Wearing costume is one of the most exciting aspects of live roleplaying, but we understand that it can sometimes be one of the most stressful things to arrange! Here’s a guide to the kind of clothing that would be appropriate to wear at the masked ball. Before get into the details, here are a couple of Pinterest boards I've started to help inspire you, and I will keep adding to these as time goes on.
Pinterest board: Inspiration for female characters
Pinterest board: Inspiration for male characters
The Nether has existed alongside the real world for hundreds of years and so some fashions from different time periods are worn in the Nether. Regency styles are dominant, but Victorian fashions (particularly the late Victorian period) are also very popular. Regency masquerades had a thing for 18th century ballgowns so it would be in keeping to play with different periods anyway.
Basically, players should feel free to pick a time period for inspiration that they love and would feel the most confident wearing. Anything from the mid 1700’s to the 1890’s could be considered ‘fashionable’ in the Nether. If you want to wear a crinoline, go for it! If you want to rock a bustle with tonnes of sparkles and lace, do it! The most important thing to aim for is a dress which is styled for an evening event. When you look at historical clothing for inspiration, focus on ballgowns. In the Victorian era, for example, there were fundamental differences between dresses worn in the day and those worn for balls. (Generally, ball gowns tend to be sleeveless/short-sleeved and with a much lower neckline).
The Split Worlds Masked Ball LARP is not a re-enactment event. There is no need to worry too much about whether your Regency-style gown is made from the right kind of muslin fabric or whether your ball gown or waistcoat is made of the correct kind of brocade or whatever. My only advice here though is that if you are aiming for an older style of dress, try to avoid overly synthetic looking fabric. Super shiny polyester can look odd in a period gown.
That being said, the closer you get to the kind of quality that would be worn by the elite, the more expensive it gets, so don’t feel pressured to only get/make clothes made from period authentic fabrics. There will be some suspension of disbelief involved; the Censor won’t attack people for their clothes in the way she would in the books, because this is a game and we are not all incredibly wealthy fae-touched!
If you can, wearing supportive undergarments that fit with the period of the dress does help to make it all sit correctly on your body. If you are hiring costume, ask the supplier for advice and try on costumes with the underwear you plan to wear on the night – period necklines can be problematic for modern bras. There's a great post about underwear here: https://adamselindisdress.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/looking-the-part-1-undergarments/
There are colours naturally associated with different branches of the Great Families, for example, poppy red is associated with the Rhoeas-Papaver family and golden yellow with the Californica-Papavers. However, just because you are a member of a Great Family, it doesn’t mean you always have to wear that colour, quite the contrary. Sometimes a particular colour is just the most popular – the Nether has its fashion fads too – and sometimes a particular colour is very out of fashion.
One thing to note: the fleur-de-lis motif is only worn by the Iris-Reticulata family and as they are one of the most powerful families at the time of the ball, it would be wise to avoid that unless you are in that family!
If you are in a family and wearing the colour of the family flower, that can be interpreted as: a firm statement of loyalty / lack of individuality / lack of confidence in one’s own colour choices / nothing of any note whatsoever, depending on who you are asking. The long and the short of it is: just because you have a particular colour dress / fabric to make something out of, don’t feel it restricts which family your character could be part of. Any person can wear any colour at a ball of this size.
The mask is going to be the focal point, and if you can tie it into the rest of the costume – perhaps with similar colours or a common motif, that’s brilliant. A fan is also a useful accessory – not only can it keep you cool but also be used for flirtation and disguising hushed conversations. Gloves and sparkly jewels are always good.
A masked ball is also an opportunity to go for something a little more fantastical, if the mood takes you. Again, keep it within the time periods mentioned – a 1970’s glam rock pastiche theme wouldn’t feel right! But if you want to go for an 18th century ice queen or 19th century goddess of fire or whatever, that’s cool!
The key decision to start with is whether you are happy to show off your legs or not! The earlier periods I’ve outlined involve breeches and stockings which can look fabulous. Or you can go later and wear trousers.
It’s much easier in terms of male fashion because the modern day white tie ensemble isn’t all that different from late Victorian formal white tie. The collar of the shirt is something to pay attention to, and the cravat, but a wedding formal hire shop might get you very close to what you want.
Whilst you might have seen it in various period dramas, wearing a military uniform would not be appropriate at a Nether ball (sorry!) no matter how gorgeous it might look. Wars are seen as a thing of Mundanus, and to wear the trappings of them to a ball in the Nether would be seen as inappropriate and crass. Which is a shame, because it looks splendid, but there you go.
By no means an exhaustive list, but if you're looking for something visual to help get the ideas flowing, here are a few to check out:
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dorian Gray (I think Ben Barnes in this looks exactly how I imagine Will from the books!)
Phantom of the Opera
Amazing Grace – good for the gender politics, atrocious attitudes to slavery and costumes
Brotherhood of the Wolf
The Scarlet Pimpernel (any of them, really)
Sharpe (Waterloo era, not the later stuff)
Penny Dreadful (a few ball scenes especially in season 2 are perfect)
Any Jane Austen adaption ever. Obviously.