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Masquerade and the Detective Archetype

February 17, 2015 5 Comments

What does the word masquerade mean to you? Do you have a secret identity known only to yourself?  How would you dress if you had no formal dress code to satisfy? Do you think you would make any changes to your present wardrobe?  When I was a child my mother kept a very big cardboard moving container in the basement full of her old dressy clothing.  This box was provided for dress up when I had friends over to play. We used it extensively.  I have some fuzzy memories of my friends in hats, gloves, and formal dresses.  None of my other friends had one of these, but it was not until later that I knew it had been a great idea.

I had my first job in my life as a costumer and a singer in an outdoor drama.  This show, Unto These Hills, was produced in a large amphitheater, so costumes were  very important part of telling the story.  One of my jobs was to assist in the quick changes of costumes.  I helped an eagle dancer turn into Andrew Jackson, replete with long cape, in about 2 minutes.  There were a couple of other quick changes, but that was the one that required the biggest transformation.  I was never on stage in Cherokee, but in the choir behind a curtain when we sang.  I was the youngest (17) and the lowest paid member of the staff.  I think I made about $35 a week after they paid for my room and board out of my check.  I don’t think about it very often, but last week I saw a bluegrass band from North Carolina and the memories came into my mind like a flood.  I am craving hush puppies and thinking about some of our crew that have already left this world.  I am remembering laughing so hard I thought I might die right there in the Great Smokey Mountains.

I had careers in both spa fitness and travel, which required me to switch costumes, sometimes quick change.  I wore bathing suits a lot of the time for teaching, and often went to the travel agency at night to print tickets and work on my clients’ trips.  They were two distinct work environments, so mixing them was a bad idea.  I had one briefcase for each job, and had to make sure I kept them separate.  This became more defined when I started to work in Mexico at Rancho la Puerta.  I was asked to do something to perk up the bingo game because guests were complaining about it. Without consciously bringing it to mind, I reinvented my cardboard dress up box from the basement of my childhood home.  We collected ridiculous Vana White style evening wear and used it for bingo.  This bingo persona got out of control.  Regularly guests would as me if I was there for the week just as bingo queen.  Either they missed my classes, or did not know I was the same person who had taught them.  This game went on for years, until the guests themselves wanted to dress up and wear wigs.  Eventually I distributed all the contents of the bingo costume box and started again.  I wore a sheet toga and flowers in my hair for bingo and said I was Spring, the season.

I recently did a big purge of my closet in order to feel focused and clear.  This has been a wonderful change, leaving me space and a better curated wardrobe than I had.  I no longer need to dress for a job, or to impress anyone.  I dress for comfort and also like to express my personal style.  My secret identity is ace detective.  I am curious to a fault, and enjoy nothing more than stealth.  I am not particularly fond of being recognized because I love to slip around in a crowd to eavesdrop.  If I could use a cloak for invisibility I certainly would.  My signature look, in my own estimation, should be one that shape shifts. I need to maintain a level of mystery.  What do you want from your costuming, gentle reader?

Dance with the Dead

October 18, 2012

At the end of October the costumes come out of the closet. This is the big masquerade time in the US.  Other cultures have dress up traditions for Carnival and other holidays. The political side of costuming has always been woven into the idea of playing the role of another.  Well known faces or looks are popular.  In Tucson the Day of the Dead is celebrated in a grand public procession.  The costumes in this event are not intended to mimic the living, but rather to show the look of the dead.  The visit of the departed souls to earth is celebrated by glowing in the dark, dancing as skeletons, and enjoying the earthly pleasures our dearly departed ones chose while they were alive.  The happy honoring of the souls of the dead is a symbol of our connection to all the generations who lived before us.

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