Gesture drawing is something artists do to warm up, or to capture the essential movement of a person when they only have a few seconds to get everything down.
I love ornate costumes, but there are times when you find yourself needing to do the costume equivalent of gesture drawings. Maybe you’re spending the weekend playing approximately 10 different characters and monsters. Maybe you’re preparing for a convention and you know you might pick up an extra game. Maybe both.
In my experience, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1) Improvise. The “loincloth” in the above costume was actually one of the generic tabards our game uses to indicate monsters. I grabbed it to play a siren.
2) Go for the shape, if not the detail. Doc Martens are only 50 years old, and shoes with laces in front only go back to the early 1700s in Europe. However, they are boot-shaped, and in combat, people tend to look at the center of the body or the hands, not the feet. (Especially in larps with no foot strikes.) If you’re going to fudge, fudge here.
3) Safety first. This was a particularly humid weekend on parts of the gulf coast, and heat exhaustion caused a few near misses. Both the top and bottom were made of breathable material. The boots protected me from the taller grass in the area, but they would have been way too warm if the rest of my body hadn’t been in loose/no clothing. I probably could have used a hat, but we had enough cloud cover that sun wasn’t the issue, just 90F and 80% humidity. (I still had sunblock on just in case.) If you prefer not to have bare skin, loose clothing is key. You don’t want anything trapping heat as it leaves your body. (If at all possible, have a bright game designer who makes the siren mostly cause paralysis and sleep, keeping battles from being too hot to begin with. Thanks, Dwayne!)
In short, did any real life depictions of sirens show anything like this? No. But they were associated with the sea, and hot weather, so dressing in a way that evokes the sea and keeps you safe in hot weather is close enough to get the fundamental aspect of a siren- the gesture drawing of her, at least.
If you are packing for a larp but you don’t have a specific character to play, bring pieces like this tabard/loincloth. Scarves/bandannas/bandages are handy for dandies/hippies/soldiers. Generic dark colored pants without visible pockets or seams might not be period appropriate for everything, but they also won’t jolt people out of scene since they are so inconspicuous. If you can get a pair of non-lacing leather boots, whole swaths of history will be open to you, but if not, follow your pants into inconspicuousity.
Oh, and by the way, bras are now totally ok for medieval settings.
Suspenders are hot.
Er, what? No, I meant to say this: suspenders (or braces, depending on where you live), are incredibly attractive. No matter where you live.
There is something wrong with this keyboard.
Fiddles with keyboard.
Okay. Suspenders are not just delicious, they also hold pants up! This is particularly advantageous if you live in 1800s England and the trend is men’s pants worn rather high up, like Albert Thurston did. Which is probably why the designer started manufacturing and selling the very first version of modern braces to the fashionably high-waisted English public.
They were also considered to be an undergarment. They occupy and interesting place in the undergarment-outer garment spectrum, now. Much like corsets, people can wear them in public without the parents of small children having to explain something awkward; however, also like corsets, they have managed to hold on to the delightful feeling of seeing something special. First he takes of his jacket, and then you see the suspenders, and then those come off too…
If you’re getting completely creative with the costuming of your world, it would be worth thinking about which clothes have become erotically charged over time. Gloves? Arm bands? Earrings? Hats with feather trim? Or, you could just incorporate suspenders:
I spend a great deal of time on this blog talking about the origins of garments, and what they might symbolize to the character- but the truth is, many characters will not be consciously aware why they are wearing these things, no matter how much of a costuming nerd the player might be.
Unless, of course, your character is a member of a priesthood.
Religion, nearly by definition, involves the use of symbols. Who can use these symbols, and when, may be fast and loose or highly formalized; it depends, to some degree, on how formal the religion itself is.
