The fashions of fancy dress


It has been said of Oxford students that they are only ever seen out in either black-tie or fancy dress.  This is probably true what with the cornucopia of formal dinners and drinks; bops and sports initiations that take place almost daily in Oxford.

With a black-tie event it’s easy to know what to wear and what is expected of you.  Smart, conventional, chic: conformist dresses and suits are always going to be appropriate.  The same can in no way be said about fancy dress.  With black-tie it’s pretty easy to look good automatically by the nature of the outfit you chose.  With fancy-dress, appearing in what would be considered awful by conventional standards can actually make your costume a success.  Any feeble attempts to maintain ordinary fashion sense inevitably just look like a lack of effort and consequently are frowned upon very seriously.  So for students who have to turn out, almost weekly, a costume, the problems of becoming increasingly creative and yet still attractive mount with each passing week.

So what are the priorities and how do you get on top of fancy-dress fashion?  Firstly, it’s important to be imaginative.  Fancy dress at Oxford can often develop into a test of wit so it’s good to stay on your toes.  Don’t go with the standard superhero or princess outfit; work with a theme to think of something quirky and outstanding. To be eye-catching is a must.  Throw all shame and caution to the wind, wearing bits of a real tree or turning up in drag can actually pay off and lead to fame and triumph across the club or college bop.

However, there are of course other considerations.  Looking attractive is, undeniably, on the mind of every party goer.  Still, good costumes can be created without paying the price of your own dignity or sanity.  The classic ‘cat’ (or non-descript animal) costume for a girl or ‘James Bond’ for a boy is forever making an appearance and can prove that it is possible for anyone to look good and classy whilst still seeming to make an effort.  Moreover, students can’t afford to be splashing out on costumes as regularly as the occasion demands it of them.  Yet, stunning outfits or fancy-dress fashion statements do not have to be pricey.  Cheap alternatives are always possible as is being creative with what you have already got.  Dropping into Primark to buy some basic clothing can always pay off with a little bit of imagination thrown in with it and even some cardboard and Sellotape can work wonders for building masks or life-size Mario carts.

So, is there is a dichotomy between looking good and producing an extravaganza of a costume? This certainly doesn’t have to be the case.  An exciting and over the top costume can still excite in more ways than one.  There probably is a middle ground but nobody ever takes it, so whether you decide to attempt normality in your costume or extravagance, it’s important to make an effort in order to avoid embarrassment and so that it comes together for you on the night.  It’s all about going all out and committing fully to a costume or theme by either sticking to convention or throwing your elaborate appearance in everybody’s faces.  Looking good doesn’t have to fight against a potentially hideous costume which could actually end up being the triumph of a very memorable night.


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