Costume‎ > ‎

No Excuses

The purpose of this page is to show you how you can make a perfectly good LARP costume for less than the price of a burger at the event.

Robe n Tabard! Under £4!
Tunic & cape! Under £3!
Smart coat! Under £2!


To get sufficient material for £notmuch you should find the fabric section of charity shops. Usually the fabric will be someone's old curtains or bedsheets. Obviously the material needs to be heavy enough to hang properly and not wear out on its first use so avoid really flimsy bedsheets. Some larger charity shops have huge bins of various fabrics - usually extremely cheap. You will need to do some legwork - obviously you can't expect to find metres and metres of the the perfect fabric for no money. If you're not willing to look around then suck it up, pay more, and go to a proper fabric shop.

Some tips:
  • Look for white wool blankets. We found one at a local Shelter for £1. There is enough fabric in a blanket to make a robe which will cover anything you wish to wear underneath it.
  • Curtains make perfect banner fabric. They are pre-hemmed and even come with pre-sewn tabs on the top! Get one you can paint on.
  • When buying curtains, open them out and check for bits where the fabric may have faded in the sun. If it has, all is not lost, look at the other side of the fabric which is often totally fine.
  • Charity shop belts rule. They're rarely more than £2 even for gorgeous leather belts.
  • Obviously, if you know someone with a sewing machine, this will be a lot easier and faster. However all of these costumes can be made by hand sewing. A pack of needles from pretty much any corner shop or supermarket will cost about 45p.
  • Thread. Buying in bulk makes it a lot cheaper. If you can get strong cotton thread, go ahead. If not, get any old cheap crap thread. If you're hand-sewing with cheap thread, I'd recommend doubling-up on the thread and knotting it often, just in case it snaps.
  • Charity shops with a good record for decent fabric: Barnardo's, The Salvation Army, Shelter.
What we found, one Saturday, in Glasgow:

  • Brown and black curtain! Salvation Army shop. £1! The brown bit is heavy fabric, lined with a light black cotton. Bits were sun-faded. To our delight, we found that the curtain was actually double-lined, so got approx 8 metres of fabric for a shiny pound!
  • Blue curtain, Salvation Army shop. Also £1. Smaller, would do for a waistcoat or short tunic. But I think I might save it for a banner since it's so nicely made and already has hanging tabs...
  • White wool blanket, Shelter, also £1.
  • Leather woven belt, different Shelter, £1.

Costume 1 - the robe.

Suits: mages, priests, scholars, gods, monks, eidolons, healers.

  1. Buy a blanket or bedsheet from a charity shop. With luck and legwork, you'll get one for £1.
  2. Optional: Put the blanket on a warm or even a hot wash. This will make it shrink and 'felt' (i.e. the wool will get denser like felt.) This will stop the edges fraying and means you don't have to hem any edges. If you don't want to risk it or think the blanket won't fray anyway, don't bother.
  3. Make a high-necked robe, following the Cathaginian robe pattern.
  4. If the blanket isn't quite wide enough to give you full length sleeves, you can use some of the waste fabric (from under the arms) to add cuffs to the existing sleeves.
  5. Add a charity shop belt for £1. Voila.
This costume can be made out of bedsheets too, which have the advantage of having pre-hemmed edges which you should exploit when cutting your outline. You can make a robe without sewing more than 10 inches if you instead follow the pattern for the Egyptian Over-robe (scroll down) or the cosy Over-tunic.

Feel that your character wouldn't wear a robe? That's fine, scroll down to see an easy and smart coat pattern.

We spent less than £3 on this costume! You can get it down to £1.50 if you use a rope or plaited belt like the one shown on the Carthage page.

Costume 2 - the overdress/tabard

Suits: women, priests, monks, scholars, Vikings.

Make the long robe as above.

Get another curtain/bedsheet/blanket in a different colour.

Option 1) Make a tabard as shown on the Really Simple Kit page.

If you cut your fabric to just over shoulder width it will end up looking like the picture on the far left (minus the bumfle at the shoulders). That's because our piece was much wider and had nice finished edges so we made it much more like the over-tunic shown here than a tabard. It give you sort-of-sleeves. However I prefer the way the first one looks (it's faked in the picture by cack-handedly folding the excess out of the way on the inside, hence the bumfle at the right shoulder).

Option 2)
If you instead want to make a dress then cut the fabric narrower at the top so that it's essentially shoulder-width and taper it out to the full width of the fabric at the bottom. To save fabric, cut it straight, exactly like the tabard, then add a triangle of fabric as shown in the pattern. This might look really nice with a lower-cut, square neck-hole at the front for pleasantly peasanty goodness.
Hem the dress up the sides, stopping when you get to just below hip height. If you're sure it'll fit without any fastenings, you could hem up to about 4 inches below your armpit. But I think a preferred option is to stop below the hip and add side lacing. This is easy. Make little loops out of normal string, bits of wool, or even scraps cut from your fabric if it's non-fraying. Sew them on really firmly and equally spaced, three should be enough. Picture on right shows a dress made like this. Lace up with string.

The dress seen on the right was made several years ago, out of wool, to the pattern shown, with the triangley-added bits coming up to about three inches below my hip. It's a very simple design but has (we think) very nice results. You can just about see the simple loops to lace the dress up the sides.

Belt it, if a tabard. The dress won't need it.
We spent £3 on this tabard&robe costume, plus an allowance of about £1 for thread and needle, so call it £4.

