Costume planning: Dos and Don’ts

Planning costumes is a fun and creative process, and a great costume can help you mingle with other guests. At the same time it takes awareness and consideration in order to ensure that costume choices are not offensive. At KSL we are often asked for advice, so we’ve put together this list for the entire community:



  • Do ask us if you have any questions or are in doubt. We are here to help!
  • Feel free to use any of the dressup suggestions we provide on our event page and Pinterest board
  • Think on whether your costume idea may offend others. For tips check this handy flowchart
  • Read up on cultural appropriation. Just because you "know" a culture does not mean you have a right over wearing anything symbolising it as a costume. See "Don't" (below) for more.
  • Be imaginative - paper, balloons, body paint, second hand stuff. The best costumes are not expensive!
  • Try adding interactivity - eg puppets or "draw on my costume" or something to give away
  • Consider a costume that matches with your PAL(s) - it's instant solidarity + makes a great group photo!
  • Bring clothes you're OK to lose... leave your posh jewellery / fancy undies at home not on our floor
  • Bring a tiny bag like a bumbag for money/change and safer sex supplies


  • Don't wear generic fetish, lingerie, designer suits/dresses, burlesque/vintage, or streetwear - unless these items are relevant to the theme & crucial for your costume (ask us if unsure). KSL is not about expensive clothing. BTW: full nudity is not a costume!
  • Bindis, saris: Bindis have varied meanings depending on the tradition and occasion, yet many South Asian women were forbidden the right to wear bindis well into the 20th century. Saris belong to the traditional dress of South Asian countries but are complex in their present-day use. Even if your friend helped you buy yours, it's respectful to wear it to a sari-appropriate event rather than as fancy dress.
  • Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos): The Day of the Dead originates from the indigenous peoples of southern regions of Mexico and has been celebrated as a national holiday in Mexico since the 1960s. Spanish colonisers and the Catholic Church tried to suppress its celebration for centuries. For this reason, many find it offensive to see the tradition taken out of context and worn as a costume.
  • First Nations / Native American (head-)wear: First Nations people and Native Americans are a diverse population of many nations, cultures, languages and traditions, which colonisers tried to strip them of. Their traditional dress has sacred value to them and is designed and made with ritual. To now wear the very thing thing they were denied is insulting and hurtful.
  • Geishas, sheikhs, etc.: It’s important to remember that wearing such costumes can lead to the disempowerment of the cultures and individuals behind such negative representation. Today, these cultures still find themselves fighting for their human rights, including the right to define their own identities. Some people are called terrorists, harassed and profiled simply for wearing kanduras.  
  • Nazis: National Socialism was responsible for the systematized murder of over eleven million people. In Germany, the birthplace of 20th century Nazism, all forms of Nazi uniforms, greetings / speech, and other Nazi paraphernalia are constitutionally banned.  
  • Race / ethnicity: Race and ethnicity are not costumes. It’s that simple. Further, blackface as used in minstrel shows, which originated in the US and found their way to popularity on British television, played a major role in exaggerating and normalising stereotypes, racist images, attitudes and perceptions of Black culture worldwide.
  • Violence: References to actual incidents of violent crimes & sexual assault are bad taste and potentially triggering to victims of such crimes.
  • Other marginalised groups: Avoid costumes that caricature differently abled people, folk with mental health issues, bigger people, trans & queer people, followers of religion & sex workers.

At KSL it is not our intention to police costumes, at the same time it is important to us that our party guests do not indirectly experience exclusion due to inappropriate and offensive costumes.