Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Creating a "realistic" costume... and implications for the means to create in your world

The other day I checked out a post by my new friend Anders Hudson, here, where he discusses how to make your own realistic Battlestar Galactica flight suit. In fact, it's a fascinating post. I confess I am not ever going to be interested in making my own Battlestar Galactica flight suit, but it certainly got me thinking!

Here was my thought sequence.
  • I got to thinking about the resources available for making costumes, and how the people who work for TV shows access them, and afford them...
  • Then I considered how TV watchers with enough time and inspiration might accesss them, and afford them (which is somewhat different from the first group).
  • I realized Anders' post really shows that you can do something very convincing, with materials that are pretty widely available, even if they aren't all very easy to work with.
  • And you can do this on a budget.
  • And this is very, very relevant to questions of worldbuilding.
People in your world are going to have belongings - clothes, tools, luxuries, necessities. And they will have to acquire them...and that means either they or someone else will have to make them. So it would be good to ask some or all of the following questions:
  1. What is the process of creation like in your world?
  2. Are there a lot of raw materials like paper, fabric, foam, or metal, etc. easily available?
  3. Where would a character find the materials necessary to create something? At a sewing shop? An industrial shop? A general store? A specialty boutique? At the mine/factory?
  4. How expensive are these materials, and where do people earn the money to buy them?
  5. How much time and training does it take to create the objects that a reader would see on the page? Is this time and training a net financial loss for the creator? Or a means to better his/her financial situation? How much respect does the creator gain by being able to complete all this?
  6. Of all the steps necessary to make a complex and valuable (useful) object, which are easy and which are hard? Which steps would form bottlenecks or create delays in the process?
  7. How easy or difficult would it be for people of different financial means and social status to obtain similar objects? Is there more than one way to acquire the same thing? Are there any legal restrictions on materials or on finished products?

Thanks to Anders for the inspiration. I hope you find these questions useful in your worldbuilding process.


  1. My son was going to make the suit from Dead Space game using cardboard boxes, a dive suit, and some LED lights. LOL. This is a great post and something to think about.

  2. Your son has a good plan! :) Thanks for the comment.

  3. Very good points as usual, but sometimes this can go against you. The big example off hand is Pern. Pern "present day" is very similar to Earth Middle Ages because of the lack of metal deposits on the planet, however, people saw the culture and reclassified it as fantasy despite the fact that the dragons are genetic constructs.

    Therefore, when you're coming up with the limitations in your society, make sure you make the timeline/genre clear in other ways.

  4. Margaret - "against" you, I suppose so... I came to Pern thinking it was fantasy, but then it never bothered me when I realized it was science fiction. And it certainly didn't stop Anne McCaffrey from achieving a lot of success. On the other hand, I do agree that one should try to establish an accurate genre orientation early on. (Borderlines are fuzzy, though.)

  5. LOL! Yeah, I can see that from the reader perspective. I meant from the classification perspective, but then most of the science fiction I enjoyed as a kid has been reclassified either fantasy or YA. The YA I don't mind, but the illogic of cultural anthropology being fantasy whenever it involves humans is a hot button, I guess.