Costumes From Nature

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Night flying moth costume with sparkles

Wearing The Garden

With Halloween on the horizon, my thoughts are turning to costume making. As a child, I loved making my own costumes, from a bat with big wings sewn on from wrist to ankle to a bird with hand-cut paper feathers to a mushroom (lots of paper mache over chicken wire) and a many-petaled rose with a ruffly skirt made from recycled prom gowns (which cost a quarter each at the annual town rummage sale). Apart from the occasional fairy, nearly all my costumes were inspired by the time I spent in the garden or playing in the nearby woods. These days, my grandkids are always more excited about the costumes than about the candy, partly because they have a family tradition of the generous and funny Halloween Witch, who trades toys and books for excess candy (isn’t that brilliant?).

We also make a lot of everyday costumes, which might include impromptu capes and crowns, or robot arms or giant eyes, but Halloween calls for even bolder designs, from enormous wings and stuffed octopus arms (made from many pairs of old tights attached to a single waistband; it jiggled in a very peculiar way and looked oddly pornographic even on a four year old). Last year, my grandson made a fantastic costume of a blood sucking mosquito, with a very long proboscis and plump belly full of flashing red lights to look like blood (battery powered for freedom of movement). He’s equally as inventive as his sister, if usually in a different direction, and they both enjoy coming up with wild ideas that somehow actually become a costume.

Lions And Moths And Herbs, Oh My!

My granddughter is often nature inspired in her art, and at 6 years old, she’s already an ardent herbalist with well over 50 herbs she can recognize and explain uses for. Last year, she and her mom concocted an amazing night flying moth costume, which made excellent use of Granny’s outrageous fabric stash. This year, she’s making her own costume with just a little help; she’s dressing up as one of her favorite herbs, Self-Heal (aka Prunella vulgaris, heart-of-the-earth, heal-all, and woundwort). I’m thrilled about this, as I’m also fond of self-heal, and I’ve always left this modest herb to wander in and around the garden, honoring its popularity with pollinators as well as its ancient healing history. Native to North America, it’s also considered circumboreal, widely distributed throughout Europe and Eurasia. Like others of the mint clan, this sturdy perennial has made its way throughout the world’s temperate zones, finding favor with pretty much every culture that recognizes it. I’m not sure exactly why this demure plant captured my granddaughter’s imagination. However, she’s hard at work creating large leaves that will cover her arms, and a clever  headdress that will be studded with purple florets. I definitely look forward to seeing what she comes up with this time!

This morning I was asked to help create a lion costume for a participant in the Senior Center’s upcoming Queer Bingo event. There’s nothing more fun than a surprise request for a little creativity and I’m already searching for just the right materials. For the mane, I’m inspired by the humble calendula, with its shaggy heads of yellow, orange, or tawny petals. I’ll make both a stretchy head piece and a long tail from strips of cloth and long loops of fuzzy yarn in those autumnal colors, and face paint can do the rest of the work. If the process goes well and supplies hold out, I’ll make a sunny calendula headdress for myself, what could be more cheerful? Plus as costumes go, that might be a pretty simple one to make and wear, important when I’ll be at a crowded bingo event (a scholarship fundraiser for LGBTQA students) where delicate details won’t count but sturdy flexibility will be my friend. Now I have to ask: What are YOU going as?

Calendulas are always cheerful and almost ever blooming


This entry was posted in Annual Color, Crafting With Children, Gardening With Children, Hardy Herbs, Native Plants, Pollination Gardens, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living, Teaching Gardening and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Costumes From Nature

  1. Nancy (Nurk) Swenson says:

    Thank you, I just love you blog!!! I’d love to see your granddaughters finished costume. Eben suggested following you. We. Worked together for the forest service back in the early 80’s.

  2. Judith Huck says:

    Your granddaughters moth costume is fabulous! It’s unique, and well done. Kudos to her. Please share this year’s costumes if you get a chance.

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