Halloween Flashback

My brother always got the best Halloween costumes when we were kids. Three years older than me (and probably a lot more demanding), he had home-made costumes galore, while I had hand-me-downs and thrown-together getups. He was a clown, a lobster (a lobster), a hobo-clown, a mobster, and Superman. I was a leftover clown (wearing his too-big costume), a stereotypical witch, and – well, I’m not sure what else, because clearly my costumes were not worth documenting in our family albums.

I want to see photos of your childhood Halloween costumes. E-mail scans to stephanief @ wornjournal.com and I’ll post them on the WORN blog in the days leading up to Halloween.

More fun than throwing up in your pillowcase of half-eaten Mars bars? I think so.

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Way Back When

then

While I was home last week at my mom’s house in Halifax, I came across a goldmine of a photo album of me between the ages of 8 and 12.

It’s an odd window. Before then, most of my clothes arrived in a housefort-sized cardboard box that would come in the mail twice a year from my bubbie and zaidie (mostly my bubbie) in Toronto. The box would be packed to the flaps with toys and department store clothes that always formed the basis for my back-to-school outfits. Every possible nook was filled with pickled herring, mixed nuts, crumbled kosher cookies, and trays of smoked salmon. My brothers and I would joke that we needed to shake out all our clothes before wearing them in case one last can of tuna was hiding in the pockets.
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Fereiro Family Fashion

Looking at my family’s photo albums from the nineties is always a happy hour or two spent each time I visit my parents. So, of course, my Christmas vacation has to start the same way. On one of my first nights home, I curl up with an over-stuffed album, and there’s no turning back.

After seeing dozens of photographs of myself, my parents, my cousins, and my brother, I begin to wonder: Are these trips down Memory Lane a search for nostalgia of a relatively peaceful childhood in a yellow-brick bungalow? Maybe. For memories of events that happened when I was too little to keep track? Perhaps. Or, for my dress phase (which seems to be returning, more than a decade and a half later), the Halloween costumes my mom made for my brother every year, and my multiple multi-coloured-bear-patterned outfits? That sounds more like it.

My fashion choices as a child, or the choices my mother made for me, never cease to amaze me. They fill me with a desire to throw out all that I own now and start fresh, with adult-sized replicas of everything I wore before I hit ten.

Instead, to maintain my bank account and some semblance of sanity, I’ll settle for swooning over these photographs – again, and again, and again…

Here I am, sitting pretty with my grandparents’ stuffed cat on their
“spinny chair,” both of which are still in their house. Look at the dress.
Gorgeous, right? I’m not biased. It’s not me that makes the photo cute…

Here’s me again, on my third birthday, according to the candles on the cake.
Again, I’m wearing a frilly, puffy, little-girl equivalent of a ball gown.

Until recently, I would look at these photos and think nothing of the dresses. Now, I want to know exactly what’s up with the heaps of photos of me in beautiful, fancy dresses. How many formal occasions did I attend at age three? Not many. According to my mom, these designer dresses – handed down by one of her friends’ daughters – were all I would put on for at least a couple years of my life.

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The Red Boot Boogie

I grew up in the middle of prairie nowhere. My hometown has 1,500 people and no traffic lights. My first Ukrainian dancing classes were held in the elementary school gym and, Ukrainian dance being wildly popular throughout Alberta, our local dance club was enormous. I remember very little about my earliest years of Ukrainian dancing. I asked my mom how old I was when I began.
“Four,” she said. “And they made you audition.”
“They did not!” I exclaimed. Not only did I have no memory of auditions, but it really just didn’t seem possible. My mom explained, “They stuck you in a room, taught you a few steps, and then decided whether to put you in Pre-Beginner or, you know… Idiot.”
“And was I an idiot?” I asked.
“No,” said my Mom. “No, you were not.”

Further discussion revealed that, while I was no slouch in the dance department, my mom felt she could have used some remedial lessons in How to Be a Dancing Mother. Sewing my first costume, she told me, was a challenge. “The club bought the material for your skirts in bulk and then sold it to us to sew ourselves. There was a lady who held meetings to make sure we were doing it right, but I never was. Eventually I wised up and paid someone else to do it for me.” At four years old, I could have cared less about my dance costume and I wailed like an ambulance when it came time for her to French-braid my hair. What I l-o-o-o-o-ved, however, was the makeup. I have no idea where this originated or why, but for the longest time one did not perform Ukrainian dancing on stage without these crazy little wings drawn out of the corners of one’s eyes. We used to call them “fishtails.”

“Of course, I never got that right, either,” said my mom. “I was a failure of a dancing mother. It’s a wonder you turned out to love it as much as you do.” But she wasn’t a failure at all. And I do love it. Today, at 20 years old, I dance with Edmonton’s Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Company. In the years between my very first costume and now, I have worn scores of skirts, aprons, blouses, boots, and headpieces, the details of which both amaze and amuse (and sometimes annoy) me.


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