Fancy dress is something that can so easily go wrong. Take the example of Colin Terry whose very poor fancy dress costume choice may cost him his reputation. Mr Terry is a Chief Superintendent with Devon and Cornwall police who has been serving in Afghanistan as an advisor to the Afghan Government, on counter terrorism issues. His fancy dress choice of wearing an Osama Bin Laden outfit and mask to a carnival parade in his home town in Cornwall was intended as an in-joke for his friends to guess who he was, as he travelled past on the parade. Unfortunately for Mr Terry the joke went wrong when a local reporter photographed his fancy dress choice. Mr Terry has had a complaint about him made to Police Complaints Commission, and Devon and Cornwall police have condemned his costume choice.

This is not a one-off example of poor judgement, cast your mind back to 2005 when Prince Harry decided to attend a “colonials and natives” fancy dress party as a Nazi soldier in desert uniform. This poor choice landed him in hot water with the public and press, and lead a former armed forces minister Doug Henderson to state that the prince was obviously not suitable to take up a position at Sandhurst Military Academy. If only he had followed his older brothers fancy dress choice, and gone as a lion.

The organisers of parties can also get things very wrong. Take the Converso Call Centre in Southend that often holds employee events including fancy dress parties. One of their parties had a cops and robbers themed event. Unfortunately a member of the public spotted two of the fancy dress wearing partygoers arriving. Normally this would not be a issue, but this particular member of the public described the two armed men dressed in dark clothing entering an office building after hours, to the local police. Having a police armed response unit raid your office fancy dress party certainly makes it a night to remember, but for all the wrong reasons.

Southend has had problems like this before when local man Lawrence Corcoran attended a fancy dress party dressed as Rambo. At the end of the party Mr Corcoran took some friends back to his house to carry on the revelry. Unfortunately walking down the street on the way back to his house Mr Corcoran was seen waving his toy gun at friends and also aimed it at passing vehicles, some of which swerved out of the line of fire. The party ended abruptly when two armed response teams and police dog handlers arrived, closing the road and ordering everyone out of the house. Mr Corcoran was ordered by magistrates to do 80 hours of community service and pay a sixty pound fine.

Few people could ever get it as mixed a response to their fancy dress costume as a tory party councilor for Barnet, Brian Gordon. Mr Gordon is a big fan of Fancy Dress, having dressed up as a number of famous political leaders including Ronald Regan, Boris Yeltsin and Ariel Sharon. Unusual fancy dress choices, but nothing distasteful about them. The problem occurs when you add Nelson Mandela to the list, and black up in the process. Mr Gordon thought nothing of it and even had a photograph taken and sent it to the local paper himself. When questions were raised about whether it was right for a local councilor to black up, Mr Gordon confronted his critics saying he always dresses as world leaders at fancy dress parties and surely it would be racist to exclude Nelson Mandela from his choices just because he is black.

The errors are obvious, but not to the fancy dress wearers at the time. It’s OK to dress up and make a fool of yourself but don’t go into controversial subjects. If you must go as a soldier choose an allied soldier not Nazi, if you must go as a terrorist try Guy Fawkes not Osama, and most of all leave the weapons behind.

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