Nō is a grand old theater tradition in Japan, dating back to the 1300s (the beginning of the Muromachi Period). The theater of a given society is always interesting, because the language of the theater can vary so greatly, and seem quite incomprehensible to an outsider who doesn’t possess the cultural training to recognize that this fan is a sword, and that a spear.
An example from Nō is the katsuraobi worn by those playing female roles. The katsuraobi was a real garment, and in the context of Nō, carried specific meanings. Consider this quote from Japan: The Shaping of Daimyo Culture:
“The katsuraobi with cherry blossoms and the one with the water plantain and pickerel weed design are of the iroiri type, meaning that red is used, and they are worn for young female roles. The katsuraobi with the willow and snow disk design is ironashi, or without red, and is used in middle-aged or elderly female roles. The katsuraobi with the ‘fish scale’ design of triangles is worn by female characters driven mad by jealousy.”
If you want the opportunity to really dig into some world building, consider developing a theater tradition in your fictional universe. What do they colors and the patterns symbolize? Why do they symbolize that, and do the modern characters know, or is the origin lost in the mists of time? The Elcor production of Hamlet is a fantastic exercise in this.
If you decide to use something like a katsuraobi, here are some similar items:
Charmeuse Silk Van Gogh’s “Irises” Long Scarf Shawl via Amazon. Cotton. Ships to the US only. $37 USD
Image Credit: Zo’Onna Noh Mask, photograph of 17th-18th century Noh mask [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The dôbuku/dôfuku (there is apparently some debate in how to transliterate the word into roman letters) was a samurai’s outer garment, worn from the late Muromachi to the early Edo period (page 328, Japan: The Shaping of Daimyo Culture). It was basically a short jacket.
While the beauty above appears to be cloth, they could come in all kinds of fabrics. The second dôbuku shown here was a part of an exhibit in the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, in 1988. (Copyright page, Japan: The Shaping of Daimyo Culture.) That dôbuku was made of leather and stencil-dyed in a beautifully complex pattern.
The leather was stretched taut over a slow fire of such materials as straw or pine needles; typically, straw produces a brown color, as in in this dôbuku, and pine needles gray. The longer the smoking period, the darker the shade that resulted, and the background pattern of this dôbuku was created by smoking the darker areas longer than the lighter… The whole piece of leather would be smoked till the lighter of the desired shades had been achieved. Then a stencil of the intended pattern, with cutouts wherever the lighter color was required, would be laid over the leather and a resist material such as wax or gum applied through the cutouts. This resist material prevented further darkening of the leather beneath it. The smoking process would then be continued until the darker shade had been reached on the un-resisted parts of the leather. Finally the leather would be removed from the smoke and the resist material picked off, revealing the lighter shade wherever it had been applied. This dôbuku is a fine and early example of the komon (small pattern) stencil technique, developed from the stencil methods used earlier on leather for armor, and often employed in the Edo period for the clothing of the warrior class. - Page 328 on figure 262, Japan: The Shaping of Daimyo Culture
Techniques like result in a purely dyed pattern, with no embossing, which means I found something for which I didn’t have a modern example; leather is often dyed all kinds of colors but it’s usually a solid, not a pattern. However, I did find this awesome dye: Lumi. If you want to reproduce the garment above, Lumi does work on untreated leather! However, if you’re like me, you’ll probably make a version out of cotton and a close up photo of the pattern you want to reproduce. Have at it!
Image Credit: Kanama Goro Immakuni by Utagawa Kuniyoshi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In the US, tie-dye is deeply connected to hippies and the 1960s; however, the method of selectively dyeing cloth by twisting and tying it is both older and more widely- spread than that (source).
Shibori is the Japanese art of dying cloth this way, and has been practiced in that country since at least the 700s CE (according to a Wikipedia page with no source given…). There are significantly more methods than you learned at summer camp; Arashi Shibori, which is wrapped around a pole, and Nui Shibori, which involves stitching, are just two examples. More can be found here.
The basic technological requirements for this technique are the ability to make cloth, to dye things, to tie knots, and for certain techniques, to do complicated needlepoint. Most of these technologies flow into each other; people who can weave usually can tie and sew, and vice-versa. Who performs the techniques depends on how expensive or cheap dye and cloth is, and whether spending time on appearance is considered fitting for that group. But at it’s heart, Shibori is a potentially universal art.
