Thursday, November 15, 2012

Resourceful Costuming for the Non-Seamstress

Though I've done a little bit of costume sewing in my time (wow, that makes me sound old...), I am certainly no seamstress. Nor do I have the patience or time -- hello, I'm writing a novel -- to become one.

But I'm picky. I like things to be nice, and while I'll put up with a slightly lower quality when it comes to costumes I make, I like them to at least be worth the ammount of work put into them, and very much dislike tackiness. Cheapo costumes sold at Wal-Mart or Target during Halloween are pretty much out of the question. Those things just scream cliche. There's little to no creativity when it comes to those.

Those two reasons -- my lack of sewing skills and my dislike of cheap storebought costumes -- are mainly why I will spend a little extra on tailored costumes like the ones from and

However! There is another option I haven't yet mentioned when it comes to costuming. And that is normal clothing. You would be simply amazed at how well a properly matched outfit bought in the regular clothing section in a store can play the role of a quality costume for a given occasion. You just have to know what to look for.

Before I give a few tips, you'll have to understand that these are regular clothes. They're not top notch specialized costumes, so there's only so close you'll be able to get to the 'real thing'. But you can get pretty doggone close if you're creative and, yes, a little lucky.


~Peasant tops. These are great as a base piece, though be sure to get them in solid colors and not modern patterned fabric.
~Ankle length tiered skirts. These are full and swingy and are also great as a base piece. Once again, solid colors; no modern patterns.
~Woven belts
~Gold or silver bangles
~Hoop or feather earrings
~Medallion necklaces
~Another cool one is taking a plain solid color mini-dress and wearing it with brown or black pants underneath, a belt, and boots.

~Oversized solid color t-shirts (best colors are brown, dark green, and black). Worn with a belt, these resemble medieval tunics, especially if they're a little long.
~Courderoys in black or brown. So far courderoy is the most medieval looking pant fabric, even over khakis.
~Since men's boots are very modern looking these days, with the laces and combat boot feel to them, we've found that wellies -- or golashes, as Americans call them -- work pretty well. Yes, they are made out of rubber, and may be pushing things a bit, but hey, that's what imagination is for. Besides wellies, boots or all black sneakers work well. Sorry, guys; you don't get as much fun with footwear.
~Belt. Almost any kind of guy's belt will work.


~I've seen leather bracelets of various types in stores nowadays, and though I haven't bought any yet, they've always struck me as awesome unisex costume accessories.
~Shoes. Like I said before, boots are great, but another option for girls is to wear plain brown ballet flats.
~Bling bling! Silver and gold make for great jewelry, especially for a gypsy.
~Consider sashes as a substitute for belts.
~Leather string. I can't think of the proper name for it... Anyway, I found these things at Jo-Ann's craft store in the very small leather working section. If you use these to 'lace' up the bottoms of your pants, it looks really cool. Same can be done for sleeves.
~Use your belt to go diagonally across your chest like a bandolier.


Most of these do actually have to be made, but you can find some fairly cheap daggers online.

~Bows and arrows.
~Poisons. Vials can easily be bought at a craft store, then all you do is fill them with water and food coloring of various types.


Okay, I actually have pictures for this one. My siblings and I have come up with our own knock off of Star Trek. So we needed uniforms.

Since we were taking off of a uniform design that was already made up, our job was much easier. Especially since this design happened to be fairly simple. We followed the basic uniform concepts from The Original Series (which happens to be my personal favorite series of Star Trek), which consists of a solid color top and black bottoms. That's pretty easy, but it's ridiculously easy when you consider buying those clothes from a regular clothes store instead of trying to make them or buy the 'official' Star Trek merchandise from online. That's also where a little bit of luck comes in. We found a shirt at Target that was so amazingly close to the gold/yellow shirt Captain Kirk wears in TOS that we were practically squealing with excitement. It's perfect.

Anyway, we actually began with assigning colors to the various divisions on the Penterprise (it's a PenKnights ship, we decided), then assigned each person to a division, and that's how we knew which shirt color to buy for who.

Command Uniform

Security and Operations


As you can see, they're not perfectly Sci-fi, but they are pretty doggone close. And a great thing about these outfits is that they can also be worn as proper clothes. Because of that, they will last quite a while and look good.

Here are also a few other ideas of what to wear while playing Sci-Fi Imagination Games.

~Surprisingly, many of the base medieval costume pieces will work for sci-fi, as well. Look at some sci-fi; a lot of the clothing -- when not completely outrageous -- has a slight medieval tone to them. Especially clothes for royalty. The trick is changing the color theme from forest colors like brown, green, orange, and so on, to colors like black, grey, and other deep colors, and adding the right accessories.
~Black, grey, or deep colored mini-dresses make for good tunics over black or grey pants. Go for trim, clean lines.
~Black belts with silver or gunmetal accents.
~Boots or sneakers work better than ballet flats when it comes to look.
~Metal jewelry rather than beads.

~Black or grey pants.
~Trim shirts that don't look like tunics.
~Black belts, or utility belts for those with a more mechanic type job. Like the ones handy men wear.
~Boots or sneakers, though not wellies.


~Wristbands. Leather is best, if you can find them.
~Fingerless black gloves.
~Drop holster. I am honestly not quite sure where to find these, and I don't know how expensive they are. We use one of my Dad's old ones.

When it comes to sci-fi, there is less of a specific style to follow. With fantasy, we go off of medieval stuff. With sci fi, what is there? It's the future; you have a lot of freedom. It's up to you to design your sci-fi culture and thus the rules of clothing. The one guideline I know that helps keep things looking more sci-fi than modern or fantasy is to keep things sleek, trim, and clean. With fantasy there are a lot of layers and 'frills', if you will. With sci-fi, things are very straightforward with fewer layers, and only a few accents.


~Nerf guns! While not exactly colored correctly, these are the weapons we use for every one of our sci-fi IGs, both with and without darts.
~Slingshots. Yup.
~You can also use storebought lightsabers, if you like.
~PVC guns. Yes, it can be done.
~If you have some creative energies left after all this, try your hand at creating something like the Covenant Energy Sword from the Halo series. If you do this, give me pictures. Because that would be seriously one of the coolest things ever.

That's all I've got for you, folks! Putting together costumes from normal clothes is great fun for those who have a mind for it. It involves a lot of creativity and resourcefulness. I've given you some ideas to start with, but you're going to have to come up with many more of your own.. Unlike with sewing, we're restricted to what the stores have to offer, so consider every angle, keep your mind open to possibilities as they present themselves, and don't be afraid to try something that you hadn't originally thought would work. You never quite know what the end result will be.

Have fun!

Dia duit,

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