Costumer’s Pride and Joy

I recently participated in a meme, and was given “my favorite costuming, LARP or not” as a topic to write about. (Actually, I was given “my favorite costume” as a topic, but I couldn’t help but expand it a bit so I could write more. Besides, picking just one favorite is hard!)

Since all but one were LARP costumes, I decided to share the post here.

If anyone would like to post pictures and/or descriptions of their own favorite costumes here, I’d be very interested to read them!

My first favorite was The Sith Princess Costume; the costume I wore as Princess Lahmillah, the thrall of a dark Sith Lord and heir to the throne of the Galactic Empire in the LARP Sith Lords; The Dark Side. (I’d been waiting for a good Star Wars LARP!) And say what you will about the Star Wars prequels; in my opinion, they contained some of the most incredible costuming in the history of Hollywood. If I could spend the rest of my life designing (and wearing) costuming for Padme Amidala (and her handmaidens and the Jedi and the Sith…) I’d be a happy person.
My concept for this costume was Queen-Amidala-meets-Darth Maul. I particularly liked Amidala’s black travel gown and black outfit from The Clone Wars. I also took inspiration from Amidala’s battle costume (actually worn by Sabe/Kiera Knightly… come to think of it, so was the travel gown) which I thought looked particularly regal, but toned down the ostentatiously impractical tendencies of her wardrobe to make it more practical for combat. Plus, it has the right color scheme for Sith- red and black. I doodle designs for a lot of my costumes, and the earliest sketches for this costume clearly have a lot of influence from these three looks. There was a lot of black feathers, black leather, and black lace in those doodles.

I remember pouring over Star Wars costuming online- images from the movies, and guides for costuming, and picking up on a few trends. There’s a lot of Asian inspiration in the designs (especially The Phantom Menace) and layering. Layering seems to add a lot to how professional a costume looks. So I started with the basic red and black Sith color scheme and went from there.

I poked through my mother’s patterns and found a kimono-style jacket pattern. My mother had found some really nice, heavy textured black material on sale. I’m also rather fond of wide waist sashes for some reason, and I had this ruched red silk sash in mind. My mother mostly just took my doodle and made it up. (It’s pretty much a hemmed rectangle with ruching and snaps.)

I originally planned to wear the jacket and sash over a black lace skirt… but on a whim, I tried it all on over my black and red ao dai (an impulse purchase from an Australian flea market) and was kind of shocked at how well it seemed to go together.

Examination of images of Amidala reveal a lot of layered sleeves, especially with an inner, tight layer that covered her hands to her knuckles, which I thought looked very graceful. I bought a pair of red baby socks and asked my neighbor (a very talented seamstress with really cool sewing toys, who does costuming for the local high school) to cut them and serge the edges. It was stupid to get a pair with non-skid surfaces- the tread got snagged on the machine, but they did come out alright and I like the way they looked under my ao dai’s sleeves.

A lot of Amidala’s costumes also have covered necks- high collars, drapes, wide chokers. This is another look I really love- I add chokers to costumes whenever I can. I particularly like the ones that cover the entire neck from chin to shoulders. There’s something very formal and restrained, even stiff, about it that I like- it comes off as regal, and dramatic looking. So my mother and I also made a choker out of black fabric- another rectangle with snaps.

I also really love costumes with something huge attached to the back- usually at the small of the back or centered between the shoulders, but also sometimes at the back of the head. (See the above huge feathered headpiece of the travel gown, or Amidala’s parade gown). I wanted some sort of crown to indicate my character’s royal status, but not a pretty little tiara or standard European style crown. I actually envisioned something like a sinister looking hair comb, maybe like this but much bigger, in gold, and spikier (and one of these days, I will find an excuse to buy one of these things on etsy)… but didn’t know where to find one. So I bought a comb, some wire, and black, red, and gold beads and messed around with them.

The end result wasn’t half bad, though I really wish I’d bought stiffer wire. It looked decent when the wires stood straight and I didn’t move, but when I did move, it was all bobbly and easily lost its shape.

The whole look was capped off with earrings, black boots (my mother purchased them for dressing up; I kept them because I thought they looked Sith-ish) and lipstick to match the red in my costume (which doubled as eyeshadow.)

This was the costume, half finished.
Better shot of the crown. Also, this picture shows why I finally got contacts to wear with costumes.

It was a ton of fun to wear and received many compliments. In fact, I found out way after the fact that people at Intercon were referring to it as the “Darth Hottie” look. Which, I have to admit, somehow makes me feel simultaneously rather abashed and shamelessly pleased.

And then there’s my Where the Wild Things Will Be costume.

