I’ve finally made us a “dress-up box”. All the sparkly skirts, hand-me-down dance costumes from cousins, fairy wands gifted for Christmas, wings and things – all in the one place. It’s stored in the garage for good reason – my girls go mad for it, so I pull it out when they need a break from their regular toys or when the weather is a little soggy. I figure this helps to keep it special.




The dress-up box I grew up with was a little treasure trove. I still remember the smell of the clothes, the weight of them while I sorted through to the bottom, trying to locate my favourite thing. Which was: a long, rose-pink, silky skirt. I don’t know wear it came from, but it was fabulous. Very boho-chic. My Dad used to play the guitar in the lounge some nights while us kids danced about wearing our dress-ups. I remember the unpainted walls, our drawings tacked up instead of wallpaper, Dad’s voice (quite good actually) and concentrated face, my brother running around in circles in some underpants over tights combo and the feeling of silk swishing around my ankles.




Dress-ups are one of our first experiences making up characters. I’m the princess, you’re the fairy. No, hang on, I’m the fairy princess, you find something else to wear. Sometimes it’s not even so clear who you are being, just that you are being someone a bit different from your regular self. Like when I wore that pink skirt. A pink-skirt wearing girl would dance like this. She’d be bolder and braver and like me, but better. That’s sometimes how characters are made when I am writing – a person much like me but different or exaggerated in one or two aspects. Over the course of the writing they become completely their own person, but to start with they are a lot like me, with a question or problem or past that makes them different in an important way. I guess it’s because ideas and plots often come to me when I think “What would I do if…”




Watching my girls playing in their dress-ups takes me back to those magical moments of early creativity; it sends a thrill through me that they are starting to ¬†invent stories and characters and worlds of their own. It’s such a wonder to watch I’m already making a list of new dress-ups I want to get (pirate eye-patches, doctors kits, witches broomsticks). I’m looking forward to rummaging in thrift stores for things that little people could wear – old fashioned waistcoats or funny hats, silky scarves. This feels like a fun, new stage of play and I am loving it. And as for playing dress-ups in the garden: fallen puka leaves used as umbrellas, a pile of pohutakawa branches a nest, the line of the hedge forming a stage… Nature makes the best props – don’t you agree?




Did you have a dress-ups box? What was your favourite thing to wear or story to create?

HUGS, Hannah x