Some friends were recently recounting the story of the party they had been to the previous weekend. It was a fancy dress do, requiring everyone to come in 80’s gear – and let’s face it, for people of my generation, that wouldn’t be too much of a stretch given that my wardrobe at least has not moved on much in the past 25 years. Or at least, that’s what my children tell me...
But as I was enjoying listening to their tales of drunkenly strutting their stuff to Abba’s greatest hits, dreadful flashbacks of fancy dress parties I have been to and appalling outfits I have worn came rushing through my memory.
There was one – must have been in the 70’s sometime when I chose to dress as a Viking Queen. Yes, it must have been the 70’s because I had a floor-length bottle green cloak, lined with paler green satin and with a velvet hood – my mother made it for me, poor woman! I also had waist length strawberry blonde hair at the time which was perfect for two long plaits. I managed to buy a plastic horned Viking helmet from somewhere or other and some sort of Neptune’s trident – I’m not entirely sure why but it seemed to fit the bill at the time. My last memory of that night is drunkenly rolling myself up in my cloak and dossing down on someone’s (very uncomfortable) floor for the night.
The next one wasn’t exactly a fancy dress party – but it was a David Bowie concert which amounts to the same thing really – especially when you are about 17. I discovered a silver lurex outfit – baggy top and trousers in the back of my mother’s wardrobe which I colonised – much to her amazement. The trousers fitted quite well around the hips but were straight-legged! OMG – the sheer social Siberia of appearing in anything other than flares or better still, Oxford bags! Easily solved – I simply tucked them into knee-high black leather boots, slung a belt around the baggy top and painted my face with as much glitter as I could find. I thought I was the total bee’s knees until I saw my friend Anna who was working the androgynous look like a pro. Her hair was quite short anyway and she had painted A LIGHTNING BOLT across her face in glitter – just like Aladdin Sane. I wanted to die of jealousy. Thankfully, we didn’t have the obsession with cameras and recording our every move that my daughter and her friends have today, so there is no record of this auspicious occasion (er not that I know of anyway....eek!)
These two might be bad enough, but the real killer happened many years previously. I was six and at primary school and we were to have a fancy dress party at the end of term. I desperately wanted to go as Little Bo Peep because I had an ancient Alison Uttley book of Nursery Rhymes in which LBP was depicted as a Regency Belle with a gorgeous little bonnet and flyaway curls (so similar to my good self, ahem...) My parents, however, ran a pub at the time and decided that I should go as a bottle of Guinness...yes, I know – call the pc police. Can you imagine the uproar these days if a child was dressed up as ALCOHOL! Ooh! Anyway, one of my mum’s dresses was made into a long brown shift, the cap was made out of an old pillbox hat, covered in green felt with the edges crimped to resemble a bottle top. An artistic Aunt was press-ganged into making a huge oval label out of brown paper. How I howled and cried for Little Bo Peep, but to no avail. “Nobody else will have thought of this,” cried my enthusiastic mother as she dragged me unwillingly to school.
She was right. I won first prize and had to stand, cringing and purple-faced on a podium while the six Little Bo Peeps who weren’t even placed, circled below like angry sharks.