When the news that England was entering its second national lockdown was announced, I was sitting in the living room of my new house-share dressed as a zombie bride.
We threw a Halloween themed night to celebrate our move into the flat and to encourage the initial bonding for those of us who hadn’t previously met. Think faces covered in fake blood, handmade accessories and shop-bought spooky snacks.
What we didn’t know then was that similar carefully planned costumed nights would emerge as a regular feature of our lockdown. It became the activity that has kept my spirits high during a horrible time.
In the past, fancy dress has never really been my forte.
I’ve famously refused to wear an elf costume during a family Christmas, cringed when friends announced themed birthday parties, then thrown on a pair of animal ears to scrape by.
So the fact I now attribute so much of the joy I’ve felt over the past month to dressing up is something of a surprise. It is our unlikely highlight. Bringing guaranteed smiles and laughter, even though we’re stuck inside.
With a ghost themed game of beer pong and an obstacle course made from sellotape confirming Halloween to be an all round success, we decided to keep fancy dress as a weekly event of our lockdown.
In celebration of Joe Biden’s election win, we began with an American themed evening. With costumes ranging from Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Melania Trump to Barack Obama’s dog, Bo, we spent the night eating mac and cheese and watching Biden make his victory speech.
In a similar vein, last weekend we had a Thanksgiving meal followed by a house club night, which gave us the chance to wear our long-abandoned ‘going out’ clothes to dance around the kitchen table.
This weekend, we plan to dress as pop stars! So, I’m currently working on my costume for Avril Lavigne.
Staying positive has been tough at times this year. Like so many others, I’ve gone through long periods on furlough, suffered job loss, and struggled to keep myself motivated without an endpoint in sight.
But with our weekend fancy dress sessions, I’ve always had something to look forward to.
As the pace of life slowed, our social lives were forced to a standstill and the outside world was almost forgotten, having solid plans for each weekend has given the blurring days a constant sense of structure.
If I’m at a loss of what to do, I can spend time planning my costume. I can think of future themes or fill time making decorations. If I’m ever feeling overwhelmed by the monotony of each day’s sameness, I know that another world of excitement is never too far away.
The prospect of spending weeks inside with anyone has the potential to be disastrous, but when you’re living among new people, there’s even more at stake. The addition of fancy dress has helped our home feel like a family and given us some of our best moments together so far.
Like when my housemate, Rowan, got results of a negative coronavirus test, it gave us a way of celebrating. We each chose a character with her name to dress up as for a surprise.
Though planning the outfits of a Rowan tree or the former archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, wasn’t exactly the easiest of concepts, seeing the shock on her face as she began to realise who each of us were was worth any amount of time or thought.
It’s hard to think what our lockdown would have been like without us dressing up on Saturdays, but I’m certain it wouldn’t have been half as bearable.
Walking downstairs in my costume, I can escape the boredom of the real world, and for a few hours, forget all my weekly stresses. The only time I feel even the slightest bit of reluctance for the evening is if my outfit isn’t up to scratch.
We’ve got plans for a Christmas costumed dinner, a murder mystery evening and maybe even a Made in Chelsea-inspired quiz.
As lockdown is coming to a close, and news of the vaccine’s completed development is on the horizon, it is difficult to know for certain what life will be like in the future. But I think fancy dress is something that will definitely feature.
Besides, who wants to be constantly in the real world right now anyway?
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