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50 Best Dress-Up Themes That Are Actually Fun!

Are you looking for the best dress-up themes for your next celebration? There’s no rule that says only kids can have all the fun. This is the ultimate list of fancy dress theme party ideas to make planning your next event even more exciting.

The best thing about a dress-up party is the fact that it’s memorable! And there is sure to be a fun theme for your fancy dress costume! 

Group of friends dressed up for a thene party with wigs and balloons

The Best Party Dress-Up Themes For Adults

Bring out your hats, dancing shoes, capes, robes, and face paint.

These dress-up themes for adults include everything from the subtle classy themed parties to the all-out elaborate costume party ideas that are sure to have half your friends excited while the other half cringes!

Planning a birthday party can be simple, but if you want to add a little something extra to your celebration, adding a party theme can really take it to the next level. 

I’m not gonna lie! I love costume parties. They can be so much fun if you have a good theme, but there’s no doubt that not everyone loves dressing up. And that’s okay! 

When it comes to planning how to celebrate your birthday, engagement, Halloween, housewarming, *insert event here*, there is no real limit to what you can do.

So to help you come up with a fun idea to celebrate with your best friends, check out this epic list of dress up theme party ideas to get you inspired:

1. Superhero Party

Holly with marvel cosplay captain america shield and thor hammer

Are you a Marvel or DC fan? If so, create your very own multiverse with a superhero-themed party! It’ll be fun to see heroes from different comics, franchises, and universes assemble.

Gear up your suits, prepare your “vibranium” shields, be Captain America for a day, or Superman. You could even be the anti-hero like Wanda Maximoff AKA The Scarlett Witch. 

​As a total Marvel fanatic myself, I celebrated my 40th with a Marvel theme party. It was so much fun and some of the costumes were fantastic. Sure, there were a few who had no idea who to dress as, but it was the party of my dreams!

2. The Great Gatsby

Fancy dress theme parties are often associated with The Great Gatsby. The film has shown us the glamourous and impeccable parties of the Jazz Age in the 1920s.

Ladies are bejewelled in an ensemble of pearls and flapper dresses.

A three-piece suit in grey, light blue, or brown is a great choice for men. Of course, don’t forget boater or fedora hats to capture Jay Gatsby’s style. 

You can change it up from the typical 1920s theme by also adding a casino night theme to your celebration. 

3. Harry Potter 

Kids dressed up for harry potter theme

Dress according to your house or your favourite professors. Relive your childhood as everyone enjoys a party in Hogwarts.

Professor Dumbledore will definitely give you extra points for adding accessories such as brooms, wands, or bringing an imitation fantastic beast.

Dress as the iconic characters and you can even be as quirky as Luna Lovegood with our fun DIY costume above.

4. Hollywood Red Carpet

The glitz and glamour of Hollywood is another excellent idea for a costume theme party. Doll up yourselves as if attending a real Hollywood red carpet.

Capture the expensive vibes of a La La Land event with lavish gowns, glittery cocktail dresses, and fine three-piece suits.

We did this theme for my 30th birthday party and it was a lot of fun. We set up a DIY photo booth with my DSLR camera on a stand and a tub of fun accessories such as feather boas, hats and sunglasses. They turned out great!

5. Masquerade Ball

Four women with masquerade masks on

Add some mystery and entertainment by making everyone wear a Masquerade mask. Mingling in Masquerade balls sounds fun especially when you’re trying to figure out who you’re talking to. A touch of intrigue turns the party into a memorable occasion.

6. Mardi Gras

Celebrating Mardi Gras style should be at the top of your list of fun dress-up themes. It’s the colourful and flashy version of the Masquerade ball. 

Mardi Gras is a great theme when your event is around the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday).

7. James Bond

Be Agent 007 or an alluring Bond girl for a night! It’s the perfect fancy dress theme for adults that isn’t only a simple black tie event.

Add a twist to the party with an actual mystery to solve – like a murder mystery party but Bond style. Everyone can act like agents with a mission to accomplish before the party ends. 

