This I Believe: Dress-Up is Timeless

Sarah - Waukesha, Wisconsin
Entered on January 30, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
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In this day and age, what you wear says a lot about you. If you wear black iron-studded pants, you’re probably goth. On the other end of the spectrum, if you wear polos in bright spring colors to match your lip gloss, odds are you’re a prep. We create for ourselves a new identity every time we choose the skinny jeans over the baggy sweats. At some point in our lives we loose that childlike mentality that’s become so cliché: just be yourself.

Be yourself… so who am I? I’m Sarah, age 15, student at Waukesha West. Nah, that’s not very interesting. As a teenager, I fall into guidelines and stereotypes that don’t necessarily define me. But when I was a kid? I couldn’t categorize myself. Who am I today? I’m Rose trapped on the sinking titanic! No, now I’m the fearless Elizabeth Swan, battling Captain Barbosa’s bootlegs! Or should I be Indiana Jones, braving the trials hidden in the dark and foreboding tomb? Oh, the possibilities. True, when I take off the disguise, I’m still just Sarah. But when I open my mind to all that I could be, commanding an army tank or blasting off into outer-space doesn’t seem so unrealistic. That’s because I believe in the timeless magic of dressing up.

Growing up, I had an imagination that teetered on the edge of insanity. I was convinced the world used to be black and white, that people were manufactured on factory conveyor belts (I know better now), and that mermaids existed, they were just shy. The whole world was my playground. But probably the best of my dress-up dreams took place at Grandma’s house.

If the world was my playground, Grandma’s house was Six Flags. Over the river and through the woods, Grandma’s house was the perfect haven for make-believe magic. She had a tire-swing and ATV trail out back, deer stands scattered about her 360 acres, and an old run-down brick playhouse often used as a ‘secret fort’. But my fondest memories were with her old silk nightgowns, velvet capes, and fur coats the size of circus tents. Dress-up clothes. We young girls fawned over Grandma’s many vintage gowns, brown felt hats, and gold-clasped pearls. Every visit was a trip into an alternate reality, in which one could be Juliet Capulet, Cinderella, and Yoda all in one day. There were no boundaries to our imaginations. But, as we got older, our minds matured. We found more interest in pretending to be bartenders in Grandpa’s bar than princesses stranded on some deserted island. Eventually, trips to Grandma’s house became merely that; visits. No more embroidered lace gloves or silk-lined furs. Though I miss them dearly, one must learn to grow up and let go of ridiculous childhood fantasies, right?

I disagree. We should never forget the hopes and dreams of our childhood, and we should definitely never let die that classic dress-up feeling. Take a bride on her wedding day for instance. She spends thousands of dollars on a dress she’ll only wear once! Why does she do it? Simple. Because when she puts on that dress she feels like a goddess. In that dress, she won’t walk down the aisle, she’ll glide as if drifting on a cloud, her smile like a blinding sun. Or let’s take for example those famous graduation gowns. Any eager graduate wearing the gold tassels and less-than-delightful pleated blue feels on top of the world. It doesn’t matter how ugly the outfit is, once the aspiring student puts it on, anything is possible. In everyday life, adults tend to fall into routine. But on those rare occasions when they dress up as superheroes for costume parties, or dust off the cheese-heads and foam fingers for Packer games, they experience the same timeless high we all felt as kids. Not ‘Who am I?’, but ‘Who do I want to be?’.

It is my firm belief that no matter how weathered and cynical we all inevitably become, we’ll always bend to the magic of dress-up. Even the most hardened war veteran feels a sense of warm reverence every time he puts on his decorated uniform. The middle-aged businesswoman is overcome with feelings of higher purpose as she dresses for that long-awaited job interview. The experienced surgeon counts his blessings as he adorns himself in lime-green scrubs and prepares to be someone’s savior. When we ‘dress the part’, the exhilarating feeling of possibility comes back to us like an old, lost friend. Although it may dim with age into a faint glimmer of remembrance, it never fades.

So who am I? Well, I’m Sarah, age 15, student at Waukesha West. I was a gangster for Halloween and I super-fan at every football game I go to. Whenever I put on my favorite slippers and cuddle-up with my favorite blanket, I feel perfectly at ease with my future. Because whoever I am and whoever I decide to be can all change.

All I need is the right outfit.