Dresden Files LARP
The 1920's and Dresden Files both have iconic looks. This document will assist you in rising to meet the costuming challenges of the time period and game setting.
For offline reference, here is a copy in Google Docs.
Welcome to 1922 in the world of Dresden!
The 1920’s were an era of change. Peace was a new reality, women had just received the right to vote, birth control was creating a sexual revolution, censorship had not yet hit Hollywood, and gender identity and sexual orientation were making a break out of the closet. Prohibition was also in full swing, leading to a fascinating network of underworld organizations as powerful as politicians.
This document is meant to give you a jumping off point for designing your character’s costume. All that follows are guidelines, not requirements! There are just four hard rules that we ask our players to abide by:
Costuming is Required
Hollywood quality is not necessary, but an attempt to portray the character and time period is required for ambiance.
While this LARP contains themes of bigotry, bigotry in our players will not be tolerated. Blackface, farcical portrayals of minority groups, and/or using cultural dress without the respect it deserves, are not allowed.
Respect our venue
This is a historical venue and if we damage it, it costs a LOT of money. So please no fake blood or anything that may stain floors/walls/furniture. If you are carrying hard props that may scratch a wall, or hit doorways, please be very mindful of your space. If you have a large headdress that could hit lights or chandeliers, oh god, oh god, please be careful!
Love your costume!
We want you to feel amazing! The notes I’ve written on your factions below are things that I think would be cool for you to share as a faction, but there is no harm in defaulting to generic 20’s attire that you feel good about.
Note that nowhere in here is a requirement for historical accuracy. We do ask that you make an attempt at keeping your costume in genre, as it will help keep immersion for your fellow players. However, perfect historical accuracy is not necessary.
Many of you may wish to carry prop weapons. The safety of our players (both from each other and local law enforcement) is a top priority. Because of this, any representation of a gun MUST have an orange safety tip, and all projectiles more intense than nerf darts are not allowed. Swords and knives MUST BE BLUNT, though wood, steel, and plastic are all ok.
Be aware that Denver has a ban on thieves' tools with the intent to commit a crime, brass knuckles, and blackjacks. And yes, brass knuckles are very poorly defined in the law, so any multi-finger ring could potentially count. We therefore strongly recommend that you do not bring any representation of the above that is not an excessively obvious toy.
All weapons must be concealed outside of the Grant Humphreys mansion, so as not to alarm the public. Any weapons that you bring, you are responsible for. Endangering the safety of another player is always ground for dismissal from the event.
A note on gender and sexuality in this world
Though not publicly accepted at the time, microcosms of gender exploration and acceptance were prevalent, most notably through “Drag Balls.” In Harlem, these balls could attract up to 7,000 attendees (of queer, trans, or straight n’ cis orientations!), but they were also present in Chicago, San Francisco and other metropolitan areas.
On top of this dynamic environment, we add beings who have lived for centuries, people from other countries, and beings from other planes of existence, who have entirely different relationships with gender and sexuality than the American 20’s.
Costuming-wise, we use this as a justification to embrace any form of gender expression our players are excited about! Feel free to mix and match styles as is appropriate to your character, and draw inspiration from any source that brings you joy. While this LARP does contain themes of prejudice and bigotry, there will be mechanics to opt in or opt out of direct involvement with that subject matter. Just because you wish to play a character that gives you gender joy, does not mean you are signing up to fight through the bigotry of the times. You’re in Mab’s house, and Mab does not reflect the social norms of the 1920’s!
Age and Class
The 20’s are all about the young overturning the norms of the old. Where your character comes down on that divide will shape their dress just as much as their viewpoints. Social class-wise, while the 20’s were a time of prosperity for many, they were also a time of great poverty for others. For the wealthy, Old money vs New money REALLY mattered in social circles. The politician whose family built city hall is going to be accepted in circles that new-money rum runners are excluded from. Choosing to dress like the archaic elite, or embrace the new wave of razzle-dazzle freedom will say something about your character.
If your character is described as “inhumanly beautiful,” please incorporate some shimmer makeup along your cheekbones, throat, and tips of your ears. If you’d like to supplement that with dramatic eyeshadow and significant contouring, go ahead! But the shimmer is what we are using to signal the supernatural quality of your character’s attractiveness. Consequently, if your character is NOT inhumanly beautiful, please stay away from using shimmer in those areas so we don't get confused.
Faction by Faction
Mortals and those who keep up with the times:
The 20’s have a really strong dichotomy between older, more conservative fashions, and younger, freer, more scandalous ones. For forward-thinking women, this is the age of the flapper. Hemlines got shorter so it was easier to dance the charleston and jitterbug. Waistlines dropped, creating a more androgynous look. Beading and tassels highlighted the glitz and glam of the time, but also showed off the wearer’s affluence, as they were quite expensive to add. Bobbed hair with headbands and headwraps also came into fashion, in stark contrast to the hats of the Victorian era that required long hair and hat pins to hold them in place.
