Costume Parties: One Person’s Heaven, Another Person’s Hell

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It’s nearly New Year’s Eve Party time.  Some people spend weeks making costumes for such an event,  while others won’t even wear a silly hat.  It seems that while many party guests love to dress up and pretend to be someone or something else, there are those who refuse to make any effort at all.

I have noticed that those who do not attend in costume often end up feeling left out and don’t have as much fun as the party goers who have embraced the theme.  Maybe some people have a costume phobia because of some tortuous experience in childhood or early adulthood.  If you are going to a party this weekend, for the reluctant participant I have made the following list of recommendations that should help anyone survive an event that requires a costume.  Some of these things are from personal experience and I still like to dress up.

  1. Never wear anything that you cannot sit down in. Eg. A Christmas Bon Bon outfit made of cardboard and crepe paper is a bad idea.
  2. Following on from point 1, never wear anything made in one piece that requires removal to go to the bathroom.
  3. It is best to avoid costumes made from crepe paper altogether because, firstly, they are a fire hazard and secondly, if it is humid or wet this will become droopy and colors may run down your face.  Eg. when your mother made you a crepe paper flower costume and it wilted like a real flower in a heat wave.
  4. Never wear anything that you do not want to be caught in if your car breaks down or if you are locked out of your house. Any realistic characters with a fake gun are probably not a good idea.
  5. Never wear anything that blocks your vision, prevents you from eating and drinking, or is so hot that you can only have your underwear underneath and cannot take it off when you go into a melt down. Even if they look cute, full furry animal costumes are a big mistake and should be left well alone.
  6. Never substitute indelible felt pen for make-up or use red or black grease paint. These will require industrial strength cold cream to remove.
  7. Never wear anything that is a hazardous to others.  Eg. Pipi Longstockings style plaits with a wire core can be dangerous for anyone sitting next to you.  Unless it’s someone in a Captain Hook costume.  They’re already wearing an eye patch. But the damage you could do on the dance floor does not bear thinking about.
  8. If you travel to a summertime party and it is still daylight, never drive through the city centre wearing an 18th century style wig and dress. You will cause a spectacle when stopped at traffic lights and it is impossible to hide.  Maximum embarrassment will result.
  9. Clown costumes were never a good idea, even before the creepy clown epidemic.
  10. If you disregard the above points, you are probably a masochist or an extreme exhibitionist.  So no sympathy when it all goes pear-shaped.

Now that you are aware of the pitfalls, it is possible to come up with some reliable costume ideas.  What follows are some costume suggestions for both those who love to dress up and for those who are more hesitant.

If you cannot sew like me, collect clothes that can be turned into a character just by using a bit of imagination (Op shops and weekend markets are good sources).  You can then reuse or reinterpret favourite costumes and keep them stored away in a wardrobe or vac-packed, so that it is never difficult to find something at short notice.  For example, my several long velvet dresses have been used to create Queens, Medieval ladies and witches, depending on the occasion.  One of my favorite characters from both film and TV versions, is the evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  She is just so nasty, has all the best lines and is a perfect character for a party costume.  Much more fun than dressing up as Miss goody two shoes Snow White.   I have a blue velvet kaftan dress that looks quite medieval and very “Evil Queen”.  All I have to do is put a glittery black knit top underneath, add some gold chains and a fake jewel, a black veil and a (cardboard) jewel encrusted crown and I have a great costume for colder weather. “An Apple, my pretty?”

The Crown was created by cutting out the shape from a cardboard base.  This was covered with fabric and was then covered with gold paper that had cutouts left to reveal the underlying material.   Stick on Velcro was used to fasten the ends of the crown together, and it was decorated with glass gems. Took a bit of work but I think that it looks very regal and can be used more than once.

You could make a King costume using the same principles.  A turtle neck top worn with slim black pants (tights if you dare) under some kind of robe or cape, with a similar crown, some chains around the neck and a prop sword and you could be King Arthur, Aragorn or if you like the dark side, the horrible King Joffrey from Game of Thrones, who has some great lines and an over the top death scene as inspiration.

For a warm weather costume the versatile standby is a fairy outfit, which has endless permutations.  All you need is a light party top, a skirt made from transparent or flowing material and some wings, which can easily be found at a $2 shop.  I have some glittery white ones.  I put these over a red, white and black chiffon style top that has long flowing sleeves.  For a skirt I use a couple of white half-slips, the top one being made of transparent net.  In my hair I put some cerise artificial flowers that I sewed to a large hair clip.  Attached to the flowers is a copper-colored butterfly for a bit of whimsy (for the purpose of the photos I have used a particularly itchy wig mistakenly bought from a party shop. This type of thing should have been on my warning list, along with feathered masks that make you sneeze).

With such a costume, you can be the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella, the Good Fairy from Sleeping Beauty or if you like, the Bad Fairy.  Just do everything in black.  And as for you men out there, I have seen many a brave male in a fairy costume.  But if this is not your thing, there are always wizards or elves, the main requirements being a pointed hat and staff for the former and pointy ear attachments for the latter (and a loud voice and predilection for poetry).

If you can, it is also fun to create your own costume character.  Ellie and I are sci-fi fans and for a local art group’s New Year’s Party we designed and made Space Alien costumes.  Ellie, who can sew, used metallic gold fabric to make tabards (medieval term for open sided tunic) with art deco inspired padded shoulder extensions, requiring a lot of polyester stuffing material.  We made black satin belts that fasten with Velcro and attached a gold painted cassette tape to each to simulate some kind of power pack.  The tabard was worn over black cotton camisoles and black leggings (I had to use a long skirt in the photos as the dummy does not have legs).  We carried plastic ray guns that made a whirring noise.  On our heads we wore sparkly gold wigs from a $2 shop.  These don’t itch.  We both won a prize for our costumes and had a lot of fun being silly and quoting clichéd lines from sci-fi movies, Star Trek and Dr Who.

These types of sci-fi costumes work well for both men and women. They can also be adapted for colder weather with a long-sleeved top underneath and warmer pants and boots.  Also good outfits for a group.  You can pretend it is an Alien invasion.

There are plenty of costume ideas that are imaginative and comfortable to wear, so you should be able to find or make something that will ensure that you have lots of fun, without any major costume malfunctions.

If you are going to a New Year’s Eve party I hope that you have a wonderful time.  I think that we all want to say goodbye to 2016.

Happy 2017

Kat

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