From this page you can catch up with what's new with Antrix Costume Hire. On the left we have a copy of our monthly newsletter, available retrospectively, which you can either browse here on the site (click the pic to make it larger if you don't have zoom) or you can download it as a pdf using the link.
On the right there are ongoing blogs - some date specific, others more general. We also have an archive of past blogs/observations elsewhere on the site. 


Blogs

The B (for Bank Holiday) Word

 

In theory, Politics (plus the 'other' B word) have little to do with Fancy Dress Costuming (aside from the guy who used to dress as a chicken to shame politicians and has now apparently become a political advisor in the New Regime). Anyway, you might have noticed something other than Halloween is supposed to happening on 31st October this year. This should add an extra dimension to the scary celebrations anyway, but, to add to the ‘fun’, a government minister has apparently suggested that there be a Bank Holiday on November 1st to allow financial markets to stabilise.

An Official Statement has since discounted the possibility of there being any chance of a Halloween (or B…..) Bank Holiday, but given that the school half-term week sometimes coincides with Halloween, a holiday after the 31st (the 1st November is the Mexican Day of the Dead, which is catching on as an extra celebration excuse) could prove interesting.

 

It used to be Clown Masks….

When you think of the link between costumes and crime, chances are that most people will think of the costumed crime-fighters of yesteryear such as Batman, Robin and Spiderman. (Costumed superheroes of these days seem to spend more time battling either themselves or intergalactic threats to the ‘World As We Know It’ (or something like it in a parallel universe). Admittedly the criminals being fought against by our heroes were equally colourful and quirky: From the glory days of the Batman TV series, the likes of the Joker and Catwoman (played for a time by Eartha Kitt) have survived and thrived, but there were others (played by major stars of the day) such as Egghead (Vincent Price), mad musician Chandell (Liberace) and the Bookworm (Roddy Mc Dowell), all with plans to get away with devious crimes and eliminate the Dynamic Duo with novelty killing machines – very comic book.

In the real world, of course, official crime-fighters usually wear a uniform of sorts and it is more often the criminals who resort to disguise: Oddly, this doesn’t often take the form of the traditional mask, striped jumper and bag marked ‘Swag’ burglar-gear, beloved of comic books. Those involved in armed robbery used to resort to a little more than black eye-masks – stockings were a good cheap disguise (as long as you got the holes in the right place for your face), but for a time it was clown masks: Checking local party/hire shops to see if they could recognise masks used in a crime was part of police routine in the wake of an event. Obviously the internet has rather ruined that line of enquiry, but then, for the same reason, things have moved on.

At a recent Somerset fete, a mystery silent stranger, dressed head to toe in a chequered onsie suit, challenged the public to guess his (her?) identity, charging for guesses. The individual then disappeared with the takings, the organisers having no better idea who the stranger was than the public. In the event, an anonymous donation was made later, via a local vicar, but the incident could potentially spawn some copycat incidents from less honest people. Suddenly the old Lone Ranger end-line ‘Who was that masked stranger?’ may have more relevance.   

The London Marathon, and the Costume Issues run on and on…

A few weeks after the London Marathon and costuming issues have continued to make the news: On the day itself, of course, we had the problem of the Elizabeth Tower/Big Ben runner who got ‘stuck’ at the finish, due to the height of the costume, then his costume got stolen. These mishaps did at least give the charity he was supporting a good deal of extra publicity and, hopefully, enhanced funds.

Meanwhile, in the wider field of competitive runner costuming and the Guinness Book of Records Costumed Runner categories, an interesting angle on the usual PC issues: A runner’s attempt at ‘Fastest Runner Dressed as a Nurse’ was disallowed because she was dressed in the scrubs-style outfit, seen in many hospitals these days, and not the ‘traditional’ blue and white skirted uniform with hat and apron. This might be an attempt at making sure contenders are similarly costumed - does running in a ‘trouser suit’ offer advantages over running in a skirt? It doesn’t seem to be a sexist issue as, in another category, a past contender for ‘Fastest Dressed as a Witch’ was deemed to have too short a skirt - we weren’t aware witches even had ‘uniform rules’. However, if it’s nothing to do with sexism, does the same rule apply to male nurse marathon runners? Running 26 plus miles in a costume may seem a straightforward (if niche) idea but, as in all things, there are often unforeseen implications.

London Marathon & Costuming
 
The 28th April weekend sees one of the most popular mass costume events of the year, cunningly disguised as the London Marathon. Several thousand athletes, brave souls and charity-runners (or any mixture of the above) take to the streets and for many, it is not enough to go the distance, they decide to do it in costume.

