Last updated: August 19, 2021

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Welcome to this new instalment of ReviewBox Wearing a costume is a good excuse to show a side of our personality that we don't normally share with others. Even when you dress up in a group to combine outfits the fun is multiplied.

Costumes are outfits that represent different themes and allow us to interpret a character from reality or fiction. Their use is related to the celebration of festivities such as carnival and witches' night, where both children and adults have fun and share a different moment.




Summary

  • Costumes are outfits that are used in parades, theme parties or exhibitions in order to change roles in a creative way. They can allude to real or fictional characters from the arts and even represent cultural traditions.
  • There are costumes created especially to play a character from a film, television, comic book, etc. However, traditional costumes are also considered costumes, and are present especially in local festivals and cultural events of any region.
  • Dressing up can be quite a challenge if you don't take into account important factors such as your safety and comfort when wearing the costume, manufacturing materials, sizes and of course, the theme of the event.

The Best Fancy Dress: Our Picks

Buying Guide

Buying the best costume doesn't have to be a difficult challenge. We want you to take into account all the factors you need to consider in order to make the right choice. The following sections are designed to provide you with useful information to help you compare different types of costumes.

There is no age to dress up, anyone can play a role or character and have a lot of fun. (Photo: Victor L./ Pexels.com)

What are fancy dress costumes and what are their advantages?

Costumes are creative outfits that allow us to role-play at least for a few hours. They are not only used to represent real or fictional characters but also as a symbol of a culture or tradition.

Many years ago, costumes were only used by circus or theatre performers. It is also very common to see children in costume at celebrations such as carnival or Halloween. However, the concept of a themed party has gained a lot of popularity among adults.

It is very common for people to dress up at one-off events such as make-up artist parades or cosplay exhibitions of movies, comics or anime. We know that choosing the best costume may not be easy, so we invite you to get to know its characteristics here.

Advantages
  • They allow you to release tension
  • They increase your confidence to socialise. You can be anything you want! Creativity has no limits when you dress up. Adds mystery and playfulness. They make any party more fun.
Disadvantages
  • Those with quality materials are expensive. They are garments that we don't usually repeat. Online shopping may not be what it seems. They have a short lifespan. There are fibres and materials that may be allergenic. Some fabrics may be uncomfortable.

Costumes or character costumes - what should you look out for?

When we buy or create a costume, it is normal that we look for a model that highlights our attributes or makes our personality more interesting. Among the main aspects that you should take into account we can highlight that it should be a comfortable and quality design.

There are two types of costumes that can condition your final decision; typical costume or character costume. Both have their strong points, differing in aspects such as the presence of make-up, occasion and representations. Below we will talk more about each of them:

Typical costumes. this type of costume or attire represents the local or exiled cultural identity of a region or country. They emphasise the attributes of a culture and are often very important to the inhabitants of a nation. They are filled with lots of colour and distinctive accessories.

Sometimes they often represent the typical dress of the inhabitants for centuries, so that people can associate that dress with that country and it becomes a cultural symbol. They serve to preserve the essence of a region and are associated with dances or traditional music.

Characters. These are the most common costumes that can be found in any shop. They allude to fictional characters found in literature, cinema, television, comics and video games. The most commonly used materials range from simple fabrics to sophisticated combinations of nets, straps or resin parts.

These costumes attract a lot of attention and often challenge the creativity of the public, who compete to have the best and most original specimen, or the one that most resembles their favourite character.

Typical Costumes Characters
Presence of Make-up Simple or natural, depending on the culture. Artistic, horror, full or face make-up.
Occasion Pagan festivals, national celebrations, cultural exhibitions. Cosplays, carnival, witches' night, themed parties.
Representations Scottish skirt, kimono, charro costume, Indian, Hawaiian, etc. Superheroes, animals, villains, science fiction and fantasy characters.

How much does a costume cost?

When it comes to costumes, it is a fact that there are many options that can be adapted to your tastes and personality. You can find them in different materials, sizes and presentations but, as with other types of products, their price will be given by criteria such as:

  • Quantity of accessories
  • Quality of materials
  • Popularity of the character

When we talk about simple character costumes that have a certain standard of quality, their prices can start from 25 GBP, while those made of more durable materials and with more accessories are around 90 GBP.

If it is a typical costume, it can be a bit more expensive, as it is not easily found in shops. In many cases, you will need the help of a person to make all or part of the costume. You can use clothes you have at home as basic elements of the costume to reduce the final cost.

Typical costumes are used in carnival parades and pagan festivals of a country, region or town. (Photo: Genaro Servin / Pexels.com)

Manufacturing materials

While it is true that you can make your own costume from any recyclable material, the ones you will find in shops are mostly made of plastic. Make sure these materials are low-combustible. Here are the most common and safest ones:

Nylon. This is one of the most common fabrics you will find in a costume. It is recommended for indoor parties as it will not protect your skin from UV rays. It is quite stretchy so it can be very comfortable to wear. Although it is not waterproof at all, nylon fabrics dry very quickly.

Polyester is the perfect fabric if you plan to wear your costume in a carnival parade, as it offers great coverage against the sun's rays. Although it is not as stretchy as nylon, it is very strong and does not wrinkle easily. If you get these fabrics wet they will take a little longer to dry.

Polyethylene. also known as foam, is a type of closed-cell foam that is used in the manufacture of costumes because it is soft to the touch, customisable, versatile and antimicrobial, inhibiting the growth of mould and bacteria. It is also a fairly durable and waterproof material in its class.

