How to…Suck a Little Less at Fancy Dress


A Cynic’s Guide to Looking Like a Tit

 Fancy dress parties are like dogging: there are massive risks, dizzying rewards, and I kick ass at both of them. In fact, I sometimes combine the two just to spice things up – nobody expects a roadside tryst with Edward Scissorhands.


Sadly, I’ve only got time to focus on one for now, so I’m going with the perilous world of fancy dress – after all, no one needs to seek help about dogging, however vehemently my family may protest to the contrary.


Getting fancy dress right is a complicated formula, most of the components of which are the inverse of everything you learnt as a teenager. Putting in no effort and trying to look attractive will make you a twat, for example.


So, how do you avoid making sartorial screw-ups that would have Katy Perry sniggering behind your back? Well, you could draw attention to the fact that she’s Katy Perry, and therefore undoubtedly wearing something stupider than your outfit, but you’ve still been laughed at by a pop music footnote who wouldn’t even win the unenviable title of ‘This Generation’s Madonna’.


Just follow these pointers, and you’ll be riding your own coattails to success. First things first:



Read the atmosphere

I once went to a Halloween party with three friends. We were three guys and a girl, and we wanted our costumes to form a group.  That is the only explanation I can offer for us choosing the Wizard of Oz. I was the scarecrow.

What began as a groundless suspicion escalated into a creeping dread by the time we arrived… something was afoot. Walking in, my ego received that swift dick-punch that you get when the penny drops, and you realise that while everyone else is in jeans and a t-shirt, you have straw sticking out of your shoes and a live dormouse in your pocket.


Oh, you can try to salvage your dignity. You can pretend that everyone’s pitying reassurances are genuine. But essentially, there’s only one message you can take away from this party: the theme was a joke, but you busted your balls just so you could look like Worzel Gummidge’s homeless cousin.


This is actually even worse the other way around. If you look like a prick you’ll feel like a prick – Bono notwithstanding – but it’s fleeting and cosmetic. You might not feel like a prick when turn up in your regular clothes armed with a douchey quip to validating your laziness, while everyone else is wearing something that would give Lady Gaga’s stylist palpitations, but rest assured, you most definitely are one.


So, you’ve worked out the ‘not too much, not too little’ approach…but that’s only going to leave you dressed as Goldilocks unless you…


Play to your strengths

So, now you need an idea for a costume that not only looks awesome, but is appropriate to the theme and hilarious.


It’s simply a matter of working out what makes you look as amazing as possible, then incorporating this into a costume. I, for example, make an astonishingly good David Bowie, which is pretty convenient as he’s the chameleon of rock music. Seriously, I’ve yet to find a theme that I haven’t been able to crowbar Bowie into.


Carefully select a few flattering, but relatively generic mainstays for an outfit, and you’ll be able to apply them to any party. If you’ve got a sculpted arse then a good pair of jodhpurs might be a plan; if you’re muscular then be open-shirted or topless at all costs; if you’re hairy then do the reverse; if you’re ginger then consider a burka.


Got all your bases covered? Well, don’t get cocky. It could still all go to shit if you don’t…


Pick the right theme

You might think that, much like living in North Korea, fancy dress parties are a massive ball-ache if you’re not in charge, but a piece of piss if you are. You are, of course, wrong. They’re nothing like living in North Korea. Why would you even think that?


In fact, much like being the Dear Leader of North Korea, there’s just as much risk involved if you’re in a position of power. You might be able to get your subjects wearing whatever uniforms you tell them to, but get too eccentric and the international community will consider you as ridiculous as this inexplicably continued metaphor.


Anyway, much like Japan, I am now going to shun North Korea and come up with creative ways of getting women into skimpy outfits. That will probably happen regardless of the theme you pick, so don’t be too obvious – yeah, we’d all love to trade places with Hugh Hefner for a day, but if you think about it, being surrounded by buxom women in bunny outfits kind of makes you look like a sickeningly lascivious creep.


Go with a broad theme that’s open to witty interpretation – tempting as it may be to emotionally blackmail your friends into dressing as the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, absolutely no one who is forced to do this will remain friends with you. Don’t isolate people by getting too specific – and at all costs…


Avoid these like the plague

Sports – Somehow still a perennial favourite, presumably because people who like sport are willing to overlook the fact that all clothing even tangentially related to it looks absolutely fucking hideous.


Videogames – Men like videogames because the male characters are all badass. Women don’t like videogames because the female characters are all tits and ass.


Pimps and hos – Have you ever seen a room full of middle class, predominantly white men dressed in zebra print suits and enormous hats? Congratulations, you’re Elton John.


Words: James Barton

Images: CarbonNYC , abbybatchelder , Parker Knight (Flickr)


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