Whether you buy them or draw and cut them yourself, using Renaissance costume patterns will result in a costume that is accurate and unique. The base of the costumes can be surprisingly simple to sew, provided one has strong sewing skills and a good sense of period clothing.
How to Choose Renaissance Costume Patterns
Many of the major pattern-making companies have patterns for basic Renaissance clothing available most of the year. The patterns are inexpensive and easy to follow. While they are fine for a number of occasions, serious costumers gravitate towards purpose-created patterns instead. A pattern designed by a company or, better, an individual specializing in period or theatrical clothing is going to be more accurate and encompass more detail than a generic Renaissance pattern from a mainstream company.
When you opt for a specialty pattern like this, you must be prepared for its being different from a standard pattern. It can be more difficult to follow and will not always have explicit instructions at every step. While a specialty pattern will ultimately result in a more accurate and attractive costume, it will also require more time and effort to use. For all but the most experienced sewers, you will do best to make a muslin mockup of the costume before you cut your fabric.
Special-Interest Pattern Resources
One of the best sources for reliable Renaissance costume patterns is on sites geared towards members of the Society for Creative Anachronism and regular Renaissance Faire attendees. You should also browse sites dedicated to period and theatrical costuming.
Depending on what sort of look you want to create, you may have to buy several patterns, rather than one. While this may seem like a large initial expense, it will be a good investment in the long run, as you will end up with a more accurate costume overall.
RenStore is an excellent source to begin pattern shopping. They have both patterns and pattern books for medieval and Renaissance men's and women's clothing and accessories. The patterns are laid out in chronological order and give you a good sense of looks and styles through the eras. You may end up choosing something different from your original intent. While Tudor patterns are not historically Renaissance, many people opt for them to wear at faires and other events because they can be so attractive.
Furthermore, whereas the word "Renaissance" is most often applied to the English Renaissance, there was a renaissance in Germany and Italy as well. German clothes, which can be far more elaborate and exciting to wear, especially with the slashed sleeves for men and women, are highly popular.
For English Renaissance costume patterns, go to Elizabethan Costume, which offers a wealth of information and advice. You can learn everything about 16th century clothing including fabrics, colors, underwear and accessories. Patterns are divided by custom patterns made by users of the site and commercial patterns. You can also learn about period clothing construction, which can be both fun and satisfying for the serious costumer.
Mainstream Pattern Companies
The major sewing pattern companies also have Renaissance costume collections:
Make Your Own Pattern
If you are a serious costumer, you'll want to build your own pattern. The Elizabethan Costume site has all the information you need, although you may also find it useful to do some book research on your own. Traditionally, costumers used paintings, including illuminations and stained glass, in order to re-create the looks of a given era. Once you have studied the period and know the various dress styles of people in different classes and areas, you're ready to begin building your pattern.
You will want to be as exact as possible, but you also want to create something that flatters your figure. Remember most women of the era either made their own clothes or had them custom tailored, which made for variations. You can create a costume that is wholly accurate and yet unique, suiting the character whom you represent.