The character hint was, essentially, Middle Eastern Princess turned Fae Hunter attending a masquerade. At first, I was pretty stumped, but then I just started searching through my closet and an idea hit me. This is another costume I did many doodles of before settling on a final design. (Wish I had a few sketches scanned to share.) I might have chosen more natural colors, but the black shirt I found and the red silk pants I owned dictated the color scheme.

There was barely any sewing involved. The red pants came with the ao dai. The boots are, again, my Sith boots, with gold tassels added. The shirt, I thrifted, then simply tucked the bottom up into the top to hide cleavage (I kinda hate showing cleavage) and create the harem-girl belly look. The gold bands are all thick trim with velcro stuck on. I think the head scarf was the only thing that took a sewing machine to make- it’s just a hemmed square. I regret the fabric choice- it most closely resembled the fabric of the red pants, but it was heavy and slippery, and hated being tied in knots. I looked up how to tie Middle Eastern head scarves on youtube, but couldn’t get my scarf to stay over the lower half of my face, even with safety pins. Oh, well.

There was also a black headband, made from a black knit ear warmer and stitched-on gold charms… unfortunately, misplaced before the LARP and then lost. It looked good and added a stronger Middle Eastern flavor. One of these days I’ll make a replacement.

I had no idea how to make jewelry, but I really wanted a belly chain and couldn’t find one I liked. I ended up making one through trial and error. I clearly had a ton to learn about making jewelery, because it has since fallen to pieces. But it mostly held in place for the LARP and complimented the outfit.

I really love elaborate Venetian masks, which I knew a lot of the other LARPers would be wearing to this masquerade LARP, but I’m also a huge sucker for the stark, dramatic look of a blank mask, and I thought the white stood out well from the red, black, and gold. (Though it was hard to talk through and under the plastic, my make-up completely melted down my face during the LARP.)

I was particularly proud of the bow and quiver set–  I made up the entire creation process as I went along. It started with wandering Home Depot, looking for a base for the bow (I found a closet door track). Crumpled newspaper built up the base of the bow, then it was covered with black electric tape and gold trim. The quiver I messed up on pretty badly and it needs to be fixed- it’s made from fake leather upholstery (a remnant found at Jo-ann Fabrics) and more black electric tape and gold trim (which didn’t stick together well.) But I liked the effect of the gold applique on the back of the quiver. I thought it looked vaguely elven. The arrows are just red and black feathers taped to sticks… but provided the right effect sticking up over my shoulder.

I felt very self-conscious in this costume, but the reactions made it all worth while. When I was walking away from the Ops table at Intercon, I heard someone behind me say, in a kind of shocked voice, “who WAS that?” Which is possibly my favorite reaction to anything I’ve ever worn. That’s the reaction I like my costumes to get. Drama drama drama.

Other favorites, which I feel compelled to mention…
-My Robin costume, for the LARP Call Batman, Call Superman, Call Anyone! because it was slapped together last minute, yet still looked fairly complete and, well, I really love Robin.
-My Venezia/Renaissance costume, created for the LARP Venezia.
-My harem girl costume for the Arabian Nights LARP, Stars of Al-Ashtara. The veil looks dramatic to me.
-My Grecian dress for the LARP Feast of the Minotaur, super purple, super dramatic. The leaves were a bit silly but fun. (Also, it has yet another extra wide choker.)
-My Tyrell costume, for the LARP Game of Thrones: Blackfyre Rising, because of how strongly it conveys the character- I like wearing in-your-face symbols for characters. And leaves and flowers in my hair. Also… Well, I’m a huge fan of A Song of Ice and Fire.
My kung fu costume, for the LARP Ghost-Fu… It came out looking both Asian and Jedi-ish, and I liked the muted color scheme. The Chun-Li flower barrettes… well, they look just ridiculous. But they were fun to wear.

I gotta stop. I’m listing practically half my costumes here.
Wait, one more. My Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n Roll costume made me feel like a manly man.

Oh, one more. Not for a LARP, but it deserves a mention. The entire look I wore for a Dias de los Muertos photo shoot. Haz is a very talented photographer (as you can see), and I was lucky enough to get to model for her. Her website here is very much worth a look.


About Fair Escape

I've been LARPing for years in all different styles, including both boffer and theater. I love classic LARP but I'm always happy to try something new. I have a sort of "gotta catch 'em all" attitude towards experiencing LARPs. I'm currently serve as a board member of NEIL, a member of proposal com for Intercon, the largest all LARP convention in the US, and as en editor for Game Wrap, a publication about the art and craft of LARP. I was also con chair of Festival of the LARPs 2017, and I'm on staff for NELCO, the first all LARP conference in the US. I'm
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One Response to Costumer’s Pride and Joy

  1. Pingback: For Auld Lang Syne « FairEscape

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