People who love costumes say it’s fun to play dress-up at any age. DANIEL TRAN and SANDRA BULL report.
ALEX Kharnam ﬁnds it hard to explain why he likes dressing up.
"There have been some weekends where six costume changes have been involved and it's sort of like: 'This makes no sense, it is utter madness but I'm having an absolutely wonderful time doing it'."
Kharnam, 42, is a member of Swordcraft, a live-action role-playing group where players dress up in medieval garb and ﬁght with realistic-looking foam weapons.
The Melbourne group meets weekly and
hundreds line up to do battle, dressed as knights, elves, wizards, pirates and orcs.
He's just one of a growing group of costume aﬁcionados who are suiting up to explore their creative side, feel part of a 'team' or just to have fun.
"It's not like I change characters and go into a personality anymore," Kharnam says.
"It's still very deﬁnitely me. There's an element of showing off about it and ﬁtting in and identifying with a group in the same way players will put on a sports uniform and suddenly feel like family."
Kharnam says pelting opponents with swords has a complex learning curve.
Most would-be knights start off-balance and easily fatigued. "Essentially you're meat to
people who are better at it."
Swordcraft participants don armour and
costumes to add authenticity. There's another beneﬁt — armoured players can take more hits before falling in battle.
An armourer by trade, Kharnam supplies outﬁts throughout the re-enactment world.
Costumes vary in difﬁculty and are usually
inexpensive to make.
He encourages people to start small and take their time in working their way up to more
complicated pieces of clothing.
"If you're doing it as a hobby and a sideline and you don't mind taking three months to do it in dribs and drabs, it's great."
Costume buff Phil Haby, 39, doesn't make his own costumes, but he'll never run short of
The singer/actor's love of dressing up inspired him to open a costume shop with partner Kate Blenheim.
Last week, Haby portrayed the King of Siam in a production of The King and I.
He has always enjoyed dressing up, whether it's for a party or a stage production.
He equally enjoys helping his customers walk out with a great look.
"Everyone likes a little 15 minutes of fame or attention and there's nothing better than going to a party and getting compliments," he says.
"I have a customer service/retail background and you can have a bit more fun helping someone put a costume together than selling a TV.
"Some people come in with ideas while others come in two hours before a party and say, 'This is the theme, what can I wear?'."
And there's no better inspiration than the man himself.
It's become a halloween tradition for Haby to dress up to serve customers — last year he
donned ﬂaky fake skin and spooky contact lenses to be a dead-ringer for a zombie.
While Katherine Daniel, 16, also enjoys putting on costumes, they're restricted to a speciﬁc genre.
She is an avid fan of cosplay, which involves dressing up as characters from Japanese anime, comics and video games.
Cosplayers gather at conventions and events to compare costumes and share the love of their favourite characters.
Daniel has been cosplaying since some of her school friends introduced her to it about a year ago.
It's hard to ﬁnd cosplay outﬁts for sale, so most are handmade and cobbled together.
Daniel's ﬁrst, of Ino Yamanaka of the cartoon Naruto, was hand-sewn, and she's never spent more than $100 on a single costume.
She enjoys the solidarity of dressing up for events.
"You get to spend a day dressed up as a
character from something you like and because my friends are into it as well, we all go together so I get to spend a day with them.
"Everyone there, when you go to conventions, [are] friends for the day."