Tips: Making Outfits

Outfitting in LOTRO is a fantastic side-game or hobby that has the added reward of making your character stand out with a unique and appealing look. You might want make an outfit for your character that looks lore-appropriate, epic, or head-turningly outlandish. But what makes a great outfit? How do you go about finding the pieces that go together to make a great outfit? There are no doubt as many different answers to those questions as there are LOTRO players who enjoy outfitting. This guide presents some tips and suggestions that aim to help the beginning outfitter start on the path to finding his or her own answers to those questions. Because outfitting is a creative, and thus subjective and personal, endeavour, I don’t mean to present these tips as being the only correct way to make an outfit. They are simply strategies that I have found work for me.

When setting out to make an outfit for your character there are several different approaches you can take and each produces a different style of outfit. I think of these different outfit styles as matched, accessorised, and eclectic. I have included examples from the archives of this blog to help illustrate the outfit types and various tips and suggestions; please click on the small gallery images to see a full-sized version.

Heading the matched outfit

This type of outfit is a full set of pre-matched armour. You might get a matched set by purchasing it from an armour vendor, crafting it, bartering for it at the cosmetics and classic vendors in skirmish camps, by spending currency gained by running skirmishes, instances or raids, or by participating in PvMP. The benefits of matched outfits are that they don’t require experimentation to put together, they look great and, of course, they’re perfectly matched. Also, the most prestigious matched sets, rewards from current end-game instances and raids as well as PvMP rewards, are great to wear with pride because they show off your in-game achievements and only a certain subset of players will have access to them until the next end-game instances are released. The downside of matched outfits is that, while you can customise them using dyes, they don’t allow for much creative expression or uniqueness. Most players who enjoy outfitting are probably looking for a more personalised result, but matched sets can be a great place to start or offer a good-looking outfit if you need something quickly.

Heading the accessorised outfit

This type of outfit is the middle ground between a matched outfit and an eclectic outfit. To make an outfit of this type, you start with some matching pieces from a particular set, say chest and legs. Then you “accessorise” them with pieces from a second matching set, say, shoulders, gloves, and boots. Finally, you use dyes to fine-tune the overall combination into a pleasing whole. You might even choose to use more than two sets — say, chest and leggings from one set, boots and gloves from a second, and helm and shoulders from a third. Or, you might begin with a matched outfit and swap in just one piece, especially chest or leggings, from a different set to produce a really nice result. I find that the accessorised outfit approach works best when the above-the-waist pieces are balanced with the below-the-waist pieces, avoiding a situation where it looks like your character is wearing one outfit on top and a different outfit on the bottom. Accessorised outfits have the advantage of offering customisation and uniqueness while ensuring that each piece will always work together with at least one other part of the outfit.

Heading the eclectic outfit

This type of outfit is truly customised: each (or nearly every) piece is from an unrelated set or source. Eclectic outfits are probably the type that are most satisfying for outfitters because they rely the most on the outfitter’s individual creativity and originality. When eclectic outfits work, they can really turn heads with their uniqueness. However, they take more work to put together than a matched outfit or an accessorised outfit — it takes time to experiment with a wide variety of pieces to ensure that everything works together visually (and thematically, if that is important to you). Sometimes you may run into setbacks when a piece that you really wanted to use just isn’t working with anything else or when readily-matching pieces aren’t thematically appropriate. But perseverance, experimentation, access to a wide variety of well-organised cosmetics (and often a really good memory!) are the key, and you know you’ve made a successful eclectic outfit when your friends and kinmates tell you not only that it looks great, but that “it looks like a matching set”.

With these three general approaches in mind, it’s time to log on to your outfit alt and start planning an outfit! Outfitting is relaxation time for me, so I like to have a glass of wine or cup of tea, put on some music, and get comfortable. Here are some tips to keep in mind while putting your outfit together.

Heading find a home base for outfitting

When planning outfits, I find it really useful to choose a place where I’ll have easy access to everything I need: Vault-keeper NPC, auction house, skirmish camp, and outfit mannequins. Ultimately, the auction house in Bree may be your best bet as it is close to the local skirmish camp, and there is now a Vault-keeper there as well. Mannequins are located nearby at the road into Staddle and Lalia’s Market is not too far away. If you prefer to make your home base a different hub (like the Twenty-first Hall, Galtrev, Snowbourn, or Forlaw), but you’d still like to check out Lalia’s Market from time to time, don’t forget that Lalia will sell you a “Return to Lalia’s Market” skill for 3 mithril coins.

