Let’s Play Dress UP (redux)

By Phyllis Irene Radford

Warning, this blog is photo heavy.

I recently encountered an individual who shuddered and shook his head at a middle-aged woman at a tourist attraction who had green streaks in her hair and had gelled it into spikes. She was also wearing layers of floating black that looked tattered when the wind caught her draperies. The man said, “It isn’t Halloween yet.”

Why is it that costumes for adults are reserved for Halloween only? Some people like reinventing themselves on a daily basis. Some people aren’t afraid to broadcast who they really are deep down inside. The gentleman mentioned above, I suspect, fears stepping outside convention. I know people like that. Color coordination in proper combinations, hems at a precise length, necklines revealing only a certain amount of cleavage… boring to the point of invisibility.

The Red Hat Society was founded by women who needed to step beyond the conventions that make them invisible after a certain age. Once we reach fifty, who cares if we combine red and purple? Who cares if we go out and have fun and attract attention? What do we have to lose?

Why are we so afraid of being judged by strangers that we embrace invisibility?

But then the Society got organized. The minute they command that one must wear purple clothing and sport red hats (the gaudier the better), the command makes them part of the establishment we are rebelling against.

We do wear costumes throughout our life but we mask them as uniforms. Look at policemen, firefighters, nurses, and priests to name a few. Even the postalworkers have uniforms. Then there are special events. We wear specific robes at graduation.graduation

I worked at an historical house museum and wore costumes as part of my job. Here I am standing beside the portrait of a distant side relation—William Clark of Lewis and Clark married a Radford. And I attended Lewis and Clark College. Small world.historical radfords

Weddings are wonderful chances to elaborate on the uniform of the day. My wedding stepped outside the norm.wedding

But then I grew up on stage. That’s another place where we get to wear costumes. Here I am at 16 at a ballet performance. And at 10 with my first dance ensemble.ballet du lacfirst ballet costume

At five I played dress up with my best friend and our dolls.dressup age five

That same year I wore a kilt to visit Santa Claus. There is a theme of tartan in my life.christmas 1956

The next spring my best friend and I were flower girls at the coronation ceremony for the Sea Fair Queen in Seattle. Dorothy Provine went on to act in some forgettable projects made memorable to me because I met her when she first got started.flower girls

And at three a gentlemen made the rounds of our neighborhood with his pony and costumes. He made a living taking and selling photos of that event. For five minutes I got to be a cowgirl.cowgirl

So costumes are not just for children at ages when they try to figure out who they are and what their place in the world is. Costumes are not just for Halloween when we let loose our inner demons.

Costumes are a part of life. Celebrate life and explore your inner extrovert. Life is more than safe conventions and hiding in the shadows. *Remember the Twelfth Commandment: If you can’t hide it, flaunt it.

* The Eleventh is: Thou shalt not be found out. But it doesn’t apply here.


About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: www.ireneradford.net Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.


Let’s Play Dress UP (redux) — 6 Comments

  1. Conformity is safety, and unfortunately a lot of women don’t feel safe unless they conform to whatever the median requires in fashion. I hate it, but it seems to be a thing hard to escape.

    • Very hard. And even worse, the so-called uniforms don’t fit my body type well. So I can’t even find the uniform in colors that look right for me.

      Great photos, Phyl!

  2. Back when I practiced law, I used to favor boring conventional suits when I had to look professional. I didn’t think I could pull off stylish, so I went with dull.

  3. Portland is friendlier than most places for people who love to play dress up on a regular basis. 🙂