Nevadans - they love to dress up, but can you take 'em anywhere?
The Season has begun! Dress-up season, that is.
I've had a lot of opportunity to cogitate on the question of dressing up. In
October, every time I turned around, I turned into someone else.
I have personally morphed from a fairy lady (black dress and pink feather
mask), to someone emerging from a grave (hideous rubber mask and skeleton shirt), to suburban mom from hell (no costume necessary).
The "season" was kicked off by my daughter's seventh birthday. For a party,
she went with some of her pals to Grandma's Playhouse, a fabulous dress-up palace for kids in a Reno mall. Each kid got three costume
changes (fancy dress, shoes, hat, handbag, and jewelry) a walk down the
fashion-show runway, and a "tea" party. It was a transformative experience, which filled the girls with delight. Even the visiting Texas relatives dolled themselves up.
After the birthday came Nevada Day. Then Halloween. These are no mere
two-hour events, but celebrations that stretch for days, with school parties,
state parades and trick-or-treat sessions, requiring multiple costume
changes. To an outsider this might seem like too much identity confusion. But we're Nevadans. And Nevadans love playing dress-up.
In our Fair State, there are any number of events designed to turn you into
someone else or bring out the hidden you: the Nevada Day Parade, the Comstock Ball, Kit Carson Days, Hot August Nights, Chautauqua, Burning Man.
One week you can be a Victorian lady in miles of crinoline and satin. The
next you can be a grizzled muzzle-loader in a coonskin cap. Then you can go
to a sock hop wearing a ponytail, flannel poodle skirt and saddle shoes. If
you're too lazy to get your own costume you can go out to a casino show and
I'll never forget taking tea with a gorgeous covey of drag queens in the
Black Rock Desert. Feather hats and boas, silk stockings and heels. The
incongruity of these stylish ladies in the barren desert added depth to the
Costuming has a lot to do with what we're forbidden to wear in real life. The
glamorous and the bizarre beckon us. And while we simplify our daily wear we long for impractical yards of ruffles and silk.
Our Nevada buckaroos know how to add zip to the wardrobe. They dress
distinctly from other cowboys to show they're from the Great Basin, defying
dust, grime and isolation with dandy colored kerchiefs and cool ruffle-tongued, high-laced boots. Clothes make the cowboy.
It seems there are two reasons to dress up. To become someone else. And to project an image of who you want people to think you are. The latter has the unfortunate by-product of usually being uncomfortable. Ties, jackets, nylons.
As a child I visited New York City and found to my horror that even little
girls wore dresses and gloves to go out on the street! I didn't get it -
who were they trying to impress? Women had to don even more primitive and torturous wear - high heels, girdles, funny little hats. But what do you
expect? It was the 1950s. I was grateful to come home where I could wear
jeans -- after school, that is.
Clothes are the earliest expression of Self. Big battles are waged around
what children get to wear and when.
I shall never forget the humiliation when my father forced me to wear, well,
you would have to call them Army Boots, to fourth grade at Edith W. Fritsch
Elementary one very snowy day. From his point of view I was prepared for any blizzard, and should be grateful to have good boots to wear. From my point of view I looked ridiculous wearing Army boots with my winter dress, which the school forced me to wear each day instead of pants. Of course that
combination is the height of fashion now. But then it was enough to make me
spend recess hiding in a corner.
Thanks in large part to the Carson school system I later rebelled against
dresses and dropped them from my daily wardrobe. I hide behind my comfy
uniform of jeans, sneakers and tee shirts. This makes me happy in real life,
but every so often I get that urge to dress up.