City of Heroes
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Designing Your Costumes: Some Tips

Oddly, the costume is what I spend the most time on when I am designing a new character...but I suppose I’m not alone in that. Like it or not, our costumes in City of Heroes reflect greatly on our heroes, and even are great conversation starters. That’s probably the reason why I spend a lot of time on the original costume, or fiddling around with a new costume slot before I walk out of the tailor--I want to make sure the new look fits the character’s persona and also looks cool.

Costume design can be both empowering and infuriating because of its many details. Here is a list of tips that can help you design your costumes more quickly and effectively:

  1. Sketch out a design before you create your character
  2. Write down ideas of what kind of costume you want for this character
  3. Design something fitting the character’s Origin and/or power pools
  4. Think about the character’s backstory and personality and pick costume pieces that fit

I find that sketching out a possible costume design, or writing down what might look great with a particular character, can help me a lot before I go about creating the original costume, or before I visit the tailor to edit a costume. Knowing what look you’re going for (or having a vague idea, even) can reduce the time it takes to create or edit the costume, and can alleviate the overwhelming sense of “TOO MANY CHOICES!” Example: “I know I want this character to have a Magic Bolero, and maybe a set of wrist bracers, and tucked-in pants.”

If you’re having a hard time coming up with a costume idea, you can think about your character’s origin and chosen power pools as a starting point. Is this character Natural, Science, Magic, Technology, or Mutation? That might give you a clue as to what designs and styles might be appropriate to showcase that origin.

For instance, for a Technology-Origin character, you might want to choose a pattern for the shirt/pants/skirt/boots that looks like circuitry, or matches the power set, like I did with my Tech Blaster, Victoira (seen at right). Her powers are mostly electric blue (fitting, since she's Electrical Blast/Electrical Manipulation), and so I used blue as the main color for her vest and boots, as well as using circuitry patterns on the pants.

If just thinking about your character's origin doesn’t help, think about the power sets you chose-—a Fiery Melee character might look great in a reddish-orange costume with white stylized flames up the sides of the pants or skirt, for instance.

Also, think about your character’s backstory and personality for more clues. Is this person quiet or stealthy, or does he/she have a history of needing to hide? Dark or muted colors could be a great match; more fitted costume pieces might also be in order. (Example: my stealthy Scrapper Catarinya, at left.) Is this person not afraid to flaunt power, be flashy, or act like a real “super” hero? Is he/she a lone warrior against evil? Brighter colors in more dramatic and flowing fabric styles can showcase this. (Example: my earth-mother Controller Milara, at right.)

Do keep in mind: you don’t always get costumes right the first time. That’s why the Tailor exists! For instance, when I was first designing a second costume for my Tank, Austara, I went with a brightly-colored vest-and-leather-pants combo (seen at left), with high-heeled boots to match.

Compared to Austara's first costume (at right), this had a VERY different attitude! Where my first costume for Aus had been all soft light blue color, graceful skirt, and slender, barely-there heels, my original second costume was in-your-face: two bold colors, almost all leather, and full boots. It was a departure from my usual style, but I wanted to try something new.

I tried the new costume out in a few battles, but somehow, it just didn’t work with Austara. Austara is a strong fighter and kicks a bunch of butt, being a Willpower Tank, but there’s still got to be an element of grace and femininity in her costume somewhere. (When I created her character, I chose Dual Blades as her attack power pool because I wanted graceful moves that still did effective damage.) The vest-and-pants combo did look cool, but it said “badass chick” more than it did “graceful and deadly.” (I ended up changing the costume into a light-pink version of her original costume, except that the “dress” was sleeveless--see it at right.)

However, when I created my Blaster, Victoira, I tried the vest-pants-boots combo, albeit in a different color scheme for her costume (seen at left), and it has worked beautifully. Why? Simply because Victoira is a different style of character—-the “badass chick” image works for her because of her rougher-edged personality and troubled backstory.

Another example of Costume Fail: I really, really tried to think out how I wanted my Magic Defender, Lyssadia, to look. Originally, I had designed and sketched out a rough idea for her first costume, the white/silver-gray look at left, to match her personality as I had it in mind at first--very ice-queen, aloof and untouchable, quiet and cold.

But as the character idea for Lyssadia developed (especially during gameplay), I realized I didn't really want that coldness for her character anymore; she was functioning more like a guardian angel for her teammates than anything! And so, for her second costume (seen at right), I went for a classic-yet-new take on the "guardian angel" archetype. I am much happier with how it turned out!