A good costume is one that works. Really works. In more ways than one. Here are the key ways that I try to make my costumes work. Your list maybe different, but it’s worth thinking about key aspects of the costume that might affect your experience of actually wearing the outfit.
Walking / Dancing: Are you going to want to dance in the costume? Will you need to walk a long way from the car to the front door? Or do you just plan on getting dropped off in front, walking to the sofa, and sitting down? If I’m going to be sitting the whole night, I’ll wear ca-RAY-zy high heels that are a size too small if they make the outfit work. If I’m going to be taking the subway, and then climbing three flights of stairs, I’ll need a different plan.
The Food Factor: I want to be able to perform basic functions in the costume, not just make an entrance. I wear most of my costumes to parties, where I plan on eating, drinking, and maybe even using the rest room. You might try to figure out whether or not your Rubik’s Cube costume will let your hands reach your mouth and eat or drink before the party accordingly. And don’t climb into a back-zipper jump suit, add a tool belt and a parachute, and expect to be able to use the rest room until you’re back out of the costume.
What are you supposed to be? I hate answering this question. I try to avoid costumes that require a ton of explanation – this includes costumes based on puns (dressing like a Freudian slip or a Baltimore Oriole), or current events ( the Gulf oil spill or the presidential debates) or people who aren’t easily recognized (Admiral Grace Hopper instead of Napoleon). I’m okay with period costumes (a flapper, a hippie, or a Victorian lady), but I want people to be able to recognize who I am without too much explanation from me.
The “Itch”: I also typically avoid costumes that require full face make-up or body paint. Somehow, I always end up scratching my nose and then getting blue face paint all over my Na’vi outfit. Other people don’t seem to have this issue, but when I dress up as the wolf-man, I’ll get hair in my martini and spend the evening wiping my tongue. Not fun.
Weather: If you are going to an outdoor party in Cleveland in October, you might want to re-consider that life guard costume. Likewise for the full-body abominable snowman outfit in July. Some costumes can easily take a coat – if you’ve planned for one. And if it’s an indoor party, your options expand considerably. But thinking about the temperature of your final destination can make your party-going experience MUCH better. And remember to bring a rain coat and/or some wind protection, if necessary, for the walk from the car if your outfit can’t take getting wet or blown about.
Finally, you might want to think about the loan-ability or transfer-ability of your costume. If possible, I try to get skirts with elastic waste-bands, or draw-string waists. I buy bigger rather than smaller because I pin things up more easily than I can let them out. If you have a great costume, you may want to lend it out to people (or, heaven forbid, you may put on weight in between wearings). And I try to add add elements (wings, for example) in ways that they can be removed so that the base garment can be repurposed for future costumes. If you think a bit at the start about how to make a costume more flexible, you’ll find that your costume is … well … more flexible.