How Did Fancy Dress Start In The UK
Fancy dress parties have been fashionable within the United Kingdom for a lot years, and have progressed from the typical Halloween style costume parties in October, dressing up as witches and vampires, skeletons and other devilish characters, to parties now themed around national days (such as St Patricks Day), Christmas parties, themed birthday parties (popular birthday party themes being pimps and hoes, gangsters & flappers) and hen / stag evenings.
Even though fancy dress is more generally referenced right back to the 15th Century in Italy, where glorious masquerade balls were held, the origins of fancy dress in the UK is generally traced back to the 18th Century period, but our modern day themes were popularized by both the Victorians and the Edwardians who loved to celebrate in a range of fancy dress costumes and accessories. Most events were very elaborate affairs on a very magnificent scale, with only those invited of a high social standing during these periods.
Since then, fancy dress costume parties have been on the increase really since the 1940's in the UK, in a simpler form compared to today, until the 1970's. This could be coupled to the increase of film/television programmes being aired throughout the country, resulting in enhanced imagination and better manufacturing processes opening a new era in the costume industry.
It wasn't until the 1990's that the buying of costumes in the UK became commonplace. Prior to this, fancy dress costumes were typically hired for a social or recreational event, and brought back to the shop once worn. It's now hard to find many retail fancy dress shops in local towns, or ones that offer a full range you would require from a fancy dress retailer, especially since the internet provided home shopping access, no matter where you lived. This meant that fancy dress shops could operate online, have contact to a much larger market and also be able to carry a fuller range of costumes and accessories without having to worry about costly retail premises or shop fronts. There are still some companies who make available mail hire costume ordering, but buying of costumes has now become the standard.
After the late 90's, retro fashion styles became very trendy, with the introduction of 60s, 70s and 80s fancy dress costumes, which clearly mirror our fashion sense from these era's.
Fancy dress doesn't have to be high-priced either. You can get hold of complete outfits to dress as your favourite film/cartoon/movie character, or pick up instant accessory kits which can be used with your casual clothing. These instant costume kits can range from Vicars, Nuns, Cops, Maids, Pimps and typically include an accessory kit, badge, hat, overcoat or other themed accessory to complete your fancy dress outfit. Of course, for those who really want to set tongues wagging at your next costume party can go all out and obtain a limited edition costume, some of which retail in excess of 500 pounds!
The busiest and most celebrated fancy dress parties all take place around Halloween and are celebrated on or just before the 31st October. The name Halloween is borrowed from the feast of All Hallows which is celebrated on the 1st November to honour the saints, and the end of the harvest in Gaelic culture.
Halloween has many traditions, which range from trick or treating, the construction of bonfires, scaring people, carving jack-o-lanterns, apple bobbing, watching scary films, visiting haunted attractions, pranks and general ghoulish behaviour. Of course, many people now celebrate by having parties inviting all to wear Halloween costumes.
Halloween is also known as Samhain, which in other traditions marks the end of the third and final harvest, and is a day to commune with and remember the dead, and is a celebration of the eternal cycle of reincarnation. Samhain is mostly followed by the Wiccan and many Pagan religions.
In European traditions, Halloween is the night when the old god dies, and the crone goddess mourns him deeply for the next six weeks. The popular portrait of her as the old Halloween hag stirring her cauldron comes from the Celtic belief that all dead souls return to her cauldron of life, and are born again.
Fancy dress parties and costumes are all about having a good time. It's a great way to celebrate any social occasion, and there will always be extra costumes available every year, with the release of every new movie blockbuster or scary film. This year's examples have been the re-introduction of Freddy Krueger's latest adventure on the big screen, Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Iron Man 2.