James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

James Griffin: Fancy dress

Jeff Bridges as 'The Dude' in the film 'The Big Lebowski'.
Jeff Bridges as 'The Dude' in the film 'The Big Lebowski'.

Some people rise to these sort of occasions. Some people even live for these occasions.

Me? Not so much.

I have to go to a themed dress-up birthday party next week. Obviously I don't "have" to go to the party, because no-one will turn up at my house that night and put a gun to my head and give me no other choice. Okay, yes someone might, because none of us can predict our futures, but I would put money on this not happening.

Also, obviously, I don't have to dress up to go to the party. The theme of the party, by the way, is the 90s. I have clothes in my closet dating back to the 1990s so, logically, I could wear these and say I am fitting in with the theme. If I can still fit into them, of course.

What inevitably happens, however, when I don't dress up to go to a dress-up party, is that at some stage I will look at all the dressed up people and I will wonder why I didn't dress up. Is my belief that dress-up parties are stupid for adults actually a mask for my laziness? By not dressing up because I thought I would look stupid, am I actually the one who looks stupid?

With these deep and dark thoughts in mind, I have started contemplating actually dressing up for the 90s themed party.

My first thought, because it (a) fits the theme; (b) seems dead easy and (c) kinda describes a fictional version of me except a much cooler me, was to go as The Dude from The Big Lebowski (1998). A dressing gown, white V-neck T-shirt, plaid shorts, flip-flops, dark sunglasses, carry a carton of milk (optional). Done. Sold. Dusted.

Except then I started actually researching The Dude's iconic outfit and I realised if I wanted to be The Dude I would have to get the outfit spot on: the right poo-brown shade of terry-cloth dressing gown, the correct plaid for the plaid shorts, the same Vuarnet sunglasses The Dude wears, and the Okabashi sandals. Suddenly The Dude seems like a lot of hard work.

Then there is the issue of The Dude's hair, which is very specific to his whole Dudeness. In the time I have before this party I will never grow my hair long enough to meet the stringent Dude hair requirements. At best I will end up with hair halfway between Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber (1994) and though this is decade-appropriate it really isn't the filmic impression I'm trying to make here, and it will also defile the good name of The Dude.

Another easy fall-back option is Pulp Fiction (1994). I have a black suit, I have a white shirt, I have a skinny black tie. The problem here is one of skin-tone and hair.

Skin-tone-wise I am, obviously, John Travolta. But currently, in terms of hair and facial hair, it would probably be easier for me to pull off a Samuel L Jackson - aside from the fact that in no way would look like Samuel L Jackson except for the moustache and, if I put some effort in, slightly curly hair. And no way am I blacking my face because that is just plain wrong, no matter whom you're trying to mimic.

An option I have considered is Michael Douglas in Falling Down (1993). Black trousers - tick, white short-sleeved shirt - I can find one, stripy tie - no worries, angry haircut - sure, I can get my barber to do that. But after that the perfectionist in me starts to make things infinitely more complicated. Where do I get exactly the right sort of pocket-protector? The glasses that look like Ray-Ban Clubmasters except with clear lenses - where do I find those exact glasses? What sort of briefcase did he carry and where do I find one? Should I carry a sawn-off shotgun or not?

Then there is the whole thing about going to a fancy-dress party dressed as an angry white man who goes on a killing spree across Los Angeles. Is this a wise idea? When I inevitably have to explain who I am to all the young people who have never seen this guilty pleasure of a film, will they think I'm weird? Specifically, will they think I'm weird for dressing up like Michael Douglas?

You see my problem here? Can you grasp the world of angst I am living in as I grapple with these issues? Fancy-dress parties are hard, and they are doubly hard when you over-think things like I do.

Curse you 1990s! Why couldn't you stay in the past where you belong? And take Dumb and Dumber with you while you're at it.

- NZ Herald

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James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

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