Big Little Sister and her friend choreographed a dance number for competition this year, and as the choreographers and performers, they also needed to come up with a costume. Unfortunately, they were never really able to articulate to themselves or to anyone who could help them buy or make the costumes what it was they wanted, and while there are thousands of wonderful costumes for all sorts of dance numbers, finding something appropriate for two pre-teens to wear for a tap duo to the song Stray Cat Strut isn't as easy as one may think.
After several months of them thinking about what they wanted with no progress made toward actually putting a costume together, and only two weeks before their first competition, I started getting nervous and decided to intervene.
At first, we tried to buy something. We knew we wanted to attach ears to a hat, kind of like the cartoon alley cats, and so we went looking for hats - and found them! We also found a really great zippered hoodie, that was sort of orange (okay, sing with me, ... black and orange stray cat sitting on a fence...). Well, really more salmon, but close enough, given there was little else to choose from.
Then, we went to the fabric store to find material for the ears. Once there, we ended up ditching the whole salmon hoodie, and I made something completely different using some awesome material we found.
It was my first, and I was really nervous, because, while I can sew, and I like sewing okay, it's not something I'm really good at. I'm not meticulous enough to be a good seamstress, and frankly, I just want to get it done.
But this wasn't play clothes for my girls. This was a dance competition. That's serious business.
In competition, everything matters - the choreography, the music choice, the appropriateness of the number for the dancers' skill level, the costumes, hair, make-up, and even facial expressions. And each thing can affect their overall score. So, if the dance is flawlessly executed, but the dancer has a flat facial expression all the way through, the score might not be so great.
So, I was nervous that it wouldn't be good enough.
As it turned out, they did really well, earning a High Gold at one competition and a Platinum at the second. Big Little Sister and her partner loved the costumes, and when they were on stage, they seemed to be having a blast. They had even incorporated part of the costume into the dance (they flip their tails ;).
For the dance recital this year, Big Little Sister is doing a dance number to several songs from Hair. For recital, the school usually orders costumes, but for this particular number, the teacher asked that each dancer come up with appropriate attire.
When she told me that she needed a "hippie" costume, the little wheels started turning. I knew this wouldn't be something that we could just go out and buy. I mean, there just aren't any Hippie Clothing stores in the mall, and frankly, while I probably could have found something at the party store, I didn't want some hokey, plastic, sad imitation of a fashion style that was more than just a mere fad. It was a statement, and one that needed (and wasn't) heard by those with the power to make the changes that needed to be made. What I wanted was to do justice to the times, and to have something that looked like clothes someone might actually wear.
Using only materials that we had here at the house, I made a costume for her.
Deus Ex Machina made the leather headband, and she'll also wear a pair of big gold earrings.
The pants were a pair of her pants that were too short, and so I added the lacy material that was gifted to us by Deus Ex Machina's mom. The "tank top" is actually a black leotard that is just about too small for her. I attached the lacy material to the ribbon that had a former life as one of those ribbon toys (a ribbon attached to a stick and used by girls for dancing - yes, it's loads of fun!).
It came out almost exactly like it looked in my head, and for that I am very proud. In fact, I think the costume looks great.
Big Little Sister says she likes it, but even if she didn't, she probably wouldn't tell me, because she wouldn't want to hurt my feelings. She's very sweet like that.
What's cool about making the costumes, though, is not seeing my vision come to life. It's not that I started with nothing, except a vague idea, and created something - although both of those things are pretty cool. The part that pleases me the most is knowing that I can turn my thoughts into reality, and if I can do that with just a silly costume, it's possible that my vision for my home - for my self-sufficient home - can, someday, become a reality, too.
So, other people may just see a couple of costumes, but what I see is dreams made reality. I see potential.