My Halloween Costumes From Years Past

Long before I ever started dressing up in costume for the operas, I spent much of my Septembers and Octobers surreptitiously slaving away in my small bedroom on my Halloween costume for the year. Unsurprisingly, Halloween is my favorite holiday ─ not because of witches and ghouls and black and orange décor, but simply because I have always loved dressing up.

In the spirit of the season, I thought I would share some of my past outfits.

Before learning to sew on a machine, I had to rely on tape, garbage bags, and old sheets to create costumes. In 2013, newspaper was my material of choice…

I went as “Old News” ─ quite literally since all the newspaper used was out of date before the 31st dawned. This costume was well worn: in all, I slipped on the tiered skirt and laced up the “corset” bodice 7-8 times during the season. Thankfully, it never rained.

I love history. It’s an engaging escape for my antiquarian imagination. I also love to learn about the famous (and infamous) characters in history. Not knowing exactly what inspired it, I chose to be Marie Antoinette in 2014. The peruke and panniers were a crafting feat; both were constructed from plastic grocery bags and toilet paper rolls, but that’s where the similarities ended. Long stretches of white cotton were carefully hot glued to the cardboard “curlers” of the wig and then given a misting of watered gray paint. I crocheted the hairy tendrils.
For years I kept the safety pinned skirt of tulle and sheets in a desolate drawer… until I realized that I was never going to wear flimsy cardboard panniers again and my mother wanted her sheets back. “Let them eat cake !”

In the same month that I was introduced to my first opera, my family went on a cruise ! Who would have thought that that cruise would wipe out 2½ months of social activities ? Yes, I came down with a horrible illness during the tail end of the trip that caused me to miss Tannhäuser in HD and Halloween 2015…

Emerald Princess docked in Cozumel

With a new love came a new passion as I taught myself to sew for Madama Butterfly in 2016.

I promise, my hair wasn’t so much a knotted mess when I actually went trick-or-treating…

It’s always great when an opera outfit seamlessly doubles as a Halloween costume. My Queen of the Night getup from Die Zauberflöte was a timely hit…

…as was my Egyptian costume from Aida ! Not only was this costume commenced and completed in under a month, but it was also worn within an hour of arriving home from the matinee encore performance of La Fanciulla del West.

A Gold Rush Girl by day, Cleopatra’s doppelgänger by night… it was a whirlwind Halloween.

Brünnhilde the Valkyrie… Is there anything spookier than a mythical being whose primary purpose is to decide who lives and dies in battle and gathers up the fallen heroes to haul them to Valhalla ???

And just in case you’re wondering, I left my axe at home for the evening…

In all my years of dressing up, I don’t think I ever disguised myself as a princess; maybe a witch in a long, black gown or Miss America, but never a princess. The plush pink 1890’s ball gown from Manon was my outlet for elegance and grace, living out every little girl’s fantasy.

Clearly my long-time love of dressing up has played a starring role in my life. The only question left is… what will I wear this Halloween ?

Happy Halloween !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Baby Clothes for Hope

I have a friend. She is very dear to me… Her name is Faith ! In 2010, we met on Twitter and hit it off almost instantly, whereupon we soon became pen pals. In a way, I have lived life’s major milestones through Faith: I’ve watched her marry the love of her life and then have a daughter of her own. When Faith announced she was pregnant, I knew I wanted to make some very special things for her precious daughter, Hope.

Hope’s birth announcement photo

Her name is very sentimental. Faith and her husband Tyler had hoped for a baby for a long while. And they also hoped for a girl. See the connection ? No name could be better suited to someone who had so much hope behind her !

One of the patterns that my friend, Gisele, had offered me from her yard sale stash was a children’s pattern from the early 90’s. I thought it was darling and knew it would be adorable for Hope.

Simplicity 9685

As I browsed the scant fabric aisles at Walmart, I fingered over the perfect fabric for the dress: peacock print ! Faith and her family have had peacocks as pets and have an affinity for them. What could be better ? In addition to Hope’s tie back dress, I decided to make a matching one for her cousin, Grace, born two months earlier.

And here are the two baby cousins wearing their matching dresses on Mother’s Day:

Faith, her sister, Angel, with their mother, Angela, and Hope and Grace

Didn’t I tell you they love peacocks ? Look at all the feathers !

