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Dress: Fancy

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Dress: Fancy explores the popularity, prevalence and power of fancy dress. Hosted by Lucy Clayton and Dr Benjamin Wild, the series looks at the social significance and psychology of people in costume. Episodes consider why fancy dress has been a constant theme throughout history; sometimes as an act of celebration or escapism, on other occasions as a form of protest or disruption.

Dress: Fancy explores the popularity, prevalence and power of fancy dress. Hosted by Lucy Clayton and Dr Benjamin Wild, the series looks at the social significance and psychology of people in costume. Episodes consider why fancy dress has been a constant theme throughout history; sometimes as an act of celebration or escapism, on other occasions as a form of protest or disruption.
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Dress: Fancy explores the popularity, prevalence and power of fancy dress. Hosted by Lucy Clayton and Dr Benjamin Wild, the series looks at the social significance and psychology of people in costume. Episodes consider why fancy dress has been a constant theme throughout history; sometimes as an act of celebration or escapism, on other occasions as a form of protest or disruption.




Episode 30: Fancy That! Dressing Up Comes of Age

In this indulgent, nostalgic birthday episode, Lucy & Ben review a year’s worth of super-niche, sequinned dressing up stories. Talking about the podcast’s origins, they revisit their favourite episodes and re-live their most exciting excursions. The start of Season Six also comes with a very special announcement: Dress:Fancy is partnering with historic London perfumer Penhaligon’s to make the costume drama even more immersive. As ever, for accompanying episode images, see our Instagram feed...


Episode 30: Get Your Freak On – The Jean Paul Gaultier Fashion Freak Show

Another excursion for the Dress: Fancy duo this week, and a true ‘end of season’ extravaganza, as Lucy and Ben review the career and cultural impact of fashion’s Enfant Terrible after watching his eponymous Fashion Freak Show at the South Bank Centre. This is the first in a series of episodes that explore the relationship between designers attuned to the language of costume, the provocative, playful & performative. Show Links www.instagram.com/dressfancypodcastwww.southbankcentre.com ...


Episode 29: Still Standing: The Costumes and Curation of Elton John

In an especially glittering episode, Lucy and Ben discuss the costumes (off stage and on) of the inimitable Rocket Man, Elton John. Reviewing the Star’s sartorial choices decade-by-decade, and comparing them to Julian Day’s interpretations in the recent blockbuster biopic starring Taron Egerton, this week’s show ponders the relationship between costume and character, as well as obviously highlighting some of Elton John’s ‘best-dressed’ moments. Show...


Episode 28: Into the Pleasure Garden - The RA Summer Show Lates Event

Getting into the summer spirit in central London, Lucy and Ben re-join the Royal Academy for another Lates costumed extravaganza. Talking with revellers, hosting the Georgian Moonlit Promenade and, most importantly, bestowing rosettes on the very best of the best-dressed, the Dress: Fancy duo were in their fancy dress heaven. Indulge, or re-live, the magical experience with our highlights. Show Links www.instagram.com/dressfancypodcastDress:...


Episode 27: Indulging Imaginations: Picnicking with the Jane Austen Pineapple Appreciation Society

In Pride and Prejuduce Jane Austen extolled the virtues of indulging the imagination ‘in every possible way’. With this in mind, Lucy and Ben joined members of the Jane Austen Pineapple Appreciation Society (JAPAS) for a costumed picnic at the National Trust’s Mottisfont Abbey on one sunny (and rainy) Sunday. In preparation, Lucy spoke with JAPAS founder Sophie Andrews to discover just what it takes to be a fully fledged Jane-ite. Show...


Episode 26: Stylish Sketches: Manga Lates at the British Museum

Lucy and Ben record live from the front row at the British Museum, listening in on Grayson Perry as he talks with Kensai Yamamoto, and dissecting the fashion and cosplay catwalks inspired by the Museum’s current, must-see Manga exhibition. Interviews with participants recreate the special atmosphere and reveal the marvellous, metamorphosing abilities of Manga. Show...


Episode 25: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

On Saturday 20 July, Dress: Fancy will be hosting a costumed parade at this year’s Royal Academy Summer Show Lates event. The theme, excitingly, is ‘Georgian Pleasure Garden’... To prepare for the festivities, Lucy and Ben provide an essential guide to costuming and getting into your Georgian character. A special visit to the National Theatre’s costume department should provide inspiration for even the most seasoned fancy dress revellers. No excuses! Show...


Episode 24: Carte Blanche - The Power of Dressing in White

Pristine, pure, powerful, peaceful: the meanings of white are many and various. It should occasion no surprise, then, that dressing in white (and its opposite, black) have long been a popular theme in costumed entertainments. Tracing the history of this colour through clothing, Lucy and Ben discuss some of the more intriguing uses of white in dressing up, from the seventeenth-century royal masque to Donald Trump’s recent, regrettable UK State...


Episode 23: Going Batty – A Costumed History of Bats

If you were to think of your costumed alter-ego as a creature, it’s unlikely you’d immediately conjure an image of a bat, and yet as this super niche episode demonstrates, bats have long been – and continue to be – popular subjects for dressing up, and not simply as Batman or Batwoman. Proving that no topic is too small for them to ponder, Lucy and Ben investigate the origins, symbolism and frightening beauty of the bat costume. Prepare to be stupefied! Show...


