When we first got our casting for the recent Brandeis run of Across the Sea of Stars (Jeff Diewald’s 10 hour sci-fi storytelling theater LARP), it came with a link to a webpage of costuming hints. They were broken down by alien race- basically, no one’s costuming hint was more specific than “dress like a member of your race.”
As I read down the page, I was actually rather impressed with how costuming is handled in this LARP. It seems as though it’s designed with several admirable principles in mind.
– Races are instantly and easily identifiable from across the room.
-Costuming will most likely be something the average theater LARPer can pull right out of their closet. And if not, it can be easily borrowed. And if not, it can pretty easily be thrifted, or, in a few cases, made or bought for very cheap.
-There’s nothing uncomfortable or high maintenance. Even though this is a sci-fi LARP with alien races, which could easily include races with wings, stuff that requires prosthetics (ears, horns) or face paint, or extra limbs, it doesn’t. Everyone is humanoid.
It’s not designed to encourage the most outrageous or creative costuming (in fact, if you did show up with prosthetics or inhuman colored contact lenses, it might mean you don’t seem like the same race as the others from your planet, plus it would make it a bit more awkward to assume new identities during tales.) But it made it very easy, quick, and cheap for players, which I appreciate a lot, especially with shorter notice than is typical for costuming. And lots of players really did look fantastic at the LARP.
I was cast as a Wirtan, and my costuming hint read as follows: “The Wirtan find nothing too blatant. If it shines or sparkles, it must be worn. Silver mylar and shiny accoutrements are practically required. Gold is frequently found threaded in dense patterns in their clothes, and gemstones are worn on rings and jewelry.”
I had nothing silver in my closet, so I went to Jo-ann Fabrics. I found a silver sequin fabric, which seemed just about perfect for the Wirtan (plus the edges didn’t shred, so it wouldn’t need hemming), so I picked up about 3 yards, plus whatever was left on the bolt at a discount. I also picked up a yard of a stiff gold trim for a belt, some large rhinestones, and round velcro stickers.
I didn’t have the time to do any real sewing, but I remembered that at Feast of the Minotaur at Intercon, a lot of people wore chitons, which are just rectangles of fabrics pinned in the right places, and they looked great. Plus, science-fiction, especially the older works, have this trope called “Crystal Spires and Togas” which means that Greek-inspired clothing would fit right in.
It turns out I bought a bit too much fabric, but chitons are so simple, all I needed to do was hold the fabric up to my shoulders and make very simple estimations and cut a piece straight off the bottom, with the sequins as guides.
Here is a simple guide for making a chiton and peplos. (A peplos is very similar and also extremely simple to make.) For the safety pins at the shoulders, I just pinned them on, tried it on, adjusted a bit, and tried it on again. Easy.
The belt was made by just wrapping a piece of stiff gold trim around my waist and sticking a few adhesive velcro circles on it where it overlapped. Then I took the remaining velcro (just the scratchy sides, not the soft fuzzy ones they attach to) and stuck them on the back of my rhinestones. They stick right in your hair and come out easily. (They stay a bit better if your hair is in a ponytail or bun.)
Next, I found my gold shoes from my Stars of Al-Ashtara harem girl costume, which have rhinestones, so they also fit right in with the Wirtan code of fashion. And lastly, I pulled out a gold hairband to keep my hair out of my eyes.
The brilliant thing was that when my fellow Wirtans showed up, one was dressed in in clothing he’d put glitter and shiny stickers all over (he also borrowed my sequined fabric remnant to pin on as a sash), and the other had a shirt made of the same fabric as mine, in a slightly darker shade. We were clearly all from the same planet. The same tacky, tacky planet.