What all of this really means, though, is that you can totally incorporate tie-dye hippie clothes from the thrift store into your costume! Or, if you’re a game designer, into your universe. In either case, have fun!
Tie Dye Cotton Thai Fisherman Capri Leg in Dark Violet via Shades of Siam. Cotton. Ships worldwide. £13.46 GPB
Commodity money is what Scrooge McDuck uses as a swimming pool- it’s money that derives it’s worth from its components. Money made of gold is worth more or less depending on the value of gold, and is thus commodity money. American paper money is worth more when America is worth more, no matter how much the paper it’s printed on costs, and thus obviously is not. (It is, in fact, fiat money.
Both types are very common at larps, though fiat money rarely comes in paper. There’s something viscerally pleasing about having coin jingling in your pocket, even if it mostly pleases your inner five year old, who’s pretty sure that much loose change means the candy machine is going to be giving up its treasures soon. Some games have banks, but why deny your inner child? Instead, consider diversifying your money.
All of these items have been used as money at some point in history:
The physical items that pass through your players hands when they purchase things will heavily influence the feel of your game. Buying a sword with a gold coin is a very different experience compared to buying it with a pile of sea shells, or a young cow, or the ring you took off a bandit. Players will often want predictibility in the economy, so make it obvious what things are worth. But don’t be afraid to experiment!
Image via Wikimedia Commons. As required, this post is also under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.
WIZZARD CORE SO METAL ~ Japanese Shopping Malls Designed to Look Like 17th Century European Cities ~ Also, Learning To Be A Ninja At the Japanese Equivalent of a Renn Faire ~ What Roleplay Actually Sounds Like ~ HR Giger-Inspired Fashion ~ LARP Surveys
Have you read Grimm’s Snow White?
The apple was the centerpiece of the Disney version, but ever since seeing the 10th Kingdom I’ve been mildly obsessed with the idea of a beautiful, ornate, poisonous hair comb- too pretty not to touch.
These might be best for non-combat larps, sadly; most combs to have tines that are capable of scratching the skin, and something that’s been in your hair all weekend probably shouldn’t be perforating your friends. The best way to use them would be to have many, sterile combs, and pull an Evil Queen- gift them, or leave them around for someone light-fingered to find.
Decorative hair combs have been dated as far back as 1600 BCE in Northern Europe; ye olde wikipedia suggests they go back as far as 5000 years ago in Persia, though they don’t provide a citation. Loosely, one can assume that decorative combs are possible if, during a similar period, other heavily decorated items exist. If a culture has beautifully carved hunting horns, they possess the capability to make equally beautiful hair combs; the only limitation is inclination. When deciding if a particular comb is right for your character, compare it to other kinds of jewelry from the period (or what has been established as in period in the game world).
They are, except for the poisoner, a completely indulgent accessory- they establish social power and wealth, but little else. The fantastic irony there is that, thanks to costume jewelry, modern decorative combs are dirt cheap. Enjoy!
Etsy: Nickel-free Antique Brass Filigree Comb, $1; Set of Two Antique Filigree Brass Combs, $2; Two Brass-plated Bronze Vintage Combs, $3; Steampunk Ornate Brass Comb, $9; Feather and Pearl Comb (As-Is), $12; Set of Two Jolly Roger Brass Filigree Skull Cameo Combs, $22; Black Diamond Feather Fascinator Comb, $25
Image by Arthur Rackham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
Tabi have been in use in Japan since the 1500s, but tabi boots, aka jika-tabi, are a recent phenomenon. The modern rubber-soled version was developed by the CEO of Bridgestone for his factory workers to wear in the early 1900s, and has been a popular piece of safety equipment ever since. They’re preferred to stiffer American-style work boots for much the same reasons toe shoes are becoming a thing in America now- you get a better sense of where your feet are. For jobs like high-rise construction, or running about the rigging on an airship, that can be a life or death question.
If you are looking to purchase them in the US, Amazon is probably going to be your best bet; the average price is about $30. (If you’re willing to drop $300 instead, you could also check out AYYA.) And of course, Sock Dreams has some amazing (and occasionally silly) tabi to wear with them.
Note: The above image is from a fashion catalog for modern Japanese construction workers; it just happens to look steampunk! If you want more inspiration, check out the whole catalog. (Keep in mind that as awesome as the above image is, it was made in the modern era. Images from the time have people dressed more like this or this. Have fun, but know what you are imitating, and from when!)