I recently went to a friend’s American-themed costume party. The whole thing created a lot of worry for me; partially because I had no money and hence had to create an ensemble out of thin air, but mainly because of the unending predicament a girl has choosing between “slutty” and “funny”. Of course this is not always the case but most of the time it does boil down to this dilemma. For instance, in the run up to the party I was counselled to go as a cheerleader, beauty queen, cowgirl or, if not any of the prior, Ellen DeGeneres. An extensive Google search was also fruitless (Slutty Statue of Liberty, a saloon girl, Marilyn Monroe and a horny-looking highway Sheriff). I even tried to cast my mind back to significant women in American History and I came up with blanks (surprise, surprise!). In the end I copped out and went as an American football player because it was cheap and easy (cue a round of boos).
I have always monumentally failed at getting fancy dress right – ever since I was little and opted to go as Katie Bell to a Harry Potter party out of irreverent hate towards Hermione Granger. At that time she had probably been mentioned only once in the books with little to no description of her appearance so effectively I was going as a Harry Potter extra. Since then I haven’t improved much, donning a cardboard box as a ‘love machine’, in a duo costume of a literal ‘salt n’ pepa’ shaker set, a Kermit the frog onesie and my least proud moment, a sexy ‘cowardly lion’ from ‘The Wizard of Oz’.
Strangely enough a good friend of mine is an advocate of the sexy fancy dress costume, having a selection of costumes bought online in her wardrobe. Within this magical wardrobe is a tiny cheerleader dress, a nurse’s costume, bizarrely a sexy Freddy Kruger costume and I’m pretty sure a latex nuns outfit among other things. Whilst a part of me wants to yell ‘you go girl!’, the more prudent side of me sees them as glorified role-playing outfits. Perusing female fancy dress online it struck me that these costumes fit a pretty simple formula: hooker heels, animal ears/wings and lastly plenty of leg and/or cleavage.
This stark realisation made me wonder whether all of this was male or female-driven. Women are the ones choosing the outfits and they are in a business sense the customers, the market. In another sense, this pressure for female perfection and daily sexual ‘oozing’ is imposed upon us by the opposite sex. By this, I am attributing no blame to the men of the world, as this is ‘natural’- a messed-up evolution where women are propelled to slutty new heights in a bid to impress the opposite sex. However more-often-than-not this is misguided. Many guy friends say they are put off by overtly sexual signals, stemming from the misconception that slightly provocative is good, while too provocative suggests promiscuity and therefore ‘dirtiness’. I could talk for hours about how backwards thinking is concerning the way you dress in conjunction with the willingness to be sexually abused, but what about in a harmless situation such as a costume party?
At the crux of the matter, it is a social situation; so the way you mean to interact, (flirt, make friends, feign coolness), is what you’re costume will most likely embody. If a guy you like is there, you’ll be less than thrilled to dress in an ‘Alien Vs. Predator’ costume with your best friend. Alternatively, if the ‘post-ironic crowd’ is frequenting the party you might be more inclined to dress in a flamboyant Prince get-up. In each costume there exists a motive. So we return to the question – how does one retain integrity at a costume party?
Do not allow your insecurities, these ‘motives’, to cloud your choices too much. Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t dress in something that you clearly aren’t comfortable in. Boringly enough stick to something you actually like. Alternatively, indulge in one of your most guilty pleasures- give yourself an opportunity to dress in something you would never have dreamed to dress in: whether it be drag, rags, riches or even your unbridling desire to be wear tit-tape and a lilac-rinse wig. After all, no one will chastise you for it afterwards!