A couple of years ago, my local newspaper, The Nottingham Post, interviewed me for any Halloween story in regards to the psychology of fancy dress. Before I used to be interviewed, I did so a search of academic literature databases and couldn’t get a single academic paper that had been published on the topic. Even if this didn’t surprise me, it did signify everything I said to the journalist was opinion and speculation at best.
The reason behind compiling an inventory this way was to get a better idea of what the psychological motivation is behind dressing inside a fancy dress costume. Although a lot of people might state that the primary reason for dressing in fancy dress is because it’s an entertaining and exciting action to take, a list I compiled clearly shows all the different motivations is a lot in excess of one might initially suspect. I’m not claiming that my list is exhaustive, but it demonstrates that factors behind wearing superhero costumes are lots of and varied. Reasons might be financial (to generate money, to increase money for charity), sexual (particular fancy dress outfits being arousing either for the wearer or the observer), psychological (feeling part of a united group, attention-seeking, exploring other areas 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 individuals it could 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 wear fancy dress; Scottish country dancers, bowls players, musicians and many more have their own special costumes. Mass kinds of leisure tend not to assist to give a sense of identity, with the exception of supporting sports teams, which certainly does. This is basically the more engrossing and much less common sorts of leisure that most for identity”.
It’s debatable whether this really refers to fancy dress but for many people, fancy dress will almost always be about either self-identity or group identity. I also came across a web-based article by British psychologist Dr. Catherine Tregoning that looked at what people embark on most at Halloween and what it says on them pertaining to their occupation (I ought to add that the article was on a job-hunting website). At Halloween, would you watch horror films? Do you carve pumpkins? Can you go 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 maintain reinventing yourself and sometimes change career! Or can you operate in different guises inside your current role, switching your personality and presenting your outward self differently based on who you’re with or the task in hand? Or do you want some form of escapism from the day job? If you’re good at acting a part on Halloween – then make use of your skills to “act” confident in a job interview or “act” calm under pressure when delivering a presentation”
Another article by Rafael Behr published from the Guardian examined the politics and psychology of fancy dress. Associated the psychology, Behr’s views had some crossover using the interview I did with my local newspaper on the topic:
“Children love dressing, specifically in clothes that make them feel grown up. Adults like dressing as it reminds them of this sense of being children getting enthusiastic about dressing like a grownup. What this indicates is that actually becoming a grownup is often overrated and involves spending lots of time in disappointing clothes. Anybody who goes to a celebration in fancy dress will feel a pang of anxiety immediately before arrival they have made a mistake 05dexopky it is not an expensive dress party whatsoever. In case you have these feelings before coming to a wedding event or funeral, go home and alter. Only senior members of the clergy may wear ridiculous clothes in churches”.
Finally, another online article that examined dressing up for Halloween was one by psychotherapist Joyce Matter who examined whether mermaid tail enhance a person’s alter ego (or as she termed it, an individual’s “shadow side”).
“Do most of us reveal our shadow sides with this costume choices? Do those elements of self we have repressed express themselves uncontrollably if we are at Spirit Halloween? Perhaps… Expressive play is usually one of by far the most cathartic experiences as well as giving us the freedom to find out hidden facets of self that may contain valuable resources we are repressing. A refusal or inability to do so reveals difficulty with self-acceptance and perhaps a preoccupation with the opinions of others…Through my serve as a therapist, We have arrived at believe the shadow side will not be necessarily dormant characteristics which can be negative-they generally contain positive elements of self which we now have not been liberated to embody. Once we honor and integrate them, they are able to become powerful strengths”.
Being an adult, I have never wear fancy dress for Halloween. The truth is, the only real time I have got dressed up in anything approaching fancy dress was once i played a French butler during the murder mystery evening with friends. As 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 content with my well being which i don’t feel the need to behave out or experiment inside the confines of costume role-play.