Every summer, thousands flock to a medieval village in Larkspur, where sword swallowers, wenches, and palm readers appear each weekend to entertain the masses. With the Colorado Renaissance Festival returning for its 47th season this Saturday, we turned to her royal highness Kristy Ekiss, operations director of the festival and queen of the realm (look for her at the castle gates as they open each morning), to give us commoners tips on putting together the perfect festival look.

Decide Who You Want to Be

Ekiss says the first and most important step to getting into character is deciding who that character might be. While you might think the only era to base your outfit on is, well, the Renaissance, it’s typical to see costumes—such as merchants from the Middle Ages or 18th-century pirates—from earlier and later periods. Plus, the Renaissance Festival is not exactly the place to stick to reality. “Fairies, goblins, wizards, and elves are all welcome,” Ekiss says.

Consider the Conditions

Sure, that thigh-hair pair of heeled boots looks cute on the shelf, but think about what it will feel like walking around the unpaved village on a sweltering July day. “People don’t think about comfy footwear, but our grounds are huge, and supportive shoes are so important,” Ekiss says. For clothing, the queen recommends sticking to breathable fabrics like linen and cotton: “You really don’t want to be out here on a hot day in polyester.”

Turn to Social Media for Inspiration

A number of local cosplayers and costume designers showcase their outfits on social media, meaning you can gather inspo just by scrolling. Lauren Stewart—@lauren.does.cosplay on TikTok—teaches her 750,000 followers how to assemble the perfect outfit based on vibes (think: monochromatic, chainmail, or outfits straight out of The Hobbit). While you’re on the platform, search for @stormsorceress, a local cosplayer who dresses in everything from knightly armor to delicate elven attire. For more masculine looks, check out @archuleta_designs on Instagram; the Latino-owned costume design shop specializes in ensembles that will leave even the costume crew of Game of Thrones in awe.

Shop Around

It’s a 45-minute drive from Denver to Larkspur, and with gas prices at record highs, most of us peasants probably don’t have a lot of cash to spend on a ready-made outfit. Not to fear, says the queen: “If you can find a voluminous skirt or an off-the-shoulder blouse at your local Goodwill, you’re already halfway there.” (Going for a more masculine look? Search for flowy pants that will work as a pair of trousers.) If you aren’t turning up any treasures at Goodwill and Arc, try one of Denver’s many locally owned consignment shops, such as Globeville’s Peak Thrift or Rags Consignments in Cherry Creek. From there, accessorize at a true costume shop. Ekiss likes South Broadway’s Crimson Rose Masquerade, where you can find cloaks, corsets, masks, and hoods. A few miles up the road, the Wizard’s Chest is a crowd favorite, especially for those bringing little ones, as the store offers wizard cloaks, pirate sashes, and princess dresses for all ages. For those who fear commitment, Lakewood’s Disguises is a costume superstore that allows you to rent getups from its gigantic inventory.

Support the Festival’s Clothing Vendors

If you’re still stumped—and have some gold to spare—Ekiss suggests simply waiting to buy an outfit at the festival. The queen’s favorites among the dozens of on-site vendors include Unicorn Clothing, a California-based seller that’s been showcasing its wares—including dresses, blouses, and bloomers—at the festival for almost the entirety of its history. Ekiss also recommends Miles Tonne Leather, a shop that crafts vests and bustiers out of food-industry byproducts, such as leathers and pelts that meat distributors don’t want. “You’ll find anything from generic Robin Hood–style cloaks to $3,000 queen’s gowns,” Ekiss says. There’s a complete list of vendors on the Renaissance Festival website, and while many have online shops, there’s nothing better than in-person browsing—perhaps after a turkey leg and some liquid courage in the form of a mug of mead.

If you go: The Colorado Renaissance Festival, located at 650 Perry Park Avenue in Larkspur, runs on weekends from June 18 to August 7 this year. Buy tickets online (check the schedule for specially themed weekends, such as Wine Revelry and Pirate Invasion) or at the door.

Barbara O'Neil
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and 5280.com.