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10Oct 13

Fancy dress: who is it really for?

At least my girls are with me when it comes to fancy dress

Kids in fancy dress: what’s not to love? At least my baby doesn’t mind

Eldest child hates fancy dress. It makes him self-conscious. He prefers looking like a regular five-year-old boy. His mother loves it. Loves it with a serious and abiding passion. And I’m not fussy – from supermarket ready-made costumes to intricate hand-crafted ensembles –  if it’s fancy, it’s in.

We are like chalk and cheese on this issue. But I am the adult. And I am the one who knows the good parking spot near the fancy dress shop. Occasionally I exert my frivolous will on my poor, defenceless child.

His school’s recent Dahlicious Dress Up Day was a perfect opportunity. The children could dress as a character from their favourite Roald Dahl book. We’ve only read two: Fantastic Mr Fox and The BFG. ‘Do you want to be a fox?’ I asked tentatively, smiling over-enthusiastically. Smelling my fear he answered with a defiant ‘No’. ‘Ok, the BFG it is then. He only needs a waistcoat and pretend ears. It’ll be great fun!’ More over-eager grinning met with more grim-faced defiance. ‘Just choose: fox or giant?’. ‘Neither.’

And so it continued. I used my full artillery of parenting big guns: bribery, counting to three, threats of time outs and withholding bedtime story (not really in the spirit of kids’ literature, I’ll grant). All failures. I’d have to go it alone and try the softly-softly approach once the outfit was sorted.

I got a waistcoat from John Lewis  – an investment piece that will do for countless future costumes, I told myself – Victorian urchin, um, etc. H&M had a cheap collarless shirt and green trousers we already had. (You didn’t know the BFG wears green trousers? You haven’t studied the book cover closely enough. Or carried it with you to the shops for referencing).

Ears were a stumbling block. I assumed I’d find a comedy set on a headband at the fancy dress shop. But I was wrong. Instead there was a range of rubber ears. Studiously I weighed up their relative merits and pitfalls. They were all to fit over adult-sized ears. Eldest’s little lobes wouldn’t offer sufficient purchase. But as all fancy dress fans know, necessity is the mother of invention. So I got a rubber skull cap and some oversized pixie ears. A few staples later and ta-da! It was quite the headpiece. Carefully I drew the BFG’s wisps of hair on the front.

Meanwhile husband-with-a-sore toe had done some Good Parenting, convincing eldest he should enjoy Dahlicious Day because he was lucky to go to a nice school where they did fun things, and to have a crazy mother with too much time on her hands to laboriously curate a costume for him.

The day arrived. I woke to eldest standing earnestly beside my bed, wishing me ‘Happy Roald Dahl Day’. Enthusiastically he put on his costume. I was thrilled. Perhaps fancy dress could be a new interest we could share! Think of the mother-and-son costumes we could dress in together!

My happy little BFG, all smiles BEFORE the traumatic laughing incident

My happy little BFG, all smiles BEFORE the traumatic laughing incident

But disaster struck at the school gates. A girl he knew saw him and laughed at him. That was it. Headpiece torn off. Along with jaunty waistcoat. Dream-catching net and ‘Phizzwizzard’ dream jar were forced into my hands. Red-faced and crying he looked at the floor: ‘I don’t want ANYONE to see me LIKE THIS.’

Did I take pity? No way. I was in The Fancy Dress Zone. ‘Put. It. On’ I hissed, ‘Or I’m calling Dad.’ But I didn’t stand a chance. A girl had laughed at his baggy rubber skullcap and stapled-on ears! This was a moment so traumatic he will recount it in therapy as an adult! Reluctantly I left him, looking not at all like the BFG.

At pick-up, as I retrieved BFG accessories from his pigeonhole I asked if he’d worn any of it. ‘No’, he told me proudly.

Ah well. It’s Hallowe’en soon. Ding ding, round two.

Hallowe'en 2012. Thank you Sainsbury's packet costumes

Hallowe’en 2012: mama gets her way

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