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My 10 golden rules of fancy dress

21 December 2012 by superlative

I’m a big fan of fancy dress and have worn a variety of outfits over the years. It’s funny in a way, because I never would have thought fancy dress was my thing. I’m a bit of a wallflower most of the time and prefer to avoid attracting attention to myself. But I’ve had some great evenings in fancy dress, as you can see:

Medic Pirate MaskedBall Frankenstein Cowboy CheshireCat Kiss Werewolf Robin

With that in mind, I have compiled for you my 10 golden rules of fancy dress.

1) Make an effort.
The only people who look stupid in fancy dress are the ones who have made a half-arsed nonsense effort, like buying some devil horns and nothing else. If you’re not going to bother, don’t bother at all; but if you dress up, do it right. You don’t have to spend lots of money – in some ways pre-fabricated bought outfits aren’t as interesting as ones you’ve put together yourself – but put some thought into it, find clothes you’ve already got that you can incorporate, and then buy the bits you don’t have.

2) Don’t be embarrassed about what you’re wearing
You’ll look much better if you look like you’re enjoying yourself. Fancy dress isn’t meant to look good, it’s meant to be fun. Maybe you do look stupid, but they’re not your normal clothes, you’re not going to a job interview, you’re wearing it for a giggle.

3) If you’re a girl, don’t be a sexy cat
Sexy cat outfits are rubbish. You won’t look sexy, you’ll look unimaginative and a bit vain. And there’s no such thing as a sexy cat anyway.

4) Don’t make it too obscure, but remember people are thick
It’s quite annoying to have put time into an outfit only to spend the entire evening being asked who/what you are, or have people assume you’re something else. So help yourself by choosing something that most people will get. If people do insist on mistaking you for something else, either roll your eyes at their stupidity or, if it’s a LOT of people, just start saying that’s what you are.

5) Play to your crowd
If you’re going somewhere with lots of geeks, people will love your Pacman costume; if it’s your uncle’s 50th, Tina Turner will win you more points (but check you have the legs for Tina Turner first. FYI, I do). This will also help with rule 4, as they’re more likely to know what you are if it’s something they’re familiar with.

6) Keep your outfits
You never know when something will come in handy again and can be recycled into a new costume. It also saves you money, and it can give you ideas for new outfits because you can think ‘I’ve already got this, so I could add this and that and I’m done’. Fancy dress can come up at short notice too, and there’s no reason you can’t reuse an outfit if you’re with people who haven’t seen it before.

7) Plan ahead
Once you know you’re going somewhere in fancy dress, think about what you want to wear and don’t leave it to the last minute. Your outfit might look amazing if you have time to buy the right accessory on the internet; or the fancy dress shop might have sold out of fangs if you leave it to the day before Halloween, throwing your whole Dracula outfit into disarray. So decide what you want to be, check if you have everything you need (see rule 6), and allow time to get anything you’re missing. Failure to plan ahead and throwing an outfit together at the last minute can lead to an automatic and needless default on rule 1.

8) Let people believe you’re fun, even if you’re not
There’s something about being in fancy dress, especially if you wear it somewhere that isn’t designated fancy dress for everyone, that makes people think you’re a fun and outgoing person. They’ll come and talk to you, dance with you, and think you’re great. I’m not outgoing at all, but it’s nice to pretend on these occasions that I am. You’re wearing a mask for the evening (especially if you literally are wearing a mask),  so you don’t have to be constrained by who you are underneath. And if you pretend to be lively and fun that’s pretty much the same as being so anyway.

9) Key features make the outfit
You don’t have to get every aspect of the costume right, and often you can’t unless you’ve got a lot of money or a sewing machine. But get the key aspects of it right and you can fudge the rest. You can make a good Frankenstein’s Monster outfit with normal clothes if you get the head right. You can’t be Batman without a cape and a good logo, but people won’t notice if you don’t have a utility belt.

10) Dress as a couple or group for bonus points
This isn’t a must-have on all occasions and won’t always work. But it’ll be more obvious what you are if you’re part of a set, and you can automatically dominate the space because there are more of you than anyone else. If you’re a fancy dress novice and are feeling embarrassed it’s also a good way of avoiding too much individual attention. Keep rule 1 in mind though – if you dress as a group and you don’t make as much effort as everyone else, you will look like a dick and will single yourself out as the lame impala in the group. We all know what happens to the lame impala.

So those are my 10 golden rules of fancy dress. Now fly, fly my pretties! Your winged monkey outfits aren’t going to make themselves.


  1. some good rules! what are your thoughts on dressing up dogs and cats? haha

  2. superlative says:

    Dressing up dogs and cats is acceptable as long as it is FANCY dress and they look amazing.

    Dressing a pet in day to day wear is creepy and would make me think you keep your mother’s corpse in your bed and brush its hair every night.

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