I’m pretty rubbish at creating a good costume for me to wear for an event. I usually have ideas that are for something better than I can actually pull off, or I want such a specific look that there’s no way I can manage it. I have once managed to put together a really nice set of kit for a LRP event. The character died at the end of the first event. I’d spent two years and about £400 making kit, and It’s unique to the extent that I’d struggle to wear it again at that system. I hadn’t actually finished it. If the kit if for me then I’m unreasonably slow. Other things take priority.
I work for a company that make kit and costume for events. This does mean that whatever event I’m going to the commissioned work takes priority over the stuff that’s for us. I can make good costume/kit, but apparently not for myself. Good kit should have context. It’s better to be wearing a red cloak because your group wear red cloaks, because your colours are red, or because your clothes are red themed than because you found red wool cheap at the fabric shop. Logos, badges etc can be repeated throughout costume bringing it together and providing coherency.
Whilst I would not say that you should wear historic costume, I would recommend looking at historic costume and allow it to influence your costume making where appropriate. If you want to look a bit like someone from the Italian city-states you’re far more likely to be able to achieve something that has an authentic air if you’ve spent some time looking at a variety of images of clothing from there. Considering simple things such as where a hemline sits (at the knee, above the knee or below the knee for example) can make it a lot easier to get the look right. Use the right fabrics. Not necessarily authentic fabrics, but fabrics that look and feel comfortable to wear and have the right weight to give the effect you’re after. (This applies if you’re sewing your own clothes or if you’re buying stuff/getting stuff made).
Where possible feel the fabric before you buy it. Know whether it’s going to be next to your skin or an outer layer, and work out if you’re okay with that for a long time. Try and get multiple sets of base layers. You’ll probably use those for multiple characters, you can use them for crewing. They’re an important bit of kit.
I tend to make cotton and linen t-tunics and wear either baggy cotton trousers or leggings for a base layer. Neither of these are particularly expensive and it means I have enough to be warm and comfortable all weekend. In the same way that I’d recommend everyone who wants to fight has a good basic weapon, I’d recommend that everyone has a good base layer or eight. I also wear baggy cotton trousers a lot for everyday clothes. Although to be fair, I make the trousers for everyday stuff and then fail to change out of them for LRP.
Layers and accessories are important. They add realism and warmth. They’re practical and allow you a chance to build more meaning and visual clues. Every LRPer needs a decent belt. Pouches and bags tend to be more common than pockets in kit. Pockets do have their place. Sashes are useful and can be used as pouches in themselves. I tend to regard belts as transient. They’re never mine for long and then they wander off to belong to the next LRPer. They’re also quite expensive. A good, plain belt would be £30 upwards. Yet they’re defining pieces of costume and rarely included as significant in the original budget. I like characters to have both an armoured and an unarmoured look. I’ve never achieved this. This is mostly because I intend to make my own armour and have never got around to it. I own the leather. I own all the stuff I need. I have made patterns 4-5 times. I’ve never actually made it.
It’s all very well having good intentions based on kit. It’s a bit pointless if, like me, you can never actually get the stuff you want made. I’m also sad that with my one successful attempt at making decent kit I didn’t actually manage to get any photos of me wearing it, which is why there isn’t one included here!