Yes, you shall go to the ball

Tired of wearing the same outfit to every Christmas party? Call the rent-a-frock brigade.

It's party time. Between now and New Year's Eve, the usual dress codes go out of the window. Expect to see oversized Santas, flashing reindeer antlers, and revellers dressed in all sorts of ridiculous outfits wandering, drunk and confused, in town centres up and down the country. Party season is fashion's silly season (and you thought every season was silly). There are two options: fancy dresses, as in sexy bits of nothing designed to reveal as much bare flesh as possible; and fancy dress, as in gangsters and molls, vicars and tarts.

At The Contemporary Wardrobe in deepest, darkest Bloomsbury, London, there are solutions to every party-goer's problems. The place itself is something of a find - literally. It is in an old Horse Hospital, hidden away on a narrow street called Colonnade. Ring on the doorbell (best to make an appointment first) and you will be told to come downstairs into the cobbled basement. It's dark, chilly and damp, and you have to be careful you don't slip on the sloping floor that was designed for horses to trot down.

Heather greets you there and, depending on whether you are looking for a Seventies' outfit (and judging by demand, you probably will be), or a Fifties' ballgown, she will direct you to the right rail. The clothes are filed by date. And there are rails and rails, ranging from the Forties to the present day.

The Contemporary Ward-robe is the collection of costume designer Roger Burton. He has been in the business since the Sixties, and he has collected more clothes than he knows what to do with. He has turned his collection into a library for his own work - mainly supplying costumes for TV commercials - and for anyone else who wants to hire it out. The highlight of the collection is a range of original Westwood/McLaren punk pieces. These T-shirts and bondage wear are probably worth more than the rest of the collection put together. Unfortunately, it is not for hire.

What is for hire is a full-length gold military-style dress with epaulettes and all the trimmings; a pair of Seventies' loon-pants with matching platform boots and Superfly shirt, or a pair of furry moon boots. There are clothes for men and women, but be prepared to spend some time rummaging to find the outfit you've always fantasised about wearing.

Like The Contemporary Wardrobe, Angels & Bermans is a collection of clothes and costumes primarily designed to be hired out to the wardrobe departments of film and theatre companies. "We are absolutely inundated at the moment," said their spokesperson. "Seventies' outfits are always very popular. There are lots of James Bond parties at the moment, too."

Angels & Bermans is the obvious choice for society party-goers in need of a little fancy dress. There are four floors of stuff, ranging from the Romans and Greeks (people actually hire costumes for toga parties, rather than simply wrapping themselves in an old sheet) to Star Trek and Alien. Dangerous Liaisons and 18th century costumes are in great demand right now, too. Costume hire costs from pounds 60+VAT for a week.

Over in London's Spitalfields, Stagestruck Costume Company is doing a roaring trade. The phones don't stop ringing with requests to hire pieces, ranging from theatrical to vintage. There are also contemporary evening clothes, and a selection of masks, capes and other accessories to buy.

Cyril Ives and his partner set up the business two years ago, aiming particularly at the party market. "We put together a whole look. The hire fee includes everything - accessories, jewellery and false eyelashes, if necessary."

Stagestruck is getting a lot of work from people in the City, where theme parties are de rigueur. And top of the list? Seventies' nights, of course, closely followed by Grease, James Bond, Cowboys & Indians and Titanic. Already they are sourcing party wear for the Millennium: "We have created a lot of androgynous and futuristic costumes, and there's a lot of nostalgia for historical costumes."

Of course, costume hire is only worth it if the costume is a one-off ,or if, like those at Stagestruck, it includes the right accessories. Anyone with a little imagination can make their own. Or if it's a vintage dress you're after, buy rather than hire - you never know when it might prove useful or, more likely, back in fashion.

Angels & Bermans, 119 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2; Monday, Tuesday, Friday, 10-6; Wednesday and Thursday 12-8; enquiries 0171-836 5678. Arrive at least one hour before closing to allow time for fittings

Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable