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.
This week, Lucy and Ben ponder the enduring appeal, and representation, of the duelling relationship between the fictional frenemies, the harlequin and pierrot. From plays and paintings, to fashion and -of course- fancy dress, the comic duo reveal much about shifting social values and confirm that many a true word is spoken in jest…
Lucy and Ben tweak their normal designer-focused episode to review Andre Leon Talley’s memoir, The Chiffon Trenches. Reflecting on Talley’s exuberant and complex life – in and out of fashion’s spotlight – the book provides a rare opportunity to peel back the industry’s polished veneer and to consider how the pursuit of fashion rarely comes without cost.
Lucy and Ben are off to the court to enjoy the spectacle that was the masque. Propaganda par excellence, this short-lived entertainment during the seventeenth century glorified monarchy, and could give contemporary leaders a PR tip or two. Discussing the tense creative partnership between poet Ben Jonson and architect Inigo Jones, the show takes you to a world of sensory excess that was fit for a king - and his queen - in every sense.
Ben and Lucy are taking their diamanté magnifying glass to the face itself, and thinking about a new fashion coinage: Ugly Make-up, or Brutalist Make-up. Reflecting on the origins and motivations of this creative, conspicuous beauty trend, the Dress: Fancy duo also offer some of their own cosmetic tips. Surely, not to be missed.
Peter Brathwaite is a man of many talents but most recently he’s been the shining star of the Getty Museum Challenge – the social media sensation that has captivated art lovers, creators and costume fanatics during global lockdown. Using the challenge as platform to explore the history of Black Portraiture, Peter has brilliantly captured the spirit of works of art across the ages and drawn attention to stories that have been too long neglected or considered marginalised.
As the global lockdown eases and we all begin to think about wearing clothes in public, possibly for the first time in three months, Lucy and Ben discuss how the pandemic could change the way we dress. Looking to the past, politicians, and always with an eye to the playful, a range of sartorial options are considered and, of course, judged. Before venturing beyond your four walls, this episode could contain some essential dressing up pointers...
The past months have been strange, difficult and trying. Fancy dress has been worn by people around the world to provide joy during the pandemic. In this week’s episode, Lucy and Ben consider how fancy dress costume performed a similar function in the past as they invite themselves to the first bal costumé hosted by Queen Victoria, a medieval extravaganza celebrating the court of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. Gold, glitter, silks and furs: what could be more joyous than this…
It’s about time! Lucy and Ben wear their smudgiest eyeliner and descend into the subterranean world of the Cabaret. Focusing on two examples from early twentieth-century Europe, in England and Germany, they discover curious parallels between the past and present and reflect on people’s universal desire to live as themselves and without fear.
For many people, the essential part of any fancy dress costume is a face mask. Concealing one identity and making another possible, face coverings have been a source of excitement and anxiety throughout history. Today, in the midst of a global pandemic, this costume staple now means something very different. In this episode, Lucy and Ben discuss the many and varied meanings of masks in different cultures and across chronologies.
This week, in the second of our designer-focused mini episodes, Lucy and Ben discuss the bold and beautiful, strong and soft, powerful and playful creations of Molly Goddard. Since 2015, Goddard has won various industry accolades, designed for the Met Gala and for the small screen, combining technical skill with a unique sartorial flair. This episode tells you all you need to know about the fantasy and force of her work.
This week, Lucy and Ben walk towards the precipice and consider the role and meaning of clothes in six different cults. Reflecting on the relationship between fashion and fanaticism, the show considers how distinctive dress is used to control and champion the spread of controversial ideas and behaviours. The nature of this week’s discussion means that this is not for the whole family: listener discretion is advised.
Lucy and Ben sacrifice comfort to probe the dark, sometimes demonic, always disruptive world of the New York Club Kids, a diverse group who caroused and challenged in the City That Never Sleeps during the 1980s and 1990s. Offering a counterpoise to last week’s episode on the Bright Young Things, the Club Kids used their (clothed) bodies to challenge and provoke social norms in a way that would have intimated Beaton and his crew.
This week, Lucy and Ben explore the life and times of Dress: Fancy’s patron saint, Cecil Beaton. The social upheavals in Europe between the First and Second World Wars created an unsettling mix of expectation and fear. Weary and wealthy, a privileged group of twenty-somethings attempted to turn doubt and despair into delight and delirium. Their antics and fancy dress shenanigans became legendary, but, Beaton apart, their hopes for escape remained tragically unfulfilled.
