One of the big surprises of living among the English (and there are many) is how much they love to dress up. Americans may work Halloween like a mofo, but the English wouldn’t settle for just one day a year.
Fancy dress is a standard not just of children’s parties and All Hallow’s Eve. Attending balls in elaborate costume is as much a part of university as beer bongs are in America. It continues on into post-college life, middle age and beyond. (At my daughter’s school, the fund-raising quiz night has a creative dress-up theme that in recent years spurred one team to dress as Romans and bring a pig’s head, and others to tart up as KISS, 1950s stewardesses – vavavoom – and 40something Occupy protesters armed with tents and piercings…and no, we didn’t even win the costume competition with that last one.) An English man’s infatuation with dressing up in drag should never be underestimated.
Now it’s come to my attention that, with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee fast approaching, there’s an optimal opportunity for dress up. (Even the restrained Elizabeth II pushed the boat out for the occasion 60 years ago, ermine, sceptre and all.)
For kids, of course, the whole costume thing comes naturally and the shops are full of Jubilee options – Queen masks, tiaras and crowns. My daughter has a dress from TKMax that allows her to take the historical route. It’s a grand full-length gold dress with fake pearls draped at the neck and velvety detailing*. The fabric is more substantial than many children’s dressing-up costumes, giving it real shape. Warning: Putting it on may cause children to swan around and become – as my daughter puts it – “queeny”. (See picture.) She wore a vest underneath so the reverse of the velcro closure wasn’t scratchy against her back. There’s also a version in red and in blue both with crowns. All (£19.99) have been so popular that they’ve sold out online, but you can look for them in your nearest store.
For my costume, I’m going to focus on the more recent past: the year of Elizabeth II’s coronation. That means a 1952-era dress with full skirt, red lipstick, “done” hair. I have a black dress with white polka dots and puff sleeves that’s coming out of the cupboard along with some high-heeled mary janes. I might even put a bow in my hair.
Of course, the Jubilee celebrations – flotilla, street parties, carriage procession – lasts a full 4 days. You didn’t think the English would be satisfied with just one opportunity for funny headgear and gold tassels, did you?
* This dress was sent to me for review. The opinions about it are my own.