A few years ago, my local newspaper, The Nottingham Post, interviewed me for a Halloween story regarding the psychology of fancy dress. Before I used to be interviewed, I did searching of academic literature databases and couldn’t get a single academic paper that was published on the subject. Even though this didn’t surprise me, it did mean that everything I said to the journalist was opinion and speculation at best.
The reason for compiling a listing such as this was to have a better notion of just what the psychological motivation is behind dressing inside a fancy dress costume. Although most people might say that the key reason for dressing in fancy dress is simply because it’s a fun and exciting move to make, a list I compiled clearly shows the range of motivations is quite a bit greater than one might initially suspect. I’m not claiming that my list is exhaustive, however it shows that factors behind wearing fancy dress costumes a wide range of and varied. Reasons might be financial (to generate money, to improve money for charity), sexual (particular fancy dress outfits being arousing either to the wearer or maybe the observer), psychological (feeling a part of a united group, attention-seeking, exploring other facets of an individual’s personality), practical (concealing true identity while engaged in a criminal act), or idiosyncratic (attempting to break a world record). For other people it may be coercive (e.g., being made to dress as a type of sexual humiliation, or punishment for losing a bet).
“It is not only punks and skinheads who place on fancy dress; Scottish country dancers, bowls players, musicians and others get their special costumes. Mass types of leisure tend not to assistance to give a feeling of identity, with the exception of supporting sports teams, which certainly does. This is basically the more engrossing and much less common forms of leisure that do most for identity”.
It’s debatable whether this really identifies fancy dress but for many, fancy dress will always be about either self-identity and/or group identity. Furthermore, i found a web-based article by British psychologist Dr. Catherine Tregoning that looked at what people take part in most at Halloween and what it says about the subject pertaining to their occupation (I must add that this article was on the job-hunting website). At Halloween, will you watch horror films? Can you carve pumpkins? Would you continue ghost hunts? Would you like dressing in harley quinn costumes? If you, Dr. Tregoning claimed that:
“This may mean you’re what type to keep reinventing yourself and often change career! Or will you function in different guises in your current role, changing your personality and presenting your outward self differently based on who you’re with or the task in hand? Or do you really need some type of escapism from your normal work? If you’re proficient at acting a part on Halloween – then make use of your skills to “act” confident in interviews or “act” calm under pressure when delivering a presentation”
Another article by Rafael Behr published in The Guardian examined the politics and psychology of fancy dress. In relation the psychology, Behr’s views had some crossover using the interview I did with my local newspaper on the subject:
“Children love dressing, especially in clothes that will make them feel grown up. Adults like dressing up mainly because it reminds them of this sense of being children getting interested in dressing similar to a grownup. What this suggests is actually as being a grownup is usually overrated and involves spending time and effort in disappointing clothes. Anyone that will go to a party in fancy dress will feel a pang of anxiety immediately before arrival they have made a mistake 05dexopky it is not a fancy dress party in any way. In case you have this feeling before reaching a marriage or funeral, go home and alter. Only senior individuals the clergy are allowed to wear ridiculous clothes in churches”.
Finally, another online article that examined dressing up for Halloween was one by psychotherapist Joyce Matter who examined whether wonder woman costume draw out a person’s alter ego (or as she termed it, an individual’s “shadow side”).
“Do we all reveal our shadow sides using our costume choices? Do those elements of self that people have repressed express themselves uncontrollably if we tend to be at Spirit Halloween? Perhaps… Expressive play can be one of one of the most cathartic experiences and also giving us the liberty to learn hidden elements of self that could contain valuable resources we have been repressing. A refusal or inability to do this reveals difficulty with self-acceptance and perhaps a preoccupation using the opinions of others…Through my serve as a therapist, I have visit believe the shadow side is just not necessarily dormant characteristics that happen to be negative-they frequently contain positive aspects of self which we now have not been free to embody. When we honor and integrate them, they may become powerful strengths”.
As an adult, I have got never wear fancy dress for Halloween. In fact, really the only time I actually have decked out in anything approaching fancy dress was after i played a French butler in a murder mystery evening with friends. While there is no scientific research on the topic I don’t know should i be typical of middle-aged men or whether I am just just content with living that we don’t want to act out or experiment throughout the confines of costume role-play.