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The Wizard's Desk

The Wizard's desk is a blog space where our staff and creative leads offer their insight and experience on engaging with DrachenFest US! We're excited to share what we can, so pull up a seat!

Kit-Building 102 – Beyond the Basics

Updated: Apr 11, 2023


One of the most common questions we get in the chatbox is, “Does my kit look ok?”

That can be a pretty broad question! Ok for the genre? Ok for the concept you’re going for? Ok for the weather? Ok for the cute Green Camp barbarian that you’re trying really hard to impress? We understand it can all be a little daunting, so the goal of this blog is to help players familiarize themselves with costuming for a high fantasy festival larp, because here’s the fun part: you can play or be just about anything.

DrachenFest is a high fantasy multiverse. What does this mean? It means that all equipment, clothing and items could theoretically be reminiscent of any time period ever, as long as it’s before the 1700s. This means that anything that might be at home in renaissance faire or reenactment is perfectly acceptable, as are more fantastical elements, like designs from Dungeons & Dragons, or your favorite video games. However! Once we start getting into the Georgian era, we fall outside our intended timeline. Common European tropes like Steampunk, or costumes with Victorian elements, start to cross the line and should be avoided. Note: original concepts are best, so try not to copy anything from existing IPs too directly. We love Zelda, too, but no grunting green Heroes of Time, please <3

We want every participant to bring something special to DrachenFest. To do so, we try to limit the elements disrupting the illusion as much as possible. That is why the play space has players sleeping in historical tents, cooking on open fire, and when possible, eating and drinking with appropriate cutlery and serving platters. Ideally, scribes write on old-looking paper with large feather quills or pens—enhancing as much of the illusion that we are in another world as possible.

We’re pretty relaxed about this stuff, and safety/accessibility concerns are always exceptions to rather than requirements, but this guide is intended to be the aim and goal, rather than offer specific hard limits (except in a few places).



What do you need?

Not everyone needs a weapon, or period glasses, or amazing period boots, but the costumes are what everyone sees, and are the key to setting the mood of this game. For this reason, we wish for our participants to wear complete outfits, matching the setting of the game and the character they’ve chosen to play. We request that every piece of outfit visible to other players meets this requirement, and if not, that you have at least attempted to conceal it.


If this is your first time, and you want to keep it simple, at bare minimum, we would suggest:

  • A plain tunic or two, and bottoms (trousers, a dress, or skirt) made of natural fiber cloth

  • A cloak or blanket for colder temperatures or rain

  • Sturdy shoes (boots, clogs, etc.—no uncovered sneakers or obviously modern footwear)

  • A wooden, stoneware, or ceramic dish and mug so you can feast in character

There are dozens of variants on all of these if you want to branch out. Want something with more character than just a pair of plain homespun pants? Fur-trimmed rus pants could sell your look as a hardy nord, while salwar would complement the look of a traveler from warmer climes. Remember, you can choose from countless genres for inspiration.


We also don’t really get into prices here because they’re all over the place. If you need pants, you may be able to borrow them from my friend for free, or even sew them yourself at the price of the fabric. Rough cut and rough sewn clothing often have a better look than those purchased from a website at high prices.


Examples: To the left we have a Celt who has hand cut and stitched his costume from simple patterns. This was one of his first attempts at medieval clothing but for the dark ages, a rougher look with poor stitches makes for GREAT costuming. On the right, we have someone who has hand sewn a linen sleeveless tunic. Everything is made of natural fibers, and both costumes cost very little to make; with both players having stated that their novice skill level contributed to their looks!

Some of the outfits we showcase here were bought (ordered in shops or from tailors), but some were sewn by the owners themselves and cost less than fifty dollars all told. Many of the outfit sets presented cost no more than a hundred dollars in total, and some of the more complex outfits were often completed throughout the years, with a great deal of monetary investment. Either way, this is intended to help you find inspiration and ideas for building your own costume, whichever route you take.


Best Practices

So you’ve chosen your base layers, scoped your favorite stores, and started putting your outfit together. And you look good! But how do you really elevate the outfit? A combination of some simple tricks that we outline below can take you from recognizable to WOW.

Layering Is Key

We can't stress this enough. One of the best tricks to making your kit stand out is to have layers of otherwise very basic pieces that complement one another. A linen shirt, a roughspun open tunic, a vest, with an apron, sitting over a skirt with hosen? Chef's kiss. Simple patterns used in concert go a long, long way to making a complete kit. Some of the best we’ve seen have similar colors and basic draped patterns but make use of texture and layering to make for some really impressive costumes! This applies to jewelry, too. The Wildling below is bedecked in layers upon layers of beads on top of a simple faux fur and net wrapping. It really sells the image.


Try Messing with Texture

Having a lot of textures can really change the look of a kit, whether it's mixing linen, metal, fur, and more. You can see in the picture below a Knight with trollish ancestry who’s layered numerous clothing items and textures for an amazing effect. Note the cloth edging on the mail—really great stuff! (Bonus points, the mail isn't even real metal. It's KNITTED, and you can barely tell!)



