Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why Is That Child Dressed Like A Turkey

If I said Halloween was my favorite holiday when I was little because I got to dress up as something fantastic, I'd be lying. Halloween was my favorite holiday because my mom took Jaci and me Fall Festival-hopping. We'd start at my elementary school where we'd crawl through the cardboard maze, then stop by Publix for some free cookie-decorating en route to Berea First Baptist church, finishing the night off there with a good old-fashioned candy scramble*. Of course, I did love dressing up. One year I even changed costumes in the car between Fall Festivals. But the opportunity to wear a terrific costume was not reserved solely for Halloween. I learned at an early age that costumes were de rigeur on every holiday, and perfectly appropriate on plain old school days as well.

When I was four, I sat on the living room floor with my mom while we watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and colored a poster board cut in the shape of a giant turkey's feathers. Right before we left to eat lunch at my grandparents' house, she attached the poster board feathers to my back and a red sock to my chin. When we arrived, all I said for the first half hour was "Gobble gobble gobble!" and all my Granny said was, "Why is that child dressed like a turkey?"

For non-celebratory days in kindergarten, I favored two outfits: my cowgirl dress and my Indian dress. My mom made them both and they were basically the same pattern, except one was pleather and had fringe and beads, and the other was "tribal"-print muslin and had fringe and beads. It turns out your friends are more likely to believe you are Pocahontas's great great granddaughter if you dress the part. I was also fond of my gypsy, hula-girl, pioneer-girl, and Tinker Bell outfits (Mom made these, too).

Because I spent my formative fashion years emulating wild game, cultural stereotypes, and Disney princesses, vestiges of my costume craze remained in my wardrobe through adolescence. For most, middle school is a great exercise in blending in with your peers. This laudable pursuit was lost on me, and though I stopped wearing "costumes," I started wearing uber-conspicuous neon tights, cat-eye glasses, animal-print shoes, a pair of skants. In the few hours of high school I wasn't forced to wear "neutral" rehearsal blacks, I sported ill-fitting vintage clothing.

And now, in my august fifth year of college, my turbulent fashion history has left me bereft of any sense of style and a reluctance to wear anything but chunky sweaters. This is a result of several factors: my learning to knit, my living in a stupidly cold climate, and my penchant for layering. Thank God a significant portion of my coursework this year is dedicated to "dressing for the business," or, in my case, "learning how to dress like a competent grown-up who is not a social worker or in her fifties." It's been a challenging learning experience, but as I'm sure you're aware, acting school is all about breaking through personal barriers.

I still like to dress up for holidays, though. This Valentines Day I plan to go as an aorta.

*A candy scramble is when you get all the kids together in the largest Sunday school room and throw handfuls of candy at them.