Of course, if you wanted to go up to the heady heights of a tenner, you could make the under-robe out of a bedsheet, then dye your cheapo white blanket in a washing machine, to the exact colour of your choice. Lovely.

But we did have a ton of fabric left over from the awesome brown and black curtain, out of which we made...

Costume 3 - tunic and cape

Suits: fighters, rangers, elves, monks, scholars, barbarians.

Using the heavier fabric of the brown curtain, we made a tunic, using the pattern shown on the Rome page.

Around the neck-hole, we trimmed the tunic using black bias tape. You can buy this from sewing shops for about 20p a metre. We also added some around the cuffs for extravagance. Jude has more to say about how and why to use bias tape.

We then made, from the remaining lining fabric, a full circle black cape, again trimming the neck hole with bias tape and continuing it at the front to make ties to keep the cape closed.
  1. Cut a circle with a diameter of about 14 inches for a generous, elbow-length cape. It's easier if you fold your fabric into quarters and just mark out a quarter, cutting through all four pieces at the same time.
  2. Cut a tiny neck-hole. If folded in quarters your neckhole radius should be about 2 inches.
  3. Cut from one edge in a straight line to the neck hole.
  4. Hem or bias-tape all edges.
  5. More about cloaks on the Furry Cloak page. An alternative here is to save your wool blanket and make a full length cosy cloak instead of a half cape.
Belt it.

Obviously, this will need to be worn with black trousers or leggings. We recommend Primark where £2 will get you such a thing.And look, the costume isn't just suitable for girls, here's the same tunic looking very comfortable on a larger larper!

The pic below shows the cape worn over the black tabard costume that we made, above.


So, everything described above came from fabric which cost, in total, £2. Add the belt and an allowance for thread and a needle and bias tape and you can costume two people for under £5. That's the price of a burger and a cuppa at the event.

Don't waste your leftovers! Make matching pouches or headgear out of the bits of fabric you have left over.

Awesome bonus costume - smart coat

Suits: fighters, nobles, elves, merchants.

You can make this with one £1 blanket, some cotton thread, and about 2-3m of bias tape. So costs  less than £2. Yes really.

Lie down with the middle of your back down the middle of your folded blanket and get someone to draw around you. If your blankie has a nice finished edge, by all means use it, if not, feel free to flare the coat more and make the bottom edge a curve rather than a straight line (dotted line on the diagram).

Click on the pictures for bigger versions if you can't see the pattern properly.

This is your back piece.

With your back piece still folded, lay it down on the rest of the folded blanket, but with at least a few inches spare on the right of the folded edge. Trace around the arms and sides, but instead of tracing down the centre of the back piece, instead mark where the collar corner is (Point A) and another point (B) as far to the right as your fabric will allow. This is so the front of your coat can overlap.

Join points A and B to get a shape like this.

Remember your blanket is still folded over so when you cut this, cut through both pieces at the same time so you'll have 2 front pieces.

Sew all the seams, starting with the finished edge at the bottom and going up and under the first arm. Make sure your fabric is right side to right side, if it has one. The sew along the top of the arm to the collar. Put the other front piece on in the same way, making sure you've oriented it correctly.

Pop your coat on and check all the sizes. You can trim back the sleeves if you want. Hem all the raw edges (or don't bother if your blankie won't fray). It helps to turn the coat inside out and firmly iron the arm seams flat so it's not too bulky.

It will look like this. If you're lazy, just belt it shut. Ta da!

However you can make this coat look really smart with not much more effort... yes that's right, here is the best thing you'll ever learn for how to fasten coats, cloaks, waistcoats, whatever for ZERO extra cost. Self-made fabric buttons. These work particularly well with thick fabric such as wool, if making them out of thinner fabric, stuff some of it into the middle of the button to bulk it out a bit.

The pic to the right shows how the buttons look once done. Pretty cool eh?

So here's the finished article and we think it looks pretty fine. Click on the pic for a bigger version. You may noticed that Jude has also trimmed the edges with bias tape for contrast. Boy does she love bias tape. And so should you.

You can always wear it with a belt as well as the buttons if you want.

Add the black half-cape and you'll look rather dashing.

"All very well for you to say, but you're a talented seamstress!"

Actually, I'm not. Jude is. I'm not. I do have a lot of experience of making kit for sod all money though, and the willingness to give it a try. Some of it went wrong. That's why I'm sharing this info with you. And Jude's bias tape trick is amazing.

Take a look at the tabard pattern. Now take another look at it. Surely you can cut and hem a rectangle with a square hole in it? And look how cool it looks over the white robe.

If by "I've never done this before so I don't know how" you really mean "I can't be bothered" then there's probably not much hope for you... and (we have to ask) how have you managed to get this far through the tutorial!?

"I can't do this without a sewing machine!"

Yes you can. Google whip stitch. If you don't have much time and really don't want to sew it by hand, invest in some wonderweb or 'heat bond' (ask for it in a sewing shop) and iron your hems in instead. Stick to lighter fabrics, it probably won't take on wool. You can get it for about 30p per metre. Slightly more money sure, like most things it's a payoff between cost and effort.

"No, you don't understand - I don't even have £5!"

Really? In the many weeks before your event is due to start, you can't scratch together £5? Really? OK, here are some suggestions:
  1. Next 3 times you have a pint, have a half instead.
  2. Next 3 times you take the bus, walk instead.
  3. Sell your £75 latex sword and just play non-coms from now on.
  4. Miss a single event - you will have saved enough to make TEN costumes like this.
  5. Give up LARP. We all have things we'd like to do but can't afford to...