Pami Therese Estalilla

Circle of fancies

LITTLE girls (and some little boys) love to play dress-up. Some eventually outgrow this game. Some never do.

Those in the second category manage to apply this love for dressing up in their adult lives. They become “cosplayers”, models, fashionistas and actors, clothing themselves in different roles, different facades, different back-stories, if you will.

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Being a guilty member of the percentage that never managed to outgrow it, I understand why it can be addicting. Dressing the part is the first step to living a fantasy.

There are days we want to step away from our everyday selves and into a different persona. This doesn’t mean we try to be someone else entirely; rather, we try to tap into an aspect of ourselves that we are rarely able to entertain. In every film, we may try to put ourselves in the hero’s shoes, but no man is a complete protagonist in real life- we are all, instead, mosaics of hero, villain and bystander; we are wise old kings, wicked witches, jovial raconteurs and ferocious dragons all rolled into one tapestry of fairytale and nightmare.

When you’re so often stereotyped as Mr. Nice Guy, it is incredibly refreshing to don a villain’s cape, whether it’s for a stage audience of hundreds or the office Halloween Party. And by donning the cape, I mean truly tapping into that villainous streak that you suppress with the best of intentions- that little cackle of laughter in the bottom of your soul that you can almost hear when your co-workers almost make it inside the elevator doors, but don’t. It is ever so liberating to let it unfurl into full-force diabolical laughter (sans convenient crack of lightning) when you’re in the right setting for it, when you’re dressed the part and can attribute it to “acting”. (To tell you the truth, though- all actors, as well as all storytellers in every form, borrow heavily from themselves.)

Not only are the seeming opposites of our everyday selves so comforting to step into.

“Enhanced” versions of ourselves are perhaps the most tempting to dress up as- personas that are very similar to us in essence, yet bigger in many ways. Characters that are a lot like us in personality or appearance, but are ultimately more powerful, more accomplished, more beautiful.

Putting on their clothes (and demeanor) is a lot like moving inches closer to those versions of ourselves that we wish we were or aspire to become someday. I suspect that this has a lot to do with who people choose to portray in cosplay events and costume parties.

But it’s not limited to costumes. Personally, as I approach my wardrobe every morning, I let my mood decide who I am to be. As a result, I occasionally attend formal affairs in sando and jeans, and casual ones in Gothic party dress. (I do forgo the velvet and knee-high boots on sweltering hot days.) Why do I frequently go to the effort of full-blown outfits to tackle my daily nondescript routines? Because when I’m feeling rotten, dressing prettily makes me feel otherwise. (And I am NOT a morning person.)

Dressing up is not just vanity (though there’s that too)- it’s expression. Not all of us can spew sonnets like the Great Bard, or weave pain into pretty colors like Van Gogh. But we can clothe ourselves in our own exclamations, and in that way, be the canvas for our inner works of art.