This Professor Johns Hopkins Renaissance Festival costume is epic
Allow us to introduce you to Francis Yaxley, mayor of Revel Grove and host of the village harvest fair in this year 1526.
Okay, so not really. In fact, it is John Sadowsky, a mathematician who teaches at Johns Hopkins and who has played Mayor Yaxley at the Maryland Renaissance Festival for four years. The event, which attracts around 300,000 people, still has a story unfolding on stage and in the streets of this fictional English town. This year, Revel Grove receives a visit from King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and a rival mayor trying to outdo Yaxley in front of all that royalty.
Below, Sadowsky walks us through his intricate costume, with a behind-the-scenes look at how the reenactors prepare to travel through time.
Meet the mayor
Yaxley, from a hard-hitting wool merchant family, bought land and eventually became mayor. Sadowsky calls him the “new rich”, part of an emerging middle class of the time. The garish colors of the costume, made with dyes that would have been quite expensive at the time, show this richness.
Everyone from peasants to royalty wore hats out of religious deference. The rich decorated them with feathers, and not to be outdone, Yaxley is known to adorn his with peacock plumage: “You can never have too many feathers.”
This ribboned ornament is the mayor’s badge. One potential story this year has a rival mayor who shows up with a mayor taller and more ostentatious than Yaxley’s, starting “a battle of cockades.”
He wears an Under Armor shirt under his suit, which is sweating: “There’s a lot of Febreeze in the locker room, we don’t want to smell like game. Although it is suitable for the period.
Pockets didn’t exist in 1526, so you kept everything you needed in a pocket like this: coins, sundries, maybe a handkerchief. “In the real world, it’s for credit cards so I can eat during the day,” he says.
Normally this outer layer, called a shaube, would be wool, but this one is made from lighter, more modern fabrics. Said Sadowsky: “I tell people it’s made from my two good sheep, Polly and Esther.
Sadowsky originally wore leggings in the same color, but decided the real Yaxley would mix and match in a garish display of his family colors.
The shoes are “sort of” appropriate for the period, according to Sadowsky. Although they are store bought, these loafers are not far from what anyone would find back then. Don’t look at the label.
This article appeared in our August 2016 issue of The Washingtonian.