By now you’ve been to an event or two, and you’ve probably noticed that some people look truly awesome.
Chances are, the longer someone has been in the game, the better their garb. Looking good isn’t always cheap, though, and can range upwards of thousands of dollars.
Period clothing, often called “garb,” is something you put together over the course of years in a game. Don’t worry if it takes you some time to get your garb on, it’s a process, and can be a big part of helping flesh out your character.
There is an old saying in the Cosplay community:
“You can have it cheap. You can have it fast. You can have it look good. Pick two.”
My personal recommendation is to go with cheap and good, which means learning to do a little sewing, or finding someone that will help you out in that department, possibly in exchange for remedial labor or other services. (Although there are some alternatives) The second option is usually easier to find in the LARP community than you might think. If you’re looking at crunch time, though, you might have to find a little different route.
A basic garb outfit needs 3 things:
Everything after that can wait, and are just accessories. Luckily, pants and a belt are pretty easy to come buy, just swing over to your local general merchandising chain store and pick up a pair of black sweatpants and any belt you think looks cool. Look for something in black leather with a neat pattern on it. Don’t worry about getting your hands on a ring belt like those guys at a Renaissance Festival. The truth is the standard buckle we use today pretty much dates back forever, at least as far as the Roman Empire.
If sweatpants aren’t your thing, you have a couple of alternatives you can try out. I’ve known several people to wear the plaid fleece pajama pants, which have a more period style cut to them, but can wear out rather quickly. You can also try out a pair of scrubs. They’re a little more durable, and they look good enough for any fantasy game.
Basically, as a newbie, you’re going to get points for not wearing jeans here, so don’t sweat it too much.
Where to Get a Garb Shirt
The most noticeable part of your garb is going to be your shirt. Fortunately, getting something pretty basic is fairly easy.
Buying One Online
I don’t recommend buying a shirt online. Sizing can be all over the board, and the cost is definitely higher than what you’d pay to make one yourself. If you’re dead set on doing so though, be prepared to spend $30-90 for something basic. Shop around for something that suits your style. If you’re going to plunk down the dough on a shirt, you want to make sure its something you’re going to wear for a while.
My personal recommendation for where to buy is Medieval Collectibles. I’ve ordered several things from them, and the service is quick and the products are a good quality. If you keep an eye out you can usually pick up a good deal, too.
Making it Yourself
There are a dozen patterns out there for making a shirt, if you are so inclined. Hit up the costume patterns section of your fabric store. Never buy an off the shelf costume piece (unless it is of extremely high quality), but the patterns will work out well if you make them with the right material.
For a simple garb shirt or tunic, you can get away with some fairly common cotton fabric for a few dollars a yard. You are looking for solid colors, preferably in an earth tone. Try to avoid bleached white cloth if you can, but there isn’t anything wrong with that for anyone but the most die hard of historical accuracy buffs. If you don’t much care what color it is (and really, most starter garb ends up being loaner garb eventually anyway), then look for the cheap, clearance cotton. You might be able to score it for $1-$2/yard. Unless you are an exceptionally huge person, you can make a garb shirt with 3 yards of fabric or less. Total price to make it yourself is between $10 and $30, depending on the cost of your pattern.
Of course there are plenty of places online that can show you how to make a t-tunic with no pattern (PDF LINK).
The $5 Garb Shirt
Rowan of Dan Belegorn, a Belegarth player put it best when he said:
Get a polo shirt from Good Will ($3) then cut off the collar, buttons, and any noticably hemmed edges. Poke some holes where the buttons used to be and string some leather lacing through the collar holes. Wah-lah, instant medieval look!
He wasn’t the first player to think of it, and he won’t be the last, but he is the mad genius that thought to just put it out there. It has become the basic standard for a starting player. If you want to take it farther, get a long sleeved t-shirt and cut the hems off the wrist to wear under it, like this shiny picture of Mandragoran from the Belegarth Wiki, looking stylish in his polo shirt tunic.
There you go, you starting kit should be ready to take the field and at least look good while you’re getting beat on by your friends.
Now, get out there and rock.