Getting a costume put together can be a fun challenge for someone wanting to play a LARP. It’s an exciting, sometimes time consuming and financially draining aspect of game preparations. A lot of people feel a strong urge to make their costumes perfect, which can result in some clashes with game organisers, and their wallets. This article is written as a generic guide for you wishing to come and LARP.
#1: Know your environment
It can be a lot of fun to imagine yourself as a fur-covered chainmail-laden Viking, but if you’ll be playing in the summer; your costume will quickly become the worst part of your gaming experience. The same can be said for the reverse if you fail to prepare for winter conditions. Take the time to prepare first, and foremost, for the environment you will be playing in. Some games may ask you to cover logos on your shoes, for example: but at the end of the day, your health is more important than what the fashion police have to say. At the same time, if you attend a high-fantasy game in a turquoise shirt with modern decals and a pair of jeans, you will inevitably end up ruffling some feathers. Make sure you ask people around you what would be acceptable. If all else fails, Actor’s Black is a safe way to go. (Black shirt, Black pants)
#2: Don’t push your bank account
I once knew a guy who dropped 3 thousand dollars on a character concept, only to have that character killed off after his second game. Treat all of your costume pieces as investments. It can be super-tempting to buy all the cool armor from a catalogue, and while that will be super cool to see- make sure you aren’t breaking your bank account by doing so. Bills still have to be paid after game!
#3: Know the game rules
Reading a manual, even if it’s a game manual, can be mind-numbing. You just want to get to the parts that are relevant to you. However, every LARP game typically has the same set-up, there is inevitably a section about weapons, armor, combat and setting. These parts are going to dictate what you make and what you buy, make sure you take the time to read these sections before you buy something. In the case of LARP purchases: asking for forgiveness later usually just ends up with your purchase collecting dust or asking or a refund.
#4: Know your physical limits
I can’t emphasize enough how often I have seen people push their health for the sake of a scene, costume or game. While it’s admirable, it’s also very silly. A game, no matter how pumped up you are about it, it never more important than your health. I’ve seen people spent months on chainmail, be reckless and have to get cut out of that chainmail in an emergency room so medical professionals could set a cast and bone- while the person was still in costume. I’ve also known people who didn’t think their costume design through, and made it impossible for themselves to use the restroom without someone to help them out of their garments, and I’ve also seen people who don’t understand that covering yourself in latex will make it impossible for your body to sweat- and end up with you making yourself sick, even in the middle of winter. Therefore, make absolutely sure whatever it is you choose for a costume, it has flexibility and livability for a game, especially if those games are the typical weekend-long ones.
#5: Don’t get attached
I have known people to spend months preparing a costume, and then be turned off from LARP because their costume was destroyed in the first day of a weekend event. Whatever it is you decide to make or buy, realise that your costume will eventually get worn down. For some people, that’s a plus, for others, it can be heartbreaking. Make sure your materials are stain-resistant and tear-resistant. If you play during the winter months, you’ll likely be interested in water-resistant materials as well.
Take the time to learn how to maintain your costume, as well. Latex weapons can be broken and worn down, and leather is universally known to not hold up if you don’t maintain it after it meets heat and cold and water from the environment.
#6: Support local, Shop smart
If you do decide to go super-custom, make sure you take the time to ask your local community if there is anyone they recommend who can make you something custom. It’s always a great idea to support local artisans, and there are usually a bunch floating around. However, when you do shop local, make sure you ask for references or a portfolio and never pay for anything up front in full before it’s completed. In a heavily label-based consumer society, we as consumers can take for granted that the person taking our money can be held to the same standards major labels and outlets are held to. Make sure you know your local laws about consumer rights. Feel free to ask smart questions about where and how the person will be making your garment/item, how long they will need to finish it, and set a date for completion. These are standard questions someone making you something should be able to answer.
In conclusion, make sure you always game smart, game safe, and have fun!