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Dress: Fancy explores the popularity, prevalence and power of fancy dress. Hosted by Lucy Clayton and Dr Benjamin Wild, the series looks at the social significance and psychology of people in costume. Episodes consider why fancy dress has been a constant theme throughout history; sometimes as an act of celebration or escapism, on other occasions as a form of protest or disruption.
 
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show series
 
Inspired by a listener’s costume design project, this episode explores the possibilities – and problems – of dressing up with paper. As Lucy struggles with her own creativity (paper patterns are harder than they look!), Ben charts the colourful, stretchy history of crêpe and looks at artists and designers who have folded and glued to make striking …
 
In this episode, the stars of the show are the bits of the human body - from heads down to toes – that tend to get neglected in our daily clothing, but which take on new prominence and meaning when dressed creatively and fantastically in costume. Think diamond studded stag’s head and curled shoes, and you get the idea. Join Lucy and Ben as they tal…
 
Never slow to come forward, and certainly not shy, Lucy and Ben throw their costumes to the wind this week and talk Playboy. A brand very familiar with dressing up and stripping off. Questioning how far the brand has been a force for emancipation or entrapment, they chat with ad man Jason Berry, sharing a never-to-be-forgotten encounter with Hugh H…
 
This week, Lucy and Ben take a trip to gilded age New York and rub shoulders with robber baron-socialites, the Vanderbilts. They examine a battery-powered costume and reflect on the trauma and tantrums of being one of the privileged ‘400’ to critique the parallels between America’s pioneering plutocrats and today’s popularity-seeking pin-ups. Just …
 
Lucy and Ben are back for yet more costume drama, announcing season 9 of the Dress: Fancy podcast, and something to slake your thirst for vintage couture until the first episode arrives in mid-June: Moth Tales Join Ben in playing dress detective as he examines – with searing judgement – something from Lucy's vintage archive. Watch on Instagram Live…
 
As the self-proclaimed experts, arbiters and arch-judges of dressing up, Lucy and Ben take to the airwaves for a special episode to provide the definitive guide to the dressing up equivalent of Christmas: Halloween. Ever topical, slightly tawdry, and full of scary costuming tips, the podcasting duo aim to rouse the spirits (pun intended) of even th…
 
This week’s theme is a broad and beautiful one: Lucy and Ben explore the role of dressing up in art with special guest, artist Volker Hermes. The conversation is framed (pun intended) by considering the work of Suzanne Jongmans and Isabelle de Borchgrave, which pursues similar themes to that of Volker’s art. The episode is sure to provide inspirati…
 
Appropriately for a summer quite unlike any other, this week Lucy and Ben invite themselves to a series of surrealist balls. Tagging along with Salvador Dalí, they discuss the Rothschild Ball of 1972 and the pros and cons of installing a maze in your hallway and serving still-living food on faux-fur plates. Top hosting tips as ever! Follow @dressfa…
 
This week, Lucy and Ben ponder the enduring appeal, and representation, of the duelling relationship between the fictional frenemies, the harlequin and pierrot. From plays and paintings, to fashion and of course fancy dress, the comic duo reveal much about shifting social values and confirm that many a true word is spoken in jest… Follow @dressfanc…
 
This week, Lucy and Ben tweak their normal designer-focused episode to review Andre Leon Talley’s memoir, The Chiffon Trenches. Reflecting on Talley’s exuberant and complex life – in and out of fashion’s spotlight – the book provides a rare opportunity to peel back the industry’s polished veneer and to consider how the pursuit of fashion rarely com…
 
This week, Lucy and Ben are off to the court to enjoy the spectacle that was the masque. Propaganda par excellence, this short-lived entertainment during the seventeenth century glorified monarchy, and could give contemporary leaders a PR tip or two. Discussing the tense creative partnership between poet Ben Jonson and architect Inigo Jones, the sh…
 
