Thursday, February 16, 2012

5 Ways for Your Costuming Form to Meet Function

This winter I've talked a lot about upgrading or adding to your costume but LARPing is not only about looking good or having period replicas. It's active, and usually takes place outside in all types of weather. This means that the right LARP costume is a compromise between adding to the atmosphere and and keeping the wearer comfortable.

Here are a few areas I've seen where people tend to go one way or the other, when there are easy compromises available!

1.) The Crown Royal Pouch - LARPers everywhere tend to use something like this to hold their goodies - especially starting out. As you add to it, the single-bag approach gets heavy, makes it hard to find stuff, and constantly gets in the way. There are so many better ways to go. Period-looking pouches come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. There are multiple online sites that have pouches and bags designed just for LARPers. Get something made to attach to a belt, or a shoulder bag, and you'll be more organized and comfortable. Not to mention looking better!

2.) My Fighter Wears Sweats - Again, comfort is super important in a LARP, and you want to be able to move. I see a lot of sweat pants and shorts, even on long-term players. You can get comfort out of period pants - and yes, people can tell the difference. Instead of sweats, try simple drawstring pants or wrap pants - or both! Both are easy to make and inexpensive to buy, and you can move in them. Wrap pants are ventilated for hot weather - just be careful about what you wear underneath! :) You could also wear combat pants in black, which are durable and offer lots of pockets. They don't look quite as period, but they're a great compromise.

3.) Ladies' Apparel - Often, ladies who LARP want to look good, and some will be the ones who value form over function - although these points go for anyone (well, in general concept anyway! :) ). I'm all for adding to immersion, but just make sure you can still play at the level you want. A LARP is probably not the best place for your full Elizabethan. :) Select elements that are durable and will be comfortable in the weather. For example, skirts are period, but they are also bulky, clumsy, and can be a mess in the rain. Most games are fantasy, so there's nothing wrong with a lady wearing pants if you want - you can make them feminine by selecting different fabrics, or using a style like harem or riding skirts.

Also, corsets. Most ladies love them for accentuating the right things, and even giving an armor bonus! Make sure the one you wear will stand up to your level of activity, and is still comfortable. Most LARPs don't have fainting couches. :) Also, consider alternatives - for example, if you're a fighter, think about getting a custom breastplate instead. In the sea of corsets, you'll stand out!

Side note - They say to dress to impress, and everyone wants their costume to make them look good. Just make sure you're not falling out of anything when you're running around. There have been people at games who don't wear underwear, and you know, I never wanted to know that about them. Skirts will fly up, wrap pants come undone, etc., and LARPs have their share of minors and, well, creepers - so be careful! :)

4.) Sweater Armor - People do all sorts of things to get their armor bonus but not have to wear anything restrictive, and then down the line often dump their armor all together. But you can wear armor that looks decent without making life hard. You don't have to go for full plate, but a few pieces such as arm and shin guards can add a great touch, give you a bonus, and keep your limbs limber. Try plastic, too - just make sure it's black or some other neutral cover. Leather is a great compromise here. Or go cheap and wrap vinyl or pleather around a frame of some kind to create your own look. Your armor doesn't have to be washers glued onto a vinyl tablecloth! :) It can still get the job done, but be light enough to wear all weekend.

Now, if you want to wear more restrictive armor, just make sure it allows you to play at your level. Metal plate and chain are hard to wear for long amounts of time, so keep rested and hydrated. Also, make sure that it doesn't have any sharp edges - those can tear up skin and reps alike. I would also say that many helmets are not usually a good idea for LARP - they are usually too heavy to wear all weekend with comfort, and also restrict your vision enough to make playing difficult if not dangerous. There are plenty of helmets that avoid this, so if you want to wear one make sure it's safe!

5.) The Tennis Shoe Playah - Taking care of your feet is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself comfortable. If you have health issues and need to wear tennis shoes, then that's what you need to do (maybe see if you can get them in black though). White tennis shoes are one of the biggest immersion breakers in a costume for me. It's so easy to change: boots of just about any decent make look a million times better, are still comfortable, but are also more durable and weather-resistant. Hiking boots, work boots, military boots - and there are plenty of sites that sell period style boots. Just make sure they have padding if you need it, and a good tread to stand up to slippery terrain. Don't go too far the other way and choose flimsy or complicated footwear that will break, hurt your feet, or make it difficult to move. A SWAT boot is a great compromise - they blend in well, but offer comfort and utility. Plus, they make you look totally bad-ass. :)

Got any other ideas of how to make your costume look good and work right?


  1. For pouches: I have a stiff leather pouch with a flap that goes over it and seals with a strong magnet. This is, essentially, my atmospheric pouch. It's what, if you were looking at my pouches for some reason, you'd remember. Then, with that offering cover, I have these on my belt as well:

    The price is unbeatable, they're durable, they don't detract from my look (especially with my main pouch present) and they offer a couple of organizaitonal options. I highly recommend them.

  2. @Mickey - GREAT IDEA! :)

  3. Mickey,

    Those pouches are amazing. Thank you for the link - I have only ever seen them in military surplus stores once or twice.

  4. @Mickey
    Wow! Those are fantastic-- and very easy to jazz up with a gold or silver fabric pen. Maybe-Mr-No-Pockets could use them...

    On corsets-- thanks for the note on breathing. I saw a very talented and athletic LARPer when she threw a last minute costume together, and fought in a corset. I guess some people can do it, but not for everybody.

    Black leggings, for men and women, are a good way to stay warm and in period. While they may not get you through the winter months, they're great for the fall, and look period. Plus, they should be part of your NPC wardrobe anywhoo. With hipsters throwing themselves over the leggings trend, you can find interesting patterned ones in cat, snake, bird, and lizard print.

  5. For shoes - I wear comfy sneakers, then put black leather gaiters on over them. It's like getting your sneakers into their own costume. A quick search for "leather gaiters" on ebay will turn up a bunch.

  6. Good one, Karin! I love practical how-to posts like this.
    Personally I can't stand sweats cause they pill up and don't breathe well. Like Zoe, I'm an avowed leggings/yoga pants fan (and they look awesomesauce under wrap pants, too)

    As far as corsets/bodices go, how much you can do in it reeeeally depends on the style and fit. If you're going to be active in something, nothing beats putting it on, doing aerobics for 20 minutes in your living room, and seeing how you feel.

    The gaiters thing Dan suggested is brilliant! You can also make easy leg wraps out of cloth or faux fur. . . much cheaper than shelling out for $400 boots.

  7. Oh, as far as bodices go, a lot of us Madrigal gals live in these: They hold their shape solidly, but aren't super hot or constraining at all.