Planning costumes is a fun and creative process, and a great costume can help you mingle with other guests. At the same time it takes awareness and consideration in order to ensure that costume choices are not offensive. We’ve put together this list of advice for the entire community about some suggested “dos” and some definite “dont’s” to consider when costuming (courtesy of our friends at Kinky Salon London):
- Ask us if you have any questions or are in doubt. We are here to help!
- Help yourself to the dress-up suggestions we provide on our Pinterest board
- Be imaginative – paper, balloons, second hand stuff. The best costumes are not expensive!
- Try adding interactivity (e.g. puppets, “draw on my costume”, or something to give away)
- Consider a costume that matches with your PAL(s) – it’s instant solidarity and it makes a great group photo!
- Bring clothes you’re OK to lose… leave your posh jewellery / fancy undies at home… not on our floor
- Bring a tiny bag like a fanny pack for money/change and safer sex supplies
- Think about whether your costume idea may offend others. For tips check this handy flowchart
- Read up on cultural appropriation. Just because you “know” a culture does not mean you have a right to wearing anything symbolizing it as a costume. See “Don’t” (below) for more.
- Designer suits/dresses, or streetwear unless these items are relevant to the theme and crucial for your costume (ask us if unsure). Our parties are not about expensive clothing, they’re about being creative and playing to the theme!
- Fetish wear or lingerie by themselves are not a costume. But they can be excellent sexier parts of a larger costume idea. Our parties are not about straight up “sexy” clothing, they’re about being playful and creating something that expresses the theme!
- Body paint (if using the play rooms): in large quantities this stuff is notoriously messy and transfers easily onto the towels and linens used in our play rooms. Keep our play rooms clean by leaving this kind of mess at home.
- Race, ethnicity, and culture are not costumes. It’s that simple. Making someone else’s culture and/or identity a caricature for you to wear for one night is a terrible costume idea. This applies to forms of dress as well as things like hairstyles (e.g. Afros) that have specific racial/ethnic/cultural significance. Blackface is never acceptable at our events.
- Bindis, saris: Bindis have varied meanings depending on the tradition and occasion, yet many South Asian women were forbidden the right to wear bindis well into the 20th century. Saris belong to the traditional dress of South Asian countries but are complex in their present-day use. Even if your friend helped you buy yours, it’s respectful to wear it to a sari-appropriate event rather than to a costume party.
- Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos): The Day of the Dead originates from the indigenous peoples of southern regions of Mexico and has been celebrated as a national holiday in Mexico since the 1960s. Spanish colonizers and the Catholic Church tried to suppress its celebration for centuries. For this reason, many find it offensive to see the tradition taken out of context and worn as a costume.
- First Nations / Native American (head-)wear: First Nations people are a diverse population of many nations, cultures, languages and traditions, which colonizers tried to strip them of. Their traditional dress has sacred value to them and is designed and made with ritual. To now wear the very thing thing they were denied is insulting and hurtful.
- Geishas, sheikhs, etc.: It’s important to remember that wearing such costumes can lead to the disempowerment of the cultures and individuals behind such negative representation. Today, these cultures still find themselves fighting for their human rights, including the right to define their own identities. Some people are called terrorists, harassed and profiled simply for wearing kanduras.
- Nazis: National Socialism was responsible for the systematized murder of over eleven million people. In Germany, the birthplace of 20th century Nazism, all forms of Nazi uniforms, greetings / speech, and other Nazi paraphernalia are constitutionally banned. Please don’t wear anything like this to our events
- Violence: References to actual incidents of violent crimes & sexual assault are bad taste and potentially triggering to victims of such crimes. Avoid any costumes that are violent in nature or that rely on the use of weapons.
- Other marginalized groups: Avoid costumes that caricature differently abled people, folk with mental health issues, bigger people, trans & queer people, followers of religion & sex workers.
At Kinky Salon Toronto it is not our intention to police costumes. At the same time it is important to us that our party guests do not indirectly experience exclusion due to inappropriate and offensive costumes. Please keep the above ideas in mind when choosing your next costume, to do your part in contributing to an event that is as welcoming and inclusive as possible.