How to change a costume into garb – or how to make your costume more realistic.

By Michael Bielaczyc

There are many ways to add a more realistic touch to your costumes. When people see costumes on TV or in the movies the thing that is often forgotten is that costumers on shows or films have the advantage of lighting, camera angle, and often more money.

So what can you do on a normal budget?

Decide on costumes early. If you have some time to put it together you can watch fabric stores for sales or wait for coupon books. When you are not in a rush you can look for items in Thrift Stores or on Ebay. This can take a large chunk out of the original base cost.

Material – The material you use for your costumes is very important. In fact if you have ever seen a costume that blows you away, it is often because it is not only put together well, but it is also made from good materials. And it doesn’t have to always be expensive, my ranger cloak which I made over 5 years ago is from $1 a yard fabric and it is still in great shape.

Aging – Another problem with costumes is that often they look new. When was the last time an orc had a new outfit? For those who are planning on LARPing in their costume this won’t be such a problem as your costume will probably get worn in pretty quick. For those of us who are a little less active, a little fake wear and tear never hurts. I will leave my costume out in the weather for a week or so to get some sun fading, or tea stain the clothes to give them a bit of uneven color.

The more the better – What is the difference between a costume and garb? A costume is an outfit that people wear out to Halloween or a Con and then put it away. Garb looks like the person walked through a time/space portal into reality. Good garb relies on creativity and accessories! If you are making a pirate costume, people will be able to tell if you bought a fake sword and medallion at the costume shop.

My suggestion is to start out with the basics and start adding. And add anything that sort of fits! My pirate friend Nigel and I were once out having a drink and someone walked up and gave him a wooden spoon. With a “Thanks mate!” he turned and tied it to one of the many hanging pieces of leather from his belt. Two years later, it still hangs there. Well except when he is eating.

For a fairy costume, the more thin fabric you have the better the dress is. My friends at Faerystone Creations will buy tons of scrim (a colored type of gauze) and make many layers to create a dress. Sometimes they don’t even sew it in any fashion, they just tuck it into a bodice or wrap it around themselves.

For more ideas, please visit our other tutorials. If you have any suggestions or questions, please email .