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Charity Fancy Dress Costumes

Updated on June 9, 2014
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Hi, I am Adele, and I have run a large fancy dress shop in Essex, England since 1998. Happy to pass on my knowledge to help others.

Dressing up for Charity and raising money for good causes is becoming an inherent part of life. The theory is that the higher the profile, the more money can be raised. Red Nose Day, Children in Need, Race for Life are just some of the more high profile good causes that Fancy Dress outlets such as Props n Frocks are often asked to get involved with, and will do their bit to help.

Now, this does not mean that we give costumes for free or even give a discount, after all we are in business and want to stay that way. What is on offer is a truly unbelievable selection of costumes and accessories to help promote your fundraising activity. Whether it's red costumes or accessories, such as wigs, make-up, red noses for Comic or Sports Relief, pink fairy wings and tutus for Race for Life or fun costumes for the London Marathon or the Great North Run, or novelty costumes for Children in Need, there are a fantastic selection of fancy dress costumes available.

As a company, we have decided that it is far easier for us to make one donation to the actual charity rather than do special deals with individuals, especially with the large, nationwide style of events. That said, we a proud to sponsor the Great Gorilla Run, in aid of the preservation of mountain gorillas, which occurs in and around the City of London (Saturday 20th September in 2014)

Although we have mentioned some of the bigger media events, fund-raising happens throughout the year, for both local and national charities. If you are aiming to be standing on a street corner holding a collection tin, people can often pass by without noticing you (especially as you are not supposed to shake tins or buckets). Being in costume automatically raises your profile. If you can feature a costume that ties in with the charity you are promoting this can be even better. Cute and cuddly costumes are the best, with Teddy Bears and large headed animals being the most popular. However, it is always a good idea to think about the wearer. If your activity is on a hot summer's day, a fur fabric costume might not be ideal.

One of our HUGE inflatable Costumes - Ideal to get attention!
One of our HUGE inflatable Costumes - Ideal to get attention!
Penelope Pitstop - Licensed Costume
Penelope Pitstop - Licensed Costume
Buzz Lightyear - Licensed Costume
Buzz Lightyear - Licensed Costume
Queen of Hearts - Licensed Costume
Queen of Hearts - Licensed Costume
Snow White - Licensed Costume
Snow White - Licensed Costume
Scooby Doo - Licensed Costume
Scooby Doo - Licensed Costume

Here are a few things to consider to help you work out what you might need.

  • Is your event indoors or outdoors?

The weather is not such a problem if your event is indoors, although practicalities such as changing facilities and somewhere to go to cool down (if wearing a big head costume) may need to be addressed. Bear in mind that once you are in a costume (particularly one where you may be seen by children) it is important to stay in character and it is essential that big heads should not be removed in public.

  • What type of budget have you got?

Sometimes you have to invest a little money as well as time in order to get a maximise your fund-raising return. Flashing the 'charity badge' does not automatically open doors these days, and in fact many businesses can be actively put off with a conversation starting “We are doing this charity event”....

Although spending the least possible amount may seem to be the best solution to raise the most funds, this is not always the case. If you are making the effort, you might as well do your best to look good!

One way around this problem is to get sponsored to wear an outfit - people may pay good money to have someone wear a silly outfit of their choice!

  • How many people are getting involved with fundraising?

If you have a lot of people getting involved and your budget is limited, there are two ways of getting yourself noticed...

1. Look at putting one person in full costume as the main 'attraction' (and ensure he/she has a 'minder', preferably also in costume) with others wearing accessories to match. For example if you are using one main animal costume, you might choose to have the others in matching balaclavas with appropriate 'ears'. Alternatively, there are a range of face bops or animal masks on the market.

2. You could also think about dressing up in bright coloured accessories in your chosen charitiy's colours.

  • Is everyone aiming to dress up?

Some people will get heavily involved in the dressing-up process, wanting to try on many costumes before making a selection, whilst others may prefer to just be told what they are wearing. It is always a good idea to get everyone thinking and talking about it days, if not weeks in advance. This helps to build up the momentum to the big event and will also get the shy retiring types used to the idea of donning another persona for the day.

  • Do you need a theme?

Choosing a common theme may be important if it is an event being organised to raise the profile of a particular charity. However if it is just a general fundraising event a theme such as Storybook Characters, Movie Stars, Heroes & Villains, etc., may not be necessary. It may become essential if you are in competition with other departments to see who can raise the most funds.

  • What are you doing in Costume?

This may seem really obvious, but experience has taught us that not everyone thinks about the actions they will be performing whilst dressed in costume. How many times have you seen totally impractical costumes being worn for events such as the London Marathon? It might have seemed a good idea when originally making the choice of outfit, but after 26.2 miles running, walking or limping round the course dressed in a large character costume, you could find the 'hassle' more than the resulting publicity warrants. There are, of course, stalwarts who deliberately choose difficult costumes such as a Deepsea Diver's outfit, but they are in a class of their own.

Similarly, the popular short and sassy costumes might not be entirely appropriate if you are shelf stacking in your local supermarket. Equally, an overhead mask or long drapey sleeves may also not be practical if sitting behind a till.

  • What is your target audience?

You must be aware of who will see you in your costume. If children will be present, costumes should be suitable for them, i.e. nothing rude or too sexy. If your audience is going to be 100% adults, then you have more options, but a nude suit will not go down well at a church event! Just think before you opt for something a bit more risqué.

It may also be useful to bear in mind that despite what's been said, some people may be actively put off by people in costume, even to the extent of a phobia (many people find clowns scary, for instance), so vary your portfolio of characters and even allow some of your fundraising crew to look normal!

  • Be aware about costume licensing

Nearly every day, we will get at least one phone call from a business or charity looking for a famous character costume. This may be a popular children's character from a television series, an old time favourite, or one from a recent film release. What a lot of people do not realise is that the majority of these 'known characters' will be subject to a license. What this means is that one company has been awarded the license to re-produce the character's image. These companies pay huge sums of money to win these licenses and they do not take kindly to replicas. It is illegal to have an unlicensed costume and court action has been known. Although there are 'lookalikes' available, be careful not to 'pass off' these as the 'genuine article' as this may also get you into trouble.

So, you may think that having 'Noddy' attend your school fete opening is a fantastic way of getting visitors through the doors, and raising some money, but in reality, you may not be able to get the character that you do want. It is possible to hire an official 'Licensed' mascot style costume, from specialised companies but these are not cheap (A figure of £1600 for Peppa Pig has been recently quoted), and most charities will not be prepared to pay for them. If you are planning to have a very large opening, then it is well worth looking at what licensed characters are available that suit your particular fund-raising topic. That said, at Props & Frocks we do have an excellent range of mascot-style outfits available at very reasonable prices. There's more about these below, but please look at the selection on our website.

A couple of other issues: The range of licensed costumes that are available to purchase is increasing every year, so this is definitely something to have a look at if you are looking for a specific character. Be aware, most of these costumes that you can purchase, are not mascot style ('big-head') costumes, and your face will be seen. The other thing is that wherever possible, if you have made the effort to dress up, you should try to stay 'in character' and within the spirit of the occasion.

The final thing when it comes to dressing-up for charity is to make sure you and those dressing-up enjoy what they are doing. A surly shop assistant will automatically generate a negative response, whilst happy, cheerful people having fun will not only raise the profile of the cause, but also get the pennies, pounds and even notes rolling in.


Licensed Spongebob Squarepants Costume
Licensed Spongebob Squarepants Costume
Monkey Mascot Costume
Monkey Mascot Costume

Mascot Costumes

Your charity may have a logo character, and, as long as you have the copyright to this image, you could get the mascot made. This is a great idea if you are going out fund-raising nearly every week. It is a great way of getting your 'brand' seen in your local area.

Props n Frocks manufactures a wide range of animal mascots that can be adapted to produce a unique costume just for you. All of our mascot costumes are fully washable and have proven life span of over 13 years with constant use.

Most mascots are delivered 3 weeks from placement of your order, so they can get out and about, earning your charity more money!

If you are interested in our mascot service, call us 7 days a week on 01245 327156

Where you are using a mascot costume, please note that the wearer's field of vision may be restricted and it is therefore important for the mascot to have a 'minder' (hpefully in a complementary costume) who can ensure the safety of both the wearer and the public.

One of Our Dog Mascot Costumes
One of Our Dog Mascot Costumes

Have You Used Fancy Dress For Fund Raising Before?

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Would You Consider Wearing a Fancy dress Costume After Reading This Page?

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In Your Opinion, Did Wearing a Costume Help To Raise More Money Than If You Were Wearing 'Normal' Clothing?

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A great crowd pleaser, but not ideal to run a Marathon!
A great crowd pleaser, but not ideal to run a Marathon!

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