Needless to say, there’s an awful lot that can be written about colour selection when it comes to costume. Picking the right colours for an individual or group ideally shouldn’t be something that is undertaken without thought. Especially if you’re planning on playing the character or group for a long time. Once you’ve picked a theme you’re fairly stuck with it. Buying a whole new set of costume and accessories isn’t a cheap endeavour.
Generally anything goes in modern or futuristic LARP. But if it’s a game world inspired by medieval Northern Europe fantasy tropes then you might want to spend some time looking at historical resources to put your costume together. Rules for tinctures, the limited range of colours used for heraldry might be a good place to start. The range of colours and metals used for creating heraldry evolved because they were easy to see and easy to reproduce. Sumptuary laws would also be worth considering because our subconscious’ feeling of what colours mean is much based in our societies collective memory.
Sumptuary Laws and Collective Memory
For instance, even if the LARP you are playing doesn’t have inbuilt sumptuary laws, purples will always feel regal and luxurious to most of us who have grown up in the UK. It was the Roman’s who first prevented the average citizen from wearing purple because the dye was hugely expensive dye. However Queen Elizabeth I also banned those outside of the direct Royal Family from wearing purple silk. She also banned them from wearing gold cloth or the fur of Sables. If you really want to tap into our collective memory try wearing purple and gold with black furs and see if others treat you like royalty.
Purple and gold really works well as a colour combination for the house that currently holds the throne at Empire LRP; even the guards are dressed in these colours. Although it is a colour combination worn elsewhere on the field by various individuals and groups, the Empress and their Throne Guard are unmistakable when you see them. Purple and gold is a powerful colour combination to wear.
Austerity in Costumes
At the other end of the scale, look at the costumes designed for District 13 in the film The Hunger Games. The severeness of the grey clothes against a grey colour palette reflects the austerity. It is in sharp contrast to the brightly coloured clothes of the Capitol. In fact, the six movie posters put out for Mockingjay Part 1 are a great example of how you can create a theme for a group and then put together a set of very individual looks within that theme.
Grey is drab, severe, and austere. The colour grey, when used in costumes, reflects an uncompromising nature and a willingness to Get Shit Done. Just like in the Divergent series when it was the colour of choice for Abnegation. In the film it helped build a picture of their selfness way of living (probably at least partially based on the evocative imagery of various grey religious habits from around the world). If you choose to wear grey as a main or accent colour in your costume you will put across a particular image.
You can see here the difference when side by side over the same (navy) base layer. Both are striking in their own way, but both convey a very different feel to the costume.
Have you agonised over colour choices for your costume? Or did you manage to hit on a combination in play that really worked? How do colour choices reflect things that had happened to your character? Let us know in the comments!