Clothes might not make a man but in a larp like “Just a Little Lovin” it goes a hell of a long way to make the character. There’s the obvious thing: JaLL takes place in the eighties known for its outrageous and colorful fashion and the characters are all part of the most outrageous of these trends in each their own way, (Flamboyant gay, drag queens, disco stars, 54 partygoers, spirituals, hippies and so on).
So as the organizers kept saying: this is not a reenactment, we wouldn’t be criticized for wearing items that might not strictly belong to the eighties. It was much more about the feel and power of the look than historical accuracy.
Note not only the epic Diane but also the many colors in the background. You can’t make out details, but you get a general feel of the whole thing, thats pretty much how it felt. I wouldn’t be able to recall specifics but the general look of the people stays with me.
And when you look at the pictures from JaLL you can see that it worked, the people there were such a powerful mix of color and expression. Especially in the first act, it’s just strong colors and combinations everywhere, (in the later acts some took it down, some up, but it was never as crazy as act one). And just standing among these people looking so different from everyday life and looking different yourself goes a long way to get you into the mood and into character.
Clothes In perpetration
But clothes does so much more than that. This might be obvious for larpers but for a chamber larper with a background in Fastaval and black box it’s not. In fact I have ridiculed people for spending so much time and money on costumes for a larp, (and might still do, there’s a limit to everything.) But JaLL and in parts “Fladlands Sagaen” (or just Sagaen) (Østerskov Efterskoles fantasy campaign) has taught me how much help just looking for the right clothes is for your understanding of the character.
I played along once in Sagaen, so I needed to quickly come up with something playable for one session. Having never owned a single piece of fantasy style costume, I had to depend on the costume cellar at Østerskov (which wasn’t the worse thing, as this roleplay school is pretty well stocked.) Going down there I didn’t really know what I was going to play, but though slowly finding bits and pieces to wear an idea emerged, and for each new piece it became clearer. The larp “Sarabande” does much of the same, part of the character workshop is to chose an item of clothing that fits the character, but it is done at a point where your character is still very loosely defined. So just this one choice makes it much more concrete.
The same is the case for JaLL just on a much larger scale. I became so used to going into every second hand shop I passed in preparation for JaLL, that after the game I kept almost doing it still, but had to keep reminding myself, no, you no longer have to do that. Very rarely did I buy anything, but just looking at clothes and I suppose also just rejecting things because they didn’t feel right, was an important part of me finding out how I would play Bruce.
“It’s cool and fun yes, but it doesn’t really say Bruce…”
I found several things that would fit his stockbroker image (soooo many striped suits that almost fit), but every time it felt slightly wrong. This wasn’t the part of the character that I wanted to play up. I wanted to use his raw animalistic power, life force and also hunger, hunger for always more.
It was only when I found the white tuxedo that it felt right, so I had to buy it even though it was a bit expensive. But I’m so happy that I did. I only wore the whole set in act one (because the pants don’t quite fit), but it still had the right effect and that jacket worked surprisingly well with just light brown slacks. For me that jacket made Bruce.
So clothes limits and focuses a broad idea and as we know limits feeds creativity. But clothes also helps in the way that saying no to certain items says something to you about the character. And finally clothes may put a new spin on a character give it just that twist the character needed.
Clothes during the game
During JaLL we joked around in my room with the fact that in this larp the men spend as much, if not more, time fretting about their outfit as the woman. A crude cliche of a joke, but for me it had some truth, I have never been more aware of what I was going to wear. Each act we changed, different things was in focus, the characters was in a different place and it was a surprisingly strong tool to use what I choose to wear to show that. It might not have been noticed by the other players but for me it was important.
In act 1 my clothes was wild and colorful, it has been compared to a pimps outfit, and that’s not far of. This was a man letting of steam, a man out for a party, enjoying life without limits. In act 2 it was much more stiff, still the bright white jacket, but now with a buttoned up shirt with a tie (a bright pink tie, but still I could always feel it tight around my neck, (and when I took it off, it was at a point when Bruce was tensioning down a bit.) It was also a more stern look that fitted the relationship between Bruce and Mickey in that act, (read the story here). And finally in act 3 Bruce was a bit more loose, letting go of control trying to find some peace and being more relaxed. So still the same jacket but now a black t-shirt underneath, still very eighties but definitely more relaxed and more comfortable for me. So the feel of the clothes on my body did a lot to my game, it became a physical subconscious reminder of the style of game I wanted for each act.
“This sword gives me plus two when fighting dragons!” “Oh but this necklace gives me plus two at playing Bruce, and these shades can hide or show my true intentions.” Bruce had two magic items, but they were magic for me not the character. More than anything I wore did they helped me get into character.
The most obvious was the shades, shortly after arriving at the location I put them on because I knew I wanted to wear them at all times, so I needed to get used to that. It was surprisingly easy. They also took some of my softer features and hid them leaving me looking sterner and tougher than I am, or at least it felt like that, and that’s the important bit.
With them on I felt stronger and more attractive and I used that a lot in my play. But that wasn’t all, I was very aware when I took them on or of. I would take them of when Bruce was being more open and honest or just showing feelings. He didn’t do that much in act one, but from act two and on especially in the morning they came on and off more and more often.
The player of Sam noticed this in one scene where they were talking about a tattoo for Bruce (she was a tattoo artist) he had the shades of, talking honestly about the need for this (the tattoo would be the initials of Sinclair a hidden tribute to his lost friend), But then someone else joined the table and on came the shades and Bruce quickly changed the subject.
This was a surprisingly powerful tool for me. Props can really enhance the game, just like I wrote about with shoes in my post on “Tilbagefald” (Relapse) (in Danish sorry).
My other magic item was a silver necklace I wore at all times, it was rarely visible, but for me it became the symbol of Bruce. Between acts I would quickly change into my own comfortable clothes and relax in that, getting well out of character. But I kept the necklace on to keep this one connection between me and Bruce. It became the strongest connection between me and the character.
And It was the one thing from the character I kept on after the game ended, it didn’t feel right to take it off just yet. And then suddenly sometime during the afterparty I went by myself and it felt right, so I took it of. There was something about it, even though it wasn’t visible I could always feel it’s weight around my neck and that kept reminding me, that now I was something different. And that’s important I think.
So items or props can be used outwardly to signal things to other players, subtle as it might be. But they can also be used inwardly to remind you about certain important things.