Updated: Dec 31, 2020
So, you want to kit out a character?
Maybe you're new and are looking to put together your first costume, or maybe you're having to kit out an NPC in a rush - either way, not all nations of the Empire are created equal when it comes to ease of getting clothes for them.
Here's the Nations of the Empire, ranked by how easy it is to get decent entry level kit for them.
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Throughout this I will be using fashion terms that retailers and the general public use to describe the style of clothes, which in some cases do not perfectly line-up with Profound Decisions costume guides, but will get you the right kind of results when googling. Sadly this includes words like "gypsy" and other questionable terms that are considered slurs or variously problematic. Much as I would prefer not to use them, this is what these garments are marketed under by the manufacturers and retailers.
The Brass Coast Absolutely hands-down (in my opinion) the easiest nation to kit out on a budget and in a hurry. A base layer of thermals takes care of chilly events, and then you can pick up a variety of scarves and suitable beach-hippy-gypsy-bellydance-boho style outer layers from any supermarket's beach/summer collection, or online all year round. You're looking for yoga or palazzo pants, scarves in bright colours to wrap around your head and waist, and bright hippy or "ethnic vibe" tops. If you're feeling a bit fancy you can check out Asian clothing shops and pick up a Churidar for less than a tenner if you shop around.
Navarr You can get generic "fantasy elf ranger" style kit from any larp retailer which will be sufficient for Navarr, but it's pretty easy to kit out a Navarri from the high street or generic clothes retailers. On the high street, you'll be looking for the Autumn collections that are in stores in later summer. Keep to autumnal browns and greens, lean towards stoner-gypsy-hippy style clothes. "Festival hippy" styles in browns and greens will get you a long way to looking like you belong in Navarr.
Varushka Another nation that is well-served by larp retailers, marketed as "viking" for the most part, but deceptively easy to pick up on the high street or regular clothes retailers. Check out retailer Winter/Spring collections, starting in late Autumn, for fur hats and Slavic-inspired fashions. In Spring/Summer, look for embroidered tunics in the beachwear sections. White tunics with bright embroidery are everywhere at certain times of year, marketed as peasant or gypsy tops or sold as beach cover-ups. In finding pieces for this website, I came across a huge variety of embroidered tunics in Asian clothing stores that would be perfect for Brass Coast in red or orange, but looked Varushkan in white.
Highguard Reasonably well-served by larp retailers that sell anything in black, grey and white, but you'll find Highguard all over the high street in Winter, especially in shops with more of a "goth" style (River Island tends to have a very goth winter collection). "Alternative" clothes shops (search for "goth fashion uk" or similar) may be able to help too - but be careful, as they can be more renaissance-inspired than is appropriate for Highguard, which has a slightly more middle-ages vibe. As one of the more "fantasy" nations without a particularly specific historical inspiration, you're able to incorporate more conceptual or high fashion/fantasy inspired pieces into an outfit, if you keep with the monochrome theme and don't get too excited. Middle-eastern clothing shops (try searching for "muslim clothing uk" or "modest fashion") will get you a variety of interesting gowns and masculine cassock-style outfits.
Wintermark The three traditions of Wintermark have their own internal difficulty rating when it comes to purchasing widely-available clothing. Easiest - Suaq The basic Suaq essentially lives in beige suede fur-lined gilets, beige linen trousers, and beige linen tunics, which you'll find in the Summer/Autumn season on the high street. You'll want to grab some acrylic paint and put some designs on your jacket - plenty of examples are on the wiki, and they don't have to be complex. Cave painting style is perfect. Medium - Kallavesi Living largely in raggedy black and swamp colours, it's fairly easy to kit up a basic Kallavesi from the high street - they have a lot in common with Highguard in terms of aesthetic and the kind of fashions you'll be looking out for, but you're looking for more slouchy fashions than the tailored look of Highguard. Hardest - Steinr No, really. It's nigh impossible to kit up a Steinr from the high street or generic fashion retailers. To enter into the Steinr tradition means shopping almost exclusively at specialist LARP retailers, where their look is usually marketed as "viking". Luckily, the iconic viking tunic and cloak is a staple of all larp retailers and are widely available in a whole rainbow of colours.
Urizen Flowing robes and sashes might not sound like something you'd find on the high street, but take a look at the nightwear section of M&S for all your pastel dressing gown and nightshirt needs. Chiffon scarves can be found in the women's accessories section of most retailers, and make good sashes. You can get lucky with "modest fashion" or "muslim fashion" clothes too, if the manufacturer has them in a suitable colour.
Dawn Almost impossible to kit up from the high street - femme presenting people may get lucky with suitably ostentatious dresses from the formalwear section, but masc Dawnish are shit out of luck. Luckily, Dawn is served well by specialist larp retailers, as the nation that has the most obvious ties to "generic king-arthur fantasy medieval lord-of-the-rings" in it's costume design.
The Imperial Orcs You'll have to get your mask from a specialist orc mask supplier, and the soft kit itself is a mishmash and tends to look handmade. Modest fashion retailers will get you base layers that cover as much flesh as possible, reducing the need for makeup to hide your natural skin tone, but for the most part you'll be looking at pieces marketed as "barbarian" from larp retailers, charity shop finds, and your own or custom crafting for iconic kit items such as a warskirt.
The Marches Leggings and a plain linen tunic is basically all you can get from the high street for the Marches, for the rest you are looking at larp retailers, reenactment suppliers and custom costume makers for the most part. You might get lucky with the odd "peasant" fashion fad, but it's not in any way a reliable staple of fashion retailers. It's difficult, though not impossible, to dress a Marcher cheaply and in a hurry.
The League 14th Century doublets, Landsknecht style slashed hose, Empire-line dresses that are NOT from the regency period, and Very Fine Hats are just not a thing on the high street, and they're not the easiest things to come by via larp retailers either, as many of the generic clothes of this style are more Tudor in styling, which is slightly outside the historical period the League is inspired by. You need money, time or talent (and sometimes all three) to kit up a Leaguer - unless you go for the "poet shirt and leggings" look, which is timeless and incredibly easy.