But I wasn’t done ! In addition to the matching dresses, I also sewed the romper from the same pattern envelope in pink gingham with a scalloped border of lace… sweet, very sweet !

Rompers (and onesies) are the hallmark of comfort. Hope modeled the style when she visited Grandpa Joe over the summer…

I also wanted Hope to have a fancy outfit so I sewed her a pink dress in crepe back satin and organza leftover from my Manon ballgown. In a craft bin at Walmart, I found a matching flower clip, which could be removed to wash the dress. Baby clothes, regardless of how fancy or frivolous, need to be washable. Very washable.

The pattern in size “0-3 months” was free from the Melly Sews blog. https://mellysews.com/sew-a-baby-dress-with-free-pattern/ Thank you, Melissa ! Hope looked like an uptown girl in her coordinating floral dress…

Hope and Grace ─ the two cousins

I couldn’t resist the urge to sew some girly-girl ruffles so I made a diaper cover with layers of pink patterned flounces on the back. Using my Baby Lock serger to both finish and gather the ruffles made the process a bundle of fun. Out of everything I sewed for Hope, this one was my favorite !

And off she goes !

The last item I created for Hope was a pair of knitted booties. As a mainstay of baby showers, I felt this was a genuine way to celebrate Hope’s arrival. And while I was not able to attend the actual baby shower in Idaho, my handmade clothes and booties were unwrapped with greatest appreciation and delight. From Florida, with love…

Having a niece has been a delight ! Faith and I have already been discussing different dress ideas for when Hope grows up. Of these, the most anticipated design is a Cinderella gown─ a character and story that is as cherished to Faith as our friendship is to the both of us.

Very cherished, indeed.

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Acoustic Eidolon

I was touched ─ I really was ─ when I was invited with a handful of others to a private concert being given at the clubhouse of a quaint little neighborhood community nearby. While different from my usual opera outings, I figured it would be a welcome change to expand my musical horizons. And for $15, it was a fair deal.
Consisting of a husband and wife duo, Acoustic Eidolon blends classicism with the folkloric adding a healthy smattering of rousing blues and lyric verses. Hannah, with her “chocolate” cello, played with both tenderness and gusto while at times accompanying the pieces with her angelic voice ─ sometimes in French. Hypnotic and melodic, she could justly be described as a siren without the impending danger.
Joe, simultaneously picking and strumming his inventive “guitjo” (a double-necked guitar with banjo capabilities), was the pragmatist ─ the frank one ─ of the two. Often times he would provide the punch line at the culmination of one of Hannah’s soulful stories such as the time when her cello was severely damaged during airport baggage handling. “United [Airlines],” Joe sneered with mock surprise. “But you probably knew that before I said it.” Snickers bubbled from the audience.
Their set list was unique. Joining covers of Simon and Garfunkel’s eerie “The Sound of Silence” and Queen’s stupendous “Bohemian Rhapsody” (their “opera piece”, Joe claimed) were original compositions from the couple’s various albums over the years including some with global flavors. In particular, my favorite of these was “One Ol’ Wreck”, a bustling bluesy tribute to Joe’s love of cars complete with Hannah’s uncannily realistic “honks” manufactured by the skill of her bow. It had my skinny stiletto tapping in time on the floor. Vroom, vroom !

Any event, no matter how small or informal, is an excuse to dress up for me. And that’s just what I did. During my opera off-season the previous year, I had made a handkerchief hem skirt using Vogue 7766.

Vogue 7766

Initially, I intended to use this pattern for my Valkyrie skirt, but aborted the idea in favor of an alternative approach. While the plan was jettisoned, the pattern was not and I was elated to have a chance to put it to good use, proudly outfitted in a bold striped sateen from Fabric Mart Fabrics. It mingled well as a dressier look: sheer gloves, glitter stilettos, and my mother’s classic Robert Scott sweater from the 70’s/80’s all coordinated in a chic statement.

Meeting Hannah and Joe after the concert was a treat ! They were personable and Hannah especially remarked on how much she appreciated my effort and style in fashion: “When I saw you walk into the room, I said to myself, ‘Now there’s a woman after my own heart ─ the shoes, the skirt, the gloves, the matching purse… !'” How could I not blush ? I was flattered.

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

For more information about Acoustic Eidolon, please visit their website !

Event: Acoustic Eidolon concert
Date: February 16, 2020