A Freshers’ Guide to Fancy Dress

Whether you’ve only just come to terms with the idea of putting on a bar crawl T-shirt next week for Freshers’, or you’re that guy who packed his Hi-Larious Borat mankini next to his Budweiser ‘King of Beers’ crown long before results day, fancy dress and university go hand in hand, and are creeping up fast.

Nobody wants to lamentingly picture the storm that her papier mâché ladybird costume would have gone down in at the Noah’s Ark social had it not been collecting dust in a wardrobe at home (true story)… Spending money on items that you already own is a painful process, as is forking out for accessories the day before an event when you could have ordered them off ebay in advance for half the price and with a wider variety to choose from.

There’s no doubt that going the extra mile or thinking outside of the dressing up box makes for a more interesting outfit, but sometimes a lack of time and money get in the way and we have to go back to basics. Below is a list of simple clothing and accessories that are bound to come in useful for multiple fancy dress themes throughout the year, and which are well worth making room for in the midst of your last minute shopping and packing frenzy.

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The Basics

  • Sellotape
  • Safety pins
  • Pritt Stick
  • Black Sharpie
  • Sturdy scissors
  • A creative mind/access to Google images

Clothing and Accessories

  • Animal ears
  • Face paint
  • Glitter
  • Flower garland
  • White shirt and T-shirts
  • Striped top
  • Checked shirt
  • Animal print
  • Khaki/camouflage and uniform accessories

Contraband

  • A supply of UV paint to last you the year – it’s time to move on from your GCSE summer
  • Flower crown – see above

Animal Ears

“I’m a mouse, duh.”

With a basic pair of animal ears, some card and a few safety pins you can hop on board the ark to club Salvation (how fitting) as any which creature you please. Ears handily double up as base for devil horns on Halloween or Cat Woman for a superheroes theme. Animal ears are also a last minute life saver as the crucial accessory for that that generic lion-leopard-tiger outfit that shouts, “I succumbed to peer pressure half an hour before pre’s.”

Face paint

Because permanent marker is never the answer.

A spot (or stripe) of face paint completes the look for most costumes. If you’re a particularly fancy dress-er then invest in a full palate of colours, if not, then black is without a doubt the most versatile. Whether you’re attempting animal features, skeletal eye sockets or making a half-arsed effort with camouflage, face paint will be a better friend to your skin than smudgy eyeliner or the nearest black pen.

Glitter

Minimal effort, maximum impact.

Not only does glitter distract people from realising that you’ve worn exactly the same costume before, it instead creates the illusion that you’ve gone to great lengths to look so fabulous. Glitter is ideal for a circus theme, Christmas socials, a Robert Pattinson ‘Twilight’ parody or anything else equally as magical: think fairies and mermaids. It’s also guaranteed to make you a few drunken admirers as you sparkle under all of the lights, everywhere.

Flower Garland

Has powers to make its wearer instantly more up for a party.

Wading through puddles between bars becomes a pleasant paddle in some glimmering ocean with one of these around your neck. Ideal for popular beach party and under the sea themes, garlands also work well for a flower power hippie costume or reliving your gap yah/Bestival highlights at a themed summer BBQ.

White Shirt and T-shirts

The world is your oyster.

A white shirt or T-shirt provides the base for a plethora of different costumes. Most uniforms require a shirt, including school uniform if you’ve got a ‘back to school’ night in Freshers’ Week or feel like channeling your inner Britney for a music video theme. T-shirts are ideal for nights that are guaranteed to get messy, such as Halloween when you will not escape being daubed with fake blood (good to rip up for bandages too), and any kind of night dedicated to UV paint, to which you’ll probably wear white clothing anyway.

Striped Top

Surf…

Same general idea as the checked shirt debacle (see below), applicable instead to a classic sailor/pirate getup.

Checked Shirt

…Turf

Cowboy, farmer or lumberjack. Lumberjack, farmer or cowboy. It just ain’t right without a solid plaid print.

Animal Print

Because sports night just isn’t sufficiently predatory already…

A generic big cat is the go-to costume that can be adapted to most themes. Whether you’re a circus lion, a leopard in the jungle or the tiger who came to tea, add a feline eye, some whiskers and a set of ears (see above) and you’re all set to stalk your prey for the night. Animal print is also perfect for a prehistoric social, whether you want to dress up à la Flintstones or channel the sabre-toothed look.

Khaki/Camouflage and other Uniform Accessories

Blend into other societies regardless of whether or not you’re donning any camouflage.

Some kind of variation on uniform is probably the most popular fancy dress getup you’ll come across at Uni. Whether it’s an army, forces, emergency services, ‘when I grow up’ or simply a uniform social, the likelihood of spotting a rogue member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces choking on a Sambuca shot in Salvo is exceptionally high. Slyly encourage your biggest drunken liability of a friend to dress as a builder or a lollipop lady in a high-vis jacket as an exceptionally effective easy-to-spot precaution, or simply use your police officer handcuffs in a similar way to a toddler harness to prevent them from going on an adventure just as your taxi calls. A whistle is a staple finishing touch to many a uniform costume, and also doubles up nicely as an accessory for sport related themes.

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Inevitable seasonal socials

Halloween

Fake blood. You will wear it. Share it and make new friends.

Christmas

If it’s painfully glittery and either red, green, silver or gold then you’re all set. Think tinsel, baubles and cutesy felt elf costumes.

Final Tip

If your costume includes some kind of hat or an accessory that requires being carried around, e.g. a toy weapon, then prepare to lose it. Anything that isn’t attached to you risks going AWOL at some point throughout the night, either by your own misadventure (double check taxis as you leave) or by random people who admire your outfit and wish to wear it themselves. Take it as a compliment, but don’t risk losing anything you value, you don’t want to ruin an otherwise fantastic night.

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