There are two types of fancy dress costumes, generic ones and specific named
characters. The first are usually associated with general types of themes, such as Pirates, the various twentieth century decades such as Gangsters & Molls etc., where the emphasis is on individuals turning up in similar costumes to add atmosphere to an event. Character Costumes on the other hand are designed so that they should be immediately recognisable, whether its a film character such as Catwoman or cartoon personality such as Marge Simpson.
When it comes to what is a popular costume, the top ten can vary from one week to the next. Anniversaries of icons, media celebrations of programmes of yesteryear or some pop star channelling the look and/or style of an icon can all be influential. Anything can capture the public imagination and half the challenge is being able to obtain the costume when you want it.
Many character costumes are subject to licensing laws (although not all of them are). This means that only one official costume may be available for a given character. Some companies may choose to ‘enhance’ the official costume, perhaps providing additional accessories to give added value to the core product. Licenses can take some time to obtain, and often, Licensed costumes are not around in time for the release of a new film and can literally ‘miss the boat’ as some costumes only have a limited shelf life.
The licensing of these costumes does limit what you will find legally available to purchase, and causes fancy dress suppliers numerous problems, quality, sizing and price being the key ones. Companies that sell, or advertise ‘fakes’ are liable to be prosecuted in the courts.
So, let’s take a look at our popular ladies character costumes…
When it comes to remembering the names of the females in the 1970s supergroup Abba, some people can find it challenging. Agnetha was the blonde straight haired one with the fringe, whilst Anni-Frid (who was also known as Frida) had a variety of hair colours and styles ranging from brown to red. The Abba jumpsuit or mini-dress are the two most iconic images, although they did get through a whole range of outfits.
One of the characters that work for Heroes and Villains or Goodies and Baddies parties.
There are a number of Catwoman costumes available, from the original 1960s Lee Merriwether/Eartha Kitt image from the Batman TV series , through to Michelle Pfeiffer in the Batman film. Theres also Halle Berrys crop-top street fighter version and a potential new incarnation when Anne Hathaway takes the role in the Dark Knight Rising film.
Cleopatra – look at our range of Egyptian costumes
The classic last Pharaoh and Queen of Egypt, who was famous for her liaisons with both Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony in her attempts to save her country. The iconic image is that of Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 Cleopatra film, which went horrendously over budget but won four Oscars for Best Art Direction & Set Decoration; Best Cinematography; Best Costume Design and Best Effects. There are a wide variation of Cleopatra dresses/robes on the market, but the black wig and accessories are essential items and its also a good excuse to go heavy with the eye make-up.
Cruella de Vil
An immediately recognisable character, Cruella de Vil was originally created by Dodie Smith in the book 101 Dalmatians. First brought to the movie screen by Disney in the 1960s, she has enduring appeal as a popular villainess with a distinctive look its good to
be wicked for once.
For the British, the legend that is Robin Hood lives on and with it his significant other, Maid Marian. Her image has varied over the years, with Maid Marian wearing an assortment of Medieval or Renaissance-style costumes, some more authentic than others. As this character is often coupled with Robin Hood, any medieval dress and headdress will work, although traditionally the colours have been green and blue.
Marilyn Monroe The legendary movie star Marilyn Monroe may have worn a variety of outfits, the gold dress in Bus Stop and the pink dress in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but her enduring image is that of her white pleated halter-neck dress in the film the Seven Year Itch. Teamed with red stiletto shoes and a blonde wig, plus appropriate eye make-up, red lips and beauty spot, this can be a relatively easy image to recreate.
Princess Leia From the Stars Wars films IV to VI, Princess Leia’s outfit did not change much. The long white hooded robe, belt, weapon and brown danish pastry wig immediately captures the image of this futuristic character. In The Empire Strikes Back, there were appearances by Leia as Jabba the Hutt’s Slave Girl. This was an interesting variation on the look, although as the gold-metal bikini outfit was rather minimalist in
nature, you have to be quite brave to carry it off.
One of the classic fairy tale characters whose popularity is legendary. Famed for having a wicked stepmother who wanted to kill her and seeking sanctuary with persons of small stature. Although Disney did not create the character, they did create the widely recognised look involving a yellow skirt, blue bodice with red sleeve inserts and black bobbed hair with a red ribbon, so this is technically copyright, although several lookalike outfits can be found on the market. The situation may change as two new live-action versions of the Snow White story are due to come to cinemas in the future.
Wherever Fred Flintstone goes, then Wilma, his long-suffering wife, is not far behind. The costume is not over complex and hence easy to wear, being especially suitable for those hot summer days/nights.
Along with Supergirl, Wonder Woman is of the few superhero costumes for females, and her popularity was enhanced by the TV series of the 70s featuring Linda Carter. There has been regular talk of a potential Wonder Woman movie in recent years, but the lack of developments has not stopped several versions of the classic outfit being offered and in the meantime there has also been a revamp of the outfit for a TV mini-series with blue
leggings and boots replacing the red skirt and boots.
Character from the film, The Wizard of Oz, played by Judy Garland. Costume is a blue check pinafore dress with white blouse underneath. Brown plaited hair and red shoes. There are official costumes for this character, but it is also a character that you should be able to put together quite easily.
