The Stylish Face of Fancy Dress

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The start of the Michaelmas term is normally welcomed by students at universities across the country. The long summer holidays leave many bored of part time jobs, with most looking forward to the onset of Freshers’ week.

For those of us who’ve already  experienced all Lancaster has to offer throughout the hazy, packed seven days of Freshers’; so notorious that for weeks after, illness is blamed on the dreaded ‘Freshers flu’, the week is something to look forward to. However, for those just starting their university career, Freshers’ week can be a little daunting. If it’s not the prospect of moving to a new city that’s keeping soon-to-be undergraduates awake at night, it’s the impression you make during Freshers’ week when meeting flat mates, seminar groups and college members that becomes yet another worry for new students. This can be somewhat complicated by the plethora of activities organised for Freshers’ week, with many involving fancy dress.

Gone are the days when a hurriedly thrown together costume is deemed acceptable. One lesson that most students have learned is that the perfect fancy dress outfit is as important as any essay – it takes time, imagination and effort to create something great. Therefore, to make your Freshers’ week looks the talk of the JCR, here are my top tips to give your fancy dress the edge:

Do it yourself

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Choosing to channel the Tenenbaums

As the week draws near, the temptation to play it safe becomes increasingly attractive. A number of online auction and fancy dress sites offer students ‘good quality’ costumes for under 20 quid and this seems to solve the problem of the costume conundrum. My advice? Don’t go there.

Girls, whatever you buy won’t fit or, if the term ‘sexy’ is used in the description, believe me it’s not meant to. Instead of spending your student loan on a ready-made pirate outfit, try to be creative. Rummage in charity shops for a costume on the cheap. Post-Uni, students donate their fancy dress to mark the start of adult life (depressing, I know).

The on-campus St John’s Hospice shop is goldmine of pre-loved ‘Where’s Wally’ glasses and animal masks, so if you’re stuck pop in for a bargain. Alternatively, buy material from local markets or reuse fabric from home to make costumes. You’d be surprised what you can fashion from a 2mx1m fake fur sheet. If you must part with money, stay sensible; you can do no wrong in a morph suit.

Death to sexy cat

Jess as Superman for a night out in Lancs
Jess channels Super Man for a night out

Every year students rock up to Intro Week events in the same old costumes. Think outside the box and, regardless of how stupid you look, opt for something unusual rather than channeling Regina George in Mean Girls. Last year, one Extrav was graced by the presence of a student dressed as King Kong heroine Ann Darrow in her signature white dress. The girl had fashioned a giant gorilla hand out of stuffed tights which were wrapped around her torso. By choosing a clever costume over PU leather, she was able to add a little humour to proceedings and definitely didn’t go unnoticed.  Always start with the phrase ‘What would McQueen do?’ and you’ll never need costume inspiration.

Two Heads are Better than One (especially if you’re a Pantomime Horse)

It’s common knowledge that the more people who follow a fancy dress theme, the more impressive the outfit. So channel the Anchorman boys in sharp suits and Stetsons, slap on the blue body paint as Avatars or peaked sugar paper hats as Crayola Crayons and feel confident in your costume. This also means that if you choose an unusual outfit, you’ve got someone else to feel awkward with. But remember, never leave a man behind. Ditching your partner, or fellow Smurf, is a sin and could cause more of a headache than a hangover on Sunday morning.

Ben, Kieran & Henry stay original as Mutant Ninja Turtles
Ben, Kieran & Henry as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The colleges have a variety of fancy dress events this Freshers’ week including high school stereotypes at Furness, pub golf at Grizedale and Lonsdale and an animal theme at Fylde. Get your Oompa Loompa on at Pendle, whilst the ‘C for Cartmel’ and County’s Toy Box theme give you the opportunity to get creative. Stuck for ideas? Ask your Freshers’ reps for advice and they (probably) won’t lead you astray.

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