Heading use the dressing room

The Dressing Room interface is of course where outfit planning is carried out. To try a piece on in the Dressing Room, Ctrl + left click it. You can then preview the piece in any dye colour you wish. You may find that using one of the larger-scale Dressing Room plugins that are available helps you to see how your outfit-in-progress is looking, as the standard Dressing Room is quite small and has somewhat poor lighting. Once you’re all set up, you can begin to work through your vaulted stash of cosmetics and other resources (like your crafting panel, the auction house, mannequins, vendors, Lalia’s Market, the LOTRO Store and so on), trying various items on in the Dressing Room to find complementary pieces.

Heading consider a theme

One great place to start is by creating an outfit with a specific theme, for example a riding outfit, a cold-weather outfit, a traveller’s outfit, a regular-clothes outfit, an outfit in a certain colour scheme, or an outfit that shows your character’s culture or role. Your theme may guide you towards certain cosmetics, for example Lossoth, Yule-fest, or Wildermore pieces for a cold weather outfit; or towards certain colours, for example black for a Gondorian outfit or colours to match a steed for a riding outfit. Of course, not every outfit needs a theme — sometimes the goal is just a great-looking getup!

Heading start with a foundation piece

You might have a favourite piece, a piece that supports the theme you have in mind, or a new piece that you’re eager to try out in an outfit. Building your outfit on a foundation piece that you know you want to feature in your outfit is a good strategy because it saves you from coming up with a great outfit and then having to shoehorn the piece in whether it works or not (I have certainly been guilty of this and always disappointed by the result). Start by trying your foundation piece on in the Dressing Room, and then building the outfit around it by working through your cosmetic resources to find complementary pieces.

Heading consider body shape

As discussed in my previous guide about managing your wardrobe, it is a good idea to make your outfit alt the same race, gender, and body shape as the character that is going to wear the new outfit. This is because different cosmetic slots are either empahasised or de-emphasised on characters of different races and genders and these distortions can really change an outfit’s final effect.

  • Men emphasise the foot slot (update: this has been fixed and Men’s feet are now more proportionate)
  • Women de-emphasise the chest slot
  • Dwarves emphasise the chest, shoulder, and hand slots and de-emphasise the leg slot
  • Male Hobbits emphasise the head, chest and foot slots and de-emphasise the leg slot
  • Female Hobbits emphasize the leg and foot slots and de-emphasise the chest and shoulder slots
  • Female Elves de-emphasise the chest slot
  • Male Elves emphasise all slots equally (but their feet are a little small!)
  • Beornings of either gender are slightly larger and bulkier than Men and Woman

Heading use dyes strategically

Most cosmetic or equipment pieces have dyeable sections that change colour when you apply a dye to the piece. Each dyeable section also has its own base colour. To see an item’s base colour(s), try it on in the Dressing Room and then choose “washed” from the colour drop-down. Dyes in LOTRO are transparent tints (like watercolour paint) so they interact with, rather than replace, the target piece’s base colour. Dye-wash, which can be purchased from Supplier NPCs, removes all dye from a piece, restoring it to its base colour. Applying dye-wash to a piece sometimes has the same effect as dyeing it white, but not always — you can check both results in the Dressing Room. Some pieces have a very white base colour resulting in a bright, almost pastel application of dye. Others (mostly newer pieces) have a muddier, greyish base colour, while others have a very dark base colour that makes them look similar no matter what dye is applied to them, and yet others have a coloured base. All this can make two different pieces dyed the same colour look quite different. You can use these differences in base colour to your advantage; don’t feel that to match pieces you need to use the same dye! You can often achieve matches between pieces with very different base colours by using different dyes from the same “dye families”. For example, you might achieve a good match by using red dye on one piece and crimson on another. I would group the dyes into “families”, with some overlap, as follows:

  • Red, crimson, burgundy
  • Navy, violet
  • Navy, steel blue
  • Violet, indigo
  • Navy, Evendim blue, Ered Luin blue
  • Violet, indigo, rose
  • Violet, indigo, purple
  • Black, grey, white
  • Black, grey, walnut brown
  • Turquoise, sea blue
  • Umber, walnut brown, black, grey
  • Umber, sienna, rust
  • Sienna, rust, orange
  • Gold, Ranger green
  • Gold, olive
  • Ranger green, yellow
  • Dark green, olive, forest green, Rivendell green

Heading use undyeable sections to your advantage

The undyeable sections of cosmetic and equipment pieces are at least as important to putting together a great outfit as are the dyeable sections. I have often read suggestions on the LOTRO forums requesting cosmetic pieces that dye uniformly, with no undyeable sections or embellishments. While I understand the desire for this, and certainly agree that a few basic pieces like this would be very useful to outfitting, I love pieces with undyeable sections! In fact, I think they are what makes outfitting a fun and interesting pastime. They force you to be creative and come up with surprising combinations.

