Let’s take a break from our regularly scheduled costuming for a little insight, a little philosophy, a little article on why it is I believe we costume.
Why DO we costume?
What is it about dressing up in historical garments, tying ourselves into underpinnings not conventionally worn for a hundred years or more? And why is this so popular world-wide?
Last night, while catching up on my list of TV detective shows, I watched one episode in which a murder was committed at a wedding. The bride-to-be was decked out in her beautiful gown, and the setting was a posh hotel draped in flowers and golden glowery. I realised that many women only get to wear formal attire a handful of times in their lives, and for some women this is “never.”
In high school we might have a smattering of semi-formal homecoming dances, or we may go to our Senior Prom, and get to shop for, pick out, and wear possibly the prettiest thing any of us at age 18 have ever dressed our awkward teenage bodies in. As adults, occasionally a formal reception may crop up, or some kind of banquet, but these things are few and far between, which leaves us one last overarching, shining event: our weddings. It is the one day where gentlemen can look snappy, feel snappy, and allow the fuzzy warm feelings of romance to read like a book upon their faces. And, of course, it is the day that the bride will wear the one piece of clothing that will be so blazingly beautiful that fathers will cry and grandmothers will drink three times the martinis.
So what has this to do with costuming? Just look at the photo above! A beautiful dress, a luxurious setting…sound familiar? As women, I believe some small part of us costumes for the same kind of feelings that we could or did feel on our wedding days. We love the long skirts, the gentle (or extreme, your choice), hugging support of underpinnings keeping everything, bodies and dresses, perfectly in place. We love the golden light glowing on our skin in the grand ballroom, the sweeping steps to descend and ascend gracefully, the flocks of other beautifully dressed girls to gush over and to gush over us. We love the gentlemen looking their finest, asking us to dance, and, of course, that unique, unforgettable feeling of being swept around the dance floor, skirts flying out, head spinning, short of breath and loving every minute of it. This is all a romanticised view, of course, but is it not the dream we spin and the things we remember the next morning, suffering our dance-hangovers?
I do not mean to imply that every girl who costumes secretly wants to get married (or not so secretly!). I also do not imply that it is the ONLY reason we costume (of course not!). I do, however, truly believe that we love getting “dressed to the nines” for special occasions, even if those special occasions happen every month! At the root of all this is the desire to feel beautiful, striking, special, which clothing of the past will always somehow have the ability to accomplish.