Dressing up

Dressing up is fun. It always has been. When you’re a child you get to dress up and be a fireman, a knight or a princess but when you’re a grown up, you don’t really get the chance to get creative with your clothing quite so much.

When I was researching videos produced by museums for Show Me I stumbled across this one from Tate. 

Fabulous fashionista Iris Apfel has dressed up for the gallery’s Matisse exhibition and it reminded me of the times that I’ve dressed up a little bit to see an exhibition. When the Cartoon Museum explored Doctor Who in Comics I donned a fez and a bow tie because the then Doctor played by Matt Smith said that both were cool.

A little Doctor Who cosplay: the 11th Doctor
A little Doctor Who cosplay: the 11th Doctor


Likewise for the V&A’s Hollywood Costume exhibition I took my sartorial cue from the star object: Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. I donned a blue check shirt, brown corduroy trousers and bright red plimsolls to get into the spirit of things.

I’ve seen people dressed as Vikings at the British Museum and as various incarnations of David Bowie at the V&A, so I’m clearly not alone in getting into the spirit of things with a costume.

So when it was reported that two teenagers were forced to change at the Natural History Museum I couldn’t help but wonder why.

Two teenagers dressed in onesies (Picture: SWNS)
Two teenagers dressed in onesies (Picture: SWNS)


The article says that the Museum has commented that ‘While we don’t have a particular dress code, the duty manager is responsible for deciding whether people can enter the museum.’ Adding that ‘We have in the past had visitors in costumes cause disturbances in the building, which affected other people’s experience at the museum.’

Clearly, the dinosaur one fits right in with the setting. The Umbreon, not so much. (Annoyingly, the Metro describes Umbreon as an insect. It isn’t. It’s a Pokémon.)

Although the situation was clearly embarrassing for everyone, the museum seems to have handled it fairly well, as  ‘After their onesies were put in the cloakroom Ms Garvey and her partner continued their visit and we offered complimentary tickets in recompense for the inconvenience and embarrassment they felt.’

Let’s think about this from a museum-y perspective for a second; costumed interpreters are fairly commonplace in the sector, even in the South Ken Museums. For example, the Natural History Museum has a Mary Anning themed activity featuring someone dressed as the famed fossil finder, and the Science Museum  offers cockroach tours.

This begs the question “Could there have been a chance that the onesie clad visitors might have been mistaken for staff?”

The answer is no.

Personally, I don’t count onesies as costumes. To me they are pajamas masquerading as fancy dress. I’m not sure how alone I am in this, as the museum staff allegedly counted them as costumes rather than loungewear.

But, costume or no, that’s not the point. The point is that these people were clearly excited about their visit, and wanted to reflect that in what they wore.

And let’s face it, the outfits used by costumed interpreters are much nicer than a onesie.

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