8. Western Theme 

Dress like you’re in the wild wild West! Bring out your cowboy hat, cowboy boots, flannels, and lasso. Your guests will definitely say Yee-haw as they have fun celebrating the occasion.

Seeing cowboys and cowgirls around the room will immediately transport you to the wild west.

For a Disney twist, check out my Toy Story Jessie DIY costume.

9. Star Wars

Family star wars costume

When thinking of theme costume ideas, Star Wars will always be on the list! Take the whole party on a space adventure they will never forget.

With the ever-expanding Star Wars franchise, the costume options are endless, just as the party-theming ideas are too! Someone might even go the extra mile and rent a Wookiee costume!

We did a family Star Wars costume for my brother’s science fiction 40th back when our youngest daughter was just 3 months old. I made her a Princess Leia ‘wig’ with a brown knit beanie and plaited wool buns. It was hilariously perfect! 

10. Seven Deadly Sins

Plan a Halloween party with the Seven Deadly Sins in mind. Allow your guests to express their creativity. Each one of them must show up in their own interpretation of the deadly sin of their choice.

Get the party started with envy, greed, pride, gluttony, sloth, wrath, and lust.

11. Pirate Party

Couple dressed up as pirates

Say aye to the pirate-themed party! It’s a fun dress-up theme that turns the place into a fictional world. Pirates of the Caribbean is always fun for inspiration. Elizabeth Swann is a stunning style reference for our lady pirates.

But of course, there is always Peter Pan and Captain Hook for a twist on the theme. Keep a close eye on your treasure chests!

If you’ve ever taken a Disney cruise, Pirate Night is a big part of departure, with a deck party, costumes galore and fireworks. 

12. Star Trek

Sci-fi is a fun party theme because people get to dress up differently. With a Star Trek party theme, your guests have a choice to be a human/Vulcan hybrid like Mr Spock or simply a human-like Captain Kirk.

Adults that grew up with Star Trek will surely enjoy healing their inner child in your party. 

Although, with any of these iconic cult classics, you’re going to potentially have some people on your guest list that haven’t a clue about the theme. Don’t let that stop you if this is what brings you joy! 

13. Hawaiian Theme

Aloha to the refreshing costume ideas of a Hawaiian theme party. Set up in a place surrounded by palm trees, with tables of fresh fruit and bright colours. You can either go with Hawaiian flower shirts or grass skirts called pa’u.

Welcome your guests with a lei to complete their Hawaiian ensemble. Such party theme ideas are perfect for a pool party theme.

14. Dress In Your Favourite Team Colours

Organising a game day party is definitely a fun annual thing for friends and family. Everyone would be in high spirits while in the colours of the team they are rooting for! It’ll be a fun and lively game day for sure.

Or hold this celebration for another event and let a little light-hearted team rivalry add to the fun. 

15. Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge is a great fancy dress theme choice for musical enthusiasts. This is a raunchy adult party theme but one that is sure to be a lot of fun and have you all feeling extra sexy as you hit the dance floor!

It’ll be a party full of lace, frills, elbow-length gloves, high headdresses, faux fur, feather boa, black tuxedos, black top hat, cane, bowties, and more.

16. The Wizard Of Oz

Another musical that your guests will have fun dressing up for is The Wizard of Oz. Arrive on the Yellow Brick Road as Dorothy, the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, Glinda, the Wicked Witch, and the munchkins all come together to have a blast.

17. Disney

Family toy story costume

Let out your inner child and dress up as your favourite Disney character! Forget being an adult for a while and enjoy partying as Cinderella, Elsa, Mickey Mouse, Goofy, or even as Gaston.

Save this idea for your thirtieth or fortieth birthday, since loving Disney never really ends! This is the perfect theme if you’re a Disney adult! 

We did a Toy Story family costume for my niece’s Halloween engagement party.

18. 1920s

Organise a party like the Great Gatsby. The 1920s has fancy dress themes that includes heavily-beaded flappers and feathered boas for the ladies. Gentlemen usually opt for tuxedos, pinstripe suits, silk shirts, bow ties, and black-leather shoes. 