Polyurethane. This type of material can be found in the form of foam in our costumes. Many times it is the filling of an accessory and in other occasions we can acquire it as foam sheets to personalize our costumes.

Buying criteria: factors that allow you to compare and rate different types of costumes

Knowing that there is an infinity of costume models, we believe it is important to know all the related criteria before deciding on a specific one. Given the different variables, the most important thing is to find a quality and comfortable costume. Consider these aspects:

  • Safety
  • Comfort
  • Materials of construction
  • Sizes
  • Thematic

Safety

Although costumes seem harmless, it's always good to ensure your safety at an event, especially since they often include non-traditional materials in our everyday attire. Consider these recommendations:

Choose a costume according to the age of the person who is going to wear it, checking if it has a label indicating the age range for which it is intended and does not represent any risk.

Check the instructions, warnings for use and check that your costume is accompanied by mandatory information such as materials, type number, serial batch or model that allows you to identify it. The manufacturer's name, brand name and contact address should also appear.

If you use a mask, it should have sufficient ventilation holes. Also make sure that the materials are non-flammable and have low combustibility. Check that it does not contain sharp or cutting elements.

Comfort

At a fancy dress party or parade where moving, dancing and socialising are the norm, it is important that we can feel comfortable in what we are wearing. Some costumes look great but are not meant to be worn for hours at a time. Look for costumes made from quality materials to avoid discomfort such as:

  • Poor quality finishes on seams that may break.
  • Broken fibres or itchy fabrics.
  • Fabrics that cover too little and allow the cold to pass through.
  • Unstable accessories that may become detached from the costume

Check that you feel comfortable wearing your costume for several hours, day or night or in different temperatures. That's why it's important that you can measure your costume before you buy it, only then you can take a close look at any manufacturing flaws or discomfort you may have.

Sometimes, the fact that our costume has a lot of accessories is an aspect that motivates us to buy it. However, stop and think if for the event in which you are going to use it, this type of extra elements can cause you discomfort. For example, walking sticks, hats, capes or belts. If you are going to move around a lot, less is more.

Costumes can represent fantasy characters or urban legends. (Photo: Tú Nguyen / Pexels)

Manufacturing materials

While you can make your own costume from any recyclable material, the ones you will find in shops are mostly made of plastic. Make sure these materials are low-combustible. Here are the most common and safest ones:

Nylon. is one of the most common fabrics you will find in a costume. It is recommended for indoor parties as it will not protect your skin from UV rays. It is quite stretchy so it can be very comfortable to wear. Although it is not waterproof at all, nylon fabrics dry very quickly.

Polyester is the perfect fabric if you plan to wear your costume in a carnival parade, as it offers great coverage against the sun's rays. Although it is not as stretchy as nylon, it is very strong and does not wrinkle easily. If you get these fabrics wet they will take a little longer to dry.

Polyethylene. also known as foam, is a type of closed-cell foam that is used in the manufacture of costumes because it is soft to the touch, customisable, versatile and antimicrobial, inhibiting the growth of mould and bacteria. It is also a fairly durable and waterproof material in its class.

Polyurethane. This type of material can be found in the form of foam in our costumes. Many times it is the filling of an accessory and other times we can buy it as foam sheets to customize our costumes.

Sizes

We know that you won't always be able to buy a costume that you have tried on beforehand. Most online costume manufacturers will provide a sizing chart with the equivalent measurements you would normally use for your regular costume.

Each manufacturer uses their own sizing system, measurements and references, so we don't recommend that you use generic charts because even the material the costume is made of can affect whether it is wider or narrower.

Our best recommendation is to contact the manufacturer and ask for their sizing guide in case you can't find it on the shopping portal. These are the main measurements you should have on hand when buying a costume. Here's how to get them:

Chest circumference. place the tape measure over the largest area of your chest and take the measurement of the diameter of the body without squeezing.

Waist circumference. place the tape around the narrowest part of your torso and measure the diameter.

Hip circumference. loosely wrap the tape around the widest part of your hips and measure the resulting diameter.

Height. stand upright and measure the distance from the soles of your feet to the highest point of your head. To take this measurement correctly, you can lean against a wall, place a ruler on your head and make a small mark.

The Venice Carnival is one of the most replicated themed party events in the world. (Photo: Yeimi /Pixabay)

Thematic

One of the main variables to consider before buying a costume is to know the theme of the event you are going to attend. From this information it will be easier to know your available options. Here are the most popular themes:

Beach parties. The costumes for these types of events allude to characters from Hawaiian culture or sea animals. You can also use a basic piece of clothing and add beach accessories such as hats or necklaces.

Halloween parties. At this type of event there can be a lot of originality when buying or creating a costume. You can get creative and come up with make-up artistry using artificial blood and fake wounds to create a more sombre look.

Carnival parties. The costumes for these joyous events are very colourful. Superheroes, traditional costumes or movie characters are some of the most common choices. An ideal costume for these events should contain many accessories, with masks being very popular.

Cosplay events. These events are usually held in private rooms or convention halls, so you don't have to worry about the temperature, as they usually have this factor under control. Consider that this type of event lasts for a couple of days where you have to wear your costume for several hours.

Outdoor events. Consider the time of day. If it's a parade or village festival, traditional costume costumes are perfect as they are more familiar and traditional environments.

Don't forget to check what the temperature will be that day. If it's high, look for a costume made of cotton or a fabric that breathes and won't be too hot in the sun. If it's at night, wear a costume with more coverage.

(Featured image photo: nouveaumonde34 /Pixabay.com)

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