Halloween, New Year, or just popping out to one of the clubs in London, social occasions are at least twice as fun when there's fancy dress involved. Cast off your going out uniform and switch it for, say, a 1920s flapper dress. Or perhaps an Elizabethan doublet. In these top-notch fancy dress shops you can give yourself a giant wound, try on terrifying masks, and get involved in full character outfits. Choosing your ideal alter-ego will be the only dilemma...
RECOMMENDED: Check out London's best Halloween costumes if you're looking for a spooky outfit for Halloween
London's fanciest fancy dress shops
Nestled on Stoke Newington High Street, this emporium of all things weird and wonderful manages to bridge the gap between exclusive (and excruciatingly expensive) costumiers and tacky high-street fancy dress suppliers. Pieces are available to buy or rent at pretty reasonable prices, with costumes ranging from up-cycled fancy dress to originals sourced from the Royal Opera House wardrobe department. Full costume styling (£20 for 40 minutes) and make-up (from £25) are available by appointment, while bespoke pieces can also be made to order.
Venue says: “Mad World is your very own dressing-up box! We have more than 35,000 costumes for hire across our two central London stores.”
This vast dungeon of a fancy dress store offers a stellar personal service. Staff help you navigate some 35,000 costumes, from a sleek ant to a fuzzy Orvill duck, and make sure you have a bespoke outfit to take away. Prices start from around £15 for accessories (cloaks, top hats and the like) and full costumes start at £35. Further store in Charing Cross (441 The Strand, WC2N 4HZ).
A bespoke costumier in New Cross with a unique made-to-measure service as well as ready-made outfits and staff who can help you put a look together thanks to their styling service. This is the go-to venue for circus styling, and 18th century outfits are their bestsellers, but demand means they’ve increased their 1920s range in recent times.
Angels is the undisputed doyenne of fancy dress hire for adults and children in the capital. The range – spanning everything from splendid Tudor robes to a sequinned showgirl outfit from Octopussy – and quality are unparalleled. There’s also a selection of packet costumes and cheap superhero costumes for sale starting at £30.99. Outfits for hire from the shop start at £80 plus VAT and include matching accessories, plus £100 deposit.
This well-known Camden shop has an extensive range of masks and accessories, as well as full character outfits from Harry Potter to Superman. Lazy party-goers can swing by for one of these affordable all-in-one outfits, rather than trying to piece together a bespoke outfit. You can also order from their website to avoid lugging the inevitably enormous packages home on the bus.
More high-class fancy dress than cheap party shop, any member of the public can can make an appointment at the National Theatre's costume warehouse. Rails are arranged chronologically from dramatic eighteenth-century ball gowns to 1920s flapper dresses for women, and from top hats and tails to Elizabethan ruffs and doublets for men. Enthusiastic staff are on hand to help you build a top-to-toe look (from £120).
Professional make-up artists seek out Screenface for its high-quality, long-lasting make-up and tools of the trade. Haircare is of a similarly high standard, as are the make-up brushes and other tools. Special effects are big business: fake blood, adhesives and removers, plus all types of facial hair, from handlebar moustaches to mutton chops.
Discover more great shops in London
Design & Alter
In one of the arches beneath the Battersea Park railway line lives a bespoke tailor, Design & Alter. In this workshop a team creates and reworks pieces for major fashion brands and catwalk shows, as well as private clients. If you've found the perfect vintage leather jacket, but it doesn't sit right, Design & Alter's team can make it fit like a glove. Or if you've got a tired old ’80s dress that's too puffy to be seen out any more but you love the fabric, you can bring it here to have it restyled into something contemporary. Of course you can also start afresh with a made-to-measure suit or dress. They have a sister company, Bride & Alter, offering specialist bridal tailoring and wedding dress alterations.
Venue says: “'Once you find a good tailor, do not give away his name. A good tailor is worth every penny.' - Nina Garcia”