01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: The trials and tribulations of dressing up 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

The trials and tribulations of dressing up

My eldest daughter has been in an utter tizz about a dressing-up day at school this Friday. It's World Book Day and they all get to dress as their favourite character in a book. They must carry with them the book itself and a poem in their pocket which they may be asked to read out during the day. What fun! I hear you say. Not so much....

When discussing possible costume ideas (trying to steer my daughter toward clothes she already has IE. 'why not go as My Story 'My Tudor Queen' in that Tudor costume I slaved over for you last year?!) the conversation went like this;

She said, 'I don't want to do that. The dress is not the same as the one in the picture.'

I said, 'Never mind, it'll do.'

She said, 'But Mummy! You get a PRIZE if you look most like your character in the book and I would really like to win it!'

I said, 'Maybe you should be more worried about your Kiswahili and maths mid year tests this week?' but this evidently went in one ear and out of the other.

She wanted to be the usual choice 'girl of roughly the same age with yellow hair' because she is a girl with yellow hair and this seems like a good idea. The first choice was 'My Sister Jodie' by Jacqueline Wilson. I said that this was not very inventive for a start - and that just going as a girl with yellow hair in school uniform like 'My Sister Jodie' might not bag her the prize. Then we had a row.

We looked at the possibility of Alice in Wonderland (a bit more high-brow perhaps), but the blue skirt I picked was apparently not right and she was not willing to carry Bagpuss as the Cheshire Cat under her arm, as he is the wrong colour. (I thought that was a brilliant idea of mine!)

She eventually settled on 'Lucy Willow' who on the book cover wears red tights, a pink dress with red spots, a beret and carries a watering can.
'I can keep the poem in the watering can!' she said delighted. Great, we had decided on something.

We searched in her cupboard but couldn't find the perfect dress. I finally convinced her to wear one that she already has. First she said,
'It won't do as it has a giant strawberry on the front and it doesn't have spots!'
I said,
'It's the same shape, looks similar, so I'm sure it will be fine.'

The compromise that we found is that she will wear the dress I chose, but inside out. For the last two evenings she has been in the process of sticking red sticker dots all over the lining to look like spots. Phew.

She also wants a beret. I had a sort of knitted beret hat that I thought would do, but she didn't approve so wanted to ask a friend who has a brother doing CCF if she could borrow this beret.

I said, 'you borrowed that hat last time and ended up not wearing it! I am not going to phone the mother and ask for it again. And anyway, I've got you a perfectly good beret.'


You can imagine!! The last two years we did Anne from the Famous Five, which was much easier. This year the whole nightmare began with,
'Mummy, I just simply can't go as Anne again.... OK!?'

In the meantime, my middle daughter is absolutely content to go as one of the Secret Seven in her jeans and a t-shirt, and has quietly made herself an 'SS' badge - which is apparently what they all wore to denote members (not very politically correct Enid Blyton? - I'm surprised at you?!).
I said, 'Which one will you go as? Janet?'
She said, 'Isn't Janet a boy?'
'I Don't think so?!' I said.
'Well she looks like a boy on the cover' my daughter said, 'but I'll go as Janet if you think that's a good idea.'
Deal done.

Out of Africa
As I rant about the eldest dressing up angst, to be fair, I am vaguely aware that this tendency to get over wrought over costumes may be hereditary.

This weekend we are off to an Out of Africa 40Th. Can't wait. My husband has been v. excited, asking me if it might, or might not be acceptable to arrive with a shot gun over his shoulder. Meanwhile I am obsessing over the beaded 1930s-esque Monsoon dress that I've had in my cupboard since my twenties and can barely squeeze into - or the belted cream linen skirt, white shirt, knee boots combo.

Super Heroes
The problem with dressing up is that not everyone tows the line. No doubt we will arrive on Saturday night to find that everyone else simply hasn't bothered and has decided to look their ravishing best in 'normal' party clothes.

A case in point; my middle daughter went to a 'super heroes' party last Saturday and we arrived a little late to find everyone in home clothes. Luckily we had a spare set for her to change into in the car so that she didn't have to walk in as a lone space ranger after all. Her street cred is in tact.

Bling Bling
A year or so ago we went to a 'Bling' party. My husband made a rather dashing Ali G, with bright yellow three quarter trousers, trainers, an orange t-shirt, tights on head - rapper style and an eyeliner goatee beard. I accompanied him with a Crodon facelift type hair extension high pony tail, fishnet tights and mini skirt - only to find that the hostess was wearing a rather lovely full length chiffon number that she had recently had run-up and the host was in his favourite paisley shirt and jeans. Another girl had sewed a few diamante bits onto a white sundress - which was her reference to bling...Oh dear. Not sure how we endured that one.

Traffic Lights
It gets worse. Another friend had a 'traffic lights' drinks party. I was grateful for the opportunity to wear my bright green/mistake purchase frilly t-shirt that should never see the light of day - only to find that green means 'you're up for it', orange means 'you're not sure' and red means 'hands off'. Fortunately I'd paired the t-shirt with a red skirt, but I did feel a bit of a berk.

Turn Around
One of the best all round dressing up efforts made was a friend's 30Th 'Turn Around' (or was that Turn About?) party, where you have to dress as your partner. This was easy for me, I wore my husband's workshop/mechanic overalls and had a grand time. All the men dressed as women. They arrived so nervous that they drank far too many cocktails then ended up swapping clothes and wigs with each other all night. Our friend Pete's nylon dress caught fire when he was dancing on the tables and it poured with rain, but it didn't matter. There were some very sore heads the next day.

Mad Hair
In spite of feeling nervous about going to a Mad Hair housewarming party where we didn't know anybody, I did my hair in lots of different pony tails, stuck straight sticks through each one, then wrapped ribbon & elastic bands round. After an hour or so my sticks were drooping and digging in to my scalp uncomfortably. My husband wore some tight trousers, a wide open necked shirt, medallions and a big curly wig. Unfortunately on this occasion everybody had made too much of an effort and the precious few we might have known in a crowd of 200 were entirely unrecognisable, so it was a bit of an odd evening.

This time everybody had to dress up in an outfit that embodied the country they were given at random. I was a punk from London. My husband had Germany, so went as the Red Baron and got a leather flying jacket from mitumba that has hung bulkily in our cupboard ever since. The nuts guy who dressed up in a Nazi uniform ended up getting in a fight.

Kenya Cowboy
My favourite had to be our own KC party where interpretations on the theme varied widely. Some panicked about the dress code beforehand, to which I said, 'don't worry, you are a KC, just come as yourself!!' (Tee He!)

My husband wore too short beige shorts, knee socks and Bata boots, a checked short sleeved shirt and leather hat. I wore a khanga fabric skirt, Kenya made sheepskin Ugg boot/slippers, no make-up, unbrushed hair, a beaded belt but failed to find a fur or sheepskin gilet, damn. Other men wore kikoys and Kenya Flags or full safari outfits while the the best dressed girl wore a 1980s long flowing skirt with a low slung wide belt over a billowing white shirt and blow-dried hair- Kuki Gallman style. Perfect.

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