Summer is almost over, and like pretty much everyone else, I’ve been feeling a little sad about it. Professionally, this has the best and busiest year of my life; personally, it’s been a little lacking. So my friends very firmly advised me to take a damn day off from work.
And so I did. On Monday, seven of us loaded into a giant van and drove off to Wisconsin. We were going to the last day of the Bristol Renaissance Faire, and I was PSYCHED.
The last time I went to the Ren Faire, my boyfriend wouldn’t stop making fun of me, and my friend and her boyfriend got into a huuuuuuge fight. I ate a piece of soap that I thought was chocolate. It was weird.
This time, I wasn’t involved with my own personal dramas and could enjoy the experience. I’m glad that I did, because it was AMAZING. And because I am always thinking of you, my darling xoVainers, I enjoyed it all with an eye on beauty so that I could write about it!
Here are the best beauty (and life) lessons I learned from the Renaissance Faire.
1. Take a hat.
Even if you don’t wear it at the Faire, it provides excellent shade for when you fall asleep in the van while stopped on the expressway for an hour.
Really fantastic hats, indeed!
2. Love your body.
The Ren Faire is seriously ground zero for self-love. People of all shapes, sizes, ages and colours (I do mean this literally--some were painted purple) are out and about in corsets, bikini tops, scarves, crinolines, wide-legged pants, leggings, kilts, jingling scarves, chain mail, fox tails and short-shorts. Nobody worries about having the "perfect" body, if they're too fat/thin/hippy/skinny, or have too much/not enough muscle/cellulite/boobs/etc. for whatever outfit they're wearing. Everyone just wears exactly what they want, and calmly extends a middle finger to anyone who may tell them they're too SOMETHING to do so. It's brilliant.
Being in an atmosphere where everyone was confident, relaxed and happy made ME relax and feel happy, even though I wasn’t dressed up.
I did wear this as a concession to the occasion, though. Gotta represent.
3. Anything goes.
Not only can you see bejewelled, period-accurate fops cuddling baby goats at the petting zoo and Queen Elizabeth checking her Instagram, every branch of fandom and style is well represented at the Ren Faire.
I saw the Fourth and Eleventh Doctors comparing neckwear, and met the TARDIS in the ladies’ room. I saw Boba Fett in a kilt, a treemonster, an entire family dressed head to toe in hunting camouflage, every iteration of goth possible... as well as our motley crew of tattooed babes.
No matter who you are or what you love, you can fly your freak flag and people will love it. No judgements there.
4. Wear boots.
It’s dusty there, and the parking lots are giant fields. You’ll be doing a lot of walking through grass (which itches), dirt paths (yikes) and gravel (near the jousting). By the end of the day, my feet were straight-up filthy and my black flats were almost ruined. Boots next time, for sure.
5. Bring a change of clothes if you're wearing something impractical.
My best friend Charlotte was originally wearing a gorgeous blue corset, but the two-hour car trip was kind of a costume killer. She took it off before we got there and was way happier in a lighter peach dress. Though she wished she’d worn this outfit that was for sale. Next year!
So if you're wearing something dramatic, make sure you have the option of switching into something easier if you get sick of it. Practicality is always the best.
6. Perfect lighting.
When I was looking at my pictures from the first time I went to the Ren Faire, I was like “Jeez, the disposable camera I was using here was pretty terrible. Look at how weird all the pictures look! Crazy!”
But then it turned out that it wasn’t the camera that was crazy. It was the actual light.
The Bristol Faire is on a permanent site, and the cool buildings are there year-round. This allows for a lot of really big trees to grow up and provide shade, plus I think it might be set in a sort of hollow? I’m not sure.
The point is, all these trees combined with the dust in the air and the natural geographical formation of the area meant that the light was really golden and weird. Almost every awesomely vain selfie I took that day was lit from both the front AND the back...but didn’t look terrible.
I also have a weird eye thing where my pupils are always dilated, which makes daytime impossible for me to handle without sunglasses. And yet, the miraculous Ren Faire light was such that I could actually walk around for large parts of the day without sunnies on. This hasn’t happened to me EVER that I can remember. I felt like a vampire who could finally go out in the sun.
7. Heat is no excuse to skimp on the glamour.
It was pretty hot when we left Chicago, but it cooled off quite a bit once we crossed the border of Wisconsin. But do you think that the Faire-goers would eschew their fabulous hair and makeup just because it was hot? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
There were long, elaborate wigs…
And more sharp black lipstick than you could shake a stick at. It was so awesome to look around and see everyone really going all-out with their style and beauty, even on a warm summer day. Because we can’t all go shirtless...
...OR CAN WE??
8. You are what you eat.
And I was STARVING. As soon as we walked in, we headed straight for the food. I got in line for a gigantic turkey leg.
These things were so huge. Greg (who is the tallest person I know) said “No way you’re going to finish all that.” And I was all, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
Guess who won that bet. Go on. GUESS.
I’m kind of regretting eating ALL the things (Hot dogs! Doritos on the way home! Pasta! Beer!), because I have a monster zit on my upper lip now. My body rebels when I’m not on top of my healthy-food game, and pimples are its torture method of choice.
9. Take a braid break.
Near the end of the day, we all sat on the grass to watch some jousting, and Lorelei braided my hair. It was so lovely and relaxing, and it looked really cute when it was done.
10. Glitter is always appropriate.
The more, the better. Put it around your eyes, in your hair, on your chest, all over your clothes. You’re a magical fairy, and you need to sparkle! If not at the Renaissance Fair, when?
11. Happiness makes everyone more beautiful.
Yep. This happened. How often does your favourite glittery unicorn beauty writer get to actually MEET a unicorn? Not nearly as often as you’d think!
You can’t really tell from this particular photo, but almost all day at the Ren Faire, I was sweaty and dusty and dirty, my eyes were red and puffy from allergies... but I was SO HAPPY, it was just coming off me in waves. Even though I’ve physically looked better, I love every picture that was taken of me that day because I look so genuinely happy. And I think this is true for everyone.
The day ended with a happy drive back to Chicago, dusty and tired and full of cider. Time with my friends plus a good night’s sleep went a long way in recharging my batteries. It was the best day off ever.
It’s been a few days, but I still feel totally recharged and really happy. Not only was the Ren Faire a fantastic experience, it also reminded me to have a life outside of work. Like, maybe I should not wait until I’m crying with exhaustion to take a day for myself, you know?
Have you guys ever been to a Ren Faire? Would you dress up if you did go? If you went this year, which knight were you cheering on in the jousting? We had the eeeeevil black and red knight, but he got stabbed in the neck by the guy with the bun and didn’t win.