doublets and skirts are popular with faire attendees, but they weren't consistent throughout the period, either. Many of the earlier gowns were made all in one piece. However, long skirts - to at least the ankle, if not the ground, and a bodice in the shape of an inverted cone are consistent styles throughout Europe and the Renaissance.
Avoid curvier, 19th century inspired costumes if you see them for sale in favor of costumes with more angular lines. And, like any other historical costume, avoid synthetic fabrics. You'll be more accurately, and most importantly, more comfortable in the heat of the day. Look for cottons, wools, linens and silks over polyester and nylon.
When you buy women's clothes for the Renaissance faire, a Renaissance wedding, or another event, be sure that they fit you well, and that you purchase the correct underpinnings, too. These things can make a big difference in your appearance. Wear your costume for a little while before the event, so you'll be able to get used to it. This will help you have a great time, without feeling at odds with your clothing.