Connecticut Renaissance Faire and New Viking Costumes

On October 15th, 2016 we had an absolutely fantastic time at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire in North Haven, CT. The CT Ren Faire isn’t as big as the King Richard’s Faire, and it doesn’t have permanent faire structures, but the people and programming is top-notch. This mid-fall faire was also the debut of our band-new, super epic, Viking costumes!

vikingI’ve been working on these outfits for half of the year now, chipping away at them piece-by-piece. In the spring I made my green dress with the leaf trim, and over the summer I put together all of Jake’s outfit with the added challenge of him not being around to try anything on! I finished the jewelry a few weeks ago in between other festival costumes and the hangeroc (apron dress) was made all in the three days leading up to the Faire.

All of the garment pieces are made from a linen-look poly-poplin. Not period accurate, but warmer with the same look and feel as the ancient textiles. I made these costumes specifically to stay cozy in the chilly fall and winter air, so I wanted the fabric to be warm and color-fast. Jake (on the left in the photo above) is sporting some brown baggy pants with an elastic waistband and elastic ankles, good for tucking into boots or wrapping with cloth in the future. Over top he has a cream-colored tunic with some fancy patterned cotton and suede cuff detailing which I made from fabric scraps and quilters squares. Over that is the big blue tunic and matching belt. The trim is actually a fabric ribbon from a craft store! Good trim is so hard to find, you have to snatch it up when you see it. Every piece of his costume except for the pants was patterned from scratch by me.

My costume was patterned with some help from Burda historical patterns that I had lying around, but with quite a bit of modification for a flattering fit. The jury is out on how a hangeroc dress was actually shaped and assembled because we only have tattered scraps and brooches that survived through the ages. Many people on the internet who are probably more accurate than me, make rectangular wrap-style tubes, held up at the shoulders with straps that attach to the body of the dress using big oval “turtle” brooches. I chose to go with the more fitted “skinny-panel” theory, which entails 7 or so slim fit-and-flare panels. Both of my dresses lace in the back for an adjustable fit, so that it can be worn with many or few layers beneath.

The day's crew

The breast beads are made of wood and imitation turquoise and jade, strung on cotton cording and attached to the bottom of my petite turtle brooches which I found on Etsy here. I have plans to expand the costume soon to include decorative embroidered bibs (I know it doesn’t sound cool, but it is), a pelt of some sort, and maybe a kaftan or wool hood. We want to wear these things in the dead of winter, so they’ll need some upgrades to keep us warm. Jake’s outfit could also use a breast-plate or heavy-surcoat option in addition to the sword and bow that he’s currently shopping for.

Getting hungry.... I want to point out in the photo above how adorable Kelley’s kaftan with the fur collar came out. She made it from luxury fleece and an heirloom fur piece. The collar is even detachable! The photos don’t showcase it, but she is also wearing a tunic dress and her own version of a hangeroc.

Now back to talking about the faire itself! The best decision that we made all day was to participate in the scavenger hunt mystery activity, probably intended for children. Even though we started late in the day, failed to collect all the clues, and missed the big reveal at the end, the act of gathering clues gave us a wonderful excuse to interact with the more interesting and social shop-keeps without the pressure to buy. As a result, we deepened our faire experience (as they stayed in character), had a few good laughs, and got a closer look at some wares that we may have otherwise missed. I highly recommend the scavenger hunt to anyone who goes to the CT faire.

Another highlight was Jake’s participation in the ax-throwing competition. He claims that he’s never thrown an ax before, but he tied with his competitor so many times that the referee eventually kicked both of them out of the round for no clear winner. He got his money’s worth in number of throws at least.

After a dinner break we came back after dark for the “Halloween Knights” event that the faire puts on special for the last three weekends in October. The fairgrounds were transformed into a spooky, florescent-lit, ghost town, complete with campfires and zombie cast members. The finale was the fire joust, where a highly verbose lord of purgatory matched his two strongest demons against one another to see which one would return to the land of the living for a year to collect souls of the innocent, and which one would be tortured instead. It was very dark…and he was very long winded. Boy, could he talk. It was a fun show though. There was in fact fire, jousting, competition on horseback, sword-fighting, and spell-casting. The full-moon added to the ambiance, and we stayed warm all the while in our new viking garb.

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