How to design a costume

In one of my first posts I wrote about how I write characters for my LARP adventures. This is only where the fun starts, because when you have a character, you can start thinking about your costume, accessories, weapons and other props you want to take with you. My plans on this are always big, and not always realistic considered the time I have until the event (especially when the event is already in two weeks or so!). If time is really short, you can still fix some things to make your character look good, more on that in a few weeks. For now I want to keep with one of the basic things: costume designing! The things described below are just things I always keep in mind, but the truth is there are no rules of any kind when it comes to creativity. Do as you like and feel free to use my tips and remarks!

One of the first things, and I cannot say this enough, is that a nice costume really can help you in good role-playing. When you don’t have the time and/or money to make a very elaborate costume it’s ok to put on just something simple (who am I to say you can’t?) but even a simple self-made costume can spruce up your character and your overall experience of a LARP event. So let’s get started!

When you are writing your character, you probably like to add in some details about the background of your character. This background allready holds some clues about what the posibilities are for your costume. For instance, is your character rich or poor? What are the traditions back at home, or is he/she from a tribe with specific markers, amulets or tokens? These very basic things give the first definition to your design, and might allready give you a clue about what to make.

Other considerations I like to make is why and how the character left home. If my character had to leave in a hurry, she was probably not that well prepared and might wear something inappropriate for travelling. If a character left house well prepared, he or she will wear much simpler clothes, fit for long days on the road, and probably has a lot of luggage.

The profession of your character is also something to consider. A wizard bound to some kind of academy might wear long robes, whereas a travelling wizard would prefer something more practical (or maybe not, when he is a snobbish and proud kind of person). Every job has it’s own characteristic kind of clothes, depending of what is practical or what the guild (if they exist in your games) prescibes. Again, feel free to do unusual things, it’s fun!

As soon as you have ideas make some sketches. Even if your drawing is bad (like mine :P) it really helps to put your ideas on paper. Just sketch an outline of the look, put it away for a while and look at it a day later or so. This helps with developing the final idea (it can still change in the process of making everything, but that’s ok :))

Next thing to think about is which clours and fabrics to use. Do you want to use crazy, vibrant colours or the dim greens and browns of the forest? Maybe a combination of both? Most of the time I start off with a palette of colours in my head, and which part of the costume becomes which coulour I decide when I go to the city to buy my fabrics. Which fabrics you want to use is totally a matter of taste, I am planning to write an article of different kinds of fabrics in a while.

One of the last things is maybe not the coolest things, but something you want to think about: practicality. I know, it sounds a bit stupid, and putting this boundary to your design is maybe not the nicest thing to consider, but when you are out and playing you will be grateful you did. What I mean is: don’t try to run around in the forest on stiletto heels because that is what your character would wear. Don’t wear only a very thin dress in the middle of the winter. In other words: always think about your own safety and health. Twisting your ankle or catching a cold for the sake of roleplay is quite die-hard, but I doubt if it adds something to your events.

I hope you liked this post, have fun designing! If you have any questions, remarks or requests, mail me at

Categories: Costumes, LARP | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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