How to Make Renaissance Clothing

By Melissa J. Bell

The most common type of Renaissance clothing worn by modern people is the staple outfit of Renaissance faires, the popular "wench" costume women enjoy. This costume consists of three basic pieces: a skirt, a chemise and a bodice, all of which can be tailored to the wearer's particular style and taste. These pieces are fairly simple to make, and are usually sewn from common cotton and linen fabric, although some costumers will make their bodices from leather or fancy brocades to create a bolder look.

Create a Two-Layer Skirt

Take your waist measurement at the natural waist, and measure the distance from your waistline to the floor. Triple the waist measurement, and add 3 inches to the length measurement.

Lay out both sets of fabric for your skirt, so you will have two skirt colors. In each color, cut a rectangle of fabric that is as long as your new length measurement and as wide as your new waist measurement. Cut another rectangle in the color of the outer skirt that is as long as your original waist measurement plus 3 inches, and 4 inches wide. Copy this rectangle in the twill fabric.

Baste the twill rectangle to the smaller skirt rectangle to create a waistband piece. Fold the short edges on each side in a half-inch and stitch them down. Fold the entire waistband piece in half along the width, hiding the raw edges on the short ends, and press it flat.

Take the two larger rectangles pin together the side edges on each separate rectangle. Stitch the edges together, a half-inch away, stopping 7 inches below the top edge. Press the seam allowances open, also pressing the remaining half-inch edges at the top to create plackets. At the bottom edge of each skirt, turn up the hem 2 inches, hiding the raw edges, and stitch it in place.

Baste the top edges of the skirts together, so that they act as one piece. Gather the top edge, then adjust the gathers to fit the bottom edge of the waistband. Stitch the waistband to the skirt top, using a half-inch seam allowance and matching up the edges. Cut a length of cording or lacing that is twice as long as your original waist measurement and run it through the waistband, so you can tie the skirt closed.

Create a Chemise

Take your shoulder-to-wrist measurement and add 4 inches. Also take your shoulder-to-floor measurement and your shoulder-to-shoulder measurement.

Cut two rectangles in your cotton chemise fabric that are as long as your shoulder-to-wrist measurement and 20 inches wide. These will become the sleeves of your chemise. Also cut two rectangles that are as long as your shoulder-to-floor measurement and as wide as you shoulder-to-shoulder measurement.

Locate one of the short ends of each body piece and each sleeve piece. These will be the top ends of the garment. Trim 6-inch corners off the top ends of each piece, so that you create matching diagonals.

Stitch the sleeve and body pieces together at the diagonal corners, attaching the front diagonal on one sleeve to the front body diagonal, and the back diagonal on that same sleeve to the back body diagonal on the same side. Do the same for the other sleeve, then sew the side seams of the sleeves and body pieces together.

Turn the neck edge of the chemise under a quarter-inch, then turn it under another 5/8 inch and press it flat. Stitch the neck edge down on the fold, leaving an open inch at the front of the body. Run cording through this hole and around the neck so that you can tie the neckline tighter. Turn up the hem on the bottom edge of the body and stitch it in place.

Create a Bodice

Take your bust and waist measurements, then take your armpit-to-hip measurement. Take out a sheet of paper to draw your bodice pattern. On the paper, draw a trapezoid that is one-quarter of your bust measurement at the top edge, one-quarter your waist measurement at the bottom edge, and as long as your armpit-to-hip measurement. Draw a line down the center, and cut half of this shape from the paper to use as a panel pattern.

Lay out your outer bodice fabric and twill fabric. Cut four panels from each fabric type, adding half-inch seam allowances to all sides of the panels. Baste the outer fabric pieces to the twill fabric pieces.

Stitch two of the panels together at the straight edges to create the center front seam of the bodice. Stitch the diagonal edges of the other two pieces to the free edges of these pieces.

Fold the top and bottom edges under a half-inch and topstitch in place, then fold the back edges under a half-inch and topstitch in place.

Create markings for eyelet placement along both back edges, about a half-inch apart and a half-inch away from the folds. Using an awl, poke holes at the markings, then place the eyelets through the holes. Use an eyelet punch to set the eyelets, then run cording or lacing through them to tie up the back of the bodice.