19. 1930s

Vintage looks are undoubtedly suitable for fancy dress themes. Recreating looks from the 1930s will fill your party with guests in dresses with wide shoulders, belted waistlines, puffy sleeves, ruffles, and frilly bows.

The signature clothing pieces for men are high-waisted, baggy trousers, and long jackets.

20. 1940s

Recreate outfits inspired by fashion icons from the 1940s such as Ava Gardner and Katherine Hepburn. The key clothing pieces to achieve a 1940s outfit for ladies are square-shouldered jackets, skirt suits, and shirtwaist dresses. 

Men are often seen with top hats, fedora hats, boaters, monocles, formal dress shirts, collar pins, and neckties. For this reason, the 1940s is a great party theme for smart-casual parties.

21. 1950s

Women at rockabilly 1950s party dress up

People would have a lovely time during bridal showers, an engagement party, or a brunch party while living like in the 1950s. It’s exciting to get dolled up with long, grey felt poodle skirts, corset waists, and saddle shoes.

Party with your best gals as if you are all Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelley, or Elizabeth Taylor. Or channel your favourite iconic Pink Ladies and T-Birds from Grease with some rockabilly vibes. 

22. 1960s

It’s the year of frayed bell-bottom jeans, peace signs, printed fabrics, polka dots, and tie-dye shirts! The party would definitely be livelier because of the brightly coloured clothing. Give it a Beatlemania twist if you’re a fan! 

23. 1970s

The 1970s-themed party is a great chance to let your inner hippie free! Like the 60s, vibrant colours are one of the main elements of the decade. Women are dressed in bell-bottom pants, maxi dresses, tie-dye shirts, halter tops, bohemian tassel dresses, etc.

As for men, their fashion staples are floral shirts with wide lapels, bell bottoms, flared trousers, and shirts with bold prints. Woodstock anyone?

24. 1980s

Relive your teenage years in the 1980s while celebrating your birthday. Guests won’t have a difficult time finding outfits as retro style is a returning fashion trend.

Denim jackets, high-waisted trousers, pullover sweaters, ankle boots, and animal prints are your go-to pieces for a 1980s-themed event

Or go all out for an 80s lycra workout look in a leotard and tights if you dare! Don’t forget the teased hair and perm. This theme is also a great excuse for 80s icons like Indiana Jones or Rainbow Brite.

25. 1990s

Dress like the cast of Friends at your 1990s-themed party! Like the 80s, fashion from the 90s is a returning trend nowadays.

Slip dresses, plaid mini skirts, bomber jackets, turtlenecks, and biker jackets are a few of the essentials to complete your 90s look. Oh, and butterfly clips galore!

The Spice Girls called – they want their platforms back! 

26. 2000s

People also call the fashion style Y2K. It is combined with the clothing trends of the 90s which you’ll find in Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. When organising a 2000s-themed party, your guests would most likely be inspired by pop stars from that decade.

27. Dress In The Decade You Were Born

Unlike the fashion years mentioned above, guests can wear the staple clothing ensemble from the year they were born. It’ll be a fun party that can become a time machine for different fashion timelines.

If you’re a fashion enthusiast, this dress-up party theme is an excellent choice!

28. Colour Scheme Dress Up Party

Choose a colour palette that your guests must wear during your party. A colour scheme is a creative party theme for events such as baby showers, bridal showers, game days, and holiday-related celebrations.

Channel your inner Barbie or Elle from Legally Blonde with a pink theme. Go bold with yellow. Or keep it monotone with black and white. 

29. Alice In Wonderland

Create a magical world that will heal your inner child with an Alice in Wonderland themed party.

This is the perfect fancy dress theme for a tea party or high tea – Mad Hatter optional. Amazing for bridal showers, hens nights and birthdays. 

30. Stranger Things

Halloween or not, you can always turn your place into Hawkins, Indiana. Strangers Things is set in the 80s so this is another excuse to step back to that beloved decade of fashion with a few signature pieces that make it obvious who you are dressed as.

To make the party even more entertaining, you might like to dress as a Demogorgon or even Vecna himself.

