This article originally appeared in Connotations 15.3 and Cactus Needles 12.1

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Carry On at Conventions

by Randall Whitlock

One of the nagging little details about wearing hall costumes at cons is the question of, "Where do I put my stuff?"

No matter what character you portray, you'll still need to carry a few mundane necessities around the con - room key, driver's license, essential medicines, etc. It's also nice to have room for a digital camera, cell phone, sunglasses, pen, and note pad. Your con badge takes care of itself with a clip, but these other things need room. Many historical looks and media characters do not include their own cargo space.

Here are a few cheats I've used over the years:

Around the Neck. This works fine for small items like room and car keys. Just loop them through a cord and drop them down inside your shirt. Plastic ID Badge holders from work and school are now readily available, which allow drivers' licenses and credit cards to be stowed this way. This method does not work well for costumes with low necklines.

Belt Pouches are a natural accessory for military, medieval and renaissance looks, and are even included in pre-empire Jedi outfits. These work particularly well for phones, wallets, and small cameras. You can buy a pouch at a renfaire, make your own, or adapt an off-the-shelf camera case. If your costume includes a decorative belt, it may not be practical to attach your pouch. The weight of the pouch may cause the belt to droop on one side. Try hanging the pouch from a separate strap. If your pouch does not go with the costume, it might be slung behind your back, concealed by a coat, cape, or robe. One variation on this is a traveler's money belt, which can be hidden under a tunic.

Shoulder Bags, Handbags, and Backpacks offer the greatest capacity, but are particularly hard to match to a character costume. Some characters, like Indiana Jones, carry bags normally. A Man In Black might reasonably carry a briefcase, but his suit has pockets anyway. Try making your bag look like something else, say a tricorder.

Concealed Pockets are particularly useful, though they must be designed into a garment from the beginning. My Jedi robe has them, as do several of my capes. You can hide a pocket inside the side seam of pants or a skirt using snaps or Velcro to close the seam. Patch pockets can be blind-stitched to the inside of a vest or bodice. Pockets are easy to hide between the shell and lining of coats, robes, and capes.

Shoulder Harnesses, like those used to hold a plainclothes detective's holster, have their uses. These consist of a loop of cord or strapping that passes in front of the shoulders, under the arms, and behind the back and neck. A pouch or holster hangs from this harness under one arm, allowing it to be hidden inside a coat. My old digital camera was bulky and this arrangement worked quite well to hide it inside my robes and capes.

Inside the Boots. This trick will work if you are wearing boots with loose tops. With one of my old Starfleet uniforms, I could unfold my wallet, wrap it around my shin, and slide it down inside the boot. Some police officers use ankle holsters to conceal a backup weapon. An ankle harness might work for a small pouch if you wear long, loose pants.

Inside the Hat. This is has limited uses, but may be good for credit cards and other thin things. A customer once had me sew a business card pouch into his beret.

I'll leave out other, more painful possibilities, like duct-taping things to your skin.

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