Your Costume Party Playbook

Think of the last party you attended. There was probably music, a lot of people in skinny jeans standing around talking and drinking. Perhaps there was a buffet. In other words, it was like every other party you’ve ever attended.

If you’re ready to shake things up, then consider a costume party. “They’re liberating, and make contact between people so much easier,” says Pierre Sorrant from party store Festimania in Lille. Indeed, a costume not only allows you the freedom to be a different person for a night; it shows your interests, creativity and personality a whole lot better than a button-down and Converse kicks could ever do. To help you jump-start your fiesta, we present to you our favorite themes. Pick the one that speaks to you, or use this guide to get your own creative juices flowing.

Use-Your-Imagination Themes

Part of a costume party's fun is seeing what your friends come up with. If you really want to be surprised, pick an open-ended theme. "You could throw a party around a letter -- like the first letter of your name -- or a country or region," says Thierry Reig from Lyon party store Coti Déco. A Wild West party, for example, might pull in Mexican bandits, hot peppers and Lucky Luke-style cowboys with lassos to rope in the saloon girls.

Gael Tremblay, 31, from Paris, is a banker by day and party connoisseur by night. Of the many costume parties he’s hosted/attended, he particularly remembers one métro theme fête; one guest came as the hunchback of Notre Dame, another came as a pharaoh to represent the Pyramides stop. And Tremblay? "There's a station called Rue des Boulets, so the friend I went with was the boulet -- we told everyone he was annoying and wouldn't leave my side. So we didn't technically have a costume... but at least it was funny!"

Crazy Themes

Although any costume party allows you to let loose, there are a few themes that really put your kooky side on display -- like a crazy hair party. “I went to a really funny one last year at my friend's place," says Tremblay. “He kept bottles of colored hairspray in the bathroom for punishing lazy guests. People showed up with everything from Bob Marley wigs to geek-style hair, parted down the middle and gelled flat."

Or you can show your animal side -- literally -- with a farm party. A homemade rooster costume is super simple: Buy some red and yellow felt from a fabric store and cut or glue it onto the hood of a cheap sweatshirt to create a comb and beak. Draw two big cartoon eyes and throw on some yellow shoes. With any luck, you might even attract a cute chick (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Skin-Baring Themes

For a costume party with the least amount of, well, costumes, try a pin-up theme (way classier than the better-known “pimp-and-ho” party). Girls don push-ups and high heels while guys dress like dapper gents -- i.e., retro suits and shiny shoes. The ladies are the real stars of this theme, but is that really a problem?

If you want to make things a little more gender equal, try a swimsuit party. Tremblay hosted one eight years ago that remains legendary. "Everyone was in a bathing suit or towel. We pumped the heat to its max and filled the bathtub with shaving cream!"

Decade Themes

Party-ready eras range from les années folles (Al Capone and flapper girls) to Roman antiquity, which is rife with cool costume options for guys -- you could be Cesar, a Roman senator, a gladiator...

"Our number one seller by far is ’70s costumes," says Sorrant. But that doesn't mean you can't be original. Dig through your dad's closet or a thrift store for disco or hippy looks, or, even better, choose a celeb from the era. Dress like Claude François, for instance, and put one of his romantic ballads on the playlist. When that song comes on, you'll be the hit of the party.