In this week’s episode, Ben and Lucy are taking their diamanté magnifying glass to the face itself, and thinking about a new fashion coinage: Ugly Make-up, or Brutalist Make-up. Reflecting on the origins and motivations of this creative, conspicuous beauty trend, the Dress: Fancy duo also offer some of their own cosmetic tips. Surely, not to be mis…
 
Peter Brathwaite is a man of many talents but most recently he’s been the shining star of the Getty Museum Challenge – the social media sensation that has captivated art lovers, creators and costume fanatics during global lockdown. Using the challenge as platform to explore the history of Black Portraiture – Peter has brilliantly captured the spiri…
 
As the global lockdown eases and we all begin to think about wearing clothes in public, possibly for the first time in three months, Lucy and Ben discuss how the pandemic could change the way we dress. Looking to the past, politicians, and always with an eye to the playful, a range of sartorial options are considered and, of course, judged. Before …
 
The past months have been strange, difficult and trying. Fancy dress has been worn by people around the world to provide joy during the pandemic. In this week’s episode, Lucy and Ben consider how fancy dress costume performed a similar function in the past as they invite themselves to the first bal costumé hosted by Queen Victoria, a medieval extra…
 
It’s about time! Lucy and Ben wear their smudgiest eyeliner and descend into the subterranean world of the Cabaret. Focusing on two examples from early twentieth-century Europe, in England and Germany, they discover curious parallels between the past and present and reflect on people’s universal desire to live as themselves and without fear. Follow…
 
For many people, the essential part of any fancy dress costume is a face mask. Concealing one identity and making another possible, face coverings have been a source of excitement and anxiety throughout history. Today, in the midst of a global pandemic, this costume staple now means something very different. In this episode, Lucy and Ben discuss th…
 
This week, in the second of our designer-focused mini episodes, Lucy and Ben discuss the bold and beautiful, strong and soft, powerful and playful creations of Molly Goddard. Since 2015, Goddard has won various industry accolades, designed for the Met Gala and for the small screen, combining technical skill with a unique sartorial flair. This episo…
 
This week, Lucy and Ben walk towards the precipice and consider the role and meaning of clothes in six different cults. Reflecting on the relationship between fashion and fanaticism, the show considers how distinctive dress is used to control and champion the spread of controversial ideas and behaviours. The nature of this week’s discussion means t…
 
Lucy and Ben sacrifice comfort to probe the dark, sometimes demonic, always disruptive world of the New York Club Kids, a diverse group who caroused and challenged in the City That Never Sleeps during the 1980s and 1990s. Offering a counterpoise to last week’s episode on the Bright Young Things, the Club Kids used their (clothed) bodies to challeng…
 
This week, Lucy and Ben explore the life and times of Dress: Fancy’s patron saint, Cecil Beaton. The social upheavals in Europe between the First and Second World Wars created an unsettling mix of expectation and fear. Weary and wealthy, a privileged group of twenty-somethings attempted to turn doubt and despair into delight and delirium. Their ant…
 
Series seven commences with a super-niche, and super-indulgent, episode as Lucy transforms herself into Mariella Frostrup and interviews Ben about his new fancy dress-related tome, Carnival to Catwalk. To further allay isolation boredom, the episode also introduces the Dress: Fancy Costume Conundrum competition that will run throughout the series. …
 
In a suitably festive episode, and to conclude this season’s costume shenanigans, Lucy and Ben consider a form of cultural expression that always seems relevant: Victoriana. From the costumes of the Queen and Empress Victoria, via the bravura public readings of Charles Dickins, to a very contemporary interpretation of the ‘Victorian Look’ with the …
 
Lucy talks with Egyptologists Dr Colleen Darnell and Professor John Darnell to reflect on the enduring cultural and sartorial appeal of the land and history of Tutankhamen. From rampant consumerism to studied attention to detail, the conversation considers the use, and misuse, of all things Egypt from the Twenties to today. In this trans-Atlantic c…
 
Every year from the late-nineteenth century Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House opened its doors for a night of costumed revelry. Urbanites from all social levels dressed up in the most creative of costumes and vied for some very special prizes, from grand pianos to bicycles. Lucy and Ben become very excited (more so than usual) as they become histor…
 