Lucy transforms herself into Mariella Frostrup and interviews Ben about his new fancy dress-related tome, Carnival to Catwalk. To further allay isolation boredom, the episode also introduces the Dress: Fancy Costume Conundrum competition.
In a suitably festive episode, Lucy & Ben consider a form of cultural expression that’s ever relevant: Victoriana. From the costumes of Queen Victoria, via the bravura public readings of Charles Dickins, to a contemporary interpretation of the ‘Victorian Look’ with the Japanese Lolita, this episode truly shows that we love a theme! The episode is presented in conjunction with Penhaligon’s. For accompanying show images see Instagram: @dressfancypodcast.
Lucy talks with Egyptologists Dr Colleen Darnell and Professor John Darnell (@vintage_egyptologist) to reflect on the enduring cultural and sartorial appeal of the land and history of Tutankhamen. From rampant consumerism to studied attention to detail, the conversation considers the use, and misuse, of all things Egypt from the Twenties to today. Fittingly, this episode is brought to you in conjunction with Penhaligon’s Cairo fragrance (@penhaligons_london).
Every year from the late-nineteenth century Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House opened its doors for a night of costumed revelry. Urbanites from all social levels dressed up and vied for some very special prizes, from grand pianos to bicycles. Lucy and Ben become very excited as they become historical voyeurs. The episode is presented in conjunction with Penhaligon’s and their Iris Prima fragrance. For show images see Instagram: @dressfancypodcast.
In this week’s episode, Lucy and Ben begin a new mini-series that looks in-depth at the work of fashion designers whose clothing engages with themes we regularly explore through costume; chiefly identity and representation. We start by looking at the technically accomplished and creatively daring designs of award-winning British designer Craig Green (@craig__green). The episode is brought to you in conjunction with Penhaligon’s (@penhaligons_london) and their bespoke fragrance service.
Dress: Fancy has yet to venture off-shore: until now. In this week’s aquatic-themed episode, Lucy introduces Ben to the complex and beautiful world of the merpeople, a diverse community who dress as mermaids and mermen to seek personal and communal fulfilment in the water.
The episode is brought to you in conjunction with Penhaligon’s and their maritime-linked fragrance, Lothair. For episode images see Instagram: @dressfancypodcast.
London has many august traditions, but few are as beautiful, striking and good-natured as that of the Pearly Kings and Queens. Exploring the origins of the Pearlies, the meaning of their highly detailed, sparkly garments, Dress:Fancy were invited to attend their most important annual event: the harvest festival. The episode is brought to you in conjunction with Penhaligon’s and their Empressa fragrance. For episode images see Instagram: @dressfancypodcast.
Little Podcast of Horror: Season Six commences on the year’s biggest day for fancy dress: Halloween! Always looking to raise the costume stakes, Lucy and Ben consider costume inspiration from some unlikely sources, including the Pre-Raphaelites, Audrey Beardsley and an eighties footwear commercial that Lucy has still not got over. The episode is brought to you in conjunction with Penhaligon’s and their seasonally-appropriate Elixir candle. For episode images see Instagram: @dressfancypodcast.
In this indulgent 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 perfumer Penhaligon’s to make the costume drama even
more immersive. For episode images see Instagram: @dressfancypodcast.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 Visit.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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 fashion.
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 parties.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Join hosts Lucy Clayton & Dr Benjamin Wild live at the Royal Academy, as part of the RALates series for a discussion about Klimt, Schiele & the Viennese Secession - in this special, mini episode we explore the crossover between fashion, costume and the art of the period.
In this Season’s finale, Lucy and Ben talk with Levi Higgs about the jewellery worn at three of the twentieth-century’s most lavish and exclusive costume balls. Following Dress: Fancy’s patron saint, Cecil Beaton, who attended each of these events, this episode examines the significance of haute joaillerie and costume jewellery worn by the likes of Daisy Fellowes, Gloria Guiness and the inimitable Elizabeth Taylor.
Fancy dress may be inherently unfashionable but it has found a home in the seasonal wardrobe of many people the world over – the British in particular – in the form of the Christmas sweater. On 14 December, Save the Children encourage mass festive sweater wearing to raise awareness and funds for their charitable work. If you’re going to take part, listen in, Lucy and Ben guide you through ‘dos’ and absolute ‘do nots’ of this modern festive tradition.
