So, if there are any budding costumers out there, who happen to also like Renaissance faires, listen up! If you've always envied those ''historically-accurate'' SCA people always have these amazingly gorgeous noble gowns, made with period fabrics that cost a fortune....I have a cheaper solution.
It's called Goodwill, or Value Village, or your local charity shop. If you do your research, look at old paintings of the class and period you want your gown to be from, you can cheat by using old sheets, duvets, curtains and tablecloths from your local thrift store. (By the way, this also works for wedding gowns, prom gowns, suits etc.)
The key is to find cheap fabrics that look and feel similar to all those pricey cotton velvets silks and brocades.
Stay away from anything too metallic or too shiny. Metals, mostly gold and silver threads, were worn only by certain classes, on small parts of their clothing, usually in embroidery, or trims. NOT the whole gown.
Stay away from anything that crinkles too much, is plasticky or is sparkly.
Stick to simple colours and stylized flowers and geometric designs.
Polyester/Rayon blends are usually NOT your friend. Try to stick with semi breathable farics or your gown will be saturated in sweat by noon on the first day. (Unless you're lucky enough to have your faire in late fall or winter and therefore have the same weather conditions as Elizabethan England). These gowns were NOT designed to be worn in 80F weather. It simply didn't happen back then. Europe was in a mini ice age. Remember that, and pick your fabrics and linings (if you use them) appropriately.
Anything with a slightly rougher weave and no pattern is great for peasant/middle class costumes.
NO PURPLE. Unless you're going as the queen and are using it sparingly.
At all costs, if youre going for period fabrics, look up what the fabrics looked and felt like, many times fabrics we know of now, had different names. Everyone knows that no one could spell back then anyways.
Tablecloths are your friend. Decorative curtains are awesome too. Occassionally a duvet cover or a comforter will give you yards of fabulous fabric for often less than $10. Below are examples of gowns I made, what I made them of, and how much they cost...
For help on picking fabric and trims for Elizabethan/Tudor era gowns (the era of most Renaissance faires) I find these sites extremely helpful:
Oh, and one more thing, unless it's a costume you will be wearing a LOT and often, don't worry about making the inside look pretty. 2-10 days a year,if you wear it the next year instead of making a new one, is really not worth the extra hassle in sewing French seams and using binding tape, and linings, etc.