Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Dress Up Box

When I was a little girl, sometimes I'd go with my aunt to visit her friend, Jeanne. She lived in an old house with an attic and I was allowed to go up there and play with lace curtains and fabrics that I could wrap around myself, creating imaginary gorgeous gowns and furs. I must have been a real sight, but in my mind, I was a beautiful bride in lace, or a movie star in elegant dresses, or a queen in full regalia.

It was the only place I played dress up. Remembering that fun, when my children were small, they had hats and shoes and jewelry. Basically, all they had was accessories.

Thinking back, when I became a grandmother, one Christmas I made a few costumes for Lisa and Darren. Aside from an assortment of crowns and helmets and hats, Lisa had a few easy 'girly' gowns, shoes and jewels. Darren had a cowboy vest a sheriffs badge, and a fireman's raincoat.

I thought that I'd go a step beyond and provide the children with actual outfits, not just accessories. So, I scoured thrift shops for small sized semi-formal gowns and fancy shoes that were not too high or too huge for tiny feet. I even found a real fox collar, which, when wrapped around the shoulders of a young glamour girl, made a perfect fur stole.

The girls were all set, but boys are a little harder....and there wasn't much at Grammie's house for my grandson to dress in. It didn't matter, because by that time, he wasn't as much interested in it as the girls were, and he found other ways to entertain himself. The little ladies, though, especially the two who lived with us for a number of preschool and grade school years, never ceased to enjoy the dressing up. We were the honored guests at many a wedding, fashion shows, fancy tea parties and Cinderella balls. Sometimes there were plays and we were the audience, sometimes we were the victims of a 'magic wand' placed upon us by a winged urchin. Whatever the case, it was always entertaining.
The two "Little Ladies" who lived in residence moved away...900 miles away. When we moved closer to them, we brought the costumes with us. About 6 months after we moved into our new home, two hours from them, their mother decided to move back 'home'. They still came to visit, though, each summer...and the first thing they would do when arriving at our house was to go to the Grandkids bedroom. Within minutes they would saunter down the stairs in clear plastic children's high heels or pink satin slippers with feather trim, wrapped elegantly in a light blue chiffon ruffled mini gown (which reached their ankles) or a shimmering silver 'icicle' dress. The eldest of those two is now thirteen years old, and my thinking is that she will still enjoy the costuming and imaginative play when here on her next visit. I'm sure that one item that I purchased when she was four years old, which was her favorite for all the years before this one, will no longer fit her. It is a strapless, black lace, and was made for the tiniest figure of a young woman, and was meant to fall somewhere mid thigh on a proper model wearing it. Of course, when Kimbie got it, I put darts in the top to keep the bodice up, the waist fell somewhere below her hips, and the full skirt reached the top of her foot. If it fits this year, it will fit the way it was meant to.

I remember one time when she put that dress on. She came out, with a dish towel on her head, held in place by some sort of stretchy headband. A baby blanket was wrapped around her shoulders, and her dress was the black lace one. She carried her baby doll, and told me she was Mary, the mother of baby Jesus. Oh my! Can you picture the expression on the real Mary's face upon seeing that image! I'm sure she would be amused, to say the least...that is, if she didn't burst into gales of laughter!
The dress up box is not idle while my "Little Ladies" live their lives in NY. The two Georgia girls called "Tsunami" and "Aftermath" by their Daddy are still at the right age to enjoy the costumes. I have added a number of things to the box since Kimbie and Becca played with it the last time....so when Selah and Abigail come to visit and, like their older cousins did, make a bee-line for the Grandkids' room, they have a greater assortment of choices. There is a shimmery white dress, which was made as an 'ice princess' costume for one of Kimbie's masquarade parades at school. It easily becomes a bridal gown with the newly added veil and bouquet of fake roses. There are matching green chiffon and gold lame gowns that I made for the box. There are strands of shiny beads, collected when people on the parade floats threw them to us. There are tiny purses and long lengths of purple net set with sequins to use for trains or shawls. There are dance costumes, tutus and leotards. That box is a full box of fun and pretend, just waiting to happen!

If I've ever done anything right for the kids in this family, it was providing that costume box. It's provided years and years of imaginative fun for the young ones, and I, for one, will miss it when they have all outgrown it.