Full disclosure: I am a fake RPG geek girl who has never done a LARP campaign in her life. Closest I’ve been is Cosplay Chess at anime cons, but I have been doing this cosplay thing here for 10 years so I think I’m qualified to talk about the costume-y side of LARP. If not, please do be sure to tell me where I can turn in my geek card. ;) The following is a guide on how to put together costumes for LARP so that you can have some heckin’ cool costumes to run around and fight in depending on how much time/money/effort you want to put in.
1) Make Friends Who Know What They’re Doing
If you LARP with folks who have costumes that you like, ask them about the costume! If they make their own stuff, ask them if they’d be willing to teach you how to make your own. Most people with lots of experience enjoy teaching others and showing them the ropes. Learning directly from another person is also probably the easiest way to learn new skills because you can ask them questions in real time and actually get responses. If your LARP buddies don’t make their own stuff, but you want to learn how to, see #2. If your buds get their stuff commissioned, ask them where they go and see #4. If none of your regular LARPing buds make their own stuff, you can turn to folks who put their sessions up and youtube and fish around there, or try networking with folks at gaming conventions.
2) Master The Art of Google-Fu And Teach Yourself How To Sew And Foamsmith
So you’ve decided you want to join our ranks and become a crafter like your father before you, eh? Not gonna lie to you, this is not an easy path and you’ll need to master the art of google-fu if you want to have any chance at getting by. There is a WEALTH of information for free online about how to sew and how to make sturdy weapons and armor out of foam. The cosplaytutorial tumblr has a catalog of a ton of these for easy referencing & is a great place to start your search. Learning how to search for this information is one of the most valuable skills you can have and since you’re doing original characters for the most part in LARP, you need to learn how to search for things that are adjacent to what you want to do. So, for example, you want to make a set of sci-fi armor that’s not from Star Wars for one of your campaigns: google “Stormtrooper armor tutorial” because that’s going to give you the skills you need to make your not-Star-Wars stuff. I’d also recommend picking up a book or two about sewing techniques because otherwise you’ll be a costuming grandma like me who only knows how to do two types of hems and didn’t know how to do French seams until a month ago. Even if you don’t intend on making all of your stuff all of the time, learning how to do some basic sewing will come in handy if you decide to go the thrift shop/altering found items route.
3. Thrift Shops, Bargain Bins, and Coupons, Oh My!
I wear yo granddad’s clothes, I look incredible
Thrift shops are a great place to start for costume pieces. Bedsheets in particular are awesome because they’re like a buck, are usually sturdy cotton and take to dye easily. AND you can make anything from hoopskirts to tunics out of them and there’s a ton of fabric in ‘em so even if you mess up, you’re still good! Thrift shops are also a great place to find pieces that just are a pain in the buns to make or if you don’t want to make stuff and are too broke to do commissions. With a little bit of altering to found items (this is why basic sewing skills are good to have) you can make anything into a pretty sweet LARP costume. Costuming on a budget is tough, so check around your area for fabric/craft stores that aren’t part of a chain like Michael’s, Jo-Anne’s, or Hobby Lobby-- they usually sell fabric for much cheaper than what you’ll find at the big box stores. If there are no such stores near you, you can check online or prepare for battle with big retail fiends armed with as many coupons as you can stack.
4. Commission That Biz
Here’s the deal with commissions, kids. If you want something done fast and cheap, it’s not going to be high quality work. If you want something done good and cheap, it’s going to take a long time. If you want something fast and good, it’s gonna be expensive as heck. You want something to be good, cheap, and fast? Keep dreamin’. Keep in mind that you’re paying not only for materials, but also for someone’s time and expertise when you pay for commissions. The person you’re paying needs to eat and pay rent; they deserve a fair wage especially if this is their only source of income. In other words, when the commissioner tells you the cost of their work is $xxxx; you don’t whine at them. If it’s too much for you to afford, say so and try to find someone who’s in your price range or ask if they’d be willing to do a payment plan for you. Treat commissioners with respect -- this should go without saying, but for some reason some folks think that commissioners should only charge for materials + $20.
So there you have it! Four ways to get costumes for your next LARP event relatively easily -- if you have questions or want more details on learning how to sew/craft/bargain, let me know here or go check out my wordpress.
FancyDuckie is a 20-something researcher by daylight, and mahou shoujo cosplayer by moonlight! She’s also known to play murder hobo elven clerics with a penchant for shanking twice a week. Also known as “science girlfriend” of The Heavy Metal GM. When she’s not chained to her sewing machine or doing other nerdy stuff, she enjoys watching ballet, musical theatre, pro hockey, and playing with any critter that will tolerate her presence. You can find her on Twitter, Tumblr, ACParadise, Facebook, Instagram, & Wordpress all under the same convenient handle.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.