THEME AND COSTUME GUIDELINES
Wasteland Weekend was envisioned as an annual temporary outpost erected by the survivors of a post-apocalyptic world. A combination of wasteland frontier town and festival where the few remaining tribes of humanity gather from across the far flung wastes to do a little trading and celebrate holding on to another year of life in the harsh, unforgiving landscape.
What makes Wasteland Weekend unique is that we are a FULL IMMERSION festival deep in the heart of the Mojave. Our goal is to make you feel as if you are entering another world for a few days, leaving the trappings of so-called civilization behind and embracing a post-apocalyptic fantasy. The event requires everyone to be in costume for one simple reason; we don’t want spectators at our event we want participants. The costume requirement and the guidelines you are currently reading are the way we guarantee that everyone contributes something to the event (and more importantly, doesn’t distract from it). This is why we have particular zones that are 100% theme-required, (like Wasteland City) so that when our participants step through those gates they have an unbroken, 360 degree view of the post-apocalyptic world they’ve helped create.
To accomplish this difficult illusion, we need your help. We ask you to adhere to our theme guidelines while at the event. Our goal is not to stifle creativity, but merely to guide it in a general direction. We do not demand 100% accuracy to any particular film or other media, nor are the rules intended for you to spend excessive amounts of time and money on a costume. Freecyling and upcyling are terms often applied to many of the creations that make it to the event; some were even created costing the participant nothing more than the time and the energy used to scavenge and assemble their projects.
Camps and vehicles are NOT required to be themed unless they have specifically signed up to represent inside one of the above mentioned themed zones. So please, help us dispel the persistent rumor that you must show up to this event in a fully themed Mad Max car. YES, you CAN come in a Prius and have a shiny blue tent! What you CAN’T do is place them inside a themed zone. To beat the dead horse a bit here, the only thing that is required to be themed in order to attend Wasteland Weekend is YOU. We encourage everyone to theme their campsites and vehicles at their own pace.
So what are these Theme Zones we keep mentioning? They are simply sections of the event that have been marked as requiring 100% compliance to the theme; campsite (to include coolers, tents and seating), vehicles, and of course, costumes. Being placed into one of the themed camping areas is a competitive process so make sure you’re ready for the challenge and create some quality products to beat out the other applicants when it comes time to move on to the next level.
SO WHAT IS THE THEME?
Well, it’s post-apocalyptic, but it’s more than just that. We’ve always been heavily influenced by the Mad Max films and the Hollywood version of the post-apocalypse, and we wanted to create the illusion where we’re all in the SAME wasteland world. It’s an inclusive world that has a lot of diversity, but not so random that it just becomes a cosplay festival/costume party.
This is why, for example, we ask that you not wear any heavily sci-fi-influenced post-apocalyptic costumes, because it instantly breaks the illusion. (We know a robot suit isn’t “real” when we see it, even a good one).
The primary influence at Wasteland is and always has been the Mad Max movies. Most of the costumes featured in the last three films (Road Warrior, Thunderdome, and Fury Road) would fit in fine at our event. (Not much of the first film from 1979 was actually post-apocalyptic, so only the MFP police uniforms, some of Toe Cutter’s gang and some of the vehicles would really fit our theme. And even the MFP uniforms should ideally be dirtied up or distressed to fit in our world). The Mad Max films present a GROUNDED but simultaneously outlandish vision of the end of the world. We see mohawks, studded leather, sports equipment and supercharged gas-guzzling custom cars, but we don’t see cyborgs, aliens, magic, or high levels of technological advancement. And while the Mad Max films have formed the core of our theme since year one we have always made room for other parts of the genre, so long as they don’t stray away from the more reality-based vision presented by that Mad Max films.
Now time for some examples of that “futuristic” technology to stay away from. Keep in mind that “futuristic”, includes technology that we have today but that is not generally available or just plain doesn’t fit the vision. So, while exoskeletons and cybernetic enhancements are out there in the world right now, they’re not something the average citizen has access to and they would not look correct at our event.
(It should go without saying that medically necessary prosthetics will never be disallowed and are exempt from the theming requirements). “What about Furiosa’s mechanical arm”, you say? Look at it. It’s actually pretty low tech. It’s a cobbled together prosthetic made from wrenches and gears, not a cyborg arm.
