Tattoos and costuming have a lot in common. You get your first one and you think you’re done. Next thing you know the itch for yet another coat, or hat, or patch, or whatever creeps in. Add LARP into the mix, where you are always on the lookout for a new costume piece for an existing character, or for a brand new character, and every day is a new opportunity for another costume piece.
And like tattoos, if you are lucky you find someone who you can trust to add to your collection. It can make for a beautiful, and creative, relationship. As a costumer/seamstress, I love those relationships. Not only because it means regular income, but because the collaboration can take me to interesting and inventive places. Matt and Shirley are two such clients.
I met them through LARP, and have been lucky to call them friends over the years. When the approached me for costumes for a Byzantium based vampire LARP I did a little victory dance. The last time I worked anywhere near the BCE was back when I first started LARP in a Constantinople by Night game. There was a lot of room for inventive costuming just waiting to be investigated. Matt and Shirley are great examples of costuming clients. They had a good idea of what they wanted and were open to suggestions.
Matt’s costume request was simple: a sarong with a Poseidon themed border print and a cape. He provided me with pictures of sample garments and knew what colors he wanted. My only input was to offer up a few designs for him to pick from for the border. The design was accomplished with fabric paint and a stencil. I used a linen-look fabric for the sarong and cape for a period-esque look without the drawbacks (wrinkles and a high price point). For the cloak I added a black and white key trim ribbon and chain clasp.
I had never done stencil work before, so this gave me a valuable opportunity to pick up a new skill, and then think about other ways I could accomplish the same task. If I had had the time and budget I would have gone with a 100% linen and used a bleach or batik technique for the design. That said, no matter where you stand on the whole “LARP requires costuming“, (and equivalencies to tattoos aside), I advocate going with what your budget allows. Getting the look for your character doesn’t have to cost a ton.
Shirley had a vague idea of what she wanted and with some back and forth we settled on a linen chiton with a fur capelet. This led to my favorite moment in the idea process where I mentioned I had a sheepskin in the workshop much to Matt’s disbelief*. The chiton was, again, made from a linen-look material. Much like Matt’s sarong and cloak I was just dealing with two long rectangles of cloth. That was actually the most difficult part of putting the costuming together. Dealing with yards and yards of cloth can be hard. I ended up spending a lot of time standing in front of Kenny with fabric draped over my shoulder as I hemmed it. The capelet was the most difficult piece to put together, mostly due to the fact that I was dealing not with a cut of cloth, but an entire piece that had ragged and awkward edges. I spent a lot of time with it hung on Mildred, adjusting it this way and that to find the best drape. The fastenings came from thrifted belts and metal hardware procured from Textile Discount Outlet.
Since neither of these costumes included pockets, and I am a proponent of hands-free gaming, I made up simple drawstring pouches for both out of left over fabric. At the very least they would be able to store their character sheets out of the way when they weren’t throwing chops.
My other philosophy when it comes to LARP costuming, is that you have a better RP experience when your costuming is comfortable and fits. I think these two pieces hit both those marks, if I am to judge from the pictures Matt sent me of Shirley in her outfit.
*Over the years various and sundry items have materialized in the workshop. I suspect the house gnomes secret them there. In this case, however, a friend and client had gifted me the sheepskin after a thrifting trip.