In this week’s episode, Lucy and Ben begin a new mini-series that looks in-depth at the work of fashion designers whose clothing engages with themes we regularly explore through costume; chiefly identity and representation. We start by looking at the technically accomplished and creatively daring designs of award-winning British designer Craig Gree…
 
Dress: Fancy has yet to venture off-shore: until now. In this week’s aquatic-themed episode, Lucy introduces Ben to the complex and beautiful world of the merpeople, a diverse community who dress as mermaids and mermen to seek personal and communal fulfilment in the water. The episode is brought to you in conjunction with Penhaligon’s and their mar…
 
The City of London has many august traditions, but few are as beautiful, striking and good-natured as that of the Pearly Kings and Queens. Exploring the origins of the Pearlies, the meaning of their highly detailed, shimmering garments, Dress: Fancy were lucky enough to attend the Pearlies’ most important annual event: the harvest festival. For epi…
 
Little Podcast of Horror: Season Six commences on the year’s biggest day for fancy dress: Halloween! Always looking to raise the costume stakes, Lucy and Ben consider costume inspiration from some unlikely sources, including the Pre-Raphaelites, Audrey Beardsley and an eighties footwear commercial that Lucy has still not got over. The episode is br…
 
In this indulgent, nostalgic birthday episode, Lucy & Ben review a year’s worth of super-niche, sequinned dressing up stories. Talking about the podcast’s origins, they revisit their favourite episodes and re-live their most exciting excursions. The start of Season Six also comes with a very special announcement: Dress:Fancy is partnering with hist…
 
In an especially glittering episode, Lucy and Ben discuss the costumes (off stage and on) of the inimitable Rocket Man, Elton John. Reviewing the Star’s sartorial choices decade-by-decade, and comparing them to Julian Day’s interpretations in the recent blockbuster biopic starring Taron Egerton, this week’s show ponders the relationship between cos…
 
Getting into the summer spirit in central London, Lucy and Ben re-join the Royal Academy for another Lates costumed extravaganza. Talking with revellers, hosting the Georgian Moonlit Promenade and, most importantly, bestowing rosettes on the very best of the best-dressed, the Dress: Fancy duo were in their fancy dress heaven. Indulge, or re-live, t…
 
In Pride and Prejuduce Jane Austen extolled the virtues of indulging the imagination ‘in every possible way’. With this in mind, Lucy and Ben joined members of the Jane Austen Pineapple Appreciation Society (JAPAS) for a costumed picnic at the National Trust’s Mottisfont Abbey on one sunny (and rainy) Sunday. In preparation, Lucy spoke with JAPAS f…
 
Lucy and Ben record live from the front row at the British Museum, listening in on Grayson Perry as he talks with Kensai Yamamoto, and dissecting the fashion and cosplay catwalks inspired by the Museum’s current, must-see Manga exhibition. Interviews with participants recreate the special atmosphere and reveal the marvellous, metamorphosing abiliti…
 
On Saturday 20 July, Dress: Fancy will be hosting a costumed parade at this year’s Royal Academy Summer Show Lates event. The theme, excitingly, is ‘Georgian Pleasure Garden’... To prepare for the festivities, Lucy and Ben provide an essential guide to costuming and getting into your Georgian character. A special visit to the National Theatre’s cos…
 
Pristine, pure, powerful, peaceful: the meanings of white are many and various. It should occasion no surprise, then, that dressing in white (and its opposite, black) have long been a popular theme in costumed entertainments. Tracing the history of this colour through clothing, Lucy and Ben discuss some of the more intriguing uses of white in dress…
 
If you were to think of your costumed alter-ego as a creature, it’s unlikely you’d immediately conjure an image of a bat, and yet as this super niche episode demonstrates, bats have long been – and continue to be – popular subjects for dressing up, and not simply as Batman or Batwoman. Proving that no topic is too small for them to ponder, Lucy and…
 