Also, and we hope we’re not destroying any fantasies here, but zombies and mutants are not real. Therefore, zombie and mutant costumes are not welcome at the event. However, radiation burns and radiation sickness ARE real, so you certainly could lean toward that type of look if you’re so inclined (but be sure to consider the harsh climate of the Mojave before you start putting on prosthetic makeup…)
The Fallout franchise of video games is very popular and leads to a lot of the theme questions we get. Is Fallout cosplay allowed? The answer is, “it depends”. Fallout is a game that has many aspects that DO fit our theme and some that don’t. So no, just because we allow one aspect of Fallout does not mean we need to allow all of it. The theme comes first (we’re all in the same movie world, remember?). Some specific examples: Vault suits are allowed but we want that traveled-the-Wasteland-dodging-Deathclaws-look as opposed to living-safe-and-secure-in-your-Vault. Raiders are encouraged, while folks like the Brotherhood of Steel and Institute really aren’t appropriate; (sure a few of their costumes fit but probably best to leave those ones at home). Both the NCR and Legion are present at the event already and contribute to the overall theme, but the Tribes focusing on these themes avoid the costume styles that don’t mesh. Pip Boy wrist computers aren’t perfectly in-theme for our event due to being more “advanced technology” but we have been making an exception for them since 2010 and we will continue to do so (and after all, they are pretty small)
Borderlands is another intellectual property that has shown up at Wasteland in the past. A few of the outfits from Borderland just barely fit inside the theme but the majority do not. The cel-shading effect in the game that is often mimicked via makeup, while cool-looking, doesn’t really make sense at Wasteland and definitely should be saved for other events. The franchise is a great fun and many of the Staff enjoy it but it doesn’t belong at Wasteland Weekend. It is too future-tech-focused in conjunction with the overall cartoon feel. Because we had an existing Borderlands group that came out to the event, and because a detailed theme clarification came about late in 2016, Borderlands costumes were grandfathered in for Wasteland 2016. However, since then, we have asked Boderlands costumes to be left out of our event.
(As a side note, the Borderlands tactical vehicle, known as the “Land Shark”, does still come out to the event with our encouragement because it looks like a suitably post-apocalyptic ride).
Nearly any franchise that would be recognizable as something outside of the post-apocalyptic genre needs to be avoided. Star Wars, Batman, Disney, etc. etc. Yes, we know that you can create a “wasteland version” of these and many other characters, but they will still break the theme and look out of place. This is not a costume or a comic convention, after all. A list of no-go costumes includes but is in by no means limited to Mandalorians, Batman, Stormtroopers, Harley Quinn, nearly all anime, and, though arguably PA in nature, any character from Adventure Time. (Again, Wasteland Weekend is all post-apoc, but not all post-apoc is Wasteland).
In previous years, there was a tribe at Wasteland with a “clone” theme. The concept of clones is somewhat futuristic, but it is not post-apocalyptic, especially in the broad theme we have outlined for Wasteland Weekend. Therefore, clones and clone-related concepts are not appropriate for the event.
Additionally, cute animal ears and animal-themed hoods are better suited to anime conventions or Burning Man and are usually best avoided (though we do not have a strict prohibition against them at this time).
BREAKING THE THEME
We get a lot of people who come up with long convoluted reasons why their chosen outfit should fit the event. Explanations like “well, blue jeans and t-shirts are common and will survive the apocalypse, why can’t I just wear jeans and a shirt?” or “my outfit is based around a *insert comic book character here* theme because my character found a blown up Halloween store after the bombs and scavenged this ”. Before you start working on your costume ask yourself if you’ll look as if you’re in the same made-up movie universe as these other Wastelanders; many of whom have worked very hard to improve the group illusion and contribute to the overall theme. Do you pass as existing on the same movie set or will you stick out? Can a logical connection be seen between your theme and everyone else around you (without you having to explain it verbally)? Can you walk through the background of a movie like Road Warrior or Book of Eli and not distract the audience by looking out of place?
Honestly, we don’t feel guilty imposing some theme restrictions on this event. Why? Because our theme could not be easier to adhere to. You could walk around in a pair of torn-up black cargo pants and a dirty brown tank top and be just fine. It doesn’t take a lot of time, money, or effort to be in theme. In fact, it often takes more effort to BREAK the theme.
A Golden Rule of sorts to keep in mind: If your costume only fits the event theme after you give someone a verbal explanation as to why, then you’re probably doing it wrong.
