Costuming: Not Just for Halloween Anymore


Have you ever dressed up as a princess? A pirate? A detective? Have you left that behind, a distant memory of childhood play? Do you revive this imaginative activity, but only on Halloween?

Let me invite you to invoke the power of costume to infuse your creative dreams.

Now, are you sitting there saying, “Nuh-uh, Jamie! I am not dressing up as a fairy.”

Or are you wondering, “Do I get to wear wings?”

What if everything in your closet was imbued with magical properties? What if that skirt invoked your inner dancer? What if those sunglasses turned you into a starlet? What if that jaunty hat transformed you into a journalist?

They can.

With a background in theatre, I know the power of costume. A hoop skirt and sensible shoes brings out very different aspects of your personality than feathers and fishnets. What we put on daily has a similar effect, so why not get dressed with intention? This isn’t about putting on something to mask the inner you or to pretend to be something you’re not. It’s about how our clothes can bring out different aspects of who we truly are.

When I started teaching Nia, a barefoot practice grounded in the joy of movement, I thought about the qualities of my “inner Nia teacher.” Who did I want to be for my class? I remembered the power and poise of my dance teacher. I thought of the precision and humour of my Nia trainer. I thought of my own enthusiasm and commitment to helping people be the star they are. These thoughts led me to outfits ranging from sassy T’s to sequins. What fun!

If you imagine who you are becoming, who you are wanting to grow into, how can some key costume changes support you? It doesn’t have to be an entire wardrobe. Brilliant and influential theatre director Bertolt Brecht insisted that a costume could be simply one evocative piece, but it must be the perfect piece.

Which one item would bolster your inner “writer” or “entrepreneur” or “artist”?

Don’t rely on what’s already in your wardrobe. This part of you may not have shown up yet. Take yourself out costume shopping, even if it’s just to look and imagine. Explore magazines. Make an inspiration board. Take yourself to second-hand and vintage stores. Try on an outrageous amount of options. You never know what you’re going to slip into and think, “Yes! This is it!” (I once bought a pair of what I called “witch’s disco boots” Who knew?) Look beyond the stereotypes to find something that has deep, personal resonance for you. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. It simply has to invite the expression of this fledgling part of you.

You are the designer of your own life – and that includes the costuming!


One comment

  1. ehwilson2013 says:

    Loved this! For years, my wardrobe was almost totally earth tones. I still love them. But, as I progressed as a full time artist after retirement from teaching, I found the desire to wear more and more color variety grew! What I wear on any day often reflects my mood, desires, wishes and dreams. Great article, Jamie!

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