A couple of years ago, my local newspaper, The Nottingham Post, interviewed me to get a Halloween story about the psychology of fancy dress. Before I was interviewed, I have done a search of academic literature databases and couldn’t look for a single academic paper that had been published on the topic. Although this didn’t surprise me, it did suggest that everything I said to the journalist was opinion and speculation at best.
The reason for compiling a listing similar to this was to obtain a better thought of just what the psychological motivation is behind dressing inside a fancy dress costume. Although many people might claim that the primary reason for dressing up in fancy dress is really because it’s a fun and/or exciting course of action, this list I compiled clearly shows the plethora of motivations is quite a bit higher than one might initially suspect. I’m not claiming that my list is exhaustive, but it demonstrates that reasons for wearing fancy dress costumes are many and varied. Reasons could be financial (to generate money, to boost money for charity), sexual (particular fancy dress outfits being arousing either towards the wearer or perhaps the observer), psychological (feeling component of a united group, attention-seeking, exploring other facets of an individual’s personality), practical (concealing true identity while engaged in a criminal act), and idiosyncratic (looking to break a world record). For some individuals it might be coercive (e.g., being made to dress up as a kind 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 more have their own special costumes. Mass sorts of leisure do not assistance to give feelings of identity, excluding supporting sports teams, which certainly does. This is the more engrossing and fewer common kinds of leisure which do most for identity”.
It’s debatable whether this really describes fancy dress but for many, fancy dress will be about either self-identity or group identity. Furthermore, i found an online article by British psychologist Dr. Catherine Tregoning that investigated what folks engage in most at Halloween and just what it says about the subject in relation to their occupation (I must include that the article was on a job-hunting website). At Halloween, would you watch horror films? Would you carve pumpkins? Do you continue ghost hunts? Can you like dressing in spiderman costumes? Should you, Dr. Tregoning claimed that:
“This may mean you’re the type to maintain reinventing yourself and often change career! Or can you operate in different guises with your current role, modifying your personality and presenting your outward self differently in accordance with who you’re with or perhaps the task in hand? Or do you really need some sort of escapism from the regular job? If you’re efficient at acting a part on Halloween – then use your skills to “act” positive about a conversation or “act” calm under pressure when delivering a presentation”
Another article by Rafael Behr published inside the Guardian examined the politics and psychology of fancy dress. Associated the psychology, Behr’s views had some crossover with all the interview I have done with my local newspaper on the subject:
“Children love dressing, specially in clothes that make them feel evolved. Adults like dressing up mainly because it reminds them of this sensation of being children getting enthusiastic about dressing like a grownup. What this means that is actually becoming a grownup is usually overrated and involves spending time and effort in disappointing clothes. Anyone that goes to a party in fancy dress will feel a pang of anxiety immediately before arrival that they have made a mistake 05dexopky it is really not an expensive dress party at all. For those who have this feeling before coming to a wedding or funeral, go home and change. Only senior people in the clergy are permitted to wear ridiculous clothes in churches”.
Finally, another online article that examined dressing for Halloween was one by psychotherapist Joyce Matter who examined whether superman costumes draw out a person’s alter ego (or as she termed it, an individual’s “shadow side”).
“Do most of us reveal our shadow sides with our costume choices? Do those aspects of self that people have repressed express themselves uncontrollably when we have reached Spirit Halloween? Perhaps… Expressive play may be one of by far the most cathartic experiences along with giving us the liberty to discover hidden aspects of self which could contain valuable resources we are repressing. A refusal or inability to achieve this reveals difficulty with self-acceptance as well as perhaps a preoccupation with the opinions of others…Through my work as a therapist, I have got visit believe the shadow side is just not necessarily dormant characteristics that happen to be negative-they often contain positive areas of self which we certainly have not been free to embody. Once we honor and integrate them, they could become powerful strengths”.
For an adult, I have never placed on fancy dress for Halloween. In reality, the only time I actually have dressed up in anything approaching fancy dress was when I played a French butler throughout a murder mystery evening with friends. Because there is no scientific research on the subject I don’t know if I am typical of middle-aged men or whether I am just happy with my life that we don’t want to act out or experiment throughout the confines of costume role-play.