Episode 22: Fandoms & Self-Fashioning: Into the World of Cosplay

This week, Dress: Fancy speaks with Professor Therèsa M. Winge from Michigan State University to explore the compelling, complicated and challenging world of cosplay. A distinct form of fancy dress, cosplay is unique for enabling people to explore themselves and their society by adopting the clothing and character traits of favourite (fictional) characters. As Professor Winge explains, few forms of costume are simultaneously as escapist and revealing about contemporary society and politics...


Episode 21: Adolescent Avatars: the power and powerlessness of costumed children

Children playing dress-up is age-old and innocent. Or is it? Lucy and Ben go behind the seams to consider if children really do enjoy fancy dress as much the coaxed smiles in family photos suggest. Are these kids really avatars, conduits for the adults in their lives to express their views and to demonstrate their status? One thing’s for sure: you’ll never look at the children’s costume party in the same way again! Links Instagram: @dressfancypodcast


Episode 20: Your Culture, Their Costume? Fancy Dress and Cultural Appropriation

In 2011, Teen Vogue drew attention to harmful consequences of insensitively chosen fancy dress costumes that reduce beliefs, cultures and people to garish stereotypes. In previous episodes of Dress: Fancy, Lucy and Ben have considered the painful consequences of badly informed costume choices and in this episode they continue this dialogue, reflecting in far more depth on the widening debates about cultural appropriation and dressing up. Links https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHD0ZLPDRxM...


Episode 19: The Campest Christmas Eva!

The pink carpet has been walked and Lucy and Ben reflect on the costume highs and lows of this year’s Met Gala held on 6 May 2019. Were the outfits sufficiently camp? Why is Ben falling out of love with Julianne Moore? And why is Lucy falling in love with Kim Kardashian? Dress: Fancy provides ‘the’ definitive round-up of the year’s most fantastical night in...


Episode 18: Ethereal Excess – Carlos de Beistegui’s Venetian Ball

Described, in all seriousness, as the ‘Ball of the Century’, the Beistegui Ball of 1951 was a fancy dress event like no other: the guest list, the costumes, the late-running pre-party rehearsal – everything was taken to an extreme. But at what cost? As guests partied, they also pondered: ‘memorable’ the event certainly was; ‘merry’, perhaps not. Join Lucy and Ben as they discuss the enigmatic host and why his legendary entertainment may not, in fact, have been the party of all...


Episode 17: Camper Than Christmas? A Preview of the Met Gala Ball

Aside from Halloween, the only other date that gets Lucy and Ben excited is the first Monday in May, when the Metropolitan Museum, New York, hosts its gala ball to raise funds for its Costume Institute. Although not strictly a fancy dress event, the couture worn to this shimmering festivity is often fantastical, always exceptional. This year, with the theme derived from the Costume Institute exhibition, Camp: Notes on Fashion, the potential for some truly extraordinary garments is high! Join...


Episode 16: Aesthetes and the Avantgarde: Costume Balls at the Chelsea Arts Club

In this special ‘on location’ episode, Lucy and Ben visit the archives of the Chelsea Arts Club to explore the creativity, chaos and controversy that was Chelsea Arts Club annual fancy dress ball. Illustrated invitations, letters of outrage and contemporary newspaper reports, with stories of smoke bombs, arresting costumes and the London social scene, make this the perfect party to bring Season Three to a close. Links Chelsea Arts Club: www.chelseaartsclub.com Chelsea Arts Club Trust:...


Episode 15: The Wonderful World of Weldon’s, Or How to Hire the Best Costume

The adage, ‘They don’t make them like they used to’, is especially apt for the object at the centre of this week’s episode: a fancy dress catalogue from London costume supplier Weldon’s. Join Lucy and Ben as they leaf through the illustrated pages of costume dramas from the 1920s and 1930s and discover insights – sometimes shocking – that demonstrate the cultural prevalence and enduring popularity of dressing up. Links: https://colletions.museumoflondon.org.uk/online/object/536070.html...


Episode 14: Hassle, Heartache, and Hagrid: Reflections on World Book Day

Love it or loath it, World Book Day has become an important date in family calendars as toddlers, teenagers and just about any other young person under an adult’s influence, is dressed up and decorated to resemble a character from literary fiction. The costume fun and frustration of World Book Day provides for some hilarious – and likely scarring – moments, but as Lucy and Ben discover, the purpose of this annual day of dress-up is very serious, and necessary, indeed. Links: Charities ·...


Bonus Episode - Lights, Camera, Gucci!

Gucci’s SS19 campaign is an unashamedly glitzy and joyous celebration of 1950s Americana, as relayed through Hollywood and Kodachrome photography. It also looks, and feels, a lot like fancy dress costume. In this mini episode, Lucy and Ben reflect on the inspiration – and impact – of a campaign that has been both lauded and lambasted. Links: https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/j57m3y/gucci-spring-summer-19-campaign https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/gucci-off-white-balenciaga-hottest-brands...


Bonus Episode - Live at the Royal Academy: The Costume Parade to the Secret Ballroom

In the second of two special episodes recorded live at the Royal Academy’s Klimt-Schiele Cabaret Night in January, follow Lucy and Ben as they talk with costumed revellers, lead the Academy’s first costume parade, and award some incredibly coveted rosettes for the evening’s most inspiring fancy dress. Links Our venue: @royalacademyarts Our photographers: @emmiefin @gregclaytonphotography @maxmiechowski