Baghdad student Wisam chose to wear a particularly odd outfit on the day he graduated. Usually when locals graduate here, they wear the same as students in many other countries do – suits and ties, or a formal dress. Baghdad students usually sing, hold speeches and exchange gifts at the traditional graduation party. But recently there\'s been a new trend in Iraq: The graduation costume party.
And in Wisam\'s case, he wanted to dress up like Thor, the hammer-wielding Norse god, partially because, he says, he wanted to impress girl he likes and appear heroic to her.
As a result of costume parties like the one Wisam was attending, the sale and manufacture of costumes now makes for a worthwhile business in Baghdad. A lot of the costume parties are being held by students attending private universities – often these students are the ones with the financial means to purchase costumes. And they do not seem to mind paying a high price for a good time.
In the recent past it was difficult to get a costume – local merchants did not import them in any great number. “But we’ve started importing costumes because of demand from college students who were holding graduation parties,” Nour al-Din Tariq, the manager of a Facebook-based website called Net Shopping Iraq, a general importer that is now bringing in more costumes.
It depends on what materials the costumes are made out of and the quality of the manufacture but the average price of a costume is somewhere between US$60 and US$150, including freight and delivery, Tariq told NIQASH.
Students have also been known to use Internet retailer, Amazon, to source costumes. That was where Wisam eventually got his Thor costume from. “Someone told me about Amazon and they said we would only need a credit card to buy a costume,” Wisam explains. “So four of us ordered four costumes – we paid around US$600 for all of them.”
But there are also difficulties when one orders online, says Ahmad Abbas, a student at Tigris University College, a private university in Baghdad.
“We ordered the costumes at the beginning of the school year,” he says. “And we paid for them at the same time. But they only arrived five months later. And then when they arrived the sizes were all wrong so we ended having to get everything altered.”
Some Baghdad retailers do also import costumes - but mostly these are for children. To avoid having to re-make online orders or delays, one group of students from another private Baghdad institution, Mansour University College\'s English department commissioned a local tailor to make their costumes.
“We asked around at shops that usually import costumes – we wanted to wear Galaxy 11 costumes – but they all told us we would have to wait at least two months to have them delivered from the US,” says Nabil, one of the students. But the group were determined to dress in the Galaxy 11 costumes – the eleven are a fictional football team made up of the world’s best players as part of Samsung mobile phone company’s promotional campaign. “So we went to one of the local tailors and asked to have our costumes made. We paid IQD85,000 (US$72) per costume and they were ready in less than a month.”
Another student, Chelan, says she has never enjoyed a party as much as a costumed graduation party she attended. “I felt it was joyful and more exciting than traditional celebrations,” she notes. “Now I\'d like to celebrate my birthday with a costume party. My friends and I are going to save up to buy costumes. If I can organise it, I want to dress up like Cinderella on my special day.”