Two unfinished costumes sit on my cutting desk right now, reminding me that my husband’s office Purim party is growing near. It’s a 1920’s Gatsby-styled event and we’ve been asked to come in period garb, so I’m sewing him a bootlegger inspired pinstripe vest—and I’ll be in a blue and gold flapper dress. But I have yet to hem, sew buttons, put on any finishing details, or give it the final press before they are ready to be worn (no pressure!).
I have to say, there’s something fun and exciting about making our own costumes. Aside from the fact that I know we won’t be dressed up like anyone else at the party, I love these opportunities to unleash my creative side. Furthermore, it reminds me of the costumes my mom and I used to make when I was younger. Although she couldn’t sew for the life of her, it didn’t stop us from putting together some amazing costumes.
Looking back, I can easily recall one of my all time favorites. This was the year our school asked us to dress up as characters from a book. I chose the Tin Man from Frank L. Baum’s “Wizard of Oz” books. My mom and I spent weeks collecting cardboard boxes, carefully reshaping them into cylinders for the arms, legs, and body, meticulously covering them with tinfoil and using silver ribbon to create movable joints for the elbows and knees. We used a plastic funnel as the hat. The body even had a little door that revealed a plush heart inside. She slathered me with silver face makeup, covering any exposed skin. For best costume, I won Lore Segal’s book “Tell Me A Mitzi,” which I still have and cherish.
My mom was a career woman and worked long hours. While she always made time to help with homework, she was very artistic, so working on these costumes was a wonderful chance to spend quality time with her. In many ways, it was a real treat, especially when we’d shop together for materials—which sometimes led to other creative projects. I often hoped during our shopping excursions that we would find materials for other more creative endeavors once the costumes were done.
Over the past few years, I’ve continued this tradition by sewing costumes for my friends’ children. Today, our refrigerator gallery boasts photos of a sunflower, a turtle, Elsa and Olaf, Tinkerbell, and Peter Pan. However, this is the first year I haven’t made their costumes, as my own due date for my first child is rapidly approaching. I was anxious not to take on more than I could handle and didn’t want to disappoint them. While I know I made the right choice, there’s still a feeling of emptiness, as they won’t be coming over this weekend to try on their small costumes. I really enjoyed sewing their costumes these past few years, and it’s opened up a flood of hopes regarding my own future children.
By this time next year, for instance, I will be sewing my daughter’s first Purim costume. As she hopefully grows up to be an opinionated child, I look forward to seeing what challenges she lays before me. Will she actually want to help me make her costumes in an act of mother-daughter bonding? I wonder if and when she’ll be too cool for mom-made costumes. Will she eventually just make them herself, or will she be too grown up for costumes altogether?
Interestingly, the Megillah (scroll of Esther) doesn’t mention dressing up, costumes, and masks. It concludes with Mordechai’s instruction to the Jewish people to celebrate these days as “yemei mishteh v’simchah” (days of drinking and rejoicing, Esther 9:22).
As Kate Spade once said, “Playing dress up begins at age five and never truly ends.” I couldn’t agree more. As long as it remains custom for us to dress up when we rejoice, regardless of where the tradition of dressing up originated, I will continue to cherish Purim. And as my family grows, I look forward to sharing this tradition with my children.