A few years ago, my local newspaper, The Nottingham Post, interviewed me for a Halloween story about the psychology of fancy dress. Before I had been interviewed, I did a search of academic literature databases and couldn’t find a single academic paper that were published on the subject. Even if this didn’t surprise me, it did signify everything I said to the journalist was opinion and speculation at best.
The reason for compiling a list such as this was to acquire a better idea of precisely what the psychological motivation is behind dressing in a fancy dress costume. Although a lot of people might point out that the key reason for dressing up in fancy dress is simply because it’s an enjoyable and exciting thing to do, their list I compiled clearly shows the range of motivations is much in excess of one might initially suspect. I’m not claiming that my list is exhaustive, but it really implies that causes of wearing fancy dress costumes are numerous and varied. Reasons might be financial (to earn money, to boost money for charity), sexual (particular fancy dress outfits being arousing either to the wearer or the observer), psychological (feeling a part of a united group, attention-seeking, exploring other elements of an individual’s personality), practical (concealing true identity while engaged in a criminal act), or idiosyncratic (trying to break a world record). For other people it might be coercive (e.g., being required to dress up as a form of sexual humiliation, or punishment for losing a bet).
“It is not merely punks and skinheads who put on fancy dress; Scottish country dancers, bowls players, musicians and many more have their own special costumes. Mass kinds of leisure do not assist to give feelings of identity, apart from supporting sports teams, which certainly does. This is the more engrossing and fewer common kinds of leisure that do most for identity”.
It’s debatable whether this really means fancy dress but for a few people, fancy dress will almost always be about either self-identity or group identity. In addition, i came across an internet article by British psychologist Dr. Catherine Tregoning that considered what individuals take part in most at Halloween and just what it says about the subject pertaining to their occupation (I ought to include that the article was on the job-hunting website). At Halloween, will you watch horror films? Do you carve pumpkins? Can you carry on ghost hunts? Would you like dressing up in d.va costumes? Should you do, Dr. Tregoning claimed that:
“This may mean you’re what type to hold reinventing yourself and quite often change career! Or do 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 perhaps the task at your fingertips? Or do you want some type of escapism through your regular job? If you’re good at acting a part on Halloween – then use your skills to “act” confident in a conversation 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. Associated the psychology, Behr’s views had some crossover with the interview I did so with my local newspaper on the topic:
“Children love dressing, specially in clothes that make them feel grown up. Adults like dressing up as it reminds them of the feeling of being children getting enthusiastic about dressing like a grownup. What this means that is the fact that actually as being a grownup is often overrated and involves spending lots of time in disappointing clothes. Anyone who goes toward an event in fancy dress will feel a pang of anxiety immediately before arrival that they have made a mistake 05dexopky it is not an expensive dress party at all. For those who have these feelings before coming to a wedding event or funeral, go home and alter. Only senior members of the clergy can wear ridiculous clothes in churches”.
Finally, another online article that examined dressing for Halloween was one by psychotherapist Joyce Matter who examined whether mermaid tail reveal a person’s alter ego (or as she termed it, an individual’s “shadow side”).
“Do all of us reveal our shadow sides with our costume choices? Do those areas of self that people have repressed express themselves uncontrollably once we are at Spirit Halloween? Perhaps… Expressive play is usually one of one of the most cathartic experiences in addition to giving us the liberty to find out hidden aspects of self which could contain valuable resources we are repressing. A refusal or inability to do this reveals difficulty with self-acceptance and maybe a preoccupation using the opinions of others…Through my act as a therapist, We have visit believe the shadow side is not necessarily dormant characteristics which are negative-they generally contain positive aspects of self which we now have not been liberated to embody. When we finally honor and integrate them, they could become powerful strengths”.
For an adult, I have got never put on fancy dress for Halloween. In fact, really the only time I have got decked out in anything approaching fancy dress was after i played a French butler during 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 well being that we don’t want to behave out or experiment within the confines of costume role-play.