There are people (and I admit, I’m one) who live for this time of year. Crisp air. Apples. Sky as clear and blue as a Wedgewood cup. Delicious smells from the kitchen. And Halloween. Small humans coming to the door, dressed in anything from a nylon-and-plastic superhero costume to a carefully hand-made Cinderella gown. And older, ironic teenagers in anything from commentary costumes (my daughter once went as a dead fairy, carrying a sign that said “Too late to clap”) to no costume, just plain clothes and an attitude. And then there are the rest of us. Just because you’re grownup (give or take) doesn’t mean you lose the desire to dress up as something magical, or elegant, or just a little weird.
By the rest of us, I mean me and my fellow BVC-ers. And while Halloween is the traditional time-of-dress-up, those of us who really like to do so are capable of finding other occasions to put on the dog. Or the cat. Or the steamship. Or…
Here are BVC’s Pati Nagle and her husband Chris Krohn at the Muertos y Marigold Parade in 2013 (photo by Jean Crawford). Note the skillful melding of dignified style, flowers, and irrational terror. Or at least skulls. I’m particularly impressed by the skeleton gloves–don’t they complete the look?
Or maybe you’d prefer a more science/fantasy kind of costume? Like Brenda Clough’s outfit, originally made “with fanatical accuracy” for her son.
I swept up to the front door when the doorbell rang. Outside was a tiny little boy dressed as a Storm Trooper. I should have said, “You’re a little small for a storm trooper, aren’t you?” But instead I said, “The Force is strong in this one.” There was an awed silence and then finally, from behind the little boy, his father said, “If I had a costume like that I would wear it every day.”
Some BVC members have always shown a flare for the dramatic, even as youngsters. For example, the ballerina en pointe on the right is our own Phyllis Irene Radford. She’s not only got the look and the attitude, she’s an actual dancer (dress me in all the tulle in the world and I would never have been able to fit in a pair of pointe shoes, let alone go up on my toes…)
The nice thing about dressing up is that you can be someone entirely unlike yourself. You can be entirely like someone else, someone close to you. For instance, here are BVCs Sarah Stamey and her husband Thor at a fundraiser at Western Washington University (where they are both on the faculty) that was done as a drag show.
Sara’s the one with the beard.
There’s something really satisfying about a costume that totally captures a character from a book or movie. We’ve got Sara and Thor again, this time as Maude and The Dude from The Big Lebowski (where did she find those sandals? And why am I hearing “Kill the Wabbit” in my head?)
Then there’s David Levine’s beautiful turn as The Rocketeer:
Sherwood Smith sent me two photos, of herself as one of three mimes (she’s the left most, in the pink gown), and another as a gypsy dancer. Not surprisingly, Sherwood shows a distinct flair for the dramatic. And attitude. Because any costume works better if you sell it.
And me? I wish I could show you my favorite costume ever, which my father created for my brother. It featured a papier maché raven with yellow marble eyes and a wingspan of 4 feet, that perched (on a harness) on the shoulders, a bleeding skull in its sharp beak. Black robes were worn over the harness, a skull mask on the face, and a breastplate of papier maché skulls. It terrified neighborhood kids (some of them older than my brother’s eight years), and was deeply satisfying to wear. Yes, I borrowed it a few years later.
Since I can’t show you that costume, here’s me some years ago in a Regency gown I made for friend’s birthday-costume party, and right next to it my costume from last year’s office Halloween party: I was Julian of Norwich. From the sublime to the ridiculous: your choice which is which.
Finally, Brenda Clough finishes us up with a photo of a hand-knit costume made for, and worn by, her Scottish Fold, Tobey. He’s a carrot. And he’s thrilled about it, can’t you tell?