You're new to the world of life action role-playing (LARP) games? Or you'd like to try it... but it intimidates you a little?
Playing a character for a weekend. Going on an adventure. It looks super cool, but it takes preparation. And among the things to prepare, you'll have to find on a costume.
“Okay, but where do I start? Do I need a lot of stuff?”
Excellent questions! 😉
And to answer it, I called on some real LARP enthusiasts. So I can share my advice with you, but also theirs.
So let me introduce you to Ludovic, Florence, Annie and Alexandre, with whom I chatted about their LARP journey, their costumes and their pro secrets.
Florence has been LARPing since 2018. She's very fond bard and artists characters, which are quite close to her personality. You'll probably be able to meet her at Ascension where she is part of the animation team.
Annie devotes her time to Bicolline. She's been going there for almost 8 years now, pretty much always with her druid, Elga Sa'ya.
Alexandre started LARP in 2002. After a break of a few years, he resumed the hobby with his 2 young nieces. It's at Bélé Junior that you'll be able to meet Alex, accompanying a little elf magician and a mini warrior.
They all have a unique background and each have great advice for you.
Here are our LARP pro tips
Priorizes the basics
When talking about LARP wardrobe, we all agree to recommend that you start with basic and fairly simple elements. And for different reasons.
First of all, it's because you're just starting out. It's like with anything else... I would never recommend that you equip yourself "high end" for a hobby that you are just starting. It's always better to start small and upgrade when you know what you want.
Alexandre points out that if this is the first time you've played your character, you may not yet know if you're going to have fun playing it.
"You know, if you say to yourself, 'I'm gonna buy myself a nice mage robe...' and you get there and you realize that 'it sucks to death playing a mage, I wanna play a barbarian...' you're stuck with a blue velvet robe. What are you gonna do with that?”
Ludovic also adds that “in the LARPing life, your character can die. And you don't know when…». So it would be a shame if you never get to wear your beautiful super fancy dress again just because it is too associated with your deceased character.
The more basic elements may have a little less flair and pazazz, but you will more easily be able to reuse them for other characters.
Before you get carried away, we all suggest you go with simpler things. 🤓
LARP shops actually offer a lot of rather generic pieces. So it's pretty easy to start with the basics and slowly build your costume from there
Florence also recommends building your costume in layers. Several simple elements worn together can be more interesting than a single super fancy piece.
“In LARP, the more you have, the better. The more layers and stuff you have, the more believable your costume will look”
By the way, I have several patterns, perfect for LARP costumes. My patterns are deliberately simple enough so that you can combine them together, or with other elements and create all kinds of styles.
Accessories are life
Basic elements, it's good, but if you just put that on, it might look a little sad… To give your character more style, you'll need accessories.
Firstly because the accessories have a practical function. You can adjust your tunic with a belt, carry around all kinds of useful objects in a purse, protect yourself from the weather with a scarf, etc.
Also, accessories are what give your character more unique features. Jewelry, crest, brooch, it's all sorts of little details like that will make your character more alive.
“What you're trying to embody is a character who lives in a complex and complete world. The more pieces you're going to have on you, the more you're going to look like someone who lives in that world."
So, the basic pieces are the basis. Afterwards, the accessories will personalize your costume.
“Start with a simple robe or tunic, over which you can “build” and add elements, charms, belts, scarves… accessories that will give a soul”
“My outfit is a like canvas. But once I put on my accessories, Elga is there. You feel the vibe right away.”
Don't underestimate thrift stores
Thrift stores can really be a great source of finds. And it doesn't matter if the stuff is used... It's even almost better. In addition to being cheaper than new pieces, it will give more character to your costume. Remember that your character has lived, even if it's the first time you play it. An old worn leather purse or a faded tunic - even patch up - it will really give a nice flavor to your outfit.
Florence points out that “a clean costume isn't that believable anyway…”. So, might as well buy something that has lived a little.
The economical and ecological combo is always appreciated.
Psst! Would you like advice on how and what to look for in a thrift store? I have a post coming up (later this summer) on this. 🤓
Learn to sew
Okay, I may be biased on this point… but I really recommend that you have, at least, some basic sewing knowledge.
You don't have to become a super pro at tailoring, but knowing the basics really helps a lot. It allows you to adjust your pieces, customize them, transform them, repair them.
If you find items in thrift stores, there's a very good chance that these items will need some love
I was talking earlier about clothes bought in stores which are often rather generic. It's super easy to give them a little more flavor if you know how to sew a little (by adding decorative trim, for example).
And the day you want to change characters, your sewing skills will be super useful to transform your tunic that everyone recognizes as that of your old character. You will be able to transform the sleeves, shorten it, etc.