This week, Dress: Fancy speaks with Professor Therèsa M. Winge from Michigan State University to explore the compelling, complicated and challenging world of cosplay. A distinct form of fancy dress, cosplay is unique for enabling people to explore themselves and their society by adopting the clothing and character traits of favourite (fictional) ch…
 
Children playing dress-up is age-old and innocent. Or is it? Lucy and Ben go behind the seams to consider if children really do enjoy fancy dress as much the coaxed smiles in family photos suggest. Are these kids really avatars, conduits for the adults in their lives to express their views and to demonstrate their status? One thing’s for sure: you’…
 
In 2011, Teen Vogue drew attention to harmful consequences of insensitively chosen fancy dress costumes that reduce beliefs, cultures and people to garish stereotypes. In previous episodes of Dress: Fancy, Lucy and Ben have considered the painful consequences of badly informed costume choices and in this episode they continue this dialogue, reflect…
 
The pink carpet has been walked and Lucy and Ben reflect on the costume highs and lows of this year’s Met Gala held on 6 May 2019. Were the outfits sufficiently camp? Why is Ben falling out of love with Julianne Moore? And why is Lucy falling in love with Kim Kardashian? Dress: Fancy provides ‘the’ definitive round-up of the year’s most fantastical…
 
Described, in all seriousness, as the ‘Ball of the Century’, the Beistegui Ball of 1951 was a fancy dress event like no other: the guest list, the costumes, the late-running pre-party rehearsal – everything was taken to an extreme. But at what cost? As guests partied, they also pondered: ‘memorable’ the event certainly was; ‘merry’, perhaps not. Jo…
 
Aside from Halloween, the only other date that gets Lucy and Ben excited is the first Monday in May, when the Metropolitan Museum, New York, hosts its gala ball to raise funds for its Costume Institute. Although not strictly a fancy dress event, the couture worn to this shimmering festivity is often fantastical, always exceptional. This year, with …
 
In this special ‘on location’ episode, Lucy and Ben visit the archives of the Chelsea Arts Club to explore the creativity, chaos and controversy that was Chelsea Arts Club annual fancy dress ball. Illustrated invitations, letters of outrage and contemporary newspaper reports, with stories of smoke bombs, arresting costumes and the London social sce…
 
The adage, ‘They don’t make them like they used to’, is especially apt for the object at the centre of this week’s episode: a fancy dress catalogue from London costume supplier Weldon’s. Join Lucy and Ben as they leaf through the illustrated pages of costume dramas from the 1920s and 1930s and discover insights – sometimes shocking – that demonstra…
 
Love it or loath it, World Book Day has become an important date in family calendars as toddlers, teenagers and just about any other young person under an adult’s influence, is dressed up and decorated to resemble a character from literary fiction. The costume fun and frustration of World Book Day provides for some hilarious – and likely scarring –…
 
Gucci’s SS19 campaign is an unashamedly glitzy and joyous celebration of 1950s Americana, as relayed through Hollywood and Kodachrome photography. It also looks, and feels, a lot like fancy dress costume. In this mini episode, Lucy and Ben reflect on the inspiration – and impact – of a campaign that has been both lauded and lambasted. Links: Ryan W…
 
In the second of two special episodes recorded live at the Royal Academy’s Klimt-Schiele Cabaret Night in January, follow Lucy and Ben as they talk with costumed revellers, lead the Academy’s first costume parade, and award some incredibly coveted rosettes for the evening’s most inspiring fancy dress. Links Our venue: @royalacademyarts Our photogra…
 
Join hosts Lucy Clayton & Dr Benjamin Wild live at the Royal Academy, as part of the RALates series for a discussion about Klimt, Schiele & the Viennese Secession - in this special, mini episode we explore the crossover between fashion, costume and the art of the period. Links https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/page/ra-lates…
 
In this Season’s finale, Lucy and Ben talk with Levi Higgs about the jewellery worn at three of the twentieth-century’s most lavish and exclusive costume balls. Following Dress: Fancy’s patron saint, Cecil Beaton, who attended each of these events, this episode examines the significance of haute joaillerie and costume jewellery worn by the likes of…
 
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