When I blogged about steampunk last week, it was obvious that people are interested in costume for all sorts of things. I’ve been wardrobe mistress for parties, live role play, amateur dramatics, mumming and ritual. I thought I would share a few hints and tips, because costume can be so effective in ritual drama, and for bardic work, as well as for fun.
The point of costume is not necessarily to create an authentic outfit, but to create something that makes people think that they are seeing a certain thing. Often this means that you don’t need full kit – time and budget do not always permit anyway. Work out what defines the character, and get that right. Put some things with it that make a viable background for the key details. Often a few key pieces plus dark trousers/skirt and a neutral top will suffice. To make a knight, mostly what you need is a tabard. Put that over a long sleeved top and a pair of dark trousers, and you’re most of the way there. Kings, witches and pirates can all be created by having the right head gear. Often a hat is the perfect focal piece.
I maintain a stash of things for making costumes – good key pieces like hats, crowns, weaponry, etc. Veils are good. If you need to have someone play the part of a goddess in ritual (might also work for gods) a veil will set them apart from others and allow space for mystery. Having a couple of sheets you can utilise is worth a lot. Sheets become togas, cloaks, tabards, and whatever else you may need to create at very little notice. Cloaks are worth having if you mean to keep a stash – they create instant costume and can be used as part of almost anything. Sacking, if you can get it, is very useful – instant peasant attire for any period, useful as a prop, great for making animal costumes out of – I made a wild boar outfit out of sack, just a head and a lot of old feed bags. Worked brilliantly. Masks make excellent focal pieces, are also ‘instant costume’ fantastic for ritual, inherently mysterious and very easy to make.
The other point to consider is comfort. An uncomfortable costume is a nightmare and suffering people tend to ruin the effect! I was once sewn into a curtain for a costume, looked great, but turned out to be a fabric I was very allergic to. Take into account how hot it is, and how easily it is to breathe in (the afore mentioned boar costume is rather demanding in that regard.)
I hope people find this helpful in their quests for kit!