I think one of the more important things people need to realize when they are putting together a costume is needing to be comfortable. Though a wise woman once told me, “Beauty is pain and pain is beauty,” this doesn’t always have to be your mantra when it comes to costuming. There are plenty of ways to go about looking good without constant chaffing or inability to breathe.
Bigger May Be Better:
When it comes to shirts and pants, you may want to take into account that you might be LARPing in colder climates, this means you’re going to want to put layers under your costumes (Unless of course you have a winter costume in mind for your character – furs and heavier cloths make great winter clothing). Bigger sizes allows a good number of layers to easily fit underneath. Now, I’m not saying that if you’re a size small, you should be running around in an extra large shirt, I’m saying that your costume should maybe be a medium, in this case, so that you can at least put thermals on under it.
On another note of bigger being better, we have to take into account that we change size naturally. What may have fit us last summer may have gotten a little tighter after stuffing our face during the winter holidays. If you’re going through puberty, those pants that were a tad baggy last year MAY be up at your shins and that shirt may not fit your chest! Unless you know of someone that can alter your clothes, you may want to look into bigger clothes if you plan on playing your character for long periods of time.
Ladies, I know you wanna look hot (You’re girls doing the whole LARP thing, trust me, that’s hot enough for most nerd guys) but sometimes it’s just not comfortable to subject yourselves to the cold or strains on your body just to wear a corset or bodice. Well, correctly made corsets constrict your breathing and your flexibility. In the words of Madam Everglot: “Get those corsets laced properly! I can hear you speak without gasping.” Combat characters are difficult to play when you are passed out in the middle of the field like something out of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. If you are going to play a barmaid, sure, wear all the corsets you want, but I suggest a waist cincher or a bodice if you are going to play a fighter.
BOOTS! And broken-in ones at that. ALWAYS break in your boots before LARPing in them. Loafers make great shoes as well.
Metal studs and eyelets look great on a costume but the backs can cut you like a thug from Camden. Be careful when dealing with them. Try to put these fancier layers on the outside of a costume.
Earrings and necklaces look great on people in general but unless you want to get yourself caught on a tree or your earring ripped out of your ear, you may want to hold back from wearing them. Rings are usually okay to wear.
I talk a lot about being cold at a LARP because I AM ALWAYS COLD. Be sure that you have thermals or under armor without logos (see previous post). If you’re a girl wearing long skirts, wear pants underneath. If you’re a guy, put some thermals under your poet shirt. If it were real life, you’d be bundled up. It’s nooooo fun being cold and having to sit near the fire the entire event.
Layers, if you do it right, also look good. Good layering: Warm layer (thermals/under armor), costume shirt, vest/armor, furs, cloak. Fur wraps around your ankles look great, too (over pants of course)! For girls a good layering example could be: Under armor layer, costume shirt, cincher and/or vest, in-game looking coat/furs/cloak. Skirts can be layers upon layers, especially if they are different lengths and colors, and pants can be worn underneath.
In contrast, have a summer outfit or at least a light layer that you don’t mind wearing in the summer. A nice flowing shirt and a skirt or loose pants. Tight clothes are the enemy in the summer as they prevent the breathing of your body.
Sooner or later, you’re going to get wet at a LARP. Be it rain, snow, sweat, lake, swamp, kiddie pool, or slip-n-slide mod, you’re gonna find yourself uncomfortable for a good amount of time unless you bring extra skivvies. “Baylee, what the heck are skivvies?” Skivvies are your undergarments: panties/boxers, bras/camisoles/a-shirts, and socks. THESE AREAS CHAFE WHEN WET! ANNNNNND no one likes sitting in them wet for too long. It can even cause disease! Bring extras of these! Always!
I have to say one of the most comfortable and versatile cloths to LARP in is broadcloth. It is a cheap cotton cloth that comes in EVERY COLOR and makes for great breathable costumes in the summer and easy to layer in the winter, that is if you’re looking to make your own costume. Cotton shirts, if you’re looking to buy, are more easily bought than most other fabrics.
Fleece is a loooooovely fabric for lining the inside of your cloaks. I think EVERYONE should have a lined cloak, single layers are mostly pointless as they don’t hold as much heat… ’cause let’s face it, that’s really the only reason you should be wearing a cloak or cape… Otherwise, “NO CAPES!”
Wool is one of those fabrics that you either like or you don’t. I know of people that have allergies to it, so you have to keep that in mind, but wool costumes are great for winter and if you indeed like the feeling of wool, go for it.
If you’re looking to go fancy and not particularly combat heavy, satin or costume silk feels lovely, however it does not hold warmth.
There are a number of interesting cloths to work with that are, sadly, not very comfortable. Canvas and burlap are not comfy fabrics at all, thicker cotton sometimes chafes especially if you have nothing on under it. The back side of fake fur is VERY itchy, so I suggest lining it with something. Velvet and crushed velvet are very pretty, and everyone seems to make capes and cloaks out of it, but I suggest lining it if you are going to make something because it does not hold heat at all.
On an anecdotal note: I once played a character who was a stand in for the God of Death. Her costume consisted of a black corset, a knee length skirt, and 5 inch heels. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Baylee, you broke all of your rules.” I know, shut up. She ever showed up thrice, so, it didn’t matter. Well, the one time, it snowed. Lemme tell you how miserable I was sitting in the snow in that get up. All the cloaks in the world would not warm me up. Moral of the story, don’t do what I did.
Now, I’m not suggesting to run around in sweats and slippers, but players need to keep in mind that temperatures, body types, and moods change. The last thing you want to be is awake and cranky at 4 in the morning with only a short skirt and tank top to wear in the snow. If you have one scene where you have to look good no matter what, that’s understandable, but an entire event of that is miserable. Don’t subject yourself to miserable.