New to the Larp scene? Where to Start for a Character Costume

Elf ears, facepaint, and recycled fur complete this outfit. Try using a fur stole from a vintage store.

Elf ears, facepaint, and recycled fur complete this outfit. Try using a fur stole from a vintage store.

While most people start out their first Larping experiences in old jeans and sneakers, the value of a good costume can’t be overestimated. Costumes are powerful additions to the gaming experience—they help you get more immersed in the mentality of your character. Since the best games spring from solid improvisational skills and a great storyline, a good outfit can make the difference between your character’s believability and, well, being the knight in the Nikes.

Wardrobing a character is a lot like dressing yourself. Think about functionality first. You wouldn’t wear a prom dress hiking or yoga shorts to the theatre. Every piece of clothing, whether it’s for daily wear or for larping, has a specific function. Work on your character concept before going shopping. The purchase needs to suit its purpose.

Secondly, reflect on what kinds of larps you participate in. (For a short list, see posting below). Are you into Vampire games, where you lounge around on couches in black leather? Is it an active larp, with live combat and action? A period drama? Whatever your taste, make sure your clothes fit in with the game and can also stand up to the action required of your character.

Accessories, too, can enhance your experience. Particularly in historical larps that center around live combat, a handmade weapon, or boffer, will add to your costume. These are usually padded, or made from plastic or latex. Most players make their weapons and shields by hand.

If you’re in a medieval LARP, a simple long dress accented with a leather corset belt is an easy starting costume.

If you’re in a medieval LARP, a simple long dress accented with a leather corset belt is an easy starting costume.

Though it might be tempting to jump right in, don’t build your costume all at once. Like your character, costumes need time to develop over time to come into their own. Good sources for clothing and accessories are thrift stores and costume shops. Vintage belts, peasant tops,  jewelry, and fur pieces can really add punch to your character’s look without breaking the bank.

If you’re artsy and feeling industrious, however, crafting your own costume is often the most rewarding way to create your character’s look. Gamers with a flair for fashion can make their own clothes. Look for a book of theatrical patterns of costume, ranging anywhere from Greek/Roman to the 1900s. Tunics and basic tops can be easily sewn.

Take a look below to find some costume inspiration. Whether you’re making your outfit by hand or scrounging through vintage stores for your perfect piece, remember that in larp, the costume makes the character.