When planning an outfit, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to try to match dyeable sections to dyeable sections and undyeable sections to undyeable sections. Mix and match freely! The undyeable sections often feature interesting, uncommon colours that you may be able to match with creative application of dye. You may find undyeable sections that cannot be matched with any available dyes have good matches in the undyeable sections of completely unrelated pieces. Other undyeable features to look for include embellishments and trim. Many pieces have metallic piping or accents in various shades of gold and silver. Incorporating unrelated pieces with similar decorations can produce very nice results. Similarly, pieces with trim or embellishments that do not match well can look odd, so keep an eye out for this issue.

Heading ensure your pieces refer to one another

If there is an accent colour on of the pieces in your outfit, I have often found it a good strategy to make sure that that colour is repeated somewhere else in the outfit, even if it is only on a very small area. This helps the two pieces “refer” to one another, tying them together. Look for other pieces you can use to incorporate that colour; you can use dyeable and undyeable sections to achieve this.

Beyond colour, unrelated pieces included in an outfit can refer to each other via texture, shape, or pattern. For example, some pieces have a furry texture, or a chain-mail texture, some are metallic or leather, and so on. Some have patterns of circles, squares, scales, intricate lines, stitching, or other shapes that can tie two unrelated pieces together, and others can do the same via shape: spiky, bulky, sleek, rounded, swirling, or leaf-shaped. All these things can help pieces refer to one another, making them look as though they belong together.

Heading know when to omit a piece

When I present outfits on this blog, I usually try to have a piece in every equipment slot unless the look really demands otherwise. I do this so that if readers want to reproduce the outfit to wear on one of their characters, they have a go-to piece for each slot and don’t have to spend time searching for a piece that fits. However, in outfits for personal use, I often omit shoulders, hats or helms, cloaks or backpacks, gloves, and so on if I feel doing so will produce the best outfit possible. You may want to omit a cloak if your outfit uses a chest piece or leggings with an attractive reverse side that you want to be able to admire while you’re playing your character (many chest pieces have very attractive shoulder designs as well, so you may want to omit shoulders). There’s also the old standby of omitting shoes and boots in an outfit for a hobbit. Or sometimes you’ve got a great outfit but simply can’t find a perfect fit for one equipment slot — just omit that piece rather than trying to shoehorn something in that might not serve the outfit well.

Heading use shields and weapons

Unfortunately, we don’t currently have the ability to cosmetically equip weapons or shields, but if you are creating an outfit to be shared on a blog, website, or on the LOTRO forums, or for use in a roleplaying event, you can take the appearance of weapons and shields into consideration. Shields in particular can add a very nice touch to an outfit if they are well-matched, and sometimes the right weapon really helps sell your theme.

Things to avoid

Don’t feel beholden to the styling of a particular piece. For example, many pieces are designed with a clearly “Elvish” or “Dwarvish” styling. Don’t feel like you can only use these in an outfit specifically designed for an elf or dwarf character. By blending these pieces with others, you can often eliminate their obvious racial styling. Similarly, don’t feel restricted by the armour type of any given piece; light, medium, and heavy armour pieces often look excellent when blended together.

I find that it’s usually better to plan an outfit by looking for pieces — any pieces — that work together rather than deliberately inserting a piece because of its shape, design, or styling. If you’ve got a particular piece that you want to use in the outfit because of any of these features, build the outfit around that piece. For example, if you know you want a masked or hooded outfit, begin with the mask or hood as your foundation and find pieces that naturally complement it. That way you can ensure that the piece you wanted to use will serve the rest of the outfit and vice versa.

Making outfits

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips and that they have given you some fresh ideas to spark your creativity. I think it’s worth repeating that outfitting is personal and subjective; there is no right or wrong way to make an outfit. The tips I’ve shared in this guide are simply strategies that I have found work for me. The most important thing is to have fun and come up with something that you enjoy displaying on your character. Happy outfitting!

6 Responses to Tips: Making Outfits

  1. cennwyn says:

    Great guide; thank you for putting this together!

    From my own experience, I know that sometimes the outfit I set out to create is very far from what I end up with. I have these wonderful pants–some Ent out in the Brown Lands gave them to me–and I wanted to build an outfit around them. But their color was just…off. No matter how many dyes I tried, no matter how many pieces I tried to match it with, those pants just wouldn’t GO with anything. But in the process I discovered a very nice pair of boots, and eventually I ditched the pants and the whole outfit just fell together nicely around those boots.

    Art from adversity!

  2. Nathrien says:

    Fantastic guide! Now that I’m easing myself back into LOTRO, I’ll be using this to refamiliarize myself with the more subtle points of outfit building 🙂

  3. artphilia says:

    Another great guide. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. 🙂

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