Thursday, October 14, 2010

C is for Costume Shop

It all started with my mother's boarding school trunk and some hand-me-down clothing; mostly dresses and skirts. My mother constructed my sister's and my costumes every year. Perennial favorites on my part included spectacularly spooky home-made witch's hats, or the red velvet and lace dress with some form of tiara or crown. Mother made my sister a truly amazing and cozy lion costume one year using the fringe from an old bedspread to create the lion's mane. We sometimes coveted the sleek or glamorous store-bought costumes of our peers, but we often won contests due to the creativity and detail provided by our clever mother.

Eventually we no longer required her assistance as we got the hang of the create-a-costume thing. Dress Up was one of my favorite childhood games no matter what the season. When my hometown, Galena, Illinois, began the Halloween parade my senior year in high school, I marched in my father's beekeeping gear on ice skates playing my piccolo (which fit inside the netting). I won first place for most creative costume.

In college I was awarded a work/study grant. My new advisor in the Dramatic Arts Department at Macalester College asked me, "Can you sew?" "Yes," I replied. That single syllable of a response landed me in the costume shop as a seamstress and backstage gopher. I couldn't believe my luck!

Following marriage and children I began creating my sons' Halloween costumes while they were still infants. Arthur was the Pillsbury Doughboy before he could walk. Joren was Rabbit from Winnie-the-Pooh, all cozy in gray corduroy. I also began sewing costumes to help clothe the Hastings Community Theatre cast for our annual melodrama productions.

Then 15 years ago I was approached by a local costume lady who was ready to sell the business and move to Mexico. "I don't have any money, but sure, I'll buy your costume inventory if you'll finance me at a tiny interest rate."

And here I am, kicking off the 15th season of this crazy habit. We're up to 11 volunteers who are the amazing women who gather to play dice and dress up for most of the month. Currently Princess Kathy has seniority amongst the crew. I believe that Mary, Linda, and Barb came on line next. Then we welcomed Beth, Peggy, Janet and Phyllis. Two daughters of the crew are working, too; Katie has earned her grown-up stripes and Danika is close to earning hers, too. This year we applaud Norma for bringing a new element to our habit; prop construction and set design.

I have to also commend my husband and sons. Dale is the handyman that keeps some things in functional order. And when that is beyond his capability he is the official to pronounce things broken beyond repair. Arthur actually knows the collection pretty well and can complete a rental form and transaction correctly. Joren, who spent the first season of his kindergarten year riding the bus from the costume shop the one year we were in downtown Hastings, knows the collection well and frequently raids the shop to costume 24 and 48 Hour Film Festival competitions.

So here we are again. Another month of Dress Up. I am blessed with friends and a wonderfully whimsical avocation. Wanna come out and play?

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