Peppa Pig. Michael Flatley. Sergeant Bash.
These are just a few of the names that appear in my Notes app under the title ‘Costume ideas’. Some of them have been stuck on that list for over half a decade (there never seems to be a right time for the Flatley) but it seems they’ll just have to wait another year, thanks to coronavirus.
This pandemic, which has ravaged our diaries and left only an empty husk embossed with 2020, has now scuppered the best night of the year: Halloween.
The one time when fancy dress enthusiasts are celebrated and not considered ‘a bit old for that, don’t you think?’, has been effectively cancelled, as the prospect of partying in big groups remains an impossibility.
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Worse still, Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, leaving me to fantasise even harder about the wealth of parties that would have gone long into the night.
Was taking my home and my job not enough? Must I also have to dress as myself every day this year? Will the injustices never end?
Halloween is to me what I assume London Fashion Week is to Victoria Beckham; I plan for it all year round. Only six days into January, when ‘city on the lock down’ was just a lyric in a Blue song, I texted a friend with my first costume idea of the year. By April, I was on my fifth.
Tiger King’s Carole Baskin ended up replacing Peppa Pig after I discovered unnerving similarities between us (it’s the love of leopard print, not the husband drama), and my 2020 costume was optimistically all sewn up.
At a conservative estimate, I guessed I’d be one of a hundred paying tribute to the Netflix star, but at least it wouldn’t be like the year I dressed as Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and got mistaken for The Mighty Boosh’s Old Gregg.
But as I planned, the country closed down. I was on furlough, and the thought of Halloween was one of the few things keeping me going. Burying my head in a pumpkin patch and hoping for the best seemed like the only thing to do at the time.
I, for one, will still be dressing up this Halloween just to feel something, but if someone dresses as Carole Baskin with no one around to see it, does it even make an impact? A Halloween costume is a communal thing; a large part of its joy rests upon being seen, and not just by your parents whilst watching Strictly.
Thinking of all the other costumes lying unmade and unwanted now is quite ironic. The year that stole Halloween, with all its strangeness and endless headlines, would have surely brought with it a slew of remarkable costumes.
The rare unity afforded to us by months indoors watching the same television shows, consuming the same content with little else to do, would likely have meant a whole club full of Tiger Kings and Coughing Majors. How many Nurse Ratcheds would we have seen this year? How many toilet rolls and Barnard Castles? How many Chanel the African Greys?
Let’s spare a moment for those zeitgeisty costumes that will never be and the lads I’d have flirted with just because they were dressed as something stupidly witty – or, worse yet, my Halloween kryptonite, Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead.
Indeed, it’s not just the loss of the topical costumes that pains me. A Halloween costume is a window into the soul. It lets us show off our interests and our sense of humour to friends and strangers alike – a sartorial form of Twitter but without the brain-melting.
My own costumes have ranged from the conventional (Bellatrix Lestrange, albeit ginger) to the bizarre (Faye from Steps’ outfit from Halloween Week on Strictly), but all have come from the heart. Yes, the latter may have been so niche that the only person who recognised it was a stranger on a friend’s Instagram, but I have never felt closer to that stranger, before or since.
On the whole, my costumes have been met with an unlikely mixture of confusion and awe – awe that I’m not simply dressed as a cat, and confusion that I’ve gone as a popstar learning to dance instead.
Costumes, however absurd, can bring people together with nought but a niche reference or the clever use of cardboard. Truly, nothing thrills me more than a conversation across a crowded bar with someone dressed as Chewbacca in an outfit made entirely of cereal boxes. That’s my happy place, and this year, I’ve been robbed of it.
Obviously, missing Halloween isn’t the worst thing to happen in 2020. But I’ve long lamented the loss of even the most average night out thanks to the virus; it is no insignificant thing to lose something so fun. And Halloween is the most fun of them all.
When else can you dress as Peppa Pig, overcommit to the Britney Megamix, and still have the chance of a cheeky snog at the end of it? In this, the power of Halloween is unrivalled; my friend pulled dressed as Mr Blobby in 2011.
Maybe it is just a heady mixture of narcissism and frivolity, but I think Halloween represents something many of us lose in adulthood – it’s a chance to show off, to be creative and silly in whatever measure you like. It’s basically World Book Day for adults, except often there’s alcohol involved and superhero movies count.
Surely, if this year has taught us anything, it’s that life has room for the little things too, the nonsense amongst the cycles of bad news and banality.
Perhaps it’s little wonder that missing Halloween is the straw that broke this camel’s back. I suppose I’ll just have to add ‘camel’ to my list of costumes instead.
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