Being married to an actor, I’ve had a lot of experience with costumes. Dressing up to transform into someone else is an experience that doesn’t fade much with time. So for this week, here are creative ways to explore “dress up,” good for children of all ages. Really.
- Let’s start with good old-fashioned dress up. Creative fun does not require fancy costumes, no matter what the Halloween stores suggest. So if your collection of dress-up clothes is sparse (or if, perhaps, you don’t have one yet), start by scouring the house for small things that can work magic. A pair of sunglasses and some super-power sock gloves can transform a child to a super hero! Join the fun. If an old garden hat can be a shield or a high fashion space helmet for you, just imagine what it can do for your child.
- If you or your children believe you have outgrown dress-up, consider one of my favorite teen activities—Where’s Waldo. You need a public space with lots of people and constrained boundaries. We have used the “quad” area of the University of Michigan but any busy public space with clear borders will do. The game is usually managed by recruiting a group of willing adults familiar to the young people involved. I’ve done this with adults from a church congregation but it would work just as well for a family reunion, camp activity, etc. The adults’ task is to disguise themselves so that they blend into the scene and are not recognizable. They must “hide” in plain slight. The young people (in teams, for safety) are to locate the adults without tipping off the other teams. So much fun—and a great way to remind teens that adults don’t lose their imagination or sense of humor when we move past 20. Or 40. Or 60.
- Take a look at this astonishing dress that crossed my Facebook path. Designer Ryan Jude Novelline created this wonder entirely of old Golden Books. The Golden Book Gown’s bodice is made of the gold spines of the book, while the skirt is created from the books’ pages. The website calls it “jaw dropping,” and it really is. Share the photos with your family or class and imagine what you could use to make clothing. A gown is probably beyond most of it, but could you make a shirt out of paper? How about a plastic trash bag? Could you make a belt from something no one else will think about? Maybe you could make a stuffed animal a shirt out of lettuce. Can labels? Leaves? For some truly strange inspiration, check out this collection of fashion made of food.
- How would children have dressed up 100 years ago? Two hundred? There are a number of fashion collections online that can be fun for rainy day exploring. Check out the Fashion Museum in Bath. You don’t need to travel to England to enjoy the collection, but those who can get there will also have the chance for dress up activities way beyond the norm. A long ago experience as movie extra in authentic 19th century garb taught me that wearing a corset is something that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated! (And to really appreciate it you must try walking uphill. Or sneezing. Or eating lunch…)
- Summer is the perfect time to learn to sew. Boys and girls alike can use sewing to express their creativity, and also to provide useful service. Explore your local areas to find opportunities to make a difference. Do seniors in your area need lap robes for warmth? Do your local rescue organizations like to give fleece blankets or stuffed toys to children facing emergencies? One organization in Michigan uses a simple pattern to transform pillowcases into dresses for girls in Africa. Here’s a simple doll pattern that could be useful for children with many kinds of needs. Explore who has needs in your own area and beyond. Learn a skill, be creative, and make a difference in the world around you, all at once. What could be a more perfect summer activity?
We’d sure love to hear about your creative explorations with dress up, fashion, and service.