I am strongly pro-costume.
I know that a lot of people consider dressing up for Hallowe’en or for a costume party to be waaaaay too much trouble and I respect that, but it is a perspective I don’t share. I love to find a reason to wear something fun and I will go well out of my way to put a costume together.
I like to attend the Sci-Fi on the Rock convention here in NL and the primary reason is so I can dress up as one of the kick-ass characters on a favourite TV show or movie*. On Hallowe’en, even if I don’t go to a party, I dress up to pick my kids up from school or just to answer the door. I just like adding that layer to my life at any time.
The idea of costumes is so much a part of the narrative of my family’s lives that a couple of years ago when my kids woke up one morning and realized they were supposed to dress as a favourite character from a book, we were able to put together two outfits in less than 10 minutes. My older son went as DentArthurDent from the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy (an easy one – a stripey towel and fake book cover that said ‘Don’t Panic’) and my youngest son went as Draco Malfoy (a cape-like jacket that we have kicking around that my Aunt owned, my Mom wore when she was pregnant with my sister (in 1981), I wore in university, and we have used as a pirate’s cloak, a vampire cape, a plague doctor’s coat, and Malfoy’s robes, combined with a Slitheryn scarf and slicked-back hair). It was as natural to help them put together a costume as it was to find them regular clothes for school.
I had some extra insight into my love of costumes and dressing up, when I was getting ready for my friend’s birthday party last June. For the past couple of years, my friend D (good coincidence, no?) has had a themed party. The first one was an R & B party** and last year was a New Wave theme. As I was putting on heavy make-up and teasing my hair to become Siouxsie Sue, I realized how much I miss ‘getting ready.’
When I was a teenager, going out was a big deal. You ‘had’ to spend time planning your outfit, doing your hair and getting your make-up just so. You called other people to see what they were planning to wear. Even family events like birthday parties and holiday get-togethers required you to dress up a bit. It felt like an important ritual (I am also very pro-ritual – I contend that our minds are, too) and it added pleasure to going somewhere. It created more anticipation, made it more special.
(I’m sure I could write a whole other entry about how we were putting on ‘masks’, creating a public persona, and how that is an awful lot like wearing a costume. That’s all true but that’s not where I’m going with this post.)
Going out is not the same for most of us these days. Sure, we sometimes get dressed up but mostly it is ‘come as you are.’ A lot of that has to do with hair/make-up styles being less complex in this era than they were in the 80s and 90s when I was in my teens/early 20s and some of it has to do things being more casual overall (and my teens and 20s were way more casual than in previous generations, I realize that). I think, though, that another part of it has to do with the idea that we’re all ‘so busy’ that we can’t be bothered with the rituals of going out.
There’s a whole cultural thing going on with ‘busy’ and I’m not getting into that either, but I try to catch myself when I say something about being ‘busy’ and talk instead about the choices I am making with my time.*** And one of my choices since my realization about ‘going out’ rituals is to take some time to get ready before I go anywhere that’s important to me. I may not put make-up on, I may not put on ‘fancy’ clothes or a costume, but I do take a little time to think about where I am going and how I want to prepare to spend time there. It feels good.
And, for the record, for this year’s Sci-Fi on the Rock Convention, I’m going as Melinda May from Agents of Shield. It’s a simple costume, but I’ll be taking plenty of time to get ready. I don’t want to miss any of the fun of dressing up.
*Now, I don’t mean that I have the time, ability, or wealth to put together the sort of elaborate cosplay you see at big conventions or that sort of thing. That’s way beyond my skill set and would take the fun out of it for me. I generally go for the spirit of the character rather than the details.
** to give you some idea of my costume approach – I bought some purple velvet-y fabric, lay down on it and had my husband draw around me with tailor’s chalk. I cut it out, sewed it up, made a few adjustments and called it a dress.