It can be difficult when starting to LARP to find good kit for a reasonable price. I know that pain when I started and wanted to make sure I had enough clean shirts for a four day weekend event – it simply wasn’t happening if I bought from traders because it would have been ridiculously expensive. However if you have some time to dedicate to making costume then there’s every chance you could end up with some splendid kit without breaking the bank.
Flicking through my big book of The Clothing of the Renaissance World I came across this charming guy who really wouldn’t look out of place as an Italianesque character at many LARPs. Vecellio, our sixteenth-century costume expert, states that this is the typical dress of a man from Calabria – the area at the southern tip of Italy. Apparently this was an area that was rich in all kinds of food and sent produce all over Italy, implying that those who lived there must have had some money from trading, but his parting comment in the accompanying text to the image is that ‘[this is how] they go about, dressed at little expense.’
The easiest way to get this kind of a look would be to pick up some individual garments from traders and a large amount of trim to make all the individual items match. Indeed Vecellio specifies that the clothing tends to have ‘a border of velvet or woven trim at the hem’ so you couldn’t go too far wrong by starting to look for materials at on eBay* or by getting in touch with Ceolred Monger.
Vecellio helpfully also gives a list of the garments that our Calabrian Man is wearing:
- A woolen cap in the winter, but in the summer it would be made of silk. It has a small folded brim and a lining of lightweight silk fabric.
- A thigh length overgarment of black wool with a border of velvet or trim at the hem. You could probably sew yourself up a long sleeved T-tunic for this bit, or if you were feeling more adventurous a simple cote that would pull over the head.
- Full length leggings in black wool. Available from Primark if you’re looking for something cheap, or you could try making hose if you’re feeling bold.
- Over leggings – not mentioned by Vecellio but if you look carefully he does seem to be wearing two pairs of trousers. I’ve had good luck with making simple close fitting trousers from hospital scrubs patterns, just cut them off at mid calf length and apply more fabulous trim to them (you also get pockets if you make scrubs, I really like pockets).
- A floor length mantle – or cloak to you and I. Once again it’s black wool and it’s trimmed all the way round the bottom. Vecellio specifies it should be without a collar or shaped neckline, but it should be fastened with a button in the centre of the chest. There are lots of different approaches to making cloaks. You might want a full circle variation for winter, or something lighter like a half circle for summer.
The thing about this kind of look is that it’s infinitely variable. You could use £3 a meter cotton fabric from Ikea or more expensive reenactment wool. Cheap trim or expensive trim. And of course when you lose a character – as will inevitably happen – you can reuse bits and pieces of the costume into new costumes, because it’s so flexible. By simply changing the colour of the tunic and adding a different hat you’ve got a totally different look for minimum investment. You could even change the trim if you’d not fixed it on too securely.
As for price? I reckon I could do the lot for me (without footwear) for under about £50. However that’s using cotton fabric and polyester trim throughout, and I’m quite a small person. But it’s not a bad place to start if you’re looking for some basic Renaissance Italianesque gear that will see you on your way at your first LARP.