fancy dress: the annual shit parade


These are probably going to be too small, TBH.


This time every year, we get questions about costumes. My preferred Halloween costume is ‘staying home’, but if you’re into this stuff, please do leap into the comments to advise these questioneers. We open with B in Seattle:

I work in a small office with six other people. Not by choice, I’ve apparently taken on the role of Human Resources (in addition to several other titles). I have zero HR experience. One of my colleagues has come to office in the past dressed as Aunt Jemima for Halloween. The problem is, she is white and completed the ensemble with black face.

Last week, colleague #2 approached me and asked me to say something to colleague #1 so she does not do that anymore.

Colleague #1 is very sensitive and not as educated in African-American history or current events as everyone else and I don’t want her to feel bad. At the same time, I know that it is very offensive.

I don’t think anyone is dressing up for Halloween this year. Answer me this: do I preempt this improbable event by asking Aunt Jemima not to come to the office this year? And, if so, what do I say?

You don’t tell her not to come in at all – then she’ll be upset AND she won’t learn how to be less offensive. Being ‘very sensitive and not as educated in African-American history or current events’ are no excuse for anything. And this is not even a rare case.

Here are some alternative options to try to allay a repeat situation:

1. Gather the full workforce together, as formally or informally as you like. Say, “Seems like the consensus is we’re not going to dress up for Halloween this year, but everyone could bring some decorations to the office on Friday.” Then sit around together for half an hour carving pumpkins together or whatnot. COSTUME CRISIS AVERTED. NB be sure to dissuade her from carving a Confederate Flag or such.

2. Feigning a casual, friendly conversation with her, say, “Do you know what you’re going to wear for Halloween this year?” If she says something like, “Oh, I’m coming as Crazy Eyes from Orange is the New Black,” respond, “Ha ha, be careful not to make the same mistake Julianne Hough did! She got into so much trouble for that! You know, every year there’s outcry about culturally insensitive or downright offensive costumes – when will people learn, eh? Especially as there are so many options that won’t upset anybody, so it’s just a lot easier to come dressed as a cupcake/otter/non-specific character in stupid hat. Ah well, nice to chat; best get back to it.”
Of course, in this option there is an element of sanitising history, since you are pretending her previous misdemeanour didn’t exist. Hence my preferred option is:

3. Send an email to everybody saying, “I don’t care whether or not you dress up for Halloween, but if any of you turns up in one of these costumes, don’t expect to get a bonus this year.”

Alright, onto this question from Philip in Calgary, Canada:

I am a teacher and every year the principal gives us a theme we dress up as and the students have to guess the link between our outfits. This year’s theme is the word ‘royalty’.

I am one of two male teachers and the other guy has dibs on the Lion King. Do you have any suggestions for a fun costume I could do on this theme aside from going naked and going as the crown jewels?

There are surely loads of options. Commenters, choose one for him. But, bearing in mind B’s email above, be wise. We don’t want Philip to go as this:


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2 Responses to “fancy dress: the annual shit parade”

  1. EC Says:

    King Kong
    Burger King
    Freddie Mercury
    Artist again known as Prince

  2. jarthurstormer Says:

    Royalty? Go as “The King” – Elvis Presley. You can probably find some tight enough white cover-alls (maybe you call them coverall up in Canada, too?) at a work-wear store, at a fabric store you can find a bunch of cheap stick-on plastic jewels, and at a dollar store you can find some leis. I suppose there’s some sort of costume-type store you can find a wig you can trim down to the right shape? I wonder if you can find cheap wigs, too, at the fabric store this time of year.

    You’ll need to flip up that collar and keep it up, so just use some cardboard. Staple that shit in place; why the hell not? Even if your costume is terrible, you can just say, “Thank’ye, thank’ye, thankyeverahmuch” and everybody will understand what you’re trying to do.

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