Monday, August 30, 2010

My Corset

Honestly, last post for today and I will make it short, haha.

I wanted to go into a bit about my new acquisition for my costume - my corset. I have heard many good and many bad things about Casta Diva corsets. I am just here to relate my experience and what I think about my purchase. Firstly, I went to the faire with the mind to buy something, and settled on a corset. As I meandered around, I priced a few and found them to be way out of my range. I checked out Casta Diva, and liked the price and what I saw. First - the service. I got lots of attention from two sales people even though the place was packed. From what I was told, they do not have an online website and sell exclusively through Renaissance Faires. They like to measure and size in person, to ensure that everyone gets a good fit and that the corset is laced properly. The sales lady was also willing to lace me back into the bodice I walked in with. I was measured, and then set about finding one in my size that I liked. To be honest - the selection was huge, but not varied when it came to my size. It WAS rather difficult to find my size because I am a bigger girl and we tend to be squishy - something I realize and the sales lady told me quite gently, thinking I was going to take offense.

I was laced and re-laced about three times before I found a perfect fit. They were all very patient with me, and were extremely helpful and knowledgeable with all my questions. In the end, I got a corset that I love. It's perfect for the Faire without looking like I got it from Hot Topic, but I can wear it outside the Faire with no problems with a pair of jeans and heels. The fit is great and I do look damn sexy in it. The quality was another thing I looked at closely. I can feel that it is steel boned, and the stitching is very fine and well done - no loose threads in sight. I had my sister in law, who is a great seamstress and whose opinion I trust, take a look at it and determined it to be a quality, well made garment.

So, that is all I am going to say on my Casta Diva corset. Some people may not like them, but I had a great experience and love my corset.

Renaissance Faire Garb Advice from a Newbie to Newbies.

Firstly - since I do so happen to be of the female persuasion, mostly everything here relates to female clothing. But, some of my opinions and comments can be for guys too. Also, I write this for people who are new to this, as someone who IS new.

From what I have seen, Ren Faire costumes can go from the very easy Halloween costume in a bag type to elaborate, expensive ensembles. This also means costumes can go from being historically inaccurate to spot on. Of course, that does NOT mean your costume HAS to be completely accurate, elastic on a waistband or on the neckline of your chemise will not ruin the effect of your costume, in fact (and in my opinion) it can help the costume fit better, and make your life easier. Being 100% accurate is NOT a requirement. I tend to find that most costumes are very personalized from the overall theme, the fabrics and accessories. I feel that it's really all about what is comfortable for you and what makes YOU look good. If you want to wear a floaty Guenevere style dress, go for it. If you want to wear your full out Crusader kit, by all means, do it! Does it represent the English Renaissance to a "T"? No, but it works with the overall theme of the event.

Now, all that being said, there are a few things I would NOT recommend. Personally, I would not be caught dead in a bagged Halloween costume, for a few reasons (wow, I am a HUGE snob). One, they are extremely cheap, and poorly made. Their purpose is for one night for a few hours, not for a whole season or many seasons to come. Second, that cheap quality comes with poor fit, no one wants to be adjusting their bodice to no avail because the stupid thing is attached to her "chemise". Or no fencer lad wants to be picking up his trousers all day because they keep slipping. Third, the fabrics of those costumes are awful. They are most of the time made of 100% synthetic materials that tend of fray, unravel and rip. Plus, they are UNGODLY hot and do nothing to absorb moisture and sweat, because, this IS an outdoor event, in the sun you WILL get hot and sweaty.

On the converse side - super elaborate costumes are beautiful, make anyone look amazing and are for the most part quite accurate in a historical sense. I am specifically talking to the ladies on this one, here. Men's noble or courtly class outfits can be much more forgiving and easier to wear. For the ladies however, our world tends to be more difficult. For someone who is starting out - I personally would not recommend a huge elaborate affair. Why? One, cost. It can get very very expensive putting together a proper court costume, from the ground up. For a first timer out, who may or may not be sure if they will attend a function like this again, it may not be a good investment. Second, on the same train of thought - there is a LOT that goes into a court costume. You will need the proper foundation garments, like a supportive corset, bloomers, stockings, and a chemise. And of course a farthingale or a hoop skirt. I personally feel that the logistics of getting into and out of just the underwear seems tough. Walking around in all that if you're not used to it, seems really tough too. Especially with a hoop skirt - you suddenly become a lot wider and thus fitting into certain places becomes extremely difficult. You will be historically accurate, but honestly? I like being able to maneuver around into shops, dance, sit at the bar and sit in the grass when I watch the tournaments. Of course, all the above opinion is really for naught if you ARE experienced in wearing these garments or similar (and if you are, please tell me how you get into and out of those tiny little shops!).

Another suggestion: stay away from going out of period - Rocco dresses with their panniers are great, but not for this event. Also, while your Storm Trooper armor is by all rights awesome, leave it at home. This is a Renaissance Faire, not Comic Con. Same also goes for the anime and video game cosplay. I am sure you have worked really hard on your Cloud Strife or your Full Metal Alchemist costume, but it's not appropriate. If you are gung-ho and showing off your costume, try a fantasy based anime or one that takes place in a Medieval or Renaissance style world or time. Wolf and Spice is one that comes to mind, Record of Lodoss War (thanks Ed!) is another. Or even older (NES releases) Final Fantasy Games (We saw a White Mage when we went, and it was pretty cool. The Princess Leia Slave, not so cool). I will acquiesce to some things, considering that a lot of pirates tend to look like they have come from the 18th century rather than the 16th. And they all look like Jack Sparrow. And last year there was an AWESOME Capt'n Jack, who NEVER broke character. He was probably drinking real rum from his bottle.

