A Purim costume party is the sartorial release we all need right now

    Dressing up for Purim

    Feeling creative? It’s nearly time to flex your costume-making muscles, because sunset on March 20th marks the beginning of Purim — aka Jewish Halloween. At least, that’s how it sometimes feels in the US. In Israel, Purim is something more akin to a Jewish version of the Rio Carnival: a full-blown celebration uniting secular and religious Jews across the country, complete with Purim parades, street parties, and even a Tel Aviv zombie walk.

    Tel Aviv Zombie Walk

    Eat, drink, and dress-up

    You have to love a religious festival where getting drunk is an actual mitzvah, but how you feel about the fancy dress part depends on a couple of things. First, are you the parent of elementary school age children? Their obligations include Halloween, Purim, school performances and birthday parties; and in the UK, the icing on the cake is World Book Day at the beginning of March, when children go to school dressed as their favorite fictional characters.

    Toasting girls in carnival masks enjoying party

    For retailers, it’s like a second Christmas; for parents, it’s exhausting. I can’t be the only mother who eventually gave up and sent my daughters in some kind of unspecified toga fashioned out of a bed sheet every single year. Nobody complained.

    Rediscover the joys of dress-up

    Even so, might it be worth rediscovering the joy of dressing up? After all, when we increasingly spend all day in hoodies and yoga pants, there’s something lovely about dipping into the dress-up box to masquerade as someone — or something — else. Plus, with every costume party you get an added frisson of danger. What if nobody else has made the effort, and you’re the only one looking ridiculous — like Bridget Jones dressed as a bunny? And then, learning from this experience, you turn up for your next costume party in regular clothes, only to find that everyone else has decided to channel the annual Heidi Klum Halloween bash?

    Consider all your options

    Whatever your strategy this Purim, the Internet has some options. Do a search for Purim costumes, and you’ll see most retailers have put together a selection that includes some medieval princesses and, er, Cleopatra. But there are a few gems to be found. I’m pretty sure that our hero Mordechai was never actually a king, but this boys’ King Mordechai costume by Dress America is still very fetching, and if you’d like to take the theme literally, Amazon has plenty of Queen Esther costumes and more. At the other end of the effort scale, Modern Tribe’s Queen Like Esther tees at least nod to the occasion.

    Be super

    Outside the Purim story, superheroes are always a safe bet — and you’ll avoid straying into cultural appropriation territory. (Blackface, geishas, “Cowboys and Indians”, and rednecks are among the themes best avoided; Cosmopolitan recently rounded up a helpful list of controversial celeb costumes that were called out on social media for these very misdemeanors).

    Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

    So superheroes it is — and now that Gal Gadot is in the role, Wonder Woman has a nice Jewish twist. A pair of gold cuffs feels like the perfect way to celebrate this Purim.

    Susannah Cohen
    Susannah Cohen is a fashion journalist, e-commerce editor (specialist subjects: lingerie and diamonds) and Jewish mom. Recently relocated from London to the West Coast, she’s feeling a lot more spiritual these days.