The Dress Up Trunk (Warning: Lots of parenthetic descriptors)

The dress up trunk started as a labor of love by my Mom for Elise and I. She spent hours scouring remnant bins at SewFro and Hancock’s. She spent even more hours sewing elastic sequin belts and little skirts and dresses and pirate costumes. She donated some old, strange jewelry to the cause (think peach pit necklace she was given at a Mardi Gras parade). She poured a lot of love into that box… And the whole time she was doing it, all my Dad could think was, “Poor Kelley… They are NEVER going to play with that thing…”

Boy, was he wrong.

As you can see, Elise is having a marvelous time in her metallic top, tutu, pirate skirt, curling ribbon tiara, and genuine Ruby Slippers. (The general rule with the DUT is the more the merrier: the more articles of clothing you can adorn yourself with at a single time, the happier you will be. Good job, Elise!)

The Dress Up Trunk

Elise and I wore it until it was threadbare, and gave it to friends, who also loved it to shreds and then gave it to their cousins. The oddball collection of costumes was one of the coolest things we owned. It was a creative outlet and a gateway for our imaginations. We spent hours playing boarding school (Seriously… I was always the teacher, we were usually in Eastern Europe, and Elise, the perpetual pupil, was having to run away or be hidden from something, so the game always began with a journey of epic proportions, and that journey of epic proportions, for reasons I don’t remember, almost always began in her closet), pirate ship, magical princess ball, and, every girl’s favorite, wedding day (don’t worry, Elise got to be the bride sometimes… Not nearly as often as me, of course). I can’t stress enough how much we loved that thing.

Those memories are what drove me to make a contemporary facsimile of the infamous dress up trunk as a Christmas gift for my 5 year-old (for all intents and purposes) step daughter Caroline and her two younger half-sisters.

So I began. I scoured the remnants bin at Joann’s, came up with little (it’s the 20-tweens, a lamé drought!), and scoured for coupons instead. If you are not yet in the know, you can get any item in the store at any given time for at least 40% off. Seriously. They always have sales running and coupons available, either in the store, in mailers, or online. I got great deals on all kinds of fun fabrics. They have a whole aisle, which I have fondly dubbed “The Quinceñera Depot,” where one can find about ten different styles of fancy, wedding-inspired apparel fabric in about 20 different colors. I had a field day. I didn’t even know that they made aqua lace, much less that I could get a yard of it for less than $5. I also found some light pink knit jersey with navy stripes and skulls. They even make jungle green spandex that has little scale-looking things on it, just like a mermaid’s tail! It’s really pretty amazing, the amount of unique (tacky) things available out there.

I had a windfall during my second trip ever to Hobby Lobby. Trim was on sale! I got several yards of fringe and sequined elastic. I even located some hot pink fringe with sequins in the actual fringe. Woohoo!

Then, I sewed. I sewed and sewed and sewed. I kept sewing some more. I got the world’s coolest serger for my birthday, thanks Mom and Dad, and kept humming right along (though I did so with a new sense of professionalism; all my seams now looked lovely and store-bought). I sewed close to 40 items for that thing. I’m sure Justin, despite hearing Dad’s reassurances that we played with ours until we grew out of all the costumes, wondered if I was crazy at times, staying up until late at night fooling with a tulle skirt that simply wouldn’t come out the way I wanted.

I made a gold pleather skirt (yes, gold pleather exists), several pairs of harem pants (don’t worry, we called them Jasmine pants in front of the munchkin… The last thing I want is her asking me to explain a harem), a head scarf with jingly coins, an indigo satin cape with black glitter stars and moons, a wizard’s cloak with purple sleeves, a black-and-white polka dot skirt, a purple metallic evening gown, an asymmetrical disco-ball dress, a pair of electric yellow and electric blue cheetah print shorts (it’s in the material pic at the top… I wish I had gotten more yardage for myself. I felt that way about several of the fabrics. So did Nikki.)… and a wedding veil and skirt to top them all.

This is, of course, not mentioning the notorious flower girl-turned-princess dress that you can still see traces of in my kitchen sink. This creation started when Justin, Caroline, and I were all in Justin’s best friend Jacob’s wedding to Cami. The wedding was beautiful and went off without a hitch. At the end of it all, though, we ended up with a large-running size six wedding dress replica, which had set me back about $80, that there was no chance in Christendom Caroline would wear again.

(My bridesmaid dress, on the other hand, is a flattering deep purple and will be recycled into an organization in Houston that gives out prom dresses for free to girls who don’t have the money to buy their own dress but still want to go to their prom. They literally just have to call and say they are showing up, and they get a free dress, make-up, and accessories! There are several organizations like this throughout Houston and the entire US. Conduct a search for one in your area if you too have dresses from sorority formals or friends’ weddings collecting dust in your spare bedroom closet. Some organizations also need cocktail-type dresses and give them out for girls to wear to graduation and other senior events, so if that’s all you got bring ’em on!)

Back to the FG dress… What was I to do?

I got the bright idea to dye the 100% polyester creation. It was a disaster. The first time (HA) I dyed it, it came out splotchy. It was no surprise, since apparently polyester is the most difficult thing to dye by far. After round two, this time with a lot more dye and some vinegar to set it, I achieved a reasonable shade of aqua (see Aquamarine, under the blue-green shades). It was still splotchy, but not nearly as noticeable as the first trial. (I’ll make another, separate post with a photographic account of the princess dress, for those of you interