Scott and I took our children to a faire yesterday. The difference between a fair and a faire is that a fair features animals associated with farms, rides powered by energy that feature falling, displays of handicrafts, various deep fried foods and beer. A faire features people dressed in a vague approximation of Elizabethan English style clothing, rides powered by people that feature spinning, blacksmith demonstrations, various smoked meats and beer.
Our kids are third generation faire-goers. My parents attended the Southern California faire when it was first operating in the 60s. My mom says there were a lot of topless women then.
Scott and I started going regularly in 1991 and maintained a pretty hardcore involvement for about four years. We never camped at event like some of our friends did, mostly because I didn't want to sleep in a tent without the benefit of air conditioning after wandering around the heat and dust all day.
That is one downside to faire going, it's usually in the spring/summer (the Texas faire outside Houston happens in October/November because those people are smart) and the sites are very dusty. I always end up coated in a layer of sweat and dust by the end of the day. Just the thought of not being able to get undressed and stand in front of an air conditioner at the end of the day is almost unbearable, let alone making that a reality.
But, I've never attended a faire without wearing my costume, called 'garb'. Most women wear a loose blouse with a drawstring, off-shoulder neckline, two layers of skirts in complementary colors with the top skirt tucked up to show the underskirt and a corset in a pretty fabric that laces up the front or the sides. This style is referred to as 'peasant garb'.
The corset, or bodice, acts like a push up bra, creating a shelf under the chin if it's being worn by a larger woman. This cleavage comes in handy for carrying things, a piece of fruit, a dagger, a cup of beer, a bag of money, you can fit a LOT in there if you're in the D cup range or bigger.
This completely historically inaccurate. Elizabeth I was quite flat-chested and women of the time would have emulated her style, wearing binders to make themselves appear less busty.
I've never gone for full noble garb, the ornate dress of the upper class, because it's made of velvet and it's just too damn hot to wear during faire season. And the women's noble garb often involves hoops to hold out the skirts, which make it difficult to sit.
My kids wear garb too. I made them costumes out of inexpensive fabric with the trim of their choice. Zoe, of course, wanted pink with a ruffled ribbon trim. This made her hat look like a mop-cap. Several people called her Strawberry Shortcake because that's what she looked like. Will wanted a black tunic with a wide, blue ribbon trim. He refuses to wear any trousers but jeans but black denims work fine.
Our faire-going is very different now that we have children. Partly, this is because the faire we attend heavily markets itself as being family friendly. There is no Kissing Bridge, no Puritans shouting against lewdness, no vendors selling ticklers where the man demonstrating the feathers on a short handle would stick them into your cleavage shelf and no booth selling leather bondage cuffs. There is still beer, but there are only a few instead of one every twenty steps or so.
But we have a lot of fun, especially because this faire backs up it's family friendly claim with the actions of the cast. The participants go out of their way to interact with children. The fairies asked if Zoe wanted to come live with them as their Strawberry Shortcake fairy and she could turn toadstools into strawberry shortcake. Will ran around with his wooden sword and shield being called 'sir' by the vendors who also asked him if he was out looking for the dark knight.
Both kids love to watch the blacksmith. His name is Tom the Blacksmith and he took a liking to Zoe yesterday. He even gave her a gift from his shop!
The thoroughly enjoyed the Mud Show, a show where a couple of guys jump in a big mud puddle. One of them comes out wearing an adult diaper at one point, which Will thinks is hysterical. He screams "He's wearing a diaper!!". We saw the show twice and got splashed with mud both times. Neither of them minded because their clothes were washable.
We watched the jugglers, found out that bubbles are fairy eggs, listened to music and ate yummy food.
There are a few traditions Scott and I still carry on between the two of us. He gets to apply sunscreen to my chest and I light his cigars and bring him his beer.
Going to faire makes me miss our friends, especially Stephanie who has a masters' degree in Elizabethan history and enjoys pointing out all the ridiculousness of the attempts to be true to the Elizabethan period.
My friends Kathye, Susi and 'nise with whom I've gotten into a great deal of trouble. On the closing day of one faire Kathye and I meandered around, drunk on the beer men bought us, smooched each other on the kissing bridge, flirted outrageously and ended up in the back tent of a sword vendor where one of his employees hit on Kathye real, real hard. I'm told that during this afternoon I kissed a couple random men, but I contest this version of events.
So, it's different now that I have children and that's okay.
One thing that has not changed is that te best part of the day is stepping into a lukewarm shower upon returning home.
Amanda's beauty tip of the day: If you are going to go to a faire, go easy on the make-up and heavy on the sunscreen.