Hi, I am Adele, and I have run a large fancy dress shop in Essex, England, since 1998. I'm happy to pass on my knowledge to help others.
Letter-Themed Costume Parties
Giving your guests a letter as a costume theme is quite common and can make for some very interesting costumes. You have a few options. You can choose to:
- allow guests to dress up in a costume related to their initials (or just first name if you want to narrow their choices).
- ask guests to dress up in costumes related to your initials.
- choose one or two letters that they have to find a related costume for.
When you first send out your invitations, some of your guests may be confused. I suggest that you give them a good explanation in the invitation. If your guests are confused, they may not even attempt to dress up, or worse, they may not attend your party. I would also include some costume suggestions to get their brain cells working a bit.
This article will concentrate on costumes beginning with the letter "Q." These days, there is increased enthusiasm for people to want to "do something different" or create a unique look using their own resources plus specialty items from other sources. I have included some ideas that are certainly not ones you can usually find "off the peg."
The letter "Q" is rather limited in its range of costumes that you could potentially go in; we have tried to be as creative as possible with our selection below. We hope that if you have been unlucky enough to have been given the letter "Q," this article helps you a bit.
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- Quack doctor: This is a pun costume involving a combination of a doctor's costume and a duck's head-mask (or perhaps duck's bill nose accessory). The sci-fi enthusiast might opt for Ducktor Who (but then have to explain how it relates to the 'Q' theme, possibly several times (sometimes you can be too clever).
- Quaker: Quakers are members of a religious group (the Religious Society of Friends) who are firmly pacifist and prefer discussion and contemplation to the more formal services found with other religions. Many Quakers were also exploratory pioneers, especially in the colonization of America, albeit because of persecution. Historically, they had a style of dress based on the black/white Puritan style, with distinctive round black flat hats, an image seen on food-stuffs such as Quaker Oats in Britain!
- Quarterback: A quarterback is the leading player of the "offensive" team in American and Canadian footballers. The American football outfit may be a little specialist or bulky for some hire outlets, but there are now a number of British American football teams.
- Quality Street characters: Quality Street is the brand name of a collection of assorted wrapped sweets usually found in boxes or tins. Prior to a redesign in 2000, the packaging featured a soldier and lady of the Napoleonic era in period costume, characters from a play called Quality Street by JM Barrie (who later wrote Peter Pan).
- Quark: In science, a quark is an elementary particle and an important element of matter, but to many, Quark is remembered as the devious Ferengi owner of the bar and club upon the Star Trek Deep Space 9 space station. The Ferengi were supposed to be arch-enemy aliens (like the original Klingons), but because of their appearance, including extraordinarily large ears, they instead became like intergalactic spivs and wheeler/dealers. Star Trek Ferengi licensed costumes (and masks) were available, but availability may now be limited either to those who "bought in" while they were available or from specialist suppliers.
- Quasimodo: This is the hunchback bell-ringer from Victor Hugo's book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He wears trousers and a jerkin, including a hunch underneath as well as a wig and make-up.
- Quidditch player: These are team members from the flying broomstick-based game featured in the Harry Potter books. Licensed costumes are available to purchase.
- Quickstep dancer: Wear a ballroom-style costume for ladies. Men can wear a tailcoat.
It's Time for Queen Costumes
Aside from the selection below, queens occur in many historical dramas, pantomimes, and as chess pieces.
- Queen Amidala: She is a character from the first of the prequels to the original Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. She was played by Natalie Portman, although for much of the film, the "queen" is actually her "double," the handmaiden Sabé (Keira Knightley). In the next film (Attack of the Clones), she had stepped down from the throne to become the feisty Padme Amidala. She later also becomes an ambassador and a mother of significance.
- Queen Anne (1665–1714): Queen Anne became queen of Great Britain in 1704. She presided over the unification of the English and Scottish Parliaments and Marlborough's victories in the War of French Succession. Her fashions and costume were from the French court at Versailles.
- Queen bee: Traditionally, the queen bee is the "head of the house" and mother to most of the bees in a given hive. In a broader sense, the term is often used for any authoritarian female and hence can be used as an alternative to a plain bee outfit!
- Queen Elizabeth I: Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn and one of Britain's greatest and longest-reigning monarchs. The costume is of the Tudor era, although the best-known look is of the queen in an elaborate white/silver farthingale dress complete with ruff. She is usually pictured as having red hair and a high forehead, although in later life she may have used a wig.
- Queen Elizabeth II: Queen Elizabeth II was another of Britain's longest-reigning monarchs, who celebrated her Diamond Jubilee year in 2012 and helped make the Olympics Opening Ceremony memorable, with the help of James Bond! That said, the "costume" is more in the form of one of several masks (both overhead and cardboard face-mask) available on the market.
