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Costume Weaponry Perils

Updated on October 15, 2014
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Hi, I am Adele, and I have run a large fancy dress shop in Essex, England since 1998. Happy to pass on my knowledge to help others.

Weaponry can be an essential part of many costumes – how can you be Robin Hood without a bow, and how can any self-respecting pirate swash his/her buckle without a cutlass? And yet we live in times where, touting a weapon, albeit a replica or toy, at the wrong time or place can cause major problems.

With run-of-the-mill costuming (if such a thing exists), the main problem is usually with ‘firearms’ – guns for cowboys and tommy guns for gangsters, for instance. From a distance any gun-shaped object seen in public can arouse suspicion or panic, and an initial solution involved colouring the front of the gun to show it wasn’t real. This wasn’t over-satisfactory, and the newer idea is to make these toy/replica costume accessory guns an unusual colour – pink or blue usually, which can rather undermine the menace or ‘gravity’ of your character.

In the wider field, swords may also prove a problem – not so much the typical musketeer or cavalier sword, which, being plastic, and designed to break fairly easily for safety reasons, may undermine its own credibility by failing to stay straight (Zorro with a bent rapier doesn’t come over as the most fearsome of heroes). The bigger problem is the broadswords, such as a knight or Scottish Braveheart warrior might use. Most of them are also plastic but being a little larger, are less easily concealed and kept safe from misinterpretation in public. And don’t even start with the metal replica swords ‘as seen in Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones’: Even if the pointy end and blade isn’t that sharp, they pose potential as an offensive weapon in a public place.

So, getting back to the main point, for serious costume cosplayers, depicting a particular character may involve a weapon, not just as an accessory, but as an essential part of the total look. Sometimes that weapon can look both spectacular and several shades of offensive. The trick is to get to your party/convention venue without causing yourself, the general public and the police (or similar) problems. Now you might think that seeing someone in costume (except possibly ‘Bank Robber’) might suggest that the weapon is not real, but don’t take chances: If you are using public transport, wrap the offending item up – totally (nothing worse than an ill-concealed muzzle to cause suspicion) and to be quite sure, disguise the shape to avoid a game of ‘Can You Tell What It Is? with awkward consequences.

Even if you are in a private car, if you are in costume, you will attract rubber-neckers and in these days of social media, anything out of the ordinary caught on camera-phone may attract more attention than you want (and you’ve still got to get from wherever you park the car to the venue).

If, for any reason, you do get intercepted by an officer of the Law or State with or without a weapon (that’s you, not them), it is best to be straight with them and break character to explain the situation. They are doing a job and protecting the public so co-operation is always a smart move. As someone once said “Be careful out there, and stay safe” To which we add – ‘and sensible’.


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