Halloween has just passed us and at this point every year I find one thing being thrust in my face more than at any other time. Fancy dress. The reason I say ‘thrust’ is that I have never had a good relationship with fancy dress. I’ve just never got it. From a kid up right up to now, I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable about it. I can vividly recall the four times I have ever ‘properly’ dressed up. Number one, as a child in infant school, I dressed up as Jadzia Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. My Mum and I went the whole nine yards. She made me her officers outfit, tied my hair up like hers and spent ages drawing her Trill markings on my face with brown eyeliner. I looked great but no one, aside from my Mum, knew who I was. Incident number two would be a similar costume that I wore to a Star Trek convention when I was a little older. Number three was a costume for a World Book Day event that my junior school held. I borrowed some Army combats way too big for me and went as an InGen employee from Michael Crichton’s The Lost World. Whilst I remember that some of the boys in my class were envious that I’d bagged me so combats that they were after, I also recall my teacher telling me that I ‘shouldn’t be reading adult books so young when you’ll have all the time in the world to do so eventually’. Having read Jurassic Park every year since I was six, I was more than a little upset and annoyed, which I think led to the massive gap between this fancy dress and my most recent attempt. My fourth and last time would be on my eighteenth birthday when I dressed as Wonder Woman. I looked great, but to this day I still don’t know what posessed me to have a fancy dress birthday party when I don’t really like dressing up…
Those are the four times I have ever ‘properly’ dressed up. I say ‘properly’ because there have been a few other occasions where I’ve tried to get away with wearing my own clothes. The earliest memory would be going to a Halloween party aged eight and having a black cat Beanie Baby thrown at me for not wearing a costume (‘I guess you can be Sabrina‘ is my clearest memory from that night) and the latest would be dressing up as Julie Powers for a Scott Pilgrim themed club night earlier this summer. So you can imagine how hard my heart was thumping when said club night, the excellent Reel Music, announced their Halloween event which happened last week. This time I had no excuse. I had to dress up and it had to be good.
So where the hell do I begin? I’ve managed to avoid dressing up, for the most part, like the plague! I’ve never been confident about my body so have steered clear of skimpy and slutty outfits. I’ve saved my sensitive skin from packets of face paint for years. I’m almost an expert at dodging both things! But this time it was different. Not because I knew that everyone else would be dressing up, but because my boyfriend Paul, alongside his friend Freddie, runs the club night. This time, I had to make an effort.
I’m interested to know how other people go about choosing a costume idea. Do you go for something elaborate or simple? Generic or more defined? Obvious or a little obscure? Do you dress up for you own enjoyment or because you want (or secretly hope that) someone else will recognise your outfit? Do you make your own or buy one already made up? I had no idea where to start. Firstly, I needed ideas, and looking around my room I got plenty. Do I go as some slutty sexploitation star, Kaneda, Silk Spectre, Sailor Jupiter, a horror icon, someone else from Scott Pilgrim, another Jurassic Park character, one of Russ Meyer‘s buxom beauties? I pulled out all my DVDs and BluRay’s to help try and narrow down the choice; Jenny Agutter in American Werewolf in London, Neve Campbell in Scream, Tura Satana in Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Sharon Tate in Fearless Vampire Killers? Eventually I settled on one. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s VIPERS cheerleader outfit in Tarantino’s Death Proof. It seemed like a no-brainer, Death Proof is one of my favourite films and putting a cheerleader’s outfit together wouldn’t be difficult with the help of specialist websites and ebay. I was sorted.
Until I realised that it would actually be a little harder than I thought. I couldn’t find any yellow separates anywhere and was beginning to shudder at the prospect of making the VIPERS logo myself. But as I found out from veteran and fellow dresser-uppers, perseverance and patience is absolutely key. And persevere I did until I found a company who would make me a custom outfit identical to the one in the film. A fair amount of money and four weeks later, I had a perfect copy waiting to wear on Halloween. And that’s when the nerves kicked in. Like I mentioned before, I’ve never been confident about my body and had only just realised that the skirt would barely cover my arse (one of those scenario’s similar to having a fancy dress party for your birthday when you don’t really like fancy dress…) but my Mum was having none of it. Tights bought. I had no socks with a yellow band like those worn in the film. No problem, she made them. I had no fringe like Winstead’s haircut. She cut one in. And I was still bricking it. I knew it was perfect, but would anyone else know who I was? And why was I even worrying about that? Surely it should be for your own entertainment and not for others (thoughts please)?
And after all that worrying, it was actually really fun. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed something that I’d been running away from and avoided for so many years. Initial nerves aside, I eventually felt really comfortable and loved the outfit, forgetting any worries I had about the skirt riding up and showing off my butt. It was also really nice to see the reaction from others who recognised the outfit from Death Proof and thought it looked great (a highlight of the night was being dragged from one end of the venue to the other by an ‘Edward Scissorhands’ who saw a poster for the film and simply pointed at it shouting excitedly ‘YOU!!!’). Likewise, I got so much enjoyment out of the effort that others had made for the night, my favourites being a Black Swan, Pris from Blade Runner, a couple who came as Clarence and Alabama from True Romance and someone who dressed as the Log Lady from Twin Peaks. The absolute cherry on top for the whole night was a tweet from Mary Elizabeth Winstead herself telling me my outfit was perfect. What more could you want than that?! Ultimately though, I realised that I’d actually missed out on a lot of fun over the years by avoiding something I thought I’d hate or would never get right. Sometimes it’s good to embrace what scares you the most, the experience almost always outweighs and dispels the fear. I can’t wait until I can get my geek on again and dress up. The only problem would be what the hell to do next time…?!