The more old-fashioned could still take refuge in formalwear. The hemlines were always safely below the knee, and though dresses lost their sleeves, they were supplemented with all sorts of wraps, shawls, furs, and cardigans.
Menswear became dramatically more simple for daywear during the 20s. Instead of 3 piece suits, they ditched the waistcoat and wore soft collared shirts and one or two button jackets. Pinstripes, tweeds, and flannels were all popular and there was a rabid fascination with English fashion. Mens pants underwent a massive shift in the width of the pant leg, from the “oxford bag” to the “plus four”; pants became much wider and baggier, sometimes being tucked into tall socks and allowed to droop over the knee. This sort of sporty look was, in some ways, the male counterpart to the flapper.
Men were expected to wear hats when out and about. Newsboy and bowler/derby hats were worn in the winter, while Panama hats and other straw varieties were a requirement for the summer. Gentlemans’ clubs would even produce the hatband for Panama hats in their colors for their clientele. The Homberg was popular in the early 20’s, but rapidly went out of fashion by the mid 20s in favor of the fedora.
Knight of the Cross: Knights of the Cross are mortals, but they will never be found without a symbol of their faith and the sword that makes them what they are.
Minor talents/sorcerers are for all intents and purposes mortal, though they may carry foci much like wizards.
Wizard formal is flowing black robes with a stole to denote tenure and position as follows:
Purple: Senior Council
Red: Member for over a century
Gold stitched caduceus: Master healer
Copper chevron: Doctorate in Scholarly Discipline
Seal of Solomon: Master exorcist
Braided silver cord: Master Alchemist
Now, you are not at a White Council meeting, so formal is relative, but Mab is watching.
Wizards can live hundreds of years, so while the robe is timeless, what they wear under it may date them. Younger wizards can take inspiration from the “mortals” section as they are more in touch with the times, while older wizards may want to peruse the “Black Court” section for more Victorian ideas.
The White Council boasts membership from around the world, so wizards are also welcome to wear traditional garments that represent their heritage or culture. Before pulling inspiration from a culture not your own, please do some research to understand the significance behind the garment you are choosing.
Because the prepared wizard is almost unbeatable, wizards usually carry a half dozen or more items that act as foci. Many favor staves, but wands, jewelry, garments, potion bottles or anything else that is easily carried around can serve as more subtle foci. The more paranoid the wizard, the more items they end up lugging around with them.
*Inspirations: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter
(and if you’re looking at my Pinterest board, yes, Jedi robes count as wizard robes)
The Red Court’s main presence is in South and Central America. At this time, the Banana Wars are just getting kicked off, with the first coup d'état in Honduras in 1911. American interests and corporations are starting to exert more influence in the region, and the Red Court has their fingers in ALL of the pies.
Stylistically, this means Red Court characters have a lot to choose from! Depending on what your character’s power base is, be it American fruit companies, local elite, or farm workers fed up with the abuses of their overseers, feel free to tailor your look accordingly.
South/Central America is quite diverse, being composed of many different countries and many different indigenous groups. If you are playing a Red Court member, please be attentive to both the country your character is from, and which group they are aligning themselves with, and pick your costume with attention and reverence. There is also no harm in defaulting to American style garb, as westernization was sweeping the globe.
Your character sheet will have the details of where you are from, but for inspiration, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras are countries that were being occupied and/or subverted economically by American interests at the time our game takes place.
Victorian fashion is where it’s at for the Black Court vampire. They are visibly inhuman with corpselike, pallid skin, and dead, cloudy eyes. Thanks to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, they are recognizable as vampires to nearly all mortals. This means they don't really go out in public much, which makes keeping up with the times a bit difficult.
Late Victorian fashion favored the “tailor-made” dress and skirt combo for women. The S-shaped corset that was prevalent in the early Victorian days was giving way to more comfortable and less structured garments. They still favored a long hem, long sleeves, and hats. Big, beautiful, hats. Evening wear lowered the neckline on gowns (look up the “Bertha” dress), but otherwise kept the same shape. If you need inspiration, google the Gibson Girl. Popularized by an artist at the time, she was the standard of feminine beauty.
For men, evening wear was still the tailcoat with a starched front shirt, wide necktie, and waistcoat, but tuxedos started to be introduced for more relaxed formal occasions in the 1880s. Breeches were also acceptable for outdoor activities. Depending on the age of your vampire, please feel free to draw from any period that you feel is appropriate.
The White Court is made up of three factions: Raith (Lust), Malvora (fear), and Skavis (despair). The Raith are the most powerful, and most present, so our focus here is on them.
The Raith are inhumanly beautiful, but in a predatory way. Think sharp contouring, white teeth, and vibrantly colored eyes. They are the trend-setters fashion-wise, always pushing the bounds of propriety. In the 20’s, the Raiths are the first flappers, with the highest hemlines, and lowest necklines. They are the pioneers of the blazer with no shirt, and the glamor of smoking. They are also powerfully invested in the queer and trans movements of the time, as well as the advent of birth control. Cross dressing and other forms of gender expression are commonplace in the Raith family.
