Monday, April 16, 2012

Today I am ... my fancy dress alter-ego

Image: Gossip Girl,
Fancy dress is no longer just a pastime for seven year-olds; as times get tougher, more and more people feel the temptation to withdraw from humdrum reality and become someone else for the night.

I always think the best nights are when you feel as though anything could happen; from Freshers Week ice-breakers to debauched masquerades, outlandish costumes have the power to make you feel uninhibited and anonymous, transforming a great party into an unforgettable one.

Here are my top five fancy dress alter-egos from the last few years...

1. Victorian courtesan: Belle Epoque Party, London, Halloween 2011


Image: Victorian courtesan Carolina La Belle Otero, from
I wore a steel-boned corset for the first time at London's hedonistic Belle Epoque party, and it was a revelation. As soon as I was laced into the borrowed 'Cadbury purple' corset, I felt like Dita Von Teese on a night out in bohemian Montmartre. It was my waist, but not as I knew it. (Breathing schmeathing...)

Add to this a bustling, black lace skirt from Burleska Boutique in Stables Market, Camden, a beaded choker, fingerless lace gloves and a fascinator, and I was ready to dance with the green fairy all evening. The final accessory? A glass of absinthe, served in the traditional Moulin Rouge fashion with a sugar cube and spoon.

2. German beermaid: Bavarian Beerhouse Old Street / Winter Wonderland / a London Tube Station Party, 2010-12

Image: Bavarian Beerhouse, Old Street, from
Prost! Choosing a Germain beermaid costume for a birthday party at the Bavarian Beerhouse in Old Street may have been misjudged given that the bar was full of lairy frat boys, and waitresses in identical outfits. Cue an onslaught of sausage inneundoes, revellers stopping me and asking for rounds of Jaegermeisters, and an impromptu table-top dance off with a rugby team.

Nevertheless, my bavarian alter-ego has served me well, with appearances at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and a Tube Station themed house party in Clapham (as 'Maida Vale').

3. The Virgin Mary: Suffolk, Christmas Eve 2011


Those familiar with high school movies of the early noughties will recall the Mean Girls 'Slut Rule' of fancy dress ("Halloween is the one night of the year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything. The hardcore girls just wear underwear and some form of animal ears").

However that rule is now liberally applied to Christmas as well (how long until Easter?), and 'Sexy Santa' has become the ubiquitous Christmas fancy dress costume of choice in recent years.

Last Christmas Eve however, I had something rather more virginal in mind. After years of losing out on the role to other girls in our primary school Nativity plays, I was finally going to be Mary.

To create the baby Jesus, I purchased a plastic baby doll and an 'it's my birthday' badge, and fashioned some swaddling from a pillow case. I wore a blue Grecian style dress and long blue scarf over my head, and carried my baby Jesus around like a bizarre clutch bag. 

One or two bleary eyed partygoers were downright horrified, thinking I had actually brought my real life baby on a raucous night out in DeNiros, which holds the dubious honour of being 'Suffolk's biggest nightclub'. That poor baby Jesus has seen some terrible sights... 

4. Medeival king: Halloween party, Newcastle, 2007


In hindsight, we should have known better than to turn up at a fancy dress shop on Halloween afternoon on the day of our house party. Between my housemates and I, we scraped the fancy dress barrel and accepted whatever was left in the shop - which included an M&M, a nun and a medieval king.

I drew what was arguably the short straw (my friend the M&M may beg to differ), and donned the hooded crown and long sleeved, full-length red robe with white fur trim, complete with a regal staff/poking device.

It may not have been my first choice, but I nobly took on my kingly duties and had a royally good time. Long Live the King.

5. Geisha: 'Around the world' party, Newcastle, 2008


A pale face stands out like a beacon in Newcastle, where any self-respecting Geordies - male or female - are bronzed to perfection at all times (the sun always shines in Whitley Bay).

So I was greeted with confusion and concern on an 'around the world' themed university reunion, as I entered Tiger Tiger with a face as porcelain-white as a snowy morning. I may have lacked the grace and serenity of a true geisha, but I completed the illusion with jet black liquid eyeliner and bright red lips, a floral black and red dress, and a beautiful parasol that my friend had brought back from Japan. Miraculously, my 'giant cocktail umbrella' even made it home with me.

So what's next? 


Image: 1940s Dance, from
Firmly on my to-do list are the Blitz Party in Shoreditch, for a night of 'swing bands, sand bags and glad rags', and the Gatsby-esque Prohibition Party to recapture the illicit pleasures of 1920s speakeasies...

And if there's ever an occasion to wear this rather fetching 'man-eating shark' costume from the recently resurrected fancy dress shop at Clapham Junction, I'm there.

Image: Man-eating shark, from


  1. I did have a feeing you'd make a good king when I met you!

  2. That shark costume made me spit out my tea!

    Fantastic costume pictures and it looks like you've had some really fun through the years.