Learning Coolthentic: Stepping Up Your Summer Garb Game

You’ve figured out what you want to play and you can smell that new character smell wafting on the breeze. Now comes the best part of LARPing: dressing the part. Since we’re playing in a world created by our director, you can look the part of your new alter ego for far less than you think and with little to no hassle. But first, let me explain what we mean when we say “coolthentic”: watch your favorite fantasy epic; be it “Willow”, “Conan”, or any movie from “The Hobbit” universe, that costuming falls under coolthentic. Should you feel drawn to more historically accurate costuming, do it. However, please understand that fitting in with the esthetic of a “Dark Arthurian LARP” is our only requirement and perusing the Brittanis Pintrest pages for costuming inspiration will also take you down the best rabbit hole a fellow dork can find. Once you’ve done that, please don’t despair. While this can be an expensive hobby, everyone started somewhere. Starting with a good base garb set will take you very far in this hobby and makes it easier for you to transition from NPCs to different PCs as you progress. For the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to mention warm weather wear, since most of our events happen during the late spring and into early fall. It’s easier to pile things on in the winter to look coolthentic but sadly, decency statutes in most states don’t allow us to paint ourselves blue and run about in the nude once it gets above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. While it would be completely coolthentic, the game doesn’t have that much bail money. You will always need sturdy, well-fitting footwear. I started my LARP career with a pair of ankle high hiking boots, moving on to steel-toed boots when I melted the soles in a fire pit during a particularly cold event. If you stub your toes (or fall up hills) as often I do, those are a great investment, if a little heavy. Your local thrift store, or even military surplus store,  can yield some coolthentic flat boots that won’t cost a metaphorical arm and a leg; in fact, I highly recommend checking there first as it won’t matter as much to your wallet if they get scuffed or dinged while playing. Word to the wise: no matter how cute, please get flat boots for site. I can run and dance in heels with panache but LARPing in heels just begs for an injury. As the corollary to sturdy footwear, invest in good socks and insoles. Thick, wool hiking socks- yes, even in the summer- and a set of Dr. Scholl’s can mean the difference between getting to play the entire weekend and having to spend an event in the tavern because you hurt too much to move. And while you’re at it, bring several pairs of socks to an event and keep them in a Ziploc baggie. Dry socks at a wet event will do wonders for your health and morale. Since I traipse through the woods and tall grass and bugs find me irresistible, I prefer to LARP in leggings or cargo pants, in natural fabrics. I know several people who can run events in kilts, skirts, and/or dresses and come out looking as magnificent as when they first put their bottoms on. Since leggings came back into fashion, you can get several decently priced pairs in multiple colors without breaking the bank. You can also pick up black uniform pants at a surplus store, which is great for a stint with Team Monster. You can also get a pair of solid colored scrub pants; in fact, those are great for the hot weather events because they breathe. I recommend sticking with neutral colors so you can build cosplays, characters, and Halloween costumes off of them. Places like Old Navy or Wal-Mart almost always have a selection of peasant skirts or dresses to satisfy that urge if leggings don’t make you feel pretty. If you choose to wear a skirt, I highly recommend wearing boxer shorts under them if you don’t have time to get a pair of bloomers as it definitely helps keep your legs from chafing. I’ve gotten several great cotton skirts at the local thrift store and wearing them with over-the-knee socks (sockdreams.com, Hot Topic, and even JoAnn’s have great ones) and boxers give me that awesome wench look without shattering my budget. You can also wear leggings, either in full length or Capri length to keep you comfortable under your long skirts. Now, for my favorite part: tops! Guys have this one a littler easier too because they can wear a solid sleeveless shirt bloused into their cargo pants and look pretty dang coolthentic. If you want something a little more feminine, the local thrift store, Old Navy, and Wal-Mart often have peasant type blouses that keep you looking awesome. Handkerchief tops work too, as long as you slather on the sunscreen and bug spray. Of course, men and women can ALWAYS go the tunic route. Many of us wear corsets on site too. These will probably be the most expensive part of your wardrobe, with boots being a close second if you can’t find any in your size that aren’t heeled. While I can write a book on corsets from the costumed point of view- I can’t sew and dammit, Jim, I’m the player liaison, not an historian- I’m going to limit myself to a few words: you don’t have to tight lace; if you want the silhouette that many of us ladies on site rock, stay away from corsets labeled “fashion corsets” because they’re plastic boned and will warp; and while you can get some super fantastic ones from commercial locations (Damsel in this Dress and Crimson Chain are commercial ones I have and love), the best fitting and most comfortable ones are custom made. If you want to wear one, have at it, and save up for the perfect one. In short, get sturdy flat boots in a neutral color. Buy a lot of hiking socks and good insoles. You can wear leggings, cargo pants, scrub pants, uniform pants, skirts, or dresses but opt for breathable fabrics; leather pants look amazing but aren’t always your best choice when it’s really hot outside. Sleeveless shirts, tunic tops, handkerchief tops, and peasant blouses keep you from getting sunburned. Save up for an awesome, personally tailored corset if you want that look. You can look pretty danged nifty by trolling the local thrift stores (hit the wealthier neighborhoods, especially for boots) or your local discount clothing store. Get everything as neutral as you can and use your accessories to differentiate characters. That way, you can play multiple rolls without needing to win the lottery.