Costume Creation Gone Crazy

the dress

Bigger is Not Always Better

Tempest Game Board

This week, as her freshman year of high school came to a close, our daughter scrambled to catch-up. An impromptu 10-day trip to Europe in March meant missed work (but worth it).

Final projects included an ornate hand-crafted board game based on Shakespeare’s Tempest. She meticulously painted each playing card, game piece, and the many tiered game board. The girl goes all-out on artistic projects, sometimes losing herself in the creation, getting behind on other assignments.

For extra points, she decided to design and sew a dress for a character from Midsummer Night’s Dream, planning to create a small-scale version about the size of our 15” dress-form pin cushion.

Why not make a dress you can wear? I said. Go big or go home–my motto as an almost 6’ mom of six…in her 60s.

We dashed to a nearby thrift shop where designer gowns go cheap.

She spotted a silky orchid-hued dress with a short train.
I’d love this, just to wear, she said.
A darker mauve gown with sparkly trim caught my eye. We bought both for $26.

At home we cut apart the darker one, turning the skirt into long, bell-shaped sleeves and an under skirt she embellished with jewels she stripped from the trim. We fashioned a belt from the halter-style tie straps, then used the beaded border to fill the bodice and adorn a headpiece we covered with scraps. We grew giddy with each act of creating this costume together.

the thrifted Shakespearean gown

Like a girl playing dress-up, she donned the gown and said, I’d love to dash through the halls of a palace quoting Shakespeare in this. With no nearby palaces, the Shakespeare festival in Ashland this summer, where they’re putting on The Tempest, will have to do.

The next day, the dress went with her to school where her best friend helped her into it before their AP English class and the end-of-year gallery walk. All their classmates are Magnet students in the STEM program. None came with costumes.

headpiece made from blingy scraps

Of course not. What was I thinking?

They tittered and whispered. This is high school, after all. Having long since left behind the hard-heartedness of that time, I was overtaken by our shared love of literature and all things theatrical.

Were you embarrassed? I asked.

Kind of, she said. It’s tiring being looked at, and also ignored, …what Shakespeare calls a laughing stock.

I nodded. The girl that is both too much and not enough. I know that girl…I was that girl. How could I have forgotten?

I apologized–my fault for suggesting it.

True to her middle name, Grace, she absolved me with a shake of her head.

As a group, Magnet students are overachieving introverts, she said.

Then she shrugged, wiping away a tear. I still love the dress, and can wear it to the Shakespeare festival.