LARP at Play: Costuming and You, Part 2

To start I’d like to give a shout-out to the Clanthia SOLAR LARPers. I’ve loved reading your comments to the posted snippets of my articles (Gender thread and Costuming thread).

This week is the second half of Costuming and You, sources and resources for costuming. The first half, various tips to remember when costuming your character, was presented last week. Hope you’re ready for a link dump and a slew of ways to create costuming on the cheap.

I’d like to start this week with a link I dug up that is a general discussions of inexpensive costuming. Rather than repeat every point the author made I think it’s worth it to link to the article itself: Costuming Tips For The Cheap And Desperate. There are some very good tips and tricks there for anyone costuming a character, regardless of genre or time period or if you can sew or not. This is a must read!

General Tips
Granted some of these were noted in the above link, but I feel these are all worth sharing even if they are repeated:

  • Utilize more modern things when you can (why purchase fancy faire-approved tights when you can just wear a nice pair of leggings under that tabard and it’ll look just as good for less. Can’t afford fancy boots, get a pair of work or hiking boots from a thrift store or Wal-Mart and then decorate up as you can with some notions).
  • If you do opt to purchase items, watch for sales at merchant’s sites and buy items on sale. Keep in mind when seasonal clothing and items will go on sale and keep in mind what you may need for next year.
  • Buy in bulk/bulk orders with friends or your LARP group. If you know you’ll need a bunch of a particular item, see if you can arrange a bulk order. Often times it’s cheaper to buy in bulk.
  • Connect with others in your LARP/reenactment community and trade items/skills for what you’re looking for. Also check your local LARP/reenactment community as many often sew for much cheaper than purchasing the same thing from a merchant (particularly if you buy all the material and notions needed).
  • If you opt to sew your own costuming/garb keep an eye out at local fabric stores for pattern and fabric sales. If you decide to modify something you’ve purchased you might even be able to get ribbon and other notions for cheap too if you watch for sales.

Here are a few more links that some may find of use:
Something to Wear when You Can’t Sew (SCA based garb ideas)
Milieux: The Costume Site (GREAT site with links everywhere concerning costumes)
The Costumer’s Manifesto (great site with links to historical graphics & ready-made costumes)
Costume Research Websites (a huge list of links)

Thrift/second hand stores, consignment shops and discount stores
While a person may have a harder time finding things here that will work right off the rack without modification for a fantasy-medieval game, if your genre or setting is modern day, post-apocalypse, western or something of that nature you’ll likely have an easier time finding something in a thrift/second hand store, consignment shop or discount store that’ll work for outfitting your character. Thrift/second hand stores are popular spots to search for costuming and prop pieces, however don’t discount consignment and discount stores. The prices might be a tad higher at the latter two stores, but the quality and relevance to current fashion trends can be better.
Value Village
Ross Dress for Less

Dollar stores
These can be great spots to pick up cheap props or accessories or cover other inexpensive costume needs, such as a cheap pair of work gloves or if you need prop goggles for something.

Costume shops
Costume shop prices can vary, however during Halloween sales it’s a great time to stock up on prosthetics, makeup, accessories and other costume items for cheap. Use this as a time to stock up on hard to find or items that would normally be more expensive during other parts of the year. LARP Organizers: this makes a great time to make bulk purchases of stuff for your NPC/cast needs.

Army surplus stores
This is a mecca for modern and post-apocalypse LARPs in particular. You can also find camping equipment here, and often times for cheaper than the big name outdoor stores. For those that do live-combat LARPs, combat boots are great as they are built for those who are on the go, just add a nice shoe insert to help cushion your feet. Like any other spot, watch for sales. For those who utilize airsoft or paintball guns in your game, they may also sell (at least the ones around where I live do sell) airsoft and paintball guns and supplies or may know of places that do.

Ethnic and specialty stores
Ethnic stores and shops that cater to various non-Western world cultures and alternative culture/sub-cultural shops can offer a wide variety of options for interesting costuming and accessories. Such shops may not be cheap, however they can work well for inspiration and accessories and then there are always the sales racks. Dance wear stores are are also a spot to consider as a potential costuming option.

Garage sales

Garage sales can be a great way to get cheap costuming and props, the only downside is that you don’t know exactly what will be for sale. In many case people do try to provide some sort of indication of what will be for sale. If you’re doing fantasy/medieval themed stuff, keep an eye out for SCA garage sales in particular. Check your newspaper or newspaper’s web site for garage sale listings. If you live in a larger metropolitan area, Craig’s List is also a good source to check, not to mention that some merchants may also have ads up on here for inexpensive items (example of here in Seattle).

Etsy and eBay

From medieval to steampunk, there’s a bit of everything on Etsy. The catch is remembing to check back often because selections change daily as items come and go. The same goes for eBay. Just like Etsy there’s a little bit of everything when searching for LARP and just costumes and reenactment attire and just like Etsy, items will come and go daily as auctions end or start.

Specialty Merchants
For those who prefer to shop merchants who sell garb and supplies, check sales and buy off the sale rack. While these merchants are those that are widely known, I also advocate supporting your local merchants when you can. Here are some that I recommend:
The Badger’s Den
Museum Replicas
The Pyramid Collection
Pillaged Village

Modify what you have or can find
This works great if you find an article of clothing at a garage sale or thrift store, but it needs a bit of work to turn it from something good for your outfit to something great. Adding some trim, lace, replacing the buttons or making other easy changes is quick to do and can often require little to no sewing. You can also distress items you have to give them a worn, beat up look and yet maintain the structural integrity of the item so you can wear it over and over again. Below are some links I found for distressing fabrics and leather.
Distressing Fabric
Distressing Fabric, Making things look old
Project 15 – Distressing a Standard Man’s Shirt
Aging and Distressing Leather (and Vinyl)

Sew your own
This is one of the best ways to procure inexpensive costuming that will fit you. By sewing your own you can make the item just as you desire it, from the material used to the trim on the cuffs and hems to the notions used to finish it off. The need to sew one’s own garb tends to be the most popular for those genres where you can’t just walk into a store and buy something off the rack as tends to be the case for those needing period and medieval style outfits. A quick search turned up several good links for easy to sew garb items (medieval based as this tends to be the most popular):
Wrap pants
Cowled Hood

Don’t limit yourself to just what you can find within your own group or organization. A quick search of the SCA site and links yielded a couple of good articles: Introduction to Garb: A Seminar and Easy SCA Garb. Other LARP and LARP related groups such as Amtgard (guides are down at the bottom of the page) also have some good links for garb patterns and instructions

What tips or tricks do you have? Do you have any particular online resources that you feel others should be aware of?

Suggest a topic for next week! What do you really want to read about? As always I love to hear feedback and suggestions for further articles. Feel free to leave a comment here at the Mortalis Games site, write Amber at webmaster [at] mortalisrpg [dot] com or once this goes live on, visit the article’s forum thread (there should be a link below the article to it) to see what else has been shared or to leave a comment there.

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