Please note that you need only show as much skin as you are comfortable with. A well put together suit can be just as appealing on a Raith as total nudity.
The Malvora family often unintentionally find themselves dressed as the latest movie or theater villains/monsters. This is because artists often subconsciously base them on this family who exudes an air of menace. See the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Caligari, Phantom of the Opera, Nosferatu, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for inspiration. The Malvora don’t mind, since the more notoriety they get, the more power they can amass.
The Skavis are thought to be extremely dull by the other families. They tend to dress like they are on their way to a funeral more than anything else.
Neither the Malvora nor Skavis share their cousins' inhuman beauty.
There are many kinds of fae, from sidhe, to trolls, to pixies so tiny they appear as pinpricks of light. However, most fae can cast a glamour with little to no effort, so appear however they wish, though they tend to keep some of their essential traits across glamours (like the Leanansidhe’s red hair, or Mab's frozen-mulberry colored lips). As far as fashion goes, most fae regard dressing up as mortals like we think of Halloween: a fun excuse for a costume party, but utterly ridiculous at any other time of the year. As this wedding will have mortals present, it's an excuse for the more curious fae to test how well they blend in, or for those who disdain mortals to show how little they care. Please try to stay away from costuming that is obviously modern, but feel free to pull from any point in history from any part of the world (being respectful and appropriate of course). Timeless drapey garments, or more fantasy inspired items are also just fine!
Sidhe are the most prominent fae in this world. Without glamour, they have pointed ears, catlike eyes, pointed teeth, and are often inhumanly beautiful (see above). Each Court also has their fair share of monstrous fae: trolls, goblins, gnomes, malk, redcaps, and many others. Instead of the inhuman beauty of the sidhe, these tend to present with disturbing qualities, such as green teeth, pointed fangs, wings, webbed fingers, claws, or unusual size, to name a few (we will flesh this out more once we know what playable characters are included). As the many types of fae are present in both Courts, the difference between them are often found in their clothing and color palette.
The Seelie (Summer Court) favor warm, summery colors. They have a rosy blush of health about them, and a warm, almost ephemeral glow. Some are even able to manifest plants and flowers to accent their dress, and often a light floral scent will accompany them. At this wedding of their own, dear Lady’s sister, most Summer fae will be wearing a gold carnation in solidarity with the bride. As warm and welcoming as the Seelie appear, anyone who remembers Victorian times will recall that a yellow carnation signals disappointment.
The Unseelie are studies in the extremes. The Winter sidhe are every bit as lovely as their Summer counterparts, but theirs is a cold beauty. The monstrous members of the Court are truly monstrous, and often sneer at casting a glamour. As a whole, the Court tends to feel more inhuman than the Summer. They prefer the colors of night and winter. Their ephemeral glow is that of moonlight on frosted trees. Instead of manifesting plants, they prefer snowflakes, icicles, and gems of the earth as their motifs. While furs are rather fun and fashionable for the Winter fae, they are accessories only, as Winter will never feel cold.
Changeling: While they often carry a trait or two of their fae parentage (green hair, pointed teeth, extremely beautiful, extremely small or large, etc.) it is not the extent of a full-blooded member of the Courts. They also cannot cast a glamour, so are either stuck with what they have, or forced to hide it though more mundane means. They are also not Inhumanly Beautiful, no matter what their lineage. How much or how little a Changeling embraces their parent Court’s tastes in their clothing can tell you a lot about how they feel about their parentage.
The early twentieth century ushered in a new age of sexual expression and attempted gender balance
How women’s position changed in the 20s, and the shift between Victorian Age and Flapper.
Divide between young and old in the 20s
“garçonne look,” allowed women to dance freely
Spectators for drag balls expanded from “a few courageous spectators” in the 1800s, to thousands by the 1930s, according to a collection of essays about the balls at the New York Public Library.
Drag balls in Harlem. Timeline, popular opinion and the Hayes code.
Drag balls and LGBTQ activism
In the 1920s, female impersonators were hired to perform at cabarets and speakeasies in many major cities, including New York, Paris, London, Berlin, and San Francisco. The target audience was straight, which gave the performers broader social acceptance
More drag balls
Iconic Black artists like Gladys Bentley, an openly lesbian blues singer and gay writer Richard Bruce Nugent found creative freedom in the Harlem renaissance and drag scene.
Tailor made dress, male fashion, sporting wear.
Women wearing pants
White council garb
Women 20s fashion
Chinoiserie, and the 1920s craze for asian style garments.
Banana republic and the start of the banana wars
Safely enjoying the content of the weekend is paramount. This document will illustrate how players can navigate difficult themes
Go back to the Dresden Files landing page!
This page will have information on logistics, factions, and mechanics used in the game