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Fancy Dress


When most people think of fancy dress, they imagine big costume parties, full of people having a mighty good time without a care in the world. Many people think of Christmas and New Year, and all the festivities that are included. Some even remember the good times they had as a child trick or treating at Halloween, dressing up as witches, vampires and ghosts. The simple fact remains that dressing up in costumes is a great tradition and boils down to having a whole lot of fun!

In Britain, fancy dress was borne out of the masked costume parties of the 18th century, where high society types would get together and have a good time in their country mansions. However it was the ever innovative Victorians that really brought out the real meaning of fancy dress at their parties, with many individuals dressed in fancy costumes as characters from whimsical stories and in traditional costumes from across the empire.

Nowadays, dress up is like second nature when it comes to celebrating special times of the year. Halloween is undoubtedly the highlight of the year when it comes to costumes, and is an industry within itself. Millions of dollars are made selling fancy dress costumes, accessories, wigs and many other items. People have so much fun at Halloween that it has affectionately become a part of everyday culture. Little kids love to dress as witches, vampires and ghosts; adults are definitely enamoured by any Halloween costumes that are comical or sexy!

Christmas is another great time for costume shopping and partying. Santa is the cultural symbol of Christmas and as such many a Santa suit and Santa hat will be purchased for the festive season. Christmas costume parties are a great deal of fun, with people getting merry with mulled wine and kissing under the mistletoe. A big part of Christmas for children is the school nativity play. This means parents and teachers have a mad dash to organise nativity costumes like an angel costume, animal costumes and even camel costumes. Luckily kids costumes are available for great prices online and in fancy dress shops.

These days the costume industry is such big business that nearly every cultural creation like a movie or book has fancy dress outfits or fancy dress accessories associated with it. Advertising is so good and directed at target audiences with such precision that they fall like dominos, one after another, with the desire to buy an outfit. For example the Pirates of the Caribbean films spawned countless pirate fancy dress items like clothing, cutlasses and even pieces of Aztec gold! Take nothing away from the producers, it is top quality marketing.

Perhaps one of the best movies for the fancy costume industry has been Mama Mia, the ABBA production. Not only has it massively increased sales of ABBA costumes, it has also reignited demand for 80s and 70s fancy dress outfits like jumpsuits and even ABBA fancy dress wigs. Costume ideas for women have almost spiralled out of control- it seems everyone wants to be a Dancing Queen!

The increasing military action in Afghanistan and Iraq has seemingly led to an increase in sales of uniform costumes, such as army outfits, sailors and even top gun aviators, along with accessories to improve outfits like machine guns and aviator glasses. Not only have adults benefited from the glut of army costumes etc, so has boys fancy dress. Quite rightly, the nation is supporting our troops.

Girls fancy dress is generally geared to fairytale characters from bedtime stories such as princesses, angels and witches. Some great quality and rather cute costumes can be found for little girls, which make them feel extra special when it comes to costume parties. Indeed angel costumes and fairy costumes continue to be the ultimate best sellers, and probably will be for years to come.

Boys fancy dress, in a similar vein to girls, is born from stories and tv programmes that take their interest. For example Bob the builder made a big impression on boys, and therefore saw a big increase in the amount of builder costumes available, the same occurred with WWE wrestling. Boys will be boys, and always look for the costume that will make all their friends jealous!

The spectrum of adult fancy dress spans from scary, to popular and even sexy costumes. From a social point of view, adults continue to dress, like children, as expressions of how they see themselves. For example many women see themselves as sexy, and therefore opt for revealing costumes like saucy devils and sexy santas. Men on the other hand embrace their childhood fantasies and dress as “manly” characters such as firemen, policemen or even soldiers. For this reason, manufacturers are able to create a massive amount of costumes and make huge profits.

The bottom line is that fancy dress is an excuse to let your imagination run riot with costumes and ultimately have a good time. The tradition should be embraced by all, as it seemingly underpins the fabric of material society, and allows individuals to express themselves in new and distinctive ways that would otherwise be sneered at. Basically, let your hair down and party!

By Andy Tomkinson

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