The last party I attended was a fancy dress, birthday party for an eight year old. I remember it vividly. One friend dressed their dog in a superman cape. Another parent showcased their artistic flare by making their child’s costume themselves; their poor son spend three hours unable to sit down in a large cardboard outfit, dressed as Sponge Bob Square Pants. Suffice to say, by the end of the party he was, instead, waging war on the bouncy castle in nothing but his father’s Thundercats t-shirt. One little girl was dressed as a strawberry. Another couple brought their four month old son dressed as a hot dog. All in all, it was a brilliantly bizarre affair, and proof of how children’s parties continue to thrive, even in the midst of a recession.
Almost twenty years ago now, my 8th birthday party involved my older brother using our mother’s make-up and father’s old clothes to dress like a clown and make my school friends cry. Meanwhile, my mother spent all morning skewing cocktail sausages and cubes of cheese only for us kids to then remove the cocktail sticks and attempt to stab each other, leaving a trail of uneaten finger-food in our wake.
Back when I was a kid there were few options and almost all of them involved DIY and papier-mâché . Even at a time when fancy dress was customary, such as Halloween, your mum would simply sit you down and ask if you’d like to be a witch, ghost, black cat or pumpkin for the more ambitious parent, as I remember. Costumes were limited, not by imagination, but certainly by time constraints, money and artistic ability on your parents’ behalf. Now, come Halloween, or birthdays, or even Christmas, I see friends’ children dressed as everything from Yoda to Willie Wonka. There is a vast choice of children’s fancy dress available for hire these days, such as that offered by Fun and Games Direct.
With the popularity of trick-or-treating waning in recent years due to concerns over safety and the all the horror stories told in the newspapers, such as The Guardian, the party really has come into its own. Long gone are the days when Halloween meant ripping a ‘head-hole’ in a black bin-bag, placing a plastic cone on a kid’s head and telling them they were a witch before sending them out to bother neighbours for sweets. And while I must admit I was initially sad to see the lack of kids tottering around the street with bed sheets over their heads, turning up to a party at which a baby has arrived dressed as Elvis Presley does go in some way to alleviate my grief.