Even for those of us dealing with costuming on a day-to-day basis, the ingenuity and enterprise of the ‘fancy-dress’ costumed runners never ceases to amaze us: Aside from the basic stamina required for the running, they never let factors such as practicality, and the prospect of having to cover 26 plus miles in their chosen guise, deter them from a good idea. In recent years there is the added incentive of recognition in the Guinness Book of Records, in respect of the various costume-based categories. This is very much a growth area – recent years have seen new categories added, including ‘Fastest Marathon on Stilts’ and ‘Fastest Marathon Dressed as a Whoopee Cushion’. At the other end of the scale are those whose costuming choices are designed for spectacle not speed – the Save the Rhino costumes are a regular feature, and past years have seen a Deep-Sea Diver outfit and a Knight towing a dragon!

Want to know more? You can get further information about this niche area of costuming at www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2019/4/10-tips-for-attempting-a-marathon-record-in-fancy-dress-569060

We wish the runners, costumed and otherwise, well, and hope for a safe and successful finish for all.

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Shades of Political Correctness (again).

In the costume business, as in any other, the theory is that the customer is always right. Unfortunately sometimes the customer has a Really Fun Idea, especially when it comes to the ‘Bad Taste’ theme: Nazis, Jimmy Saville and representations of the Twin Towers have all had their moment of media coverage. One can advise but, in the end, it’s the customer’s choice (although some firms avoid the problem by not stocking controversial costumes).

One area where things get particularly interesting is that of Political Correctness (PC). True, there are those who make PC a hobby:  Getting fashionably offended by things they haven’t actually seen/heard so they can join the chorus of disapproval,  or scanning the media for things to be offended by. Leaving them aside, there are issues to be addressed;

PC problems come in many guises and the one in question today  is ‘Persons of Colour’  We’re not even sure if that’s the currently correct phrase - a government minister had to apologise for saying Labour’s Dianne Abbott was ‘coloured’ this week - but the bigger issue is that of ‘blacking/browning up’. There are still those amazed that the BBC allowed the Black & White Minstrel Show (where male singers made up in Blackface) to run as long as it did. Despite having Lenny Henry as a resident comedian, the show was only pulled in the 1970s. The issues are obvious here, and although a B&W minstrel outfit exists on the market (for the ‘benefit’ of Bad Taste events), we don’t have one (ditto the little chap who used to promote Robinson’s Jam).

The above issues are understandable. In costuming, things are trickier when it comes to Pop Star portrayal: At a basic level, how does one portray Bob Marley or Diana Ross (or, for that matter, the likes of Jimi Hendrix) without  addressing the colour issue? Masks may be okay, but are not always practical. Incidentally, this week we have had the added PC issue of the documentaries about the alleged serious wrongdoings of Michael Jackson. Reaction has ranged from Radio 2 seemingly banning his music (although they deny it) to the makers of The Simpsons withdrawing a episode featuring Jackson’s voice. We have three Jackson-related outfits, but whether they need to be ‘retired’ remains to be seen.

 

Read All About It: World Book Day 7th March

After the excitement of Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday it’s time to prepare for World Book Day on or around 7th March (some schools celebrate on different days due to timetabling/curriculum).

The prime objective of Book Day is to encourage children to read, even involving the offer of free books sometimes, but exactly what constitutes a ‘book’ (for the purpose of dressing as a character) is becoming a grey area:  Like many aspects of costuming, things have changed over the years with some of the traditional book characters often being superseded by more modern heroes/heroines. However, these days, those heroes are as likely to come from comic books, action movies and video games as from the printed page, and that can be a problem,

Often, schools are just keen to have the children getting involved, so don’t get fussy on character origins. Others may channel the enthusiasm with relevant costume-creating within school time, and some side-step the issue completely – a local school in our area wants children to dress as a word!

With books and libraries to an extent becoming an endangered species, it is good that the World Book Day ethos still thrives. Reading is about stimulating the imagination as to how characters look and, sometimes, identifying with their highs and lows. Unfortunately, films and TV adaptations can often undermine the process by presenting the stories and characters fully formed or ‘reimagined’ with the story truncated or even altered for ‘dramatic purpose’. Same with costumes – sometimes the client (adult or child) has a different vision of what a character should look like and, of course, the customer is always right!

Let the Good Times Roll – it’s Mardi Gras! (March 4th-5th 2019)

Although here in the UK we know it as Shrove Tuesday, in other parts of the world, notably the ‘centres’ of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro and the West Indies, Tuesday sees the culmination of weeks of preparation, with elaborate carnival parades and over-the-top costumes. Much of this is fuelled with food and drink as Carnival (Carne –vale -‘Farewell to Flesh) is the last chance to celebrate prior to the sobriety of Ash Wednesday and Lent. In other locations, such as Venice, home of the masters of masquerade, there have been more elegant carnival celebrations, and you can even find the normally staid Germans getting involved in celebrations, some of which involve costumed women running around cutting off men’s …ties.

