Should Themed Costumes Be Allowed at Birthday Ball?

By Victoria Gill
Elm Staff Writer

Washington College’s annual Birthday Ball was touted to be an exciting tradition during my first campus tour. The themes—Harry Potter, Old Hollywood, Narnia—are a total switch from the jokingly lame “Shoremal.” Every time an upperclassman reflects on these joyful memories, there are always a few giggles regarding those who come in costumes.

Anyone who comes to Birthday Ball in costume looks amazing, despite the laughter. What is confusing is that some people claim there are no costumes allowed. It even appears that the Student Events Board has been pushing the announcement date of the theme closer to the actual event in order to stop anyone from making what is supposed to be this extravagant event into a silly costume party. Even peers tend to show that this isn’t socially acceptable by laughing at those who attend in costume.

It’s been said time and time again that this dance is dedicated to George Washington, the primary benefactor of WC. Some students view Birthday Ball as a fun mix of prom and homecoming. Others say this event is a gala that consists of students, members of the community, and alumni. Over the last few years, event coordinators have been pushing students to dress in more formal attire, encouraging long dresses and full suits. Costumes seem to be discouraged as well. It makes sense that with this new theme, “Journey to Atlantis,” no one wants some guy running onto the dance floor in a fish costume.

Some say that we as the students need to make a good impression on the Chestertown community and the alumni community who have upheld the College’s reputation in the past. As young adults, we still want the freedom to be as adventurous and wild as we desire. Birthday Ball is a good time to reflect on the enjoyment of youth and community. We can all enjoy seeing someone get into the spirit of the occasion and showing their school spirit with a costume.

Before students start judging those who come dressed more for the theme than for the event, let’s ask ourselves, “why?” Why not enjoy a good opportunity for an exciting theme, rather than just having a plain old dance with lackluster ribbons and balloons? We aren’t in high school anymore; why celebrate like we are?

Formal attire can still be close to a theme, so banning costumes seems like a gray area. For this year’s theme in particular, who can say that we won’t see any impersonation of Princess Ariel or Prince Eric? How can a committee decide the line between formal and costume if it can still meet the guidelines of formal attire?

Birthday Ball should allow students to dress in appropriate costumes that correlate with the annual theme as it gives them the chance to be creative and spread enjoyment of the festivities to their peers. It’s quite brave to go against the norm in such a simple way even when there may be those who disagree about just wanting to have a “normal” dance.

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