- Queen Nefertiti: After Cleopatra, Nefertiti is probably the next best known of the female Egyptians, although, because she lived far earlier (14th century BC), a lot less is known about her. It is thought he may have been the mother of Tutankhamun. The costume and makeup can be the same as for Cleopatra, but she is usually depicted with a different headdress, the Pschent, a red crown on a gold (or white) mitre adorned with a representation of the cobra Uraeus, symbolic of justice and protection.
- Queen of Hearts: She is an imperious character from Lewis Carrol's books Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Costume design is best based on the traditional playing card in red, yellow, black, and white, with heart motif decoration, although variations do exist. She may carry a tray of tarts (or just the empty tray) and may be accompanied either by a King of Hearts (costumes not so easy to find) or a "knave." See also Red Queen below.
- Queen of the Night: The Queen of the Night is a leading character in Mozart's The Magic Flute. No off-the-peg outfits exist as far as we know, but something in black, midnight blue, or purple can work, coupled with a suitable headdress and dark makeup.
- Queen of the Nile: This is an alternative name for Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Egypt and lover of Caesar and Mark Anthony. The name (or variations) is often used to market Cleo-style outfits.
- Queen of Sin: Keep calm! The Queen of Sin was a role taken on by Mrs. Emma Peel in The Avengers episode "A Touch of Brimstone." Originally made in 1965, the episode was banned in the US and slightly censored in the UK, although the QoS outfit looks quite tame by today's standards. The principal objection wasn't so much the tight-fitting costume (which Diana Rigg helped design), but the fact that she had a whip, knew how to use it, and did so to good effect. An acceptable Queen of Sin outfit can comprise knee or thigh-length boots, fishnets, a PVC or leather-look leotard or corset, spiked collar, and hair in an updo or ponytail—oh, and a whip.
- Queen Ravenna: She is the Wicked Queen in the film Snow White and the Huntsman. She has many evil ways, not least of which is rejuvenating herself from the youth of other girls (like the legendary Countess Bathori did). Her name reflects the fact that one of her party tricks involves turning into a flock of ravens! An official costume is available, but for how long this will continue is uncertain.
- Queen, Red: In the original Through the Looking Glass, the Red Queen, based on the classic chess piece, helped Alice become a queen herself. To obtain the chess piece look, a series of large crinoline-style hoops on the outside of a red dress may be used. On the other hand, in the 2010 Alice in Wonderland film, the Red Queen is a despotic ruler played by Helena Bonham-Carter, who is a mixture of elements of both the chess Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts found in the first of the Alice books.
- Queen, White: As above, the Looking Glass White Queen resembles a chess piece but is a somewhat timid character who eventually turns into a sheep. In the 2010 Wonderland film, she has become an ethereal and distracted ruler seeking to oppose the evil activities of her Red Queen sister.
- Queen Victoria: Queen Victoria was a long-serving Queen who was proclaimed Empress of India in 1876. Despite this status, the black-clad queen in mourning is the best-remembered image of Victoria.
- Queenie: She is a character from the second series of the British historical comedy series Blackadder. Loosely modeled on a youthful Elizabeth I in her farthingale-style dress, she was played by Miranda Richardson.
- Queen singer: Freddy Mercury was the lead singer of the legendary pop group Queen.
- Qui-Gon Jinn: Qui-Gon Jinn is a Jedi knight from the 1999 Star Wars Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace. Wear a Jedi robe or other Jedi knight costume, such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, as the outfit styles are pretty much all the same.
- Question mark: If you have a Riddler (Batman villain) costume, chances are this can be useful in portraying this most interrogative of punctuation marks. Miss Riddler costumes are also available.
- Quincy ME: Quincy was a medical examiner in a television series in 1976. He was able to solve murders that other policemen found too complicated. Wear a white doctor's coat, possibly with a bit of blood as he did perform post mortems.
- Quiche: A costume based on a (normally) vegetarian baked pastry food with eggs and milk or cream as main ingredients may seem an odd idea, but there are pizza costumes on the market, and all we are saying is "give quiche a chance."
- Quimby, Mayor: A recurring character in the Simpsons cartoons, Quimby is the mayor of Springfield and apparently modeled on politicians in general and members of the Kennedy clan in particular. Typically, he wears a blue two-piece suit.
- Quintessential Heroine: The "quintessence" was the mystical fifth element sought by alchemists of old in their attempts to create gold from the other four elements (earth, air, fire, and water). In the film The Fifth Element (1997), Leeloo (Mila Jovovich) plays a similar vital resource who helps save the earth from destruction. The main "orange suspenders" costume is quite striking, but there are no mass-produced versions available, although some specialist suppliers can provide custom-made versions or key elements.
- Quitter: Wear a cigarette costume and cover it with a large red cross.
- Queensland resident: Wear an Australian hat or safari costume for the tropics.
- Quebec resident: Wear a Mountie costume—we know this is strictly not correct, but it was the only thing we could really use for a Canadian national (other than a Beaver outfit!). If you have the resources, get a Quebec flag.