Distress!

No, no, not the kind of distress where you panic-purchase a new gambeson, “just in case.” One of the best ways to improve a kit, especially right out of the package, is to give it a little wear-’n-tear. Making an outfit appear lived-in gives it that extra nudge of immersion. Wear your clothes to break them in. Aging effects can be achieved by brushing with hard bristles or steel wool. If you’re a peasant, warrior, or adventurer, roll them in a little dirt and ash to show off the toils of your labor.

Pile on Simple Jewelry

Fantasy jewelry looks great when there’s more of it! Your jewelry, religious symbols, and iconography are opportunities to dive into a character’s presentation. Try to work with different materials, like carved and burned wood, beaten metal, stones, sticks, and rough-cut gems or beads. Going a little more gruesome? Try bones or teeth. More is almost always better, so go nuts!



Heraldry and Colors

In medieval fantasy, colors and symbols tell you a lot about who someone works for or serves. This should be a major part of their identity, provided they’re not completely beneath the notice of their leaders. Everyone displays heraldry differently, but you should find small ways to allude to it in your costume, whether it's small and on a badge, or a large crest on a surcoat.

Note: you don’t have to wear the heraldry of your camp, but it helps!


Materials Matter!

So you want to go the extra mile and sew your own pieces? Awesome. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi that you can only get from a handmade kit. If this is your first time testing the crafting waters, keep in mind that the fabric/material you use can add a lot of oomph (or be a pain if you’re not careful!)


Use natural fibers when possible, both for aesthetic and for safety reasons – linen, wool, wool blends, natural leather, silk. Linen is a great fabric, especially for underwear and shirts, or linings for heavier clothes. Wool is a larper's best friend. It breathes well, insulates, can be waterproof, and it looks great! Wool is perfect for socks, trousers, dresses and gowns, coats, and generally all outer garments or outer layers of clothing like cloaks or jackets.


Cotton can be a tempting alternative, as it is very cheap, especially when blended with polyester. However, while technically natural, it often handles moisture poorly, especially when blended. For this reason, we don’t particularly recommend using cotton in large portions of your outfit.


If a character is supposed to be wealthy, adding silk to your garment is key, whether it is for the whole outerwear or smaller pieces, such as sashes or pouches. However, be careful, because if it is badly cut and worn without opulent accessories, it looks like polyester.

Natural leather is used to make shoes and various accessories such as belts, pouches, gloves, and so on. Faux leather can be ok, but be very careful, especially in summer. Polyester-based alternatives do not breathe well and lead to heat exhaustion or burning under extended sun exposure. Same with furs. Fur can add a massive pop to any kit, but synthetic fur can heat up very quickly, so be careful with its use.


Boots and Shoes

Period shoes are the goal, not the baseline.


Historical shoes are a great choice for a larp. We strongly recommend them, but they are by no means required – you can replace them with more modern shoes (such as cowboy boots or jackboots) that suit the game setting. The most important thing is making sure you’re safe and have good ankle support. Seriously, nothing can kill a player's game faster than a twisted ankle. Wraps or fur coverings over modern hiking boots do the trick just as well as historical shoes, even if they’re not quite as aesthetically pleasing, and you might have a pair in your closet already! The main thing to consider should you go this route, is to make at least a small attempt to hide the modern elements with fabric or other means!



Regarding Arms & Armor

Try to get something from a reputable vendor.


For a setting like this, arms and armor always look great, and we know people love to look for items that fit the bill. A word to the wise, though—gleaming plate can look phenomenal on the field and in photos, but be aware that it can make you very warm in battle and after extended wear! Know your limits, and always train first! Sheet metal will be heaviest, so consider alternatives like scale, lamellar, or leather. However, please note that very obvious plastic or modern scrap will not be allowed. No hard spikes either, please.

Look for equipment that looks like it would fit a medieval setting, and not a futuristic one. As a rule, high grade latex and foam weapons like Calimacil, Atelier Nemesis, Wyvern Crafts, Mytholon, or Epic Armory, as well as handcrafted Plasti-dip weapons are all acceptable and are usually labeled as part of a specific era. Note: Tape or cloth boffer style weapons are not acceptable at DrachenFest, as it is very difficult to determine their craftsmanship in a way that does not place undue liability on our staff. We do not make exceptions for this. Homemade plasti-dip weapons may be scrutinized or removed from play if they look like or become a problem.


Help! I still feel a bit overwhelmed and just want a one-stop shop to get an epic kit for game!


Don’t worry – we gotchu. We cannot recommend highly enough our sponsors, Calimacil and Atelier Nemesis for high quality garb, weaponry, and accessories. They’ll both be a part of our Bazaar at the event, but if you want to be sure to have your kit ready beforehand, visit them online.


This isn't a comprehensive guide by any means, and there's plenty to learn by trying it out for yourself. So, go forth, play with your wardrobe, experiment with crafting, show us what you got! Leave your own tips down below in the comments, and our chatbox is open if you want to goob about garb.

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