So, really - this is just my opinion, if you want a Halloween costume for a day go for it, just choose wisely. I have listed below some of my favorite sites that offer all of the different types of Renfaire costumes I have talked about.

The Very Merry Seamstress - Excellent high quality, hand made costumes, ranging from affordable peasant costumes to gorgeous, elegant courtly costumes. They also will take custom orders.

The Tudor Shoppe They sell some pretty nice items, some are available on other sites, some are not.

Aurelias Regalia Again, very nice costumes and quality, plus a nice selection for more fantasy style outfits.

Medieval Collectibles I really like this site for it's HUGE selection of, well, everything. My fiancee got pirate pants and boots from here, and we both got ring belts. We love our items and we both highly recommend this site, especially to someone new at putting a costume together.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Renfaire!

It's been a while since I have posted - but I wanted to share my experiences at the PA Renfaire, since A) It is faire season and B) I went yesterday!

To start with, I am your basic Renfaire newbie. Well, last year I was. Even though I had a passable costume in my closet, I opted not to wear it (more on costumes later). I wanted to scope the place out, see what it was like and get the overall feel before I trudged around in skirts and a bodice. Well, my first impression was all smiles. The place is located on the grounds of a winery, with a historic Victorian mansion being the first thing you see. The entrance way is paved, with a fountain and flowerbeds, all very pretty. Then you reach the gates. Of course, this is also where you buy your ticket and redeem your e-ticket. If you get there early enough, there will be a crowd of people, actors in period dress milling about, and a musical group entertaining the crowd. On the parapets there should be some denizens of the Shire (the name for the "village") heckling, conversing and making merry.

Once the gates open, you redeem your ticket and make way to the Globe Theater, where the Queen greets the people at the Faire and you get your introduction to the story line. From there, you can follow the storyline through the various jousts and events. Every year there is a new scenario. Last year, a courtier wanted to marry Mary Queen of Scots and Queen deemed that this particular noble man and her champion would fight. If the noble won, he got to marry Mary, if Robert Dudley won, no. The only part of the story I got to see last year was the chess match, which ended with much bad-assery from Sir Francis Walsingham. I did not get to see much more, since we got there really late last year and other debacles.

This year was fun, I got to see the story line stuff, even though I missed a good part of Human Chess. I did get the gist though and realized that they tailored the storyline to make sense even if you miss stuff. I saw two jousts, and ultimate joust was amazing, and really entertaining.

The Shire itself is set up like a little village, with shops, food, and lots to do. All the structures are permanent, wooden places or at the very least have platforms and roofs with tent canvas walls. I know a lot of faires are like this, but not all. The "privies" are (at least for the ladies) are actual flushing toilets and running water sinks, not porta-potties. Which is wonderful, because really? That would suck. And they all have attendants with parfume, lotion, sunscreen and other nice stuff, plus they always smell nice and are decorated with dried flowers and herbs. For food you have a large variety, from cheese steaks (hey, this IS pretty close to Philly), to Turkey legs (which are DELICIOUS), Italian, Spanish, Tradition Irish and for the adventurous - Scotch Eggs, which are eggs that are wrapped in a meat/sausage mixture and deep fried and served with chips. I have never had one, but I am assured they are quite good. I liked the chips though :D There are also people wandering around with carts selling snacks like popcorn, pretzels, pickles on sticks, ice-cream and the like.

For Drink - the BEST part. There are three places set up as "Swashbuckler's Pour Stations" (The Brewery is called "Swashbuckler's Brewing Co.)As this event does take place at a Winery and Brewery, the alcoholic selections are of course amazing. I usually get the Honeyed Mead, which is sweet with a little alcoholic kick. At Baccus' Wine Tasting, I tried a few different ones (for free!) and came home with 2 bottles of the Apple and Spice. My Fiancee had the Captain Rude's stout, which will really put hair on your chest - it's VERY stout. As far as non-alcoholic beverages, there are of course options. We decided on arrival (as we were REALLY thirsty after a long drive)to get the tin commemorative cups, which are really nice, and you got a free refill and 2.00 for every other one. The soda choices are cola, birch beer, root beer, cream, and orange. Plus a diet cola. All the non diet options are 100% pure cane sugar. I love the birch beer and root beer. You also have the option of getting a really big blue bottle with a neat old fashioned flippy lock-top for 10 bucks. This also gets you 2.00 refills.

The shopping as always is the best part, right after the booze. At least for me, cuz I wouldn't be a card carrying shopaholic otherwise. hehe. There is SO much to buy, you could really go broke. I like going to the Pirate Ship of course, to get sharp pointy things, and the main shopping drag of Guildman's way. My fave is along Privy Lane, which tends to have some really nice hand made items. This year I got a cool gargoyle necklace and (finally) a corset :D I really love the quality and selection you get, a lot of items are handmade with love and care. Plus, you can't find these items online or in a regular store front. Truly unique :D

That all said, the faire is a really fabulous time! Just make sure you get there early, and stay the whole day, figure out what you want to see, but don't keep yourself tied to a schedule, because along the way you never know what you will find!

My next entry will be all about Faire Fashion!