Anyone who knows me knows I've been involved in theater since . . . what time is it???
The kind of theater I'm involved in often means I am responsible for costuming myself. The kind of theater I'm involved in means style and accuracy are not often as important as being sure I have something - - ANYTHING - - to wear. I have made/scrounged costumes for everything and everyone from Agnes Gooch to Dolly Levi to Can-Can dancers with lots of Neil Simon in between. A wide variety of characters, periods, styles shapes and (over the years) sizes.
I used to keep a costume closet in the basement - one of those tin things that Bill calls a chiffarobe - but we recently bequeathed that to Don & Louise. I think they reinforced the doors and keep it in the barn to store the kinds of things that raccoons like to scavenge.
Now I have a tiny closet upstairs which will not hold all the costumes I keep. I'm glad I keep them. Last summer, when the costumer was late getting things ready for the school opera because the big fancy opera company (nudge, wink) for which the shop was also doing costumes for Marriage of Figaro, kept changing their minds about the designs, I loaned a bunch of my stuff for my teacher's original opera The Patriots, set during the American Revolution. Skirts, blouses, aprons, waistcoats, most of the women in the show wore something that belonged to me.
When the opera was over, all that stuff just would not go back into my tiny closet, so it sat for a year on a chair in the living room until I couldn't stand to look at it another minute and had to do something. God forbid I should discard a favorite vest or apron. Who knows when SOMEONE might need to borrow a costume again?
Still, this activity requires occasional sorting, weeding out, and discarding of garments no longer in use. Sort of like the semi-annual closet cleaning that used to be done by our grandmothers. I do it too (every few decades).
A couple of times I scoured my costume closet and sent off some things I could no longer wear. A bunch of them went to the church down the street for their theater program. It was gratifying to see 90% of the cast of Meet Me In St. Louis wearing Sarah's Junior Prom dresses from the 70s and costumes I had worn as a nearly anorexic Mrs. Strakosh in Funny girl. Other things went to the park district theater in Skokie. Over the next few shows it was interesting to see children wearing vaguely familiar garments and realize in the second act that they were cut down former "somethings" I had once worn and since donated.
Somehow, I continue to make and collect new (old) things. Hats are the most fun. A flat black straw hat I swathed in aqua nylon net and adorned with rainbow ribbons and the eyes from a dozen peacock feathers; a cheap straw "red hat lady" hat clouded with red tulle, bedecked with a large silver and black velvet shoe clip and two pheasant tail feathers sticking nearly 2 feet straight up into the air; they get better each time.
Now Tony tells me he and a friend are going into the We-Will-Photograph-You-In-A-Costume business and is in need of Victorian and Edwardian flavored garments. Alas, I have given most of that stuff away. But I started a box for him. So far it contains a vaguely Arrow Shirt with a narrow collar, a pair of natty suspenders, a ladies Sailor middy-blouse, a gaudy turquoise two piece "Tailor-Made" ala Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn from The Music Man.
And the piece de resistance, Bill's old high school marching band uniform. A real piece of vintage nostalgia. Not the mod'ren polyester baby blue false-fronted abomination worn now-a-days but a real old style (looks like a train conductor's) uniform in dark blue with lots of braid, cording, epaulets and military style buttons. And Tony tells me he has a conductor's cap that is the image of what Bill wore when marching around Maxwell Park, and we could hear them clear across town on summer mornings or autumn evenings.
What's my point? It's hard to let these things go! Everywhere today we are being told by Oprah, Suze Orman, Fly Lady et al to clear out our closets and get rid of things. Heaven knows I need to do this. I have clothes I haven't worn in 20 years. Fortunately, now that they are showing re-runs of Who's The Boss and Growing Pains on Network TV, I have visual proof that I will NEVER wear these things again, even if I do miraculously lose 150 pounds overnight.
Somehow that doesn't make it any easier to let these "things" go.
I have been purging "things" for over a year. Each month a box full of stuff goes out on the porch to be picked up by the Purple Heart Veterans. Each month it's like pulling out my own teeth to garner these things from closets and shelves and pack them into those boxes, never to be seen again.
The funny thing is, though, that once they're in the box, even before they make it to the porch, I've already forgotten all about them. I certainly don't miss them once they're gone (well, maybe a couple things, but even now I can't remember what they were).
I'm glad to find good new homes for these things that I once used and loved. Especially if I have first hand knowledge of where they are going. If I'm lucky, I'll see them live on in the next play, or maybe Tony will send me some pics of his customers wearing them. But the funny thing is, no matter how many boxes I put out, there always seems to be more STUFF! Does it ever get any less?
Maybe if I keep going, I'll finally come across that THING that I lost years ago, that I've been searching for all these months . . . if only I could remember what it is!!!
Quotable Quotes: In the category They're Not So Little Anymore!
"Housekeeping ain't no joke".
Louisa May Alcott