Fancy dress parties are great fun because they help people sidestep all the pretentiousness and vanity that comes with dressing for a special occasion and they channel it in a more light-hearted and positive way. Instead of competing to look the nicest and the most stylish, people often try and outdo each other to look the funniest or the most stupid.
However, there is another side to fancy dress that you may have noticed. The very term is often accompanied by a glint in the eye – a wink at the altogether sexier and more suggestive potential in dressing up. It’s amazing how the very mention of fancy dress suddenly sees shapely young things discard all their inhibitions in a bid to celebrate their bodies and flaunt their bits.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of bodily celebration and saucy fancy dress costumes lend another dimension to parties and nights out – even if they do recall the posturing and sexual politics of school discos and other relics of adolescence. It’s pretty common for fancy dress parties that aren’t strict family affairs to be populated by sexy maids, superheroes and cavewomen, naughty school girls, racy devils, fairies, angels and a whole menagerie of deviant animals, as well as seductive nurses, coppers, secretaries and strippers.
The whole thing raises an interesting question: are we all exhibitionists at heart? Are we all just waiting for the right opportunity to flaunt what we’ve got? Fancy dress parties certainly provide that opportunity and they turn a lot of shrinking violets into predatory vamps. They definitely seem to fulfil a secret temptation to bare all, and so much the better for those who appreciate a celebration of the human form in all its glory!
Perhaps it all has to do with safety. On the one hand, fancy dress themes provide safety from social stigmatisation. Ordinary nightlife does this to an extent, encouraging people to indulge their inner exhibitionist, whether they are driven by sexuality or a more general sense of freedom. However, fancy dress does this to a greater extent, giving people the excuse they need to let it all out.
On the other hand, dressing up offers a unique form of personal safety. It allows people to get into character, subconsciously severing real life from the performance and unleashing the more experimental, creative and brazen side to their personality, almost mirroring the part of role play in the bedroom.
Perhaps that’s why people so often choose sexy costumes over stupid ones – they have a greater subconscious need for erotic exhibition than giddy revelry.
So what does fancy dress mean for you? Do you always go for sexy over stupid or does dressing up represent a chance to indulge your inner child rather than your inner vamp?
Juliette Devlin examines the whole fancy dress/dressing up idea and asks what lies behind the mask? Here she writes for Fancy Dress Costumes