So to celebrate Mardi Gras here in Britain, you have the choice of playing with pancakes or getting creative with costumes. Actually, people are increasingly combining the two. Although Olney in Buckinghamshire is looked on as the pioneer in pancake-racing, many people are now using the day as a good excuse for some fund-raising built around this kind of event (and remember, we’re in the run-up to Comic Relief on Friday 15th). Or just enjoy your pancakes - they may look crepe but they usually taste delicious.   

Pockets   - Wednesday 27th February 2019

Recently pockets have gone viral. This initially started when a bride had her dress, and those of her bridesmaids, made with pockets, and posted a picture of said group on the Internet. Meanwhile, at the Oscars, Gemma Chan, known for ‘Humans’ and soon to be seen in ‘Captain Marvel’ was admired for having pockets for food  within her eye-catching evening wear.

It perhaps comes as a surprise to about half the population (the male contingent) that such things are a rarity. Fact is that, with exceptions such as jeans, they don’t come as standard on female clothing because they’d supposedly upset the line, fit and style. This is why the other great object of mystery to males, the handbag, comes in useful.

When it comes to costumes, there is more gender equality – pockets are rare on both male and female costumes. The reason/excuse is usually more to do with manufacturing costs than style here. In fact in some cases, the females may even have an advantage in that the thoughtful manufacturer can (at extra cost, obviously) supply a handbag accessory to complement the costume : Who could forget the chainsaw-style knick-knack storage item available for the female version of Leatherface of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame?

As some will know, in the early days of Antrix, we made many of our costumes, often using official patterns. Such patterns still exist despite the decline in home-dressmaking (although Great British Sewing Bee, currently back on our TV screens, revives enthusiasm) but unlike patterns for conventional clothing, male or female, few costume patterns allow for pockets. Some can (and have been) adapted but no pockets seems a gender-equal costume norm.

So if costumes don’t have pockets, obviously the question arises, what does your costumed superhero do for storage? The classic streamlined skin-tight look is all very well (easy for comic-book artists to draw/colour) but practically, where do they keep ‘things’, especially the costume, in secret identity situations? Supposedly Superman wears his outfit under his Clerk Kent suit and keeps the cape ‘super-compressed’ until changing in a phone box. Sceptics will see a number of problems here, and in the real world, no matter how super your speed, the physical confines of a phone box make changing anything (except  your mind about the  phone-box/changing room concept as a Good Idea) rather unworkable. ‘Back in the day’ ,the classic Adam West TV  Batman possibly had the best idea, with his multi-talented utility belt, home of the Batarang, Bat Shark repellent gas and, perhaps. the Batkerchief?

Monday, Feb 11th, 2019

It’s the 11th, and because in some quarters 11 is ‘Legs Eleven’ we thought we would focus on matters relating to legs in female fashion, especially as today is the birthday of Mary Quant, born February 11th, 1934 The iconic Sixties look was, of course, the mini-skirt, widely agreed to have been ‘invented’ (or at least heavily popularised) by Quant, who also created other distinctive looks such as the quadrant dress.

 

.Whilst employers came to terms with the new look with ‘modesty boards’ on desks, the girls had to decide what to do with their newly revealed legs. For many, boots were the way forward, with the Jane Fonda film ‘Barbarella’ helping popularise the vinyl variety in the late 1960s. With girls having made all the effort to show their legs, there was a reluctance to cover them up with tights (also a novelty), so many either went bare legged or, with the help of a creative friend, wore body-paint style leg make-up to draw even more attention to their lower limbs.

 

Later this year, in April, the Victoria & Albert Museum is holding an exhibition of the works of this influential designer, with many examples of her clothing designs and accessories.. It will open on Saturday 6th April – further information can be found at www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/mary-quant

Friday, Feb 8th, 2019

With just a few days to go before the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards ceremony on Sunday 10th, who would you like to see receive the awards this year?  Have you got any particular films that you enjoyed, which are not on the nominations list – at least the superhero blockbuster ‘Black Panther’ has a Best Film nomination? Alternatively, you may think there are some films which should not have been nominated. Here at Antrix we try and keep up to date with what is going on in the world of Entertainment, as you never know what costume you will be asked for next.  This year, aside from The Favourite, which is up for prizes at both major film award events, there are some ‘regional differences’: ‘Stan and Ollie’, about Laurel & Hardy’s tour of Britain is noted by BAFTA but ignored by the Oscars which favours American-based films such as Green Book and Vice. The dark horse at both events is Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury biopic, hated by critics but loved by the masses.