All of that, not to mention that LARP can be, depending on the kind of player you are, a rather extreme sport. You're going to run in the woods, fight... it's more than likely that you'll end up damaging some of your costume pieces.
If you want a rich, complete and durable LARP wardrobe, sewing is really a practical skill.
“If you want to try your hand, make your own pieces. It's so much fun. it allows you to have a greater customization of your costume»
By the way, my patterns are simple enough for Sunday sewers. And they are really customizable. I'm sure you'll find some great LARP wardrobe stuff.
"Once in game, you don't just want to think about your outfit. You want your outfit to be part of you. »
Indeed, you want to be comfortable during the event and not spend your weekend thinking about the fact that you are dying of cold, that your feet are in pain, or the sunstroke you're getting because you didn't think about the heat...
Summer is hot. In the fall, the nights are really cold. Sometimes it rains, and not just a little. Make sure you are prepared for all of this.
Of course you don't want to get there with white sneakers and your Harvard hoodie in LARP - it will break immersion to say the least. But a nice cape or cloak, a hat that goes well with your character and simple shoes that are comfortable enough to survive a weekend in the woods, it will save your life.
“I did LARP in sandals. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone!”
"Often my foot hurts at the end of the weekend, because I'm too proud. I want my boots to look good!”
Don't do like Flo and Alex, and find comfortable shoes. 🤓
Find out about the event
Take the time to learn about the style of the event you want to attend. There are a few things you might want to know before you start looking for your costume.
From one LARP to another, the rules and expectations are not the same. There are places that are very strict about the look and others (those that accept children, among others) that are a little looser.
LARP has evolved a lot in Quebec in recent years. If your experience of life action events - or what you've heard about - dates back several years, you might be surprised. Duct tape weapons aren't really a thing anymore.
Alexandre proposes to look at the photos of the organization's events. It's a good way to get a glimpse of the surroundings and the vibe.
“What is accepted and acceptable? Am I being zealous for nothing? Or am I gonna get kicked out because it doesn't qualify? It’s important to adapt.”
Also think about the type of terrain. Some are very well laid out, others are pretty rustic… There are places deep in the woods, while others are somewhere more open - bordering on a bit deserted. Apparently, in Bicolline there is a microclimate and the temperature drops drastically in the evening. All this can influence your costume.
Annie insists: "for Bicolline, you have to be equipped for the cold"
Find your style
Not everyone has the same approach to LARP costumes. Find your style as a player. Remember that just because you've been told that you absolutely need this specific piece of costume, doesn't mean you have to run and get it right away.
It's okay to be more minimalist and have a rather simple outfit. Or on the contrary, maybe the costume part is the one you prefer, and you really like to impress (in this case, I still advise you to build it step by step, for obvious reasons that I have mentioned earlier).
Depending on the style of player you are, maybe you'll keep your characters for years (like Annie). Or maybe you'll prefer to change characters often and create lots of different costumes and styles (like Florence). Depending on the case, your LARP wardrobe will probably be very different.
Ludovic and Florence have a lot of costume pieces. They love the mix-and-match style and like to have lots of options.
Ludovic likes to draw inspiration from historical styles. "I tend to relate to realism even when I'm in fantasy."
Florence, who's in the animation team, has the opportunity to change characters more often. “I like variety. I like it to build different costumes.”
Annie has been playing with the same character for years, so she has a much smaller wardrobe… but she has the same tunic in several copies (because why not! If you like it and it suits you really well…). “I shrunk my wardrobe so as not to overstock myself physically and psychologically. I'm really one of those people who have a very minimalist wardrobe”
Alexandre is more of the simple and sober type. He prefers to build and tinker costumes with the means at hand. “I have never been someone who had really amazing costumes. It wasn't my focus. As long as it did the job.”
Think about what's important to you. You can get excited about showing off… but it's okay to go for something really simple - as long as you're having fun during the event.
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My final short questions:
Your favorite LARP piece?
Florence: A corset I made myself. It's easy to put on, it's comfortable, it looks good. And it goes well with almost anything.
What kind of accessories do you wear to create your Elga look?
Annie: I have a lot of necklaces. I have 3 belts (at the same time). I have pouches (pouches for everything - cards, dice...). With that, I have leather threads hanging, bells hanging from my dress, and my big music instruments made of dried figs.
If you had to keep just 3 pieces, what would you keep?
Ludovic : My harem pants because there are plenty of ways to wear them. My robe, over which I can "build" and add elements. My famous Viking tunic that I made with your pattern (🥰).
The piece of clothing you wore the most often?
Alex: A green tunic. It's the first piece I bought myself, almost all my characters have worn it, including the one I still do with my nieces.
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I hope this will inspire you and help you create a practical, comfortable LARP wardrobe that looks like you (and your characters too!)