For example, a priest of the Orthodox church has no fewer than thirteen components to their official robes, each with a specific origin and purpose. (To see them in action, click here.) Being aware of these symbols is a part of the role of the clergy; they could not teach the laypeople their importance if they did not know them themselves. If your character is a member of a religious order, it is highly likely that some or all of their garb will have specific religious meanings that the character should know. Whether they do, of course, is variable; there can be delinquent friars in any universe.
Note: When you’re buying garb for a religious costume, you might want to do some research before purchasing actual religious materials. There are some pretty (if quite expensive) things available online, but they may not be meant for secular use. I generally hold the rule that I don’t mind if I offend, but I do not want to hurt; if you are of a similar mind, then take the time to consult with an authority from the religion you’re appropriating to get a sense of what their opinion would be on their garb being re-purposed as your larping gear.
Image credit: By Laurits Tuxen (1853-1927) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
PS Orthodox Church garb featured by a special request from Fair Escape!
Continuing the week’s gargoyle theme, we have an assortment of gargoyle-grey costume pieces!
As it gets warmer in the Northern hemisphere, make sure you adjust your garb appropriately. The tights, you’ll notice, are cotton- a very breathable fabric. Oh, and fun fact about body paint: nearly any opaque substance can act as a sunscreen.
The focus is on grey because grey gargoyles most common, but remember- stone comes in many colors!
Bottom Right: Artwedding Elbow Satin Bridal Gloves for Wedding, Dark Gray, One Size via Top Wedding. Specifies satin, though not what kind. Ships to most countries. $4 USD
Grass skirts are a common enough fashion in various parts of the world, but I recently stumbled across a different version: the Spanish moss skirt. This was a part of the wardrobe of the people known as the Timuaca- the native peoples who had first contact with the Spanish when they entered North America.
The image above is a de Bry engraving, supposedly made from a watercolor by Le Moyne (who was a first hand visitor to the area), though there is some debate about its authenticity; de Bry’s wikipedia article sums it up nicely.
One of the reasons I am occasionally troubled by those who insist on “accuracy” in games is that it can be incredibly difficult to determine accuracy, even for things like clothing of Europe in the last 500 years. The above engraving is a supposed copy of the watercolors of a European who was primarily a cartographer and botanist, and who was only in the area for a relatively short time. Insisting that this, for example, is the “real way the Timucua dressed” (especially as gamers, especially as outsiders to the group we’re referring to) is a statement that just doesn’t make sense when you realize how little we really know for sure.
However, using it as inspiration is different. Then you’re just saying the idea of a Spanish moss skirt is a great way to avoid melting in the heat, which it is! And if you want to make it part of the history of your universe, you can. Just understand what your sources are, and aren’t.
Image credit: De Bry Engraving in the Library of Congress.
Skirts hardly need to be justified as a costume basic; a tube of fabric is so common as to be nearly universal, and therefore is a good addition to any larp wardrobe. I bring them up now because it is spring, and gauzy full skirts are (at least according to Bloomingdale’s), quite in style. In style = readily available, so feel free to take advantage and go shopping!
Allegra K Lady Soft Lining Elastic Waist Pleated Full Skirt White by Allegra K. Cotton/Nylon blend. Ships to the US and Europe. $12 USD
Journee Collection Pretty Angel Womens Elastic Waist Crinkle Skirt by Journee Collection. 65% silk, 35% polyester. Comes in Brown and Ivory. Ships to the US and Canada. $17 USD
All images via Wikimedia Commons. From first to last: Nirmal Painting [Public domain]; Yezidi Woman by Max Tilke (National Museum of Georgia) [Public domain]; Japanese Peasants before 1902 [Public domain]; Unmarried Peasant from Krakow by Jean-Pierre Norblin de La Gourdaine [Public domain]; Siamese peasant, 1904 by J. Antonio (The 1904 traveller’s guide to Bangkok and Siam) [Public domain]; Wallachian female peasant by D. Lancelot [Public domain]; and Twirling Dancers with Skirts By Mike Powell from United States (Caroline Design Dancers 15) [CC-BY-SA-2.0].