Once the lavish reserve of aristocrats, the storied costume party is now an excuse for the rest of us to get our legs out, embrace anonymity and behave very badly. This is one party where the fun starts long before the drinking does – get-up ideas make for several weeks of entertaining dinner chat, and costume shopping is a giddy event in itself.
As deliriously fun as these parties can be, fancy-dress does come with problems aplenty, from where to get the clothes to which theme to pick, to how to suffer the inevitable twat who comes dressed “as himself”. We can’t offer much advice on the latter (except possibly to have him stand in the corner while the other guests throw things at him), but we’ll tell you all about the rest.
The Dead Party Best to kick off on a happy note: Everyone comes to this one as a death. Past favourites include Drowned (think blue and white face paint, wet hair gel and clingy clothes), Electrocuted (lots of hair spray, skin blackened with shoe polish and electric wires around the neck and wrists) and Trampled (step in some paint and walk over a light-coloured T-shirt; add fake blood strategically). Don’t be predictable. People expire in the strangest ways: Read up onwww.darwinawards.com. Do scare. The sicker the costume, the better (whatever that says about us).
The ‘Letter’ Party Pick a letter of the alphabet, and invite your guests to come as something that starts with it. Consonants yield better costumes, with ‘P’ being the reigning fave. You’ll get prostitutes, pixies and pirates galore. The less boring might come as a psychopath, a pterodactyl or a puppeteer. Don’t come as a ‘person’…or a penis. Just don’t. Do pick up a dictionary. Then, select outrageously.
The Literature Party Not nearly as sad as it sounds – at least if Kate Moss’s Beautiful and Damned 30th birthday bash is anything to go by – and the costume potential is enormous. The trick here is to not be too specific. In choosing the theme, the point is more to evoke a fun era or cast of characters than to show off your literary prowess. Do think fantastic: The more out-there the lit, the cooler the costumes. Alice in Wonderland, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Paradise Lost are tried and tested greats. Don’t choose a book that will make your party look like a war games convention. Lord of the Rings is out.
The Taboo Party People come dressed as something politically incorrect. The best costumes are often topical, but history also holds a vast choice of taboos. Anything to do with race, death, illness, sex, and children (and combinations thereof) will get people gasping. Word of warning: There is a line, try not to cross it. (Thank you, Prince Harry.) Do roll with it: No point going if you’ll spend the night being offended. Don’t touch the Holocaust.
The Opposites Attract Party Pick a partner, and come as an opposite pair. The beauty here is in wit or silliness and, remember, two minds are much more twisted than one. Best in show so far are Condom and Baby, a Cat (mao) and the Statue of Liberty and, um, Centurian and Alien. Do think laterally. Nobody wants to see a hundred couples dressed in black and white. Don’t come alone.
Where to get the clothes: Rental
House of Siren: Easily the best costumier in town, House of Siren rents handmade stock costumes and will also make them bespoke. Call ahead for an appointment with creative director Greg Derham at 2530 2371 or email email@example.com. 1/F A, 18 Shelley St, Central; www.siren.com.hk.
HKAPA: The Academy for Performing Arts lends out costumes previously used in productions. The Costume Hire department opens only on Fridays and Mondays (10am-6pm), and you must call for a slot in advance. Visit www.hkapa.edu/asp/chs/chs_list.asp or call 2584 8833.
- Makswell Costume: Located in Chai Wan, Makswell’s has literally hundreds of costumes to choose from, and deliver for $50 to Hong Kong or Kowloon ($200 to New Territories), plus rental price. They also sell props and accessories. www.makswellcostume.com.
“Partyland” Market, Corner of Wellington and Pottinger streets, Central.
Tai Yun Street Market, Wan Chai.
Ladies Market, Tung Choi Sreet between Argyle and Dundas streets, Mong Kok.