Cottington Wood Costuming Part I – Concept and Design

My first instinct, when designing LARP costuming, is to keep it all under wraps until the actual event. To try and go for a “big reveal”, especially when the costume creation took a lot of time and effort and creativity to create. (I don’t think I’m alone in this, not by far.)

However, I doubt a large portion of the Cottington Woods players will see this, especially not before the first event. And having so much time to plan before the first in-character event (no waiting on casting!) has let it become more and more elaborate, so I think the process of creating it will be fun and interesting for me. I haven’t gotten official confirmation that my concept has been accepted by the LARP writing staff, but I figure one way or another, I’ll be playing a priest. So it’s fairly safe to start sewing. (Some of the details can come later, after I’m sure of my character’s race.)

To start with, I had a few basic ideas. I knew I wanted something visually dramatic, (as per item 2 here) yet somehow still representative of the austerity that’s typical of the humbler sorts of clerics. And the religion of Cottington Woods is based around the concept of the Written Word, with religious figures acting as recorders of history, so I knew I wanted to include scripture in the costume somehow. I also wanted to create a blend of Eastern and Western religious garments- something recognizably religious to the primarily Western population playing and running the LARP, but nothing too literally and exclusively Western Christian (which is often shorthand for religious in LARP settings- it’s what we’re familiar with in real life.) And I wanted something that I could actually sew with my beginner level sewing skills (that is, without too much help.)

I decided on a red, white, and black color scheme because of the theme of playing cards that appears in the setting (there are four houses, each representative of one of the suits). But I didn’t want it to look a little too cartoony or like I was playing a character who couldn’t get rough and dirty (no stark whites!), so I toned down the colors a bit. Now it’s more of a muddier red, a hay-like off-white and black.

I knew I wanted many layers- I’d like to try to create a look that’s warm enough for the colder nights (and can hide the sort of warm underclothes I wear when skiing) but can also work for the hotter days by shucking most of it and keeping the basic and most iconic aspects on.

For the scripture motif, I decided my character would carry around a leather bound journal to write in (Barnes and Noble has some really nice ones in their journals section, all different sizes and designs… a lot of  Ren Faire type events have vendors who also sell cool ones) and a quill stuck in her hair (actually a feather glued to a pen). I was also inspired by a costume I spotted on Tumblarping a while back. (I also love this one.) Note how great the color scheme looks here, along with the incorporation of words into the outfits. Also,  I see that long skirts apparently look great on the battle field. (Though I should be careful not to make one that’s too long, lest it trip me up.)

I decided to include a hooded shoulder capelet, since I love hoods, and it pops up in lots of priestly garments. (See the monk costume here, and Eastern Orthodox robes, which have a similar look with the fronts of their phelionians, something I learned thanks to Larp Couture.) I think a liripipe on the hood may also lend it additional medieval flavor.

I included a waist sash… because… I’m not sure. I guess I just like the way wide pieces wrapped around waists look- it’s sort of obi-like. (It may also help hold up a wind-up key in back… we’ll see.) And once again, I took some inspiration from one of my favorite movie costumes.

The rope belt is directly taken from Christian monks. I like the idea of having a reminder of priestly vows incorporated into the outfit.

Please ignore the blanked-out words in the sketches below- they were just random fairy-tale-ish words. I’m planning to compose a setting-appropriate benediction to write on the actual costume. (Getting the calligraphy to look right on fabric will be a challenge all its own, I think.)

So without further adieu, here are some of my costume sketches. (Pictures lazily taken with my phone- I don’t currently have access to my scanner.)

There’s one piece not yet mentioned or pictured here- I think for colder weather, I’d like to wear a warm cover over my lower face, with the word “Truth” embroidered over the mouth. In sketches, it looked a bit sinister no matter how I drew it. The intention was to evoke the idea that priests in this setting are committed to recording the truth (which extends to speaking the the truth)… And actually, as a side bonus, the golem of Jewish mythology has the word EMET (“truth” in Hebrew) carved into its forehead. (Interestingly, erasing the first letter of EMET creates the word MET, meaning “dead” in Hebrew, which deactivates the golem.) So depending on my character’s race, that may be doubly meaningful.

So as you can see, costume design is something of a long, over-thought-out process for me- but hey, it’s one of the big things I love about LARPing as a hobby. I always find it fascinating to see how others design their own costumes as well- so if you have any written up versions of your own costuming process to share, please do! LARPers never cease to amaze me with their creativity.

Next up, patterns and fabric!

Cottington Woods Costuming I

Cottington Woods Costuming II

Cottington Woods Costuming III

Cottington Woods Costuming IV

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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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6 Responses to Cottington Wood Costuming Part I – Concept and Design

  1. Love your drawing 🙂 And it sounds like you’re put a lot of thought into this – definitely more than I have at this point in time!

    *sigh* Wish I had more time to focus on costume planning…

    • Fair Escape says:

      Thanks! I wish I’d been a little less lazy about the photos- now that I really look at them, I realize I took them at angles that skew the images. (Also, blotting out the writing really ruined the effect.) I suspect you’ll have plenty of time before the first actual weekend long event.

  2. Pingback: Cottington Woods Costuming Part II – Fabric and Patterns « FairEscape

  3. Pingback: Cottington Woods Costuming III – The Basics « FairEscape

  4. Pingback: Cottington Woods Costuming IV- Design Sketches « FairEscape

  5. Pingback: Cottington Woods Costuming V – The Devil’s in the Details « FairEscape

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