One would think that my previous experience in the West Side Nut Club Pet Parade would sour me on the notion completely. One would think that. One would be wrong. For starters, I love being stared at. Even when people stared at my group in complete and utter confusion, it didn't matter, because darling, we were being SEEN. And that was important to me even at the age of eight.
It was probably the Amadeus group costume that got me started on loving themes. Last year my kids and I dressed up as characters from The Wizard of Oz.
We had the world's sweetest Dorothy,
a tiny, precious Scarecrow
a heart-meltingly sweet Cowardly Lion
and a very reluctant Tin Man.
And oh yeah, I was kind of a glamourous witch.
My friend Andrea had an Alice in Wonderland costume for her daughter Juliana last year and offered it for Alice's use this year. I mean, that's kind of a no-brainer, right? Every little girl named Alice has to go as Alice in Wonderland at least once.
But why stop there? Andrea thought Jarvis should be the Mad Hatter, and so on. And so the spark ignited. The Felix would make a precious White Rabbit. And Linus? What could Linus be? The Caterpillar? "NO." The doormous? "NO." "Tweedledum?" "NO!" A playing card? "Ok." Alright. But this idea didn't really take on any urgency until my friend Heather posted a picture of herself in a Queen of Hearts costume. She and I are about the same size. Could I borrow? Better yet, she said, you may HAVE.
And then we got a dog. And the answer became clear.
We must march in the Pet Parade.
I not only must dress myself and my children in Alice in Wonderland Garb, I must also dress my dog.
So we can march in front of the entire West Side. With our dog. In costumes.
It is there.
It helped that I already had Alice's costume, store bought and handed down. All she needed was a headband and mary janes, which we already owned.
Heather gave me the Queen of Hearts costume, store bought, handed down, and ALTERED. Heather is a Mormon, and they are known for modesty. This is one of those tarty "adult costumes" but she has added a bunch of fabric at the bottom which is great because rule #1 I DO NOT SHOW MY KNEES except at the water park when everyone is looking at my cute kids or screaming as they go into a giant tube of watery terror. The top remained un-altered though, which is weird when you think about it, but I wasn't thinking about it. It also came with a crown that could only be worn by Amy Winehouse's beehive. Alice tried to put it on and it didn't fit on her four year old head. "This is a BABY twown!" she declared. Maybe it would work if I used my large dollar store Bump-It knock off, High On Hair, to create a Snooki Pelosi Poof for the combs to hold, but I doubted it.
That left Linus, Jarvis, Felix, and Coco. For Felix I bought a white rabbit costume from baby Gap off eBay. My new friend Tina lent me, of all things, an INFLATABLE Mad Hatter Hat. I found Jarvis a wildly printed silky women's shirt and pinstriped jacket which hung off his frame in an appropriately MAD fashion.
That left Linus and the dog. And of COURSE I didn't really start making their costumes until 11:30 the night before the parade, after four hours of frying corn fritters at the St. James West Fall Festival Booth. I was about to fall over, but I would not be deterred. Even though I had never made a costume for a DOG before.
Linus's was relatively simple. I bought a red close fitting knit cap at Dollar Tree, and gathered up a black shirt and pants. All I needed to make was a sandwich board for him to wear that looked like the Ace of Hearts. I printed out the letter As on the printer, cut out a heart, and put the words "Alice in Wonderland" on the back so he could announce our group. Fabric I trimmed from the bottom of my costume held it together.
The dogs costume was going to be trickier. For starters, I had never even dressed a dog, much less made a costume. My father donated two spring green polos to the cause, leftover from a job project. The first outfit I made was far too small. It fit more like a superhero cape.
The concept was for the dog to be the Caterpillar. I couldn't get him to smoke a hookah, but I could make him a green costume with the words "Who...Are...You?" written on the sides...and...what else? Linus came up with the brilliant idea of attaching SOCKS to the sides of the costume for caterpillar legs. And I decided it wouldn't be too hard to make antennae out of the scraps of the shirt.
The second one fared better. I used hot glue to create a neckband to run some elastic through (no WAY was I sewing this thing!) and then I glued the stuffed socks to the sides, and glued the scraps of fabric, fiberfill and pipe cleaners to make antennae. My high temp glue gun was starting to give me blisters but I kept on. I attached six dollar store mens dress socks, stuffed with fiberfill, to the sides of the costume. The legs were WAY too long. Hugh said he looked like a spider. So I cut them in half and sewed up each individual leg (dang it, I had NOT planned to sew anything!) Much better. I wrote the words "Who Are You" using Rub a Dub laundry marker on the sides, and practiced tying the antennae to his collar.
The morning of the parade I was, of course, a nervous wreck, especially about getting there on time. I shouldn't have been. People were slowly filing in the whole hour before the parade started. I had a very grumpy baby in his far too warm rabbit costume, angry about sitting in his stroller. I eventually let him get up and walk around a bit, until my kids decided they were tired of holding our place in line and came to find us. Thankfully the people who dressed their dog as a cow let us back in.
Any illusions we might have had about winning a prize were shattered. Our outfits were totally cute but in front of us was a fully stocked wiener dog stand. Behind us, a huge Cinderella coach made out of cardboard. And the footman wore an ACTUAL POWDERED WIG, not yarn like the one Ed wore in 1986. Judges tend to go for that stuff, and I don't Felix's stroller with the "I'm Late" sign was any competition for that.
But it was so fun walking down the street and waving to people we knew and people we didn't know. One kid said "That's the Queen of Hearts!" and I yelled "Off with your head!" Another girl said "Oh look, a puggle!" and I said "He's not a puggle, he's a caterpillar!" I have to admit, I loved the attention. Even as a 33 year old woman in a plus size Queen of Hearts costume at 9 in the morning. The kids seemed to enjoy it too, although it might have been the fact that, at the end of the parade we received a frisbee and treats for the dog from Pet Food Center and a bag of candy and a glass of pop for each of them.
We landed at the back of the First Federal Credit Union where we were greeted by my dad and brother. "Did you guys win anything?" Ed asked eagerly.
"No...we were really weren't any competition. Did you see that Cinderella group behind me with the giant coach? They won SECOND PLACE."
"Cinderella?" Dad and Ed said simultaneously. "We thought that was Amadeus."