Another possible superhero costume for women. Batgirl has undergone a few incarnations from the 60s to modern day. The licensed costume (see image) comprises of a black PVC style short dress, belt, cape, glovelets, mask and boot tops. Batman makes a great couple costume idea.
Woody’s sidekick in Toy Story, so ideal for a couples costume idea. Jessie wears black and white chaps, red hat, white shirt and has red yarn like hair (this will be difficult to achieve, so you may need to wear a red wig instead). Official costumes are available, although many people will use a standard cowgirl costume for this character.
2nd wife of Henry VIII who famously lost her head at the gallows. Wear a Tudor style costume and if you need a costume to complete a couple, the obvious choice is Henry VIII. There are no official costumes for this character, so you can use your own imagination.
Wife of Barney, from The Flintstones. Ideal for a couple of a group of four (with Fred & Wilma Flintstone). Betty has black short curly hair and wears a short blue dress. Official costume is available, but is another costume that you may be able to put together at home.
A sidekick to Superman who first appeared in 1959, a great choice for a Superhero couple. There are various licensed costumes available from very sexy versions to more conservative options. Supergirl has blonde hair.
Lead character from Beauty & the Beast. The Disney version (1991), based on a French Fairytale is the most recognisable. Most popular costume choice is based on the gold ballgown. Official costumes are available, although any yellow/gold Victorian style gown will suffice. Belle has long, brown wavy hair.
Tinker Bell – can be spelt as Tinkerbell, or Tink
Fairy character based on JM Barrie’s play (1904) & novel (1911). The character’s costume is based on the Disney film which was released in 1953. Tinker Bell wears a short, green dress, with fairy wings and has blonde hair. Official costumes are available, although there are plenty of green fairy costumes that could be used for this character. An ideal costume
to pair with Peter Pan or include Captain Hook, pirates, mermaids if you need group costume ideas.
Alice in Wonderland
You have a couple of options for this iconic character (based on Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel). The traditional Alice costume is based on the Disney 1951 film. Alice wears a light blue dress with full white apron, she has blonde hair tied up with a black ribbon.
The film released in 2010 takes the ‘Alice’ story further, with 19 year old Alice re-visiting the world she thinks she has dreamt. The costume for this older Alice, is a light blue Victorian style dress that is calf length and has a fitted bodice. Official costumes are available, although shorter Victorian dresses in blue could also be used.
Queen of Hearts
The wicked, ill tempered Queen from Alice in Wonderland. You could wear any long, royal style gown and cover it with hearts to get this costume effect. Queen of Hearts playing cards are also available if you want to ‘think outside of the box’. This character is often confused with The Red Queen that is in the Alice sequel (Through the Looking Glass) and features in the 2010 Alice in Wonderland film.
American pop singer, famous for her weird costumes. Whether this is a character that will
stand the test of time, is debatable, but for the time being, Lady Gaga does give all of us who love fancy dress the chance to dress up in a selection of her costumes. Licensed costumes are available, although other costumes are available that you should be able to use. Wigs are also available to help you create the required look.
Another costume character that may be popular at this very moment, but may not last the test of time. Cheryl Cole is a singer / pop star made famous by appearing on a reality television series and being chosen to be part of the Girl’s Aloud group. She has gone on to star as a judge on the X Factor in the UK and is now also judging the American version of the show. Cheryl has worn some iconic costumes for performing her solo act
Member of the Scooby Doo gang. Scooby Doo originated in 1969 as a cartoon television series which continues to the present day. A film was released in 2002. A great choice as either an individual, couple of group costume. Daphne wears a pink/purple dress with a green neck scarf and has pink boots. Her hair is red/orange and has a headband. Licensed costume is available (see image right) but only in 1 standard ladies size.
Wife/girlfriend of Mickey Mouse, an iconic Disney character, she was first drawn in 1928. Minnie is normally shown wearing a red dress with white polka dots with a headband. She wears black leggings (originally stockings) and large shoes.Licensed costume is available, but mouse ears can be purchased which added to a red polka dot dress and white gloves will give you the basic look.
Character from the 2004 computer animated film, produced by Pixar and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. Mrs Incredible licensed costume is available and is probably a costume that you couldn’t really put together at home (unless you have the odd red jumpsuit lying around!). Mrs. Incredible has a short brown bob and a black eye mask that completes her costume. Pair with Mr. Incredible for a recognisable couple costume.
This is a ladies character costume that is suitable for the brave…
As you can see from the image on this page, Silk Spectre is quite a sexy looking licensed costume comprising of a long sleeved hot pants and boot tops attached by suspenders. Silk Spectre is a Watchman costume seen in DC Comics for a limited edition between 1986/87.
American singer, who first rose to fame in the early 1980s, her first album was released in 1983. She wore many various costumes for videos of her songs, including a Venetian style costume for ‘Vogue’. She is probably copied (in a costuming way) wearing the gold, pointy boob basque the most, although the 80’s look is quite easy to copy or purchase one of the many 80s style costumes on the market.
Penelope Pitstop Character from Wacky Races