This week’s episode raises a potentially divisive question: is re-enactment a form of fancy dress? From historical associations and living history, to Steam Punk and Nordic Larpers, Lucy and Ben continue their rummage through the dressing up box by looking at the role and meaning of people who create other worlds – those that are realistic and those that are more romantic – into the present.
Dressing the Part – the influence of literature on fancy dress. Episode 8 looked at how fancy dress shapes fictional stories, usually for the worse. This week’s show considers the fictional stories that shape fancy dress in real-life. From Alice lost her in Wonderland, to Hamlet lost in his mental anguish, via nursery rhymes and poetry, Lucy and Ben discuss the motivations and meanings behind our perennial desire to dress up as fictional and non-fictional characters.
It is not contentious to connect costume and the catwalk: Alexander McQueen did in 1997 with his ‘It’s A Jungle Out There’ collection. However, few designers and fashion houses are as willing, or as brave to compare their collections with the dressing up box. In today’s fashion industry ‘Fancy Dress’ remains a dirty term. Why is this? This episode considers why the prevalence and popularity of fancy dress creates opportunities and dilemmas, for some of fashion industries biggest brands.
Between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, novelists seemed fascinated by fancy dress. From Defoe to de Maurier, Blyton to Poe, authors used costumed entertainments to drive narratives and to determine the fate of their lead characters. Always exhilarating, very often devastating, the place of fancy dress in literature reveals much about how this sartorial form was perceived by contemporaries.
Halloween Headlines – The fancy dress day of the year, Halloween provides an opportunity for people the world over to get creative with glue guns, sequins and, if you’re Heidi Klum, latex and fluorescent green make-up. From A-listers to Z-listers, Disney to divas, the very best to the shocking worst, Lucy and Ben offer their thoughts on Halloween 2018 in this short ‘bonus’ episode.
Today, the spectre of the Romanovs continues to compel and cautionary lessons exist for those willing to heed them. The gulf between rulers and ruled, leisure and labour, continues to create problems in the twenty-first century, and costume remains adept at conveying this. Recent commentary on Melania Trump’s clothing presents strong parallels with Tsarina Alexandra, whose ball gown may have cost $10 million.
For this very special of dressing up days, and in response to listener feedback, Lucy and Ben open up about their own costume experiences and reflect on Halloween terrors and triumphs. From a lacklustre train driver’s suit to body gouging metal armour, personal memories are used to tell a global story about the enduring appeal of All Hallows’ Eve.
Like fancy dress, movies are adept at conveying the zeitgeist. And just like fancy dress, the Silver Screen can reassure us, motivate us, and inspire us. It is no wonder, then, that movie-themed dress up has become a staple of costumed parties the world over, from caped crusaders and femmes fatales, to the fantastic and the fierce. But is the imitation of movie characters and clothing always joyful?
Today Lucy and Benjamin analyse how people’s social, political and gendered roles are disrupted by war. Fancy dress costume, which offers escapism and self-reflection by enabling its wearer to become somebody or something else, can mediate these tensions. From women who dressed as men to fight in America’s Civil War, to allied sailors who survived a mid-Atlantic torpedo attack dressed as Nazi officials in WWII, they consider the harrowing and heartening place of costume in conflicts throughout history.
Join Lucy Clayton and Dr Benjamin Wild for another eye-opening episode, as they explore a British phenomenon in popular culture, stating that fancy dress costume is inherently unfashionable and frequently in questionable taste. Photographs of authority figures and supposed role models in dubious dress-up regularly appear in newspapers to be excoriated by pundits and public alike. But what is it about fancy dress that encourages people to push the boundaries of humour and tact?
In the second episode of a new series that explores the prevalence, potency and politics of fancy dress costume, Lucy Clayton and Dr Benjamin Wild discuss the Devonshire House Ball. Held on 2 July 1897 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, during an époque when dressing up was more than just an entertaining occasion, the night-long festivity was spectacular. From goddesses to mythic monarchs, the social elite caroused in creative and costly costumes, several of which survive today.
In the first of a new series that looks at the social significance and psychology of dressing up, Lucy Clayton and cultural historian Dr Benjamin Wild discuss the global prevalence of fancy dress protests. From slogan covered T-shirts to city-wide marches, pussy hats to power aprons, an increasing number of people are getting creative with costume to give voice to opinions they feel are not being heard.