Supporting creativity

All around me people are talking about the goodies they are baking and the costumes they are making for Halloween. I have posted several times about my trials and tribulations in the kitchen, most recently, in the little series I did on The making of an incompetent cook. When I was at school, girls studied cooking and sewing as part of a subject called Domestic Science, whilst boys could take woodwork. I always thought that this was unfair. I would have liked to learn how to make things other than food that never seemed to turn out as it should, and clothes that I would never wear. Why I thought I would be better at carpentry I do not know.

I learnt to knit, crochet and sew when I was very young. I enjoyed knitting and made clothes for my dolls as well as stuffed toys from simple patterns in magazines. I moved on to sewing, again with some success. My parents bought me a sewing machine and I made bean bags for myself and friends as well as toys and a few things to wear. My attempts at dressmaking did not turn out as well as the other items I produced. The clothes would hang strangely or be tight where I preferred comfort. I think that I was making for the body I wanted to have rather than the body I had.

When my children were little I was expected to produce outfits for them on themed dress up days, for school drama productions or church nativities. These rarely turned out as I had envisaged. I had neither the skill nor the imagination to produce the amazing creations that other mothers seemed to manage. I was so happy when I discovered that I could buy character dress up clothes from the chain stores on the high street. Despite the obvious, social benefits, I dreaded my children gaining parts in plays.

When they moved on to secondary school I decided that, if dressing up for a themed day was desired, then they could sort out their own outfits. This successfully put paid to their participation. Feeling a tad guilty and a bit of a killjoy, I patted myself on the back for getting through a phase that had caused me such stress, and consigned it to the past.

Except now I have a fangirl who wants to cosplay.

For those who do not know, the latest film in the Disney/Marvel franchise, Thor: The Dark World, opens in the UK on 30th October, just in time for Halloween. Along with SupernaturalSherlock and Doctor Who, my daughter is quietly obsessed with the Avengers. Actually, that is not strictly accurate as her focus is on their nemesis, played by the rather cute (if someone so tall can be described in this way) Tom Hiddleston.

As soon as they became available, my daughter went on line and bought cinema tickets for the opening night of this film for herself and a group of like minded friends. If she can get the costume sorted in time, she hopes to dress as Loki.

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Take a look at this character. I am being asked to assist in creating a look that is more than a simple dress up. To be fair, the trickiest and most important elements to get right will be the helmet and the staff which contains the mind gem that Loki uses to focus his power (I suspect my daughter would quite enjoy indulging in a bit of mind control). Elder son has been tasked with creating these; I am merely being asked to sort out a few items of clothing. Still, I cannot help but fear another blanket clad shepherd or sheet clad urchin (dress up disasters from their younger years). The simplified ideas that I have in my head rarely look as good as I had hoped in reality.

My daughter’s fangirling has introduced us all to fictional characters that we had not paid much attention to in the past but can now enjoy. Thanks to Tumblr and Fan Fiction she can interact with others around the world who share her obsessions. Closer to home she has found a niche in which she is comfortable and I am happy to encourage her participation. I still dread having to help produce an outfit though.

Ultimately, this is my daughter’s responsibility. She is asking for a little support and I will comply. I hope that she is happy with whatever is put together, and gains pleasure from her cosplay. I also harbour a hope that this is not the beginning of a new phase. It is lovely to see my daughter burdened with glorious purpose, doing what she wants; I do not wish to be the parent who lets her down.

Oh, and if you happen to meet her out and about over the Halloween holidays? Don’t forget to kneel…

kneel_before_Loki                    keep_calm_and_kneel_for_loki_by_ameh_lia-d50ru16

Playing at dressing up

Most young kids that I know like to play at dressing up. This is often as simple a game as hanging a square of fabric around their shoulders to form the cape that will transform them into a superhero. A stick found on the ground can be a wizard’s wand, a knight’s sword, a magical staff (none shall pass!), a Sith Lord’s lightsaber or an assassin’s gun. A small child may try on their mother’s dress and become a princess, tottering around in high heels that are eight sizes too big. They may play with her make up and think themselves beautiful with their technicolor face paint unevenly applied.

Playing at dressing up in the privacy of home can be such fun, but as soon as fancy dress costumes are required in the outside world the game plan changes. I dread events where there is a requirement to dress as a character or representing a theme and will generally avoid them. Attempting to kit out one’s child for such occasions is even worse.

With annoying regularity my young children would inform me, sometimes the night before, that they needed to attend school dressed as a book character; an evacuee; a poor child from the Victorian era; a teacher. My heart would sink as I would know that all of the competitive and talented mums would have their sewing machines buzzing, the paper mache accessories painted and the authentic embellishments sorted. My children would be sent in wearing a mash up of clothing that bore no resemblance to what was intended. I have no skills when it comes to making stuff.

The first time my children were involved in a nativity play I was reliably informed by a friendly mum that a shepherds outfit could easily be run up from an old blanket and an angel costume from a white sheet. At this stage I knew no better. My little son was the only shepherd who looked as though he was wrapped in a tatty blanket over his PE kit; my little angel like the poor relation of the shiny, sparkly host around her. The next year I went into my local town and bought everything ready made.

My inability to make stuff has let my kids down on so many occasions. As parents we never really know how much this sort of thing affects our children. I was recently talking to my youngest son about one of his birthday parties from many years ago. A friend and I have sons the same age with birthdays that fall close together. When they were younger it was common to invite the majority of their classmates so we decided to share a party and run it ourselves in our village hall. I was only willing to do this as she had offered to organise the games if I did the food and clearing up. I was so happy with this arrangement. Looking after other people’s children, especially en masse, terrifies me.

When I mentioned this party to my son he did not really remember anything about it until I described the cake. My friend and I had agreed that we would each provide our sons with their own cake so that candles could be blown out by each child. I have no recollection of what my son was given. It is possible that I bought a caterpillar or train shaped cake from a supermarket; perhaps I made the simple round or square chocolate cake that he has always liked. What my son remembers about this party is that the other boy was presented with an incredible confection in the shape of Thunderbird 1. It was awesome. Handmade by his mum with authentic detailing and the envy of every child at the table including my little birthday boy. I could never have competed with that.

As my children got older they stopped attempting to take part in dress up days at school. They now ignore the requests and attend in normal uniform or mufti; it is probably less embarrassing for them than appearing in whatever outfit I have attempted to put together. They kindly tell me that the cakes I make taste fine and that is what matters. When they have wanted a shaped or themed cake it has been bought in.

I believe that the spirit of  those early, innocent and fun dress up games played at home lives on in adults. As I spend a lot of my time on walks, working out, or attending to my house and garden I tend to dress in practical and comfortable clothing such as trackies and hoodies. It can therefore be quite good fun to put on something more glamorous from time to time, adding accessories such as jewellery and putting on a little make up. It may not turn me into a beautiful princess but it does change the way I look, hopefully for the better. This dressing up gives me confidence and makes me feel better about myself. As I act the part society expects it feels good to be suitably costumed.

This tidy and well presented version of me is not someone I could maintain all the time. I have neither the patience nor the motivation to attain such a look on a regular basis. Part of the appeal of dressing up is that I become someone else for a short period; the novelty is part of the fun. I do sometimes look at those friends who always seem to be so beautifully presented and feel that I should make more of an effort. I guess it cannot really be that important to me or I would do it.

Thunderbird 1