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Costumes and how to avoid the bop flop

Is it best to take the ‘go big or go home’ attitude to your bop costume, or will your true-to-life depiction of Stig of the Dump have fellow students heading for the hills?

For most, a few days before the bop there comes a point when the question concerning costume becomes one decision – go all out or just coast along with some semblance of a costume? As ever in Oxford, a large part of your decision is going to be time. Well, if you’ve got it, use it! It could work out that a little creativity with clothes you already own and one or two craft supplies will help you to impress on a shoe-string budget.

But if that’s really not for you, think about costumes made entirely by accessories: you only need a Stetson to go with your check shirt to be a cowboy, a cutlass with your striped t-shirt to be a pirate, ears to make you a cat etc. etc. And, of course, it’s not too much hassle to keep these in case you should be caught in such a rush pre-bop again. Some stock costumes, while not inventive, can be fitted into pretty much any theme. After all, those just emerging from an essay crisis are to be admired for getting to the bop, no matter the state of their costume. In this they have a huge advantage over full costumes, which are more difficult to adapt for reuse and usually not designed to survive many nights anyways.

So, if you’ve got a little time, why not spend it in finding the most unbelievable costume? Not everyone can have an essay crisis and minimum-effort is hardly the centre of the great bop tradition, now is it? Those with the most impact are definitely group outfits, which people have clearly put some coordination into (see photo of Disney castle logo costume from Somerville). But the appearance of five individual Tiggers when Primark is having a sale on animal onesies? Not so cool. The only way to truly avoid turning up in the same thing is to get a little creative and make a costume. Besides, a practical project makes a great distraction from work, stretching your creativity skills, while you can still feel as though you’ve achieved something when it’s completed.

Having said that, some bop themes are going to be harder than others to find ideas for – I’m looking forward to seeing what Wadham college members come up with for the theme ‘Catchphrase’. But the theme ‘Anything But Clothes’ at St Peter’s this Michaelmas was full of bin bag suits and dresses, without too much variety (although some were done better than others). Themes like ‘Charity Shop’ seem to work well, since they combine both ease and an impossibility of duplicate outfits. However, if you’ve had a real eureka moment, it might be a shame not to see it through. After all, who doesn’t want to be the costume everyone remembers? But beware of the danger of taking yourself too seriously – after all, feeling (and indeed looking) a bit silly is definitely one of the things that can make a bop so much fun. And if you’re enjoying yourself – which you should be if you’re doing it right – then where’s the need to compete? And subject yourself to any kind of torture, including (but not limited to) sellotape in uncomfortable places, staples scratching your scalp and parts of your outfit that just won’t stay on.

Yet, all this is temporary and you will probably cease to notice about twenty minutes in, factoring in the general strength of bop juice.

Now, let’s talk after parties. Are you brave enough to wear full costume to Bridge? If there’s a college group going, this can have a spectacular effect, harking back to the good old days of Freshers’ Week. Still, it’s probably more dangerous to wear something you would really care about losing to any club, whereas when worn to a Bop there’s a much higher chance that you can get it back.

Overall, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you are one of those people with the dedication and sheer guts to turn up to your bop in an all-out outfit, then good on you. I, myself, am practical at heart: T shirt base and flats all the way. Not that I’ll ever find myself in OxStu’s ‘Bop/Flop’ article – if fame is your game, I say go all out. No matter the consequences.


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