As far as holding back creativity, all you have to do is look back at all the years of amazing and varied costumes that have been worn at Wasteland (especially some of our costume contest winners) and you’ll see that this is one of the most creative and dynamic costume events out there. But at the end of the day, if you want a 100% free creative environment for expression via costuming, then maybe this is not the event for you.
Keep the three D’s in mind when it comes to colors (and costumes in general); Dirty, Distressed, and Decayed. Take a look at Wastelander Central and you’ll see something along the lines of “Looks great, but needs more dirt” as the number one reply to the majority of costumes shared. It’s been years, maybe decades, since civilization has fallen, and those colors of yours will have seen their share of the elements and should reflect that; mute those bright colors, tone down anything that might be seen as “too new”, and toss a bit of dirt and filth on it after for good measure.
We want to be clear that no specific color or material is banned at the event, but with that in mind we ask you to understand there is a large swathe of the palette that should be used sparingly, if at all, unless you are going for a very specific look – and remember that your look needs to fit into the overall theme. Complement and help build our vision, please, don’t shoehorn in change.
Please avoid t-shirts with clearly visible logos or slogans on them. Yes, there would be plenty of shirts after the bomb that say “Nike” or whatever (probably TOO many) but you’re never going to see something like that in a movie like Mad Max, because it just really breaks the post-apocalyptic movie atmosphere. And yes, that includes Wasteland Weekend-branded shirts! We sell them at the event, but that doesn’t mean we want you to wear them at the event. (That would be like Denzel Washington walking around in the movie “Book of Eli” wearing a t-shirt that says “Book of Eli”). Note: This only applies to t-shirts. And only those shirts with something prominent printed on them. We’re not asking you to remove every logo from every article of clothing.
This is a minor point, but worth mentioning because it has ruined many a photo. Umbrellas/parasols are great for keeping the sun off of you at Wasteland, but if you bring one, please make sure it isn’t bright and colorful. It doesn’t have to be black, but stay away from common blue and white or red and white striped umbrellas (and the like). They stick out like a sore thumb from a mile away, especially in our highlight videos and group photos…
For the safety of our attendees, unless you are on duty for us in an official capacity, please do not wear any insignia that might cause confusion between you and a “real” member of our medical or security teams. For example, do NOT wear a prominent red cross (especially on an armband), or something with the word “security”, “medic”, or “staff”. Because while something like a “wasteland medic” might sound like a cool costume, the last thing we want is for an attendee to turn to the wrong person in an emergency. If you are in doubt as to whether or not your costume would violate this rule, please contact us.
STILL NOT SURE?
We have two resources available to you; first and foremost are our the costume tips on our website:
(Some of the information you’ll find on the link above is a bit out of date and may seem contradictory to what you’ve read here. If that happens, don’t sweat it, these new guidelines you’re currently reading take precedent, so go with what is said on this page).
Second, we have several Wasteland “Theme Ambassadors”. These are simply veteran Wasteland attendees who are active on our Facebook groups and are available to answer your questions about theme and to give general costume tips.
If you’re on our social media, such as our official Facebook group Wastelander Central, and you have a them question, feel free to ask for a theme ambassador in a post and one will likely be tagged to help you.
In closing, we do not want to scare people away before the event and the last thing we want is to turn people away AT the event. However, in the rare case that someone insists on noncompliance with our theme, even after positive suggestions and helpful hints, we do reserve the right to expel them from the event without a refund. At the end of the day, we’re a private party, and there IS a dress code.
Now that you’ve read up on the theme, enjoy this inspirational gallery of some of the best Wasteland creations over the years. And remember, if you’re on a budget, or this is your first time, don’t worry. We do not expect you to win the costume contest, we just ask that you try to blend in. Once you’re out at the event, you’ll find tons of inspiration for what you’ll want to do for your costume NEXT year. At Wasteland, each year is always more epic than the last.
(We have thousands of amazing costume pics out there, and these were selected at random and in haste, so please don’t cry if your work is not included).
Before we show you the great stuff, here’s a type of easy, inexpensive outfit that totally fits the theme of our event. You won’t win the costume contest, but you won’t look out of place either. We would actually prefer an outfit like this to a very complicated and expensive outfit that DOESN’T fit our theme. So consider this a version of the minimum. We call it “Wasteland basic”:
And now, outfits that are much better: