Halloween: Some Little Girls Never Quit Playing Dress-Up

My mom never got us store-bought costumes. Some we would assemble from garage sale treasures, some my mom would make, but most we assembled from things laying around the house. My mom’s favorite was a dinosaur costume she made for me from an old vellux blanket when I was about 4. My personal favorite was “bubble gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe” at age 20.

When I was a kid, I loved playing dress-up. My sisters and I had a big dress up bin where we kept all our toys and accessories. My last vestige of childhood play was getting dressed up or dressing up my barbies with my little sister, then getting bored and end the game. Then I “grew up” and like all the other 7th graders left “play” behind. Or so I told myself…

Here’s the truth: most little girls never really grow up. They stop playing dress up and go to the mall to dress up “for real” with clothes they don’t intend to buy. They flip through magazines and images on the internet, thinking of things they’d like to wear. They play with hair and makeup, frequently trying out a style at home where they can practice a technique before wearing it out in public. They convince themselves that this is what “grown ups” do, and continue to tell themselves that throughout life. Prom? The biggest Dress-Up Game of high school.

I have always gone all out for costume contests and formals. As I was developing “my style” as a teenager, I would find the most outlandish outfits at thrift stores and wear them for the shock value. 1950’s house dress with combat boots: check. 1970’s bubble gum pink formal to school dance: check. Denim skirt, yoda t-shirt and skate shoes as Sunday Best: check. I’ve had a different cut or color hair every 3-6 months since I was 12. People used to ask my mom why she let me go to church dressed like that, to which she responded “she’s out of bed, she’s covered, I pick my battles.”

Then I grew close to a dear mentor, who is my definition of beautiful. B.J. was in her early 70’s and every year had made her more beautiful. She was the Glam Gram, with loud animal prints, vibrant colors and rhinestones on her glasses. The difference between her and I was that I wore loud and obnoxious, and she wore loud and classy. Over the years, she gently helped me develop my own personal flair while remaining classy. About 3 1/2 years ago, she passed away from a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. While her death was a blissful release from the pain she felt her last years of life, every time I wear something new and striking, I want to run to her house to show it to her.

The past couple years, I have moved from fan-assembled costumes to homemade cosplay. I had a major dilemma: Which of my costumes should I wear on Halloween? My solution: 3 days of dressing up. Fortunately I have a supervisor who was perfectly okay with that. So here it goes:

Dress-up Day One:
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Saturday: The Saturday before Halloween is the traditional Party Day.

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Saturday, October 26: Steampunk Princess Belle & a Courtesan

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Wednesday, October 30: The Entire Sexy Universe

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Wednesday, October 30: The aftermath of my updo

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Thursday, October 31: Courtesan & her dressed up coworker

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Thursday, October 31: A Courtesan and her ‘Rockin escort

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Friday, November 1: Marc Ecko Stormtrooper sweater.

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Friday, November 1: Once all my Halloween updo’s were over, I chopped off about 5 inches from my hair.

Browncoats Ball 2013: A Mighty Fine Shindig

Just over a year ago, I attended the Arizona Browncoats annual screening of Can’t Stop the Serenity. There, they announced that the annual international Browncoats Ball would be hosted in Phoenix. I instantly knew I had to be there. It’s been a crazy year since then, but after Phoenix ComiCon this year, I went into full sewing mode to get my dress done in time. During this time, my friend came up with a Doctor Who costume idea, so we worked on both of them.

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I attempted to recreate Inara’s costume shown here.

There were so many possibilities for Firefly costumes that I have considered over the years. I think I look closest to Kaylee, so the obvious choice would be her “Layered Cake dress”. I’ve always loved Inara’s elegance, so I’ve long been considering making one of those too. Initially, I had a date, so we decided to go as Sir Warrick Harrow and Inara at the duel in Shindig. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out and I went with Jill instead. But since she went as a female Time Lord, I guess it worked.

The dress I picked out was remarkably easy to make. From start to finish, the whole ensemble cost me about $100. I probably spent under 10 hours total on the empire waist plum taffeta dress. There were dozens of flaws in the sewing, but I’ve learned to stop pointing them out and accept complements. The shawl was even easier, it took only 3 hours. I spent about 1 hour on accessories. I have a pair of gold Clarks ballet flats that are about 7 years old and torn up. I long ago learned the benefits of wearing flats to a dance, so I bought some gold fabric paint and painted them, which worked out great.

The Train Job

The Train Job

Friday night, I went down to the hotel hosting the Ball and helped out a bit, then hung out with some of the other guests/fans there. I sold raffle tickets for a while for some wicked awesome prizes. When I met a group of guys there, they asked if I was doing any deals such as “$1 each, 6 for $5, sell by the cubit”, etc. Sadly I was not authorized, but one guy at the table did agree to buy as many tickets as I was tall. After some stretching and general overacting, we measured that I was 36 tickets tall from the bottom of my boots to the top of my Jane Hat. There was entertainment by Mikey Mason, belly dancers, crafts, a t-shirt contest, and general socializing. After the main portion of the evening ended around 10ish, a group of 10 of us rode the Light Rail to George & Dragon. I was the only person who knew Phoenix well, so I was dubbed “Lovey Local” and it was my job to make sure we didn’t get lost. We didn’t encounter any Alliance on our Train Job, though a group of zombies from First Friday got on the train about halfway to our destination. At first, we were slightly concerned they could be Reavers, but they made no attempts to rape us to death, eat our flesh, nor sew our skins into their clothing. The pub wasn’t too crowded for a Friday night, and we had a great time. Some of us played pool, though there wasn’t any petty theft and getting hit with pool cues. We arrived back at the hotel at 1:45, just in time to walk to Circle K for more beverage. We then headed upstairs to someone’s room to hang out for a while longer. The group gradually broke up, and I left around 4am.

With my friends Jill and Jane at the Ball

With my friends Jill and Jane at the Ball

Saturday, I awoke after about 4 hours sleep to finish some last minute alterations on my dress and put together the jewelry I bought at Michaels. I abbreviated my time to only 2 hours in Uber Girlie mode, but the end result was still perfection. I had volunteered to help out in the “Primping Room”, so at 3:15, Jill and I headed over to the hotel. I should add that we headed over to the hotel with 5 curling irons, 2 flat irons, about 300 bobby pins and an extremely large quantity of makeup. I did a few girls’ hair while Jill got her makeup done and exercised her Iron Maiden duties.

Everyone at the Ball looked great! There were many photos taken, which can be viewed here, here and here, among other places. A very nice buffet was set out and thoroughly questioned by attendees. Sadly, all I could eat was lettuce and tomatoes (stinkin’ allergies). I was also disappointed that the buffet had no mangoes or hot cheese things. The raffle prizes were given away, much to the delight of the winners and sadness of those who lost. There was some fancy dancing and then a Brass Band played the rest of the evening. After getting home, I hung my fancy dress is hanging up just past my bed to gaze upon with happy memories.

Bell tower at Taliesin West

Bell tower at Taliesin West

Sunday morning general activities were planned at the hotel and then the group took a trip to the Pueblo Grande museum. I tried to talk 3 others into going to my favorite local restaurant, Nourish. To strengthen my suggestion, I mentioned that Taliesin West was located somewhat close to it, which sealed the deal. We stopped off at In-N-Out on our way there, officially because the two East Coast people in our group didn’t get that chance very often. Unofficially, I wanted to go there because it’s the only fast food I can eat. After that quick stop, we were off to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Winter home. It was worth the $32-36 to get in. Our tour guide was amazing! After we left Taliesin West, we drove over to Scottsdale Rd & Frank Lloyd Blvd to see the spire that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in his concept for the AZ State Capitol Building. After a little bit of goofing off, we then went over to Nourish. After that, we met up with the rest of the group that was still in town at the home of one of the AZ Browncoats.

All in all, this was a weekend that I will never forget. It reminds me a lot of my first year at Phoenix ComiCon: When I bought my tickets, only 2 of my friends were coming, though I had met many of the AZ Browncoats before. I have no problems making new friends, so this increased my social nature. I made many new friends with whom I hope to stay in touch with. There are still many details to work out, but if my evil plot to take over the world is successful, I hope to be able to go to next year’s Browncoats Ball in South Carolina!

P.S. Just for fun, count how many Firefly & Serenity references are in this blog and post the number in the comments section . We’ll see who gets the highest without cheating! Ignoring the descriptions of my dress in the first three paragraphs, there are at 10+ (depending on whether you count some of the references separately or several within one sentence as one)