Monday, April 11, 2011

Five Tips for Costume Parties

I had a conversation the other day with a customer who wanted some tips on throwing a costumed party, as she had never hosted one herself.  Dot (my coworker) and I immediately set into different ideas for themes and why they would work, and it occurred to me that there really are some good costume party themes and some that are... less appreciated by the guests.  Believe me, I know, for guests are much more open with their costumer than the host.

1. Good ideas are ones that can work on a variety of levels and complexity.  Hollywood Movie Stars is an easy one, as you can twist any costume to fit the theme.  That way your guest can find a costume they like, and with a little ingenuity we'll find a famous actor to suit it.  Say your bff Betty found a renaissance gown she loved.  Great! If she's blonde, she's Kate Blanchette as Queen Elizabeth, or Gweneth Paltrow from Shakespeare In Love.  If she's brunette, she's Sigourney Weaver from 1492, Judy Dench from Shakespeare In Love, or Rachel Weisz from The Fountain. Does Bob hate dressing up?  Jeans, a white T-shirt, and slicked back hair and he's John Travolta from Grease.  How about a slightly overweight dark haired friend who hates costumes because she (mistakenly) feels like there aren't any costumes out there for her?  She can wear what she usually wears from day to day, bring along a sledge hammer, and she's Kathy Bates from Misery.  The possibilities are endless, and it accommodates wall flowers and limelight lovers, penny pinchers and spendthrifts, creative types and those of us who are forever chained, Prometheus-like, to creativity's writer's block.  Another accommodating theme is Decades, where guests can wear anything between 1910 and 1980.  That theme is particularly fun if you have guests of highly varying ages, as you can request they dress from the decade they were born in. Masquerade Ball is also versatile, as it allows guests to go all out (think Marie Antoinette style gowns) or minimalist (simple black dress with a cool mask).   

2. Keep in mind how much skin your friends like to show.  In example, a 1920s party is always fun, but flapper dresses (what most people envision for that era) are usually sleeveless and above-the-knee short, making it difficult for women who desire a little more modesty.  It's not impossible to find dresses with more coverage in that time period, it just requires a touch more work and creativity.  Playboy Bunny is not a good theme for the modest crowd.

3. I know we've all at some point gone to a Halloween party dressed in a head to toe replica gown of Queen Elizabeth the first, only to find the other guests didn't bother to dress up at all, am I right?  Help your guests avoid that awkward misstep by letting them know how all-out you're planning the event to be.  You can tell them in person, include a dress standard in the invitation, or make an arrangement with your local costume shop.  Here at Mask Costumes, if a host lets us know they're throwing a large costumed party, we'll sometimes bring in more of that type of costume, give discounts to the party goers, and we can tell people how extravagant or simple people are going.  Encourage them to dress up by having a costume contest with a worthy prize, or by decorating the venue to the hilt in the theme.  Set up a photo op spot where guests can take their picture in costume.  Include costume suggestions (with pictures) as well as local costume shops' addresses with the invitations.  And always, themed music is a necessity for getting people in the spirit.  If you can't think of what music suits a Vikings party, find a movie that feature vikings and go from there. 

4. If you want to host a small crowd, How To Host A Murder mystery games are a great way to go.  They're fun, funny, they guide you through the process step by step, and the invitations include costume suggestions.

5. In the end, the most important thing to keep in mind is the comfort of your guests.  If you run in an economically challenged crowd, don't require them to shell out a lot of dough on an expensive costume.  If your friends tend to be shy, Pimps and Hos is not a theme for you. Surprises are fun, but erring on giving guests too much information vs too little is the better way to go.

Here are some more theme suggestions, and may the Hosting Force be with you!
  • Hollywood
  • Decades
  • Famous Musicians (anywhere from country, Mozart, to 80s hair bands)
  • Carnival (ring master, bearded lady, lion tamer, tightrope walker, patron, the lion itself, magician, etc)
  • Famous Book Characters
(and a few more themes that are fun though not as versatile)
  • Vikings
  • Comic Book Characters
  • Video Game Charactres
  • Rock and Roll
  • Famous Couples (Sonny and Cher, Ketchup and Mustard, etc)
  • Zombies
  • Pirates
  • Renaissance
  • Medieval
  • Brand Mascots (mermaid of Chicken of the Sea, Land O'Lakes Indian Princess, Mr.Peanut, etc)
  • Cartoons
  • Anime
  • Individual Decades
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Disney
  • Fairytale (Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Three Blind Mince)
  • Greek or Roman
  • Black and White (where everyone wears only black or white, or any monochromatic scheme makes for dramatic results
  • Animals
  • Hats  
  • Heroes and Villains              


    1. I love costume parties. Luckily, my husband does too. We've had a formal dinner/masquerade one, a steampunk one, and some just-for-the-fun-of-it ones. Almost any party is better with costumes. :)

    2. Someone of Accident: Throw a party! Or better yet, come to one down here....

      Karena, do you have any pictures you can send us to share? It sounds like you have wonderful parties!

    3. I really enjoy costume parties, even cosplaying at my local anime convention, but throwing one myself has always been a little intimidating.

      This has some great tips and I might have to throw my own party now!