Headed to the faire and have your hearrt set on being a pirate? Want to know how to dress like a pirate for the renaissance festival? Get the right look from head to toe with this how to guide. A pirate look is my favorite for faire because it is comfy and tough, so need need to sacrifice for fashion. Please note, some of the links on this page may be affiliate links which means I may a small commission from the sale which helps keep this site running. Thanks!
What kind of pirate do you want to be?
Are you looking to be a swashbuckling pirate captain or are you happy to be swabbing the desks with the rest the mangy crew? Your budget might have something to say about this too. Be prepared to fork over more hard earned booty if you want to look like a pirate captain.
Tips and Tricks
The key to a great pirate look is layering. I’ve never seen a pirate and thought to myself, “You know, that’s too much.” Pirates wore jewelry as a way of transporting their cash, so if you’ve got it, flaunt it, baby!
Don’t be afraid to mix colors with your pirate outfit. Put browns, blacks, and blues together. Orange and greens. Think beyond the stereotypical red and black when you think of a pirate costume. Colors make your pirate costume feel lived in and alive instead of a caricature.
Avoid bad wigs. There is only one Captain Jack Sparrow. But when you go to the renaissance festival, you’re gonna find 50 of them and think you’ve stumbled into a Where’s Waldo book. There are a few amazing Jack Sparrow cosplayers out there, but if you’re reading this guide, you probably aren’t one of them (yet!). Do yourself a favor and start with something less recognizable. For inspiration, check out images from the show Black Sails. Better yet, watch the show (http://amzn.to/2styD9h).
Shoes and Sandals
As with any shoe at faire, the first order or business is to make sure you will be comfortable walking around all day long. The first pair of sandals I bought at faire were super similar to these rope sandals (affiliate). They did take a little breaking in for me, but I have very sensitive feet. After they were worn in, I wore them almost every day to school. Be forewarned that if the ground is wet, eventually the rope does soak through. Whenever that happened I found my feet stayed drier for longer than I would have expected though. Over the years I wore my pair out and even bought a replacement. If you’re looking for an inexpensive option for footware and have fairly sturdy feet, these are a great choice. Please don’t neglect your footware and wear sneakers or something completely anachronistic. Shoes that don’t go with the costume will stick out and detract from your look.
Since my high school sandals, I’ve graduated to boots for my pirate looks. I have a pair from Son of Sandlar that I bought back in 2009. They are on their 9th year and still going strong after years and years of heavy use. They aren’t cheap, but you shouldn’t have to replace them for a very long time, probably saving money in the long run. I’ve worn them with and without an insert to provide more cushion under foot. For me they were true to size (I wear women’s size 8) but I don’t know if that has been the case for everybody. They have booths at many faires around the country if you want to make a purchase in person.
Pirate Coats and Vests
A pirate coat is the key to an elevated pirate look. If it’s too hot, try a vest instead. Leather is my favorite material for both pirate coats and vests, but there are some nice ones in fabric too. Pendragon has a wide selection. I bought my pirate coat at TRF in person from a different vendor. I’m kicking myself for not recalling the name, but they sell mostly leather and are located near the wine tasting booth.
Pants and Skirts
I’m going to let you in on a secret. When I wear pants with my pirate garb, I don’t wear faire pants, I wear yoga pants. The stretch feels and looks nice and they tuck nicely into my boots. I like high waisted pants because I think it helps keep the belts and sashes I wear from rubbing funny.
If you are looking for a skirt, go with a 25 yard skirt. These kind of skirts have enough material to let you bustle and bunch them in different ways. I’m coveting the skirt pictured below because the floral design makes me think of flamenco and Spanish pirates. Pair with some skirt hikes and you’re good to go. I personally always wear leggings or shorts under my skirts to prevent my legs from rubbing together. And since when I’m dressed like a pirate the last thing I want to be worried about is sitting ladylike, they keep me from flashing my undies to those around me too.
I personally would go nuts wearing more than one belt at a time, but multiple belts are an unexpected way to add depth to your pirate look. I wear a belt with a circle hook like the one below. If you wear multiple belts, vary the width, color, and texture in a way that compliment but aren’t to matchy.
For a pirate, I wear lots of different colors of chemises, and my fiance wears men’s peasant tops. He gravitates towards neutrals with beige and green colors. I go with any color I already have from teal to red to white or cream. Pretty much any color can work for a pirate, and I like it when I see unexpected colors on pirates. Zootzu has some good quality basic shirts for low prices, but you’re likely to see a bunch of folks wearing the same shirt. Zootzu also has pants if you don’t want to go the yoga pant and/or skirt route.
Hats and Scarves
Your pirate garb is incomplete without a hat or a scarf (or both together!). I’ve gotten two hats I love at TRF from The Hat People. If you live near Houston, they also have a year round shop in Old Town Spring. My pirate outfits are never complete without a few scarves either tied around my waist, tucked into a belt, or worn around my head. I love ones with rich colors and detailed patterns. I have a mini backpack I bring with us to faire, and we pick out the sashes we want for the day. I’ve had fantastic luck finding pirate scarves looking through the sales in person at World Market. I also have two very long red sashes that are merely cut pieces of a red fabric with a nice texture I use for my pirates too. I never even bothered to hem it, but they have lasted me for years and years.
I like rings best for my pirates and I’ve found some awesome ones online. Amazon and Ebay both have tons of inexpensive options. Just watch the shipping dates cause sometimes the products come from overseas and will take a while to arrive.
There are tons of possibilities when going pirate because so much works. You can’t go wrong going with a full glam look with a strong eye, strong brow, and a strong lip, but it’s totally OK to go super natural with a pirate look and wear minimal or even no makeup at all. And guys, don’t be afraid try some guyliner. It’s an easy way to add an extra dose of bad boy with a dash of danger to your look. I’ve seen some people use product to create fake scars for their pirates.
Take Your Time
Unless you’re rich, outstanding pirate garb doesn’t happen overnight. It’s OK to gather your pieces over time. Check out sales thrift stores for things that can be put to a pirate purpose. If you are careful about the pieces you choose and are selective, your garb will mean so much more to you over time.