The ‘costume party’ aspect of Kinky Salon isn’t just random fun, it’s designed.
In a Game, the first thing you do is create your Avatar. You decide which world you come from, what you look like, what you wear. This is all part of a process to give you weight in that fantasy world. Entertain this train of thought for a moment- if the Real World was a role playing game, how would you create an Avatar to interact with our culture? What choices would you make about who you are? What would you look like?
Create a character to explore a part of yourself you want to uncover. What you wear gives a lot of clues to the world about how to interact with you. Dressing in something unusual means you put creative intention into your appearance. Jeans, khaki and sportswear are the drab uniform of our generation. We don’t allow those three items of clothing at Kinky Salon. Take them away and people are forced to stop and think. Even if it’s not an outrageous costume they end up wearing, they can’t default to their ordinary clothes.
Ever since I was a small child I have always enjoyed unusual clothes. I was allowed to dress myself from an early age and my sense of style has always been a bit eccentric. I liked to buy costumes and wear them to school- in particular I remember a 1950s black and white checkered rockabilly dress I wore when I was about nine years old- complete with wide plastic belt and petticoated skirt which caused me to be beaten up by bullies on a few occasions. I won’t talk about the traditional Dutch costume, complete with pointy hat and clogs, which I insisted on wearing all the time when I was about five- that was really silly.
In western culture we are encouraged to conform in the way we dress- that ‘everybody in khaki’ ad is a tragic example of this malady. We are made to wear school uniforms when we are young, squeezing all those beautifully different shaped pegs into one rather boring looking hole. Even when we don’t have to wear the uniform, teenage peer pressure forces us again to chose a style according to our social subgroups. At school we used to have ‘non-uniform’ days at the end of each semester. One friday where we could wear whatever we wanted. For some people this was a cause of great anxiety. Would their friends approve of their fashion choice or would it hurtle them into ridicule? One year in protest I went with a school friend to a thrift store and bought the most hideous granny dresses we could find. People who would normally tease us were dumbstruck. And at the next non-uniform day, there were granny dresses everywhere.
How expensive are your shoes? Are you wearing the right label? Do you read the right magazines? Really? Who cares?
Dressing up can allow you to express how you are feeling to the world, or help you become the person you want to be. There have been more times than I can count, when I have sat and looked at an outfit I have been planning on wearing and thought to myself ‘I don’t have the mojo to wear that’. Maybe I’ve had a bad day, maybe I’m just not feeling it, my heart is heavy and the idea of wearing something so colorful or flamboyant is too much for me to bear. Nine times out of ten, if I can actually get myself to put on the outfit, it will bring me out of my mood. It’s as if the outfit is encoded with the mood I want to have, and all I have to do is wear it.
My favorite book when I was a teenager was ‘Fabulous Nobodies’ by Lee Tulloch. It was the story of a trashy New York club kid who started a nightclub in her tiny apartment. She was a fashionista, and each of her outfits had a personality and a name. She would talk about them jostling for her attention when she opened the closet, and sometimes they would talk to her.
“Because I’m in a classical mood lately, I select a traditional red-on-white polka dot dress with shoestring straps and a built-in padded bra and waist cinched tightly with a big elastic belt. The frock’s name is Gina- after Gina Lollobridgida, naturally- and she’s so tight little wrinkles of fabric form on my hips when I walk. But she’s got a great sense of humor, a wonderful Italian outlook on life. When you walk in Gina sex-inch red heels, of course- you get this urge to hum “Volare” and swing your handbag like mad. I love her so much.”
I can relate.
Dressing up in something special does affect your mood. At Kinky Salon, when everyone is dressed up, there’s a feeling of camaraderie- like we’ve unlocked a secret code together. Everyone who comes to the party has to stop and think, and be creative, so we are all equally invested. Rather than ending up with a crowd of clueless party people, you have a group of people who have put in some forethought and effort before they reach the doors.
Know your Avatar. Or at least think about it. Who am I? What aspect of myself would I like to explore? Spend some time thinking about how you present yourself to the world. At Kinky Salon the themes give people a creative jumping point to work with, and a world to inhabit.
Surprisingly to some, we aren’t super strict about costumes the basic rule- no jeans, khaki or sportswear- cuts out 99% of people in their street clothes. We have had some controversy within the community from people who want us to be more strict, and have more standards around the dress code, but we like it the way it is. Dressing in a costume can be scary to some people at first, and we don’t want to exclude them- we want to convert them.
I remember one particular Kinky Salon attendee- when he first arrived on the scene he refused to dress up. He was from the East Coast and was shy and a little grumpy. He didn’t get why dressing up was important, so he did the minimum he could to get in the door. After coming to a few events and feeling more familiar with the surroundings he tried it, and the difference in him was dramatic. He came up to me, beaming, and said, “why didn’t anyone tell me how fun this was?” His outfit opened the door to his amazing sense of humor and absurdist style, giving people a first step to understanding him. It’s not that people were unfriendly to him before, but they didn’t know how to connect.
Who are you today? Explore the facets that create your identity. Have fun with it. Follow the example of our grouchy friend from the East Coast who learned how to wear his sense of humor on his sleeve.. Pick a new name, try it on for a while. Wear something different and see how differently the world interacts with you. Play with who you are and who you want to be.