An incredibly rich-looking costume made from old curtains & cardboard. Much of the decoration is gold spray-painted pasta (bow-ties & wheels), fruit gummies, and paper doilies. And yes, I meant to post this for Halloween and here it is, almost Thanksgiving. Sigh.
Jane Asher’s Fancy Dress was a childhood favorite. Every trip to the local library, I’d end up pulling it off the shelf, marvelling at the costumes and dreaming of the day I’d be tall and beautiful enough to dress like an elegant palm tree (below).
Click for slightly larger image.
So I had mixed feelings when I rediscovered it through a post on Awful Library Books, a blog that mocks old & awful library weeders. On the one hand, it was like rediscovering an old friend; on the other hand, said friend was being pelted with eggs. Further Googling yielded another derisive article, this one from The Daily Mail titled “What were they thinking?” (the “they” refers to the book’s many British celebrity models, including Joanna Lumley and Terry Jones).
I decided to post in praise of the book, then, for balance. Because I still think it’s brilliant. Asher does amazing things with cheap materials and straightforward construction tips, and better an elegant palm tree than another slutty nurse. Some favorite costumes below the cut.
An obvious favorite is this Spanish Dancer costume, worn by an amusingly intense little girl (expressive modeling is another chief attraction of the book). I mean, ruffles? Flamenco references? Be still, my beating heart. It’s another good example of a rich-looking costume built from humble materials: the skirt tiers are made of crepe paper (Asher claims you can sew it onto lining fabric with a machine; I’m skeptical).
Asher also has a contagious weakness for silly visual puns (e.g., the Newspiper, a Pied Piper costume made of newspaper) and goofy/cool tromp l’oeil effects, like this Pixie on Toadstool costume. Trivia bit: the model for this one is Emilia Fox:
I also love that the book emphasizes reusing old materials, like curtains and even in one case, tin cans (though I don’t get Asher’s enthusiasm for bubble wrap, it’s hiddy). For this fun interpretation of samurai armor, Asher used old postcards:
Finally, I like that the book’s offerings vary in difficulty, and that the easier ones aren’t necessarily less effective. As a final example, this Judge costume requires no sewing, and consists of a draped red blanket & strung-together toilet paper rolls:
So that is my case for this unloved but loveable book. It is out of print, but cheap used copies can be had from Amazon. Or better yet, get it from your local library.
Darren (fancy dress ideas) McCowan says
I’m a firm believer that creating your very own fancy dress costume has lots of merits. Getting the kids involved in this process is a great way to get everyone into the spirit of the occasion be it for a Christmas nativity, Halloween trick or treat event or some random social party. This book looks great and I’d love to own a copy but the designs do look a little beyond my skill set unfortunately.
Kathryn Carson says
hey I love her book can you show me can can as i once mae it from bin bags and Im havong a party next week