A few years ago, my local newspaper, The Nottingham Post, interviewed me for the Halloween story in regards to the psychology of fancy dress. Before I had been interviewed, I did so searching of academic literature databases and couldn’t get a single academic paper that had been published on the topic. Even though this didn’t surprise me, it did signify everything I believed to the journalist was opinion and speculation at best.

The real reason for compiling a listing such as this was to have a better idea of exactly what the psychological motivation is behind dressing inside a fancy dress costume. Although most people might claim that the biggest reason for dressing up in fancy dress is really because it’s an entertaining and exciting course of action, their list I compiled clearly shows the range of motivations is quite a bit greater than one might initially suspect. I’m not claiming that my list is exhaustive, but it demonstrates that reasons for wearing cosplay costumes are lots of and varied. Reasons may be financial (to make money, to increase money for charity), sexual (particular fancy dress outfits being arousing either for the wearer or the observer), psychological (feeling part of a united group, attention-seeking, exploring other areas of an individual’s personality), practical (concealing true identity while involved in a criminal act), and idiosyncratic (attempting to break a world record). For other individuals it will be coercive (e.g., being compelled to dress up as a form of sexual humiliation, or punishment for losing a bet).

“It is not merely punks and skinheads who place on fancy dress; Scottish country dancers, bowls players, musicians and many others their very own special costumes. Mass kinds of leisure do not assistance to give a feeling of identity, apart from supporting sports teams, which certainly does. This is basically the more engrossing and much less common forms of leisure that most for identity”.

It’s debatable whether this really refers to fancy dress but for some people, fancy dress will be about either self-identity and group identity. I also found a web-based article by British psychologist Dr. Catherine Tregoning that checked out what folks embark on most at Halloween and just what it says about the subject with regards to their occupation (I need to include that this content was on the job-hunting website). At Halloween, do you watch horror films? Can you carve pumpkins? Would you continue ghost hunts? Can you like dressing up in d.va costumes? Should you, Dr. Tregoning claimed that:

“This may mean you’re the type to maintain reinventing yourself and frequently change career! Or do you operate in different guises within your current role, changing your personality and presenting your outward self differently based on who you’re with or perhaps the task at hand? Or do you need some kind of escapism from the regular job? If you’re efficient at acting a part on Halloween – then use your skills to “act” confident in a conversation or “act” calm under pressure when delivering a presentation”

Another article by Rafael Behr published in The Guardian examined the politics and psychology of fancy dress. With regards the psychology, Behr’s views had some crossover together with the interview I did so with my local newspaper on the subject:

“Children love dressing up, especially in clothes which make them feel evolved. Adults like dressing up mainly because it reminds them of this a sense of being children getting excited about dressing just like a grownup. What this indicates is the fact that actually becoming a grownup is usually overrated and involves spending considerable time in disappointing clothes. Anyone that goes to a celebration in fancy dress will feel a pang of anxiety immediately before arrival they may have created a mistake 05dexopky it is not a fancy dress party whatsoever. For those who have these feelings before arriving at a wedding event or funeral, go home and change. Only senior members of the clergy can wear ridiculous clothes in churches”.

Finally, another online article that examined dressing up for Halloween was one by psychotherapist Joyce Matter who examined whether superman costumes draw out a person’s alter ego (or as she termed it, an individual’s “shadow side”).

“Do all of us reveal our shadow sides with this costume choices? Do those areas of self that people have repressed express themselves uncontrollably when we have reached Spirit Halloween? Perhaps… Expressive play may be one of by far the most cathartic experiences and also giving us the liberty to learn hidden elements of self that may contain valuable resources our company is repressing. A refusal or inability to do so reveals difficulty with self-acceptance and perhaps a preoccupation with all the opinions of others…Through my function as a therapist, I actually have go to believe the shadow side will not be necessarily dormant characteristics that are negative-they often contain positive aspects of self which we now have not been liberated to embody. When we honor and integrate them, they could become powerful strengths”.

For an adult, I actually have never placed on fancy dress for Halloween. Actually, really the only time I actually have decked out in anything approaching fancy dress was when I played a French butler during a murder mystery evening with friends. Because there is no scientific research on the topic I don’t know if I am typical of middle-aged men or whether I am just just happy with my entire life that we don’t want to do something out or experiment throughout the confines of costume role-play.