Whether you’re a die-hard SCA aficionado, a part-time reenactor or you’re simply wondering what to wear for your first LARP event, the important thing is you want to be involved and be making friends at LARPs and Renn Faires. Now, some folks take these events very seriously, whilst to others they are just a bit of fun. Someone much wiser than us once said you can’t please everybody all of the time or something like that. The point is, if you’re more in one camp than the other, you’re unlikely to feel the full grace from either side.
We’re not trying to marginalise or pigeonhole LARPS or re-enactment events. There’s plenty enough of that sort going already. We’re merely offering up some hard-fought advice for anyone who doesn’t want people muttering unpleasantries under their breath as you go by.
We have painted a poor image of these events. Larping can include the best adventures, the most life-affirming moments and will fill your life with a joy seldom encountered outside a field of like-minded individuals… all we’re offering is a way to do it without looking like a noob.
Rule one – Research.
Researching the event you’re intending to attend (even if it’s one you’ve attended before) will give you all the ammunition you need to make your entrance go with a bang. Event websites often include friendly etiquette guides which are an invaluable resource for anyone looking to join in the fun. Don’t forget to look on social media too. Many larger LARP, historical re-enactment events and Renn Faires will have numerous guilds, factions, nations or whatever name they give them and each of those will have social media groups full of style guides, pet hates posts and general whines. It’s worth mentioning that most of these groups will frown upon any in-character discussions and are usually more about sourcing props, logistics and that sort of thing.
Rule two – Be yourself.
We were harsh at the head of this article. LARP events are very welcoming, at the end of the day – no-one should ever have to adhere to, or conform exactly to another’s idea of dress or social structure. So, if you want to be an eight-foot unicorn warrior with green hair, leather armour and fairy wings, then do it… just don’t expect to be invited to have tea with the queen. Conversely, if you see an eight-foot unicorn warrior it’s perfectly acceptable to throw them a sneaky smile, even if you are the queen herself… just don’t invite it to tea.
Rule 3 – Details details details.
Often folks can spend a lot of time and money on the perfect outfit and then wonder why they never really felt part of the event. Dressing to impress is one thing, but often it’s the simplest of details that can make ALL the difference. You might be able to find a stunning gown on the high street that looks perfect for the period. This is indeed quite likely, as many of the fashions through the ages are truly timeless, but have you considered colour and fabric? There are reasons LARP stores, makers and sites are often a little bit more expensive than the high street and it’s not just because the likelihood of your clothes being made by infants in the third world is considerably lessened. True LARP specialists know their market. They know how to make clothes as they would have been made at the time. The fabrics will also be from the appropriate period and then these, often handmade, garments will be hand-dyed using traditional methods and traditional ingredients like woad, indigo and mussel shells.
Rule 4 – Cover your head.
It’s pretty much a given that no matter what period in history or indeed fantasy you’re aiming for, no-one wants to see your hair. Hair was generally pretty rank back in the day and lice were common right up to the Victorian era. Also, at most renaissance fairs, ladies without hats are seen as bawdy and loose. Additionally, it gives the multiple hat vendors a perfectly rational excuse to harass you to death. In the UK, covering your head is less of a thing, but owning a hat can save you from severe sunlight, hailstones, bad hair days and torrential rain. Be smart, get a hat or a scarf or a wig.
Rule 5 – Enjoy yourself.
Larping, re-enactment and all forms of historical and fantasy events, no matter how seriously we take them, are essentially dressing up for fun. So, whilst it’s a good call to follow steps one to four, it’s pointless if you ignore the most fundamental of tenets. Most importantly of all, we attend these events because they are fun. We get to hang out with our friends, fight with daggers, drink mead and whatever else that floats your boat. So, if your outfit offends some stiff-shirted wannabe noble because of its anachronistic failings, then let that be their failing and don’t let it dampen your spirits.
Author – Neil Campbell.