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Unusual New Year's Eves
As we come to the end of a Year Like No Other, (can we find a different phrase for next year?), the events of New Year's Eve and our involvement have changed. In the early days, pre-business, Peter, not having any family locally, could spend the early evening delivering costumes (weather permitting) and at the year changeover was with whoever was offering hospitality.
As business got better, we became more home-based, with people coming to us for outfits and auxiliary services then going to their event, leaving us to celebrate on our own or with friends.
One year, when we were in business and taking bookings, we had 'fun' with a Goldfinger girl. Her family lived locally, but this particular NY Eve she was working at a pub as a barmaid, and she wanted the full head to toe gold paint job because of a Bond theme. Problem was, she didn't drive, and the girl bringing her over got lost so, having set aside a time-slot in our afternoon schedule to achieve the body-painting, things got a little complex. By the time she arrived, we'd had another interesting appointment arrive = a chap who'd been asked to fill in as a female on a murder-mystery evening – not full drag, but enough for him to be embarrassed. Needless to say, overhearing a female (near-naked, but he didn't know that) in another room, phoning in graphic ongoing progress reports to her employer, made things even more surreal.
Another year we had a couple who wanted to do something different for New Years Eve and hired a camel (we have two of them). They spent the entire evening slipping out of the pub, changing to the camel in the car park, returning to make another grand entrance into the pub. After causing a little mayhem in the packed bar, they then popped out to change back. It took patrons a little time to realise what was happening. Some of our customers can be a little over-dedicated!
23rd December 2020
The Changing Face of Seasonal Costuming
Even without this year's events (or lack of them), the Christmas/New Year costuming landscape has changed over the years.
At one time business over Festive Season came in two parts: The pre-Christmas period used to involve Staff Christmas Parties and shops, typically supermarkets, hairdressers etc. having their staff dress-up in the days before Christmas Eve. They would collect a few days before the Eve and usually we'd get them back in time for Christmas, or by arrangement. These days, of course, staff can find their outfits online, and when it comes to staff parties, changing times have meant 'in house' parties don't exist so much (it's sometimes easier to give a Christmas bonus). The new way is either to treat staff on one of the ready-made all-in-one party venues that exist already or spring up for the season, or delay the whole thing to January, when it's socially quieter and venues are cheaper.
Once Christmas is over, people begin to concentrate on what to do for NYE. Again , things have changed – in London, people used to gather in Trafalgar Square, now it's down to the riverside and the Millennium Wheel. It was around the Millennium that NYE costuming started to change: There were plenty of NYE events that year, but whereas people used to pile into their local for the Big Night, pubs began to run NYE as a ticketed event and then started to charge when people weren't turning up because they'd changed plans. Once people had paid for tickets not many necessarily wanted the further bother and expense of hiring costumes. There are still (usually) private parties and events, but the Internet and DIY have had their effect.
For us, whilst many rest between Christmas and New Year, the time between the two could be busy, trying to turn outfits round in time to reuse them. Obviously we did try to make it easier by attempting not to book out the same outfit for the two periods, but it didn't always work - comes with the territory.
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18 December 2020
Taking to the Stage...
In a normal year, it's around now people get involved in 'seasonal productions'. At one end of the scale there are the schools: The 'landscape' on the Nativity Play has shifted in recent years to cater to the more multicultural demographic – whilst Joseph, Mary and the Christ Child are still usually the traditional focal point, the nature of their visitors has broadened out. Remember the Nativity in 'Love Actually' featuring a spaceman, lobster and whale? We've had our fair share of requests based on Blue Sky Thinking. One year we had a request based on a local school deciding they wanted the children dressed as planets. Revealing a surprising gap in the costume market as no-one actually makes planet costumes, we improvised with a reversed pumpkin costume. Another year, at the height of the Finding Nemo popularity, the idea was the children as fish.
On the other hand there are the pantos (and variations), and, as has been repeated a lot in the current crisis, the supposed supportive mainstay of the theatre business. Here the landscape has also changed – many large theatres and even organisations like the BBC, have given up having wardrobe departments, on the grounds of the cost of maintenance and space. Theatres and local authorities 'buy in' productions from specialist companies. The tradition still thrives at village am-dram level but arguably, current restrictions aside, lack of retail fabric outlets and aspects of fast fashion, are causing costume-making skills to be lost.
In the early days, we actually wrote our own pantos – it was one way of getting costumes used, but in the wider market, whilst we can't kit out whole productions (no space, for one thing), there are occasional requests for outfits people cannot source – mainstream panto costumes online are rather sparse, unless you get lucky on eBay. Sometimes matching a Director's vision to reality can be a challenge, but we usually have the ability to come to a compromise.