The First Rule of Fancy Dress Parties

the book:

Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction by Sue Townsend

published 2004   entry for New Year's Eve 2002

[Adrian Mole is going to a fancy dress New Year’s Eve party. His girlfriend Marigold has said she will come as Coco] I was mortified that it was not Coco Chanel who emerged from a taxi… but Coco the Clown. Marigold was wearing an orange fright-wig, a large checked jacket, hooped trousers, a bowler hat and flapping comedy shoes. She had completely misjudged the rules of fancy dress – that young women should dress alluringly. It was only women as old as Tania Braithwaite, who was dressed as a carrot, who could break this rule…

Nigel had a toy golden Labrador at his feety and was wearing a scruffy false beard. He was David Blunkett… My mother and father turned up carrying bulging black bin liners which contained their fancy dress clothes. They hogged both bathrooms for half an hour before emerging as Dolly Parton and Saddam Hussein. Parvez and his wife Fatima had come as Robin Hood and Maid Marian…. Brain-box Henderson had flattered himself by coming as Tarzan. In my opinion, he should not have worn the black shoes and grey socks.

Observations:Adrian Mole is one of the great comic creations of all time, and Sue Townsend has continued to make him as funny as ever, while also portraying every aspect of life - she has perfect pitch, it’s like reading a time capsule. If this world disappeared, you could re-create the past 30 years in the UK from the combined Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones books. Or even longer - the noted historian David Starkey once compared the Tudor King Edward VI to Adrian Mole, to great effect. Starkey is lucky to have Adrian to work with.

And of course Adrian is right about the rules of fancy-dress (known as a costume party in the USA). Adrian’s lost love, treacle-haired Pandora Braithwaite, would never make Marigold’s mistake, and Adrian will always end up with the woman who doesn’t understand the rules. Pandora has earlier opened the door ‘wearing her usual belly dancer’s fancy dress costume… She then gave me a flashy pink jewel and a piece of Blu-Tack and asked me to fix it into her bellybutton.’ This despite being an MP and junior minister. Adrian himself has come as Gustave Flaubert, one of his favourite authors. Clothes in Books applauds!

The picture is from the Library of Congress and is on


  1. Very, very funny. I must revisit Adrian Mole. I wonder if Nicola would get the jokes? Or Helena for that matter.

  2. Alex loved them, from quite a young age, and when I was re-reading this one (where Adrian ends up getting into phenomenal debt via easy mortgages and credit cards) I was remembering A questioning me closely about how these financial matters work. Let's hope the valuable lessons stuck all those years ago!

  3. The 70s ended 30 years ago which means that a large number of people who will be out Partying and dressing up for Halloween would be dressing up in 70s Fancy Dress for the very first time and will get some thrill from the outlandish fashions of this era.

    red prom dresses.


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