Free printable birthday party checklist

31. Toga Party

Another fancy dress theme for the ladies and the gentlemen is the toga party. Adorn yourselves like gods and goddesses that visited the mortal realm.

It’s the perfect summer dress-up theme to try with your family and friends this year! It is popular for frat parties but a toga party can be fun for any occasion. 

32. Horror Or Halloween Dress Up Theme

Dress up in Halloween costumes even if it’s not October 31 yet. You can get plenty of inspiration with these kids Halloween costumes, adult costume ideas and these fun group costumes.

They’ll surely have a blast while picking costumes together. A scary dress-up theme is often a guest favourite since there are so many creative ways to interpret the theme. 

33. Glam Party

Have a sparkly and glamorous night out with your best gals! It’s a celebration with champagne, mirror balls, sparkly dresses, stilettos, silver and gold, ladies with full glam look, and glitters on the floor.

A glam party should be your top choice when planning something special for a best friend or a sister. 

34. Dress As The Opposite Gender / As Your Partner 

Valentine’s Day would be so much fun with a cross-dressing dress-up theme party! Couples in the same friend group can dress as the opposite gender or as their partner.

It’ll indeed be a party full of laughter. But you can also use the theme for a different celebration too. 

35. Favourite Book Characters

Invite your bookworm friends to a fun costume party! The book costume ideas must be based on their favourite book characters.

This is a wonderful theme for the bookish person and even those non-readers are sure to have plenty of character inspiration (since most great books end up turned into films anyway). 

36. School’s Out

The end of the school year is worth the celebration. As adults, we don’t relate to the excitement of school breaks anymore but we can relive that by organising a school’s out themed party.

Guests must arrive at the party dressed like when they were in high school. A fun theme to relive your youth. Especially if school was a long time ago. 

37. Grease 

The cast of Grease is a fun theme for both men and women. This film is a classic and you can go for poodle dresses and sweet Sandy or rock up in rock-chick style Sandy or a Pink Ladies costume.

Grease dress up party themes for adults make for great summer parties as it’s relevant to the movie’s setting.

38. The Addams Family 

The Addams Family has always been an iconic Halloween costume. And due to a Netflix show Wednesday, the current generation has also become big fans of the infamous pop culture family. My daughter wants a Wednesday-themed slumber party for her 11th birthday. 

You can opt for the dress-up theme for Halloween or for any costume theme ideas that could use a splash of gothic intrigue. 

39. TV Show Characters

From the iconic sitcoms of the 90s to this era of online streaming platforms, your guests will have many options for the party.

This costume theme is fun to guess who each of the party guests are. You might even like to do a ‘best costume contest‘!

It’ll be hilarious to witness Ross Geller from Friends discuss science with Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. Or Jake Peralta from Brooklyn 99 coming face-to-face with someone from Squid Games. 

40. Dress As Something Starting With the Letter …. 

For a unique costume party theme, your guests must arrive in costumes or clothes beginning with a particular letter. This is a really simple costume party idea if you have a lot of friends that absolutely hate dressing up.

It’s a simple one to do but also gives your creative friends the chance to go all out.

Attend as a fairy for the letter F or be an apple for a day to represent the letter A. So many options!

41. Fantasy Theme Party

Cosplay as a character from a fantasy film or series along with your guests. You can choose movie (and book) icons such as The Lord of the Rings or Narnia.

If you prefer a wide range of fantasy characters, give your guests the freedom to attend as a witch, fairy, wizard, elves, and more. It’ll be like partying in an enchanted realm.

42. Ugly Sweater

Need a fun Christmas party theme? Ugly sweater parties are pretty much the ultimate Christmas party theme for the Northern Hemisphere. Not so great for us here in the southern hemisphere sweltering over a summer Christmas though. 

But there’s no reason an ugly sweater party should just be for Christmas! Your not-so-eye-pleasing piece of clothing can be used as a fancy dress theme.

Guests might find themselves sharing a good laugh as they all parade and talk about their ugly sweaters.

43. Animals

Another dress-up theme that will heal your inner child is partying in the animal kingdom. You can even recreate your own Noah’s Ark especially if most of your guests are couples. Costumes can be just ears and tails or onesies. 

