The Guide’s Guide to River Costumes
By Justin Malloy
Every river trip deserves a proper dress-up night! For there is no better occasion to dust off that old prom dress, iron out the daisy dukes, and pull the curlers out of your favorite wig, than under the Milky Way and riverside with fellow desert wanderers! Because longer trips may have multiple costume parties, and everyone loves to have options, here are the go-to favorites of river guides, guests, and rats of all kinds. But don’t feel limited to showing up with a recommended outfit… creativity and personal expression are highly encouraged!
Daisy Dukes and Pearl Snaps
The #1 go-to outfit for many-a river rat on dress-up night (and frankly many other, less appropriate occasions) is the classic combo of the Daisy Duke jean shorts and button-down shirt with pearl snaps, sleeves removed. Pearl snaps only; no plastic buttons allowed.
The inspiration for this outfit comes from none other than the river guides of old; those brave men and women who endured long days in the desert sun, drinking river water and rowing upstream both ways, all while inexplicably wearing shorts too small to provide any sun protection but able to ride up into all the wrong places, and made of denim, possibly the worst fabric for any outdoor or water-based activity. But gosh darn will you be guaranteed to simply stun the crowd (given you have a good base tan or at least practice good sun protection) as you strut down a riverside beach in the early evening light, wearing perfectly frayed jean shorts cut above mid-thigh, paired with a polyester blend, sleeves removed and pearl snaps glistening in the sunset.
It’s never a bad idea to have something formal packed away on a river trip, just in case someone is planning an anniversary celebration or wedding ceremony. This is a great time to bust out the prom dress from senior year, or your favorite pastel shirt and bowtie! Make sure it fits, and just like anything else you bring on the river, be comfortable with it getting dirty or even ruined! Leave those high heels and Oxfords at home… sandals and calloused feet make as good of dancing shoes as anything else!
Get in Character
Halloween isn’t the only acceptable time of year to pretend you’re someone else… most river guides do it almost every week… but while there’s no trick-or-treating to be had (no treating, anyway)… it’s perfectly fine to tie on that Harry Potter cape, climb into that Chewbacca suit, or throw on Wonder Woman’s costume… since we all seem to lose ourselves a bit after floating down the river, why not embrace it?
If you’re in doubt of what to wear or just feel like keeping it simple, the ever-versatile sarong is a safe and reliable option for dress-up night. On the warmer evenings, it functions well as a dress, or use it as a skirt paired with your favorite tube top. When the nights are a little cooler, you can wrap it around as a scarf to tie together the “wandering gypsy” look you’ve yearned to have the courage to embrace.
In addition to their contributions to river fashion, sarongs are great to have on hand to be used for sun protection, as a towel or bed sheet, or to maintain modesty while changing out of your swimsuit. Because of the many great designs and color combinations available, it’s hard to own just one!
Because who has time to shampoo, anyway?
During your search for dress-up inspiration, it is common for your mind to drift off to the dance floor, start humming a catchy disco tune, long buried but drudged up by the river’s boogie, and before you know it, you are reaching for some paisley bellbottom pants and the shiniest, most glittery shirt you own, singing off-key and only getting half the words right but not caring because you have finally discovered your true passion in life, and it’s been hidden in the mirrored ball this whole time… And after-all, Holiday’s current owners did meet on the disco dance-floor!
On the river, few adhere to the strict fashion laws of the outside world, especially in the sense of gender expectations. Guys, you want to try on a dress and experience how fabulous and comfortable it feels? Go for it! Ladies, don’t hesitate to grab that suit and tie! Trust me, there’s no better or more accepting place for experimentation than among friends in the great outdoors!
Out of this World
On a dark, clear night, the universe appears endless and the stars infinite… before long, you start to think that there must be aliens in the universe, impossible all this space is only occupied by life on Earth, and we must be prepared to communicate with them in time for our inevitable meeting, but its up to the freethinking and enlightened river runners to make a good first impression… The aluminum foil antennas and “moon suit” you made while searching for UFO’s during the late hours of one of these such nights make for a great costume, when in need.
Hats, glasses, bandanas, jewelry… the more, the merrier! When the sun sets but you want to shine, reach for the glow sticks and neon face paint!
There you have it, the Guide’s Guide to river costumes! All of these options come with a guarantee to impress, or branch out and be creative! Goodwill and thrift stores are great places to shop, but don’t forget to check the back of your closet for some hidden gems. And remember, like any party, the most important thing to have is a fun attitude… just don’t show up in your birthday suit!
By Justin Malloy
Originally from the suburbs near Cleveland, Ohio, Justin made his way to Utah after graduating from Ohio University with a degree in exploring and having fun… If not on the river or in the kitchen, you’ll find him wandering the mountains, drinking coffee, or writing down words he hopes will come across as sensical.