It can be hard to force yourself out to socialise at this time of year - the warmth of the fireplace and a glass of red wine, or a good book, are so inviting compared to the idea of standing in the cold at the local.



Luckily, Wanganui has some lovely restaurants with sufficient heating and cosy fireplaces to take off most of the chill.



I discovered an even better way of spending a freezing cold evening the other week, when I was invited to what was definitely the dress-up party of the year.



"Teddy's Birthday Party at the Tree House" sounded like a party invite you would get if you were a fairy tale character, and so the theme of Heroes and Cartoon Characters was appropriate.

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With Minnie Mouse as our host, the night gradually gained characters, with the guest list including Incredible Hulk, Catwoman, Woody (from Toy Story), Batman and many more. Casting my eyes over the tree house which was rocking, the scene was like something out of a low-budget Disney film.



Besides the fantastic hosts' exemplary skills, what made this party so great was that everyone followed costume party etiquette.



Here is a quick outline of costume party etiquette everyone should know;



If the invitation says it is a costume party, you must wear a costume.



Going to a costume party wearing no costume is like showing up at a black-tie event in jeans and an old T-shirt - even if you make it in the door, other guests will avoid you like the plague.



If you honestly can't buy or make a costume, respectfully decline the invitation.



Costumes needn't be expensive or fancy. Simple, cheap homemade costumes show more thought and effort than elaborate store-bought ones.



If you wish to stand out in the crowd it pays to get creative - three Catwomen at the same party shows little imagination (unless of course yours is by the far the best one).

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If going with a partner, there is no need to complement each other or follow a theme. That would be like wearing matching track suits. Unless you've made it to the retirement village together and are still madly in love, matching track suits are OUT.



According to etiquette blogger Proper Paige, the most important things to consider when selecting a costume are appropriateness and manoeuvrability. Find out if children will be present before deciding on a sultry or gory costume, and make sure the costume is sleek enough that you are able to sit down comfortably and navigate hallways. My final tip, as my design tutor would so lovingly point out, think, "Can you pee?"



If you have to undress completely every time you need to use the lavatory, it's time for a rethink.