44. Black And White

The black and white attire is a classy option for fancy dress-up themes for adults. It’s a classy motif perfect for events such as engagement parties, wedding receptions, birthdays, or a business launch.

You can never go wrong with the black-and-white option to achieve sophistication.

We did a black and white-themed engagement party while I wore teal, just for a little extra fun. Yes, I really do love theme parties!

45. Pimps & Hoes

Girls just want to have fun! Pimps and Hoes is a hilarious theme with a little extra spice. Flaunt your sexy side and party in a Playboy bunny costume or corsets and stockings. Men can wear fur jackets and platforms. 

46. Under The Sea

Dress up as mermaids or any marine creature to bring the sea to the land. Whether we’re kids or adults, we have always wanted to be part of Ariel’s world.

Aside from The Little Mermaid, there are so many ways to incorporate this theme into a celebration. Even in Back To The Future they had an under the sea themed dance…

47. Back To The Future

Recreate the 1985 setting of the movie Back To The Future by dressing up as the iconic characters. It’s the perfect niche idea if you are aiming for an 80s-themed party. Expect to have a lot of Marty McFly and Doc turning up at your party. 

My husband’s work party one year was, in fact, a Back To The Future Under The Sea dance. There was everything from mermaids and scuba divers to red puffer vests and skateboards galore. There was even a replica Dolorian for photos. 

48. Day Of The Dead

Couple dressed up for day of the dead

Often a popular costume party theme, Day of The Dead is one you can have a lot of fun with, without having to go all out. A lot of the costume is about the makeup and accessories.

The sugar skull makeup completes the whole look as it represents a decorated skull. Although it’s the Day of The Dead, costumes are expected to match the vibrant decorations of the party. Disney’s Coco movie is great for inspiration! 

49. Rock Stars & Pop Stars

Our favourite musical icons are also our fashion inspiration! That’s why rock stars and pop stars make a great party theme.

Your guests will be thrilled to dress up as their favourite artists. It’ll be like an award after party with celebrities such as Freddie Mercury, Elvis, Taylor Swift, and Britney Spears gracing you with their presence.

50. Futuristic 

Shiny and metallic outfits would surely fill your venue with a futuristic party theme. Your guests can arrive in different styles and interpretations of the future. 

Why Choose A Fancy Dress Party Theme? 

A fancy dress party theme allows everyone to have a little fun and escape from their everyday wear for a night! It’s the perfect way to express some creativity and have a little extra fun celebrating. 

One of the best parts of costume parties is seeing how each person interprets the theme in their own unique way. Plus costumes can be a fantastic icebreaker. 

Having a fancy dress party theme also adds thrill to an event. There’s excitement about how everyone will look and that makes the whole occasion really memorable. 

Party Planning Tips For Your Costume Party

There is no doubt that when planning a costume party, you’re likely always going to get someone who refuses to dress up or who goes to little effort. It’s unavoidable but you can do a few things to help your friends and family get into the theme:

  • Don’t go too niche with your theme – Make sure it is something reasonably familiar to the majority of your guests. If it feels too hard, fewer people will bother. 
  • Give costume tips – If it is a more specific theme, you can add a few easy ideas for friends who aren’t sure. For example, for my Marvel theme party, I shared a mammoth list of characters to help people think outside the most obvious choices.
  • Give plenty of notice – Don’t announce a costume party 10 days before your celebration. Give guests time to plan their costumes. 
  • Add themed decor – Decor and food themed around your party theme adds to the fun.
The ultimate birthday party planner

Make your party planning easier with the ultimate printable party planner and event planner bundle. Over 40 printable pages to plan every part of your next celebration for adults or kids parties!

For more party planning tips, check out my complete adult party planning guide with everything you need to consider when organising a party. 

Dress up theme parties are fun whether it’s Halloween or just simply a celebration. It’s exciting to portray your favourites or glam yourself for the night. Life is too short not to have a laugh and a costume event always guaranteed a few extra giggles! If you have costume party theme ideas you love, share them in the comments.

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