Dress to Express: Exploring Your Inner Self Through Costume
If you think fancy dress is just a bit of light fun, then you’re doing it all wrong. What you wear to these parties actually reflects who you truly are.
Take my buddy Jane, for example. Normally a shy little thing, she became very perky after receiving an invite to a video-game themed party, and started incessantly bugging my friends and me to bring cardboard boxes to her lair. We assumed that she had finally lost the plot and was trying to build a little spaceship for herself, but in actual fact she was planning to attend the party as a giant Tetris block. To make matters more insane, she had persuaded her poor boyfriend to wearing a matching Tetris block costume that would then ‘fit’ into hers, just like they do in the game.
What does this tell us about Jane? That she has a fetish for retro computer games? Quite possibly, but it also shows her to be a creative spark. As an artist, Jane struggles to express herself verbally. That night, she did it visually instead. She really stood out from the crowd, even if she did keep falling over (I may have pushed her).
Fancy dress isn’t just a convenient form of self expression. It can also be used to avoid all the crap bits of parties. Take dancing, for example. People always expect me to indulge in such horrific behaviour during social occasions, and I rarely have a decent excuse. This can lead to lonely nights spent weeping in the toilets. But by dressing up as, say, an emu egg, you can avoid peer pressure with flair. “Sorry, too busy rolling around the floor to dance!” you can say. For some reason this is a far more acceptable excuse than “dancing makes me look like a constipated orangutan”.
But maybe you’re not the kind of person that dresses as an emu egg. Maybe you prefer to dress up as something more human shaped, like a superhero or a cartoon character. Maybe you even do the whole ‘sexy animal’ thing, where you pretend you’re dressed as a rabbit but you’re actually just a push-up bra with a pair of bunny ears. If I sound like I’m being judgmental, it’s because I am. You have the opportunity to make yourself look hot at almost every regular party. Fancy dress is the time to express your inner self. And don’t start banging on about how your inner self is a cave-girl. You’ve got to dig deeper than that. When I dress up as a lampshade, it’s not to make people laugh. It’s actually an expression of my preference for post-modernism over modernism.
You see, when you dress up as Spiderman, you’re embodying modernity. Your outfit is saying “I’m imposing my ideologies! I’m making an intervention! I’m a vigilante because I know that’s the right thing to do!” My choice to dress up as a lampshade is a post-modern response to your Spiderman. I’m saying, “What makes you think that you’re right, Spiderman? There is no absolute truth! To show you how arbitrary life is, I’m dressing up as a household object!”
As I’ve just illustrated, the meaning of my costume may be found in its absolute lack of meaning. Not always, though. Sometimes my costumes are social commentaries. When I dressed up as a washing machine for my friends 18th, I was making a bitter, ironic, satirical and rhetorical statement about the domesticated circumstances that govern this world. I was embodying a commodity in order to express the ability of society to reduce us to our capital worth. For a Disney themed party, I dressed up as Cruella de Ville. My friend was my Dalmatian. We weren’t being funny. We were making a point about animal cruelty.
So chuck away your angel wings and start collecting cardboard boxes. I expect your costume to express your love for stamp collecting.
Let’s hear all about your best costumes! Halloween is closer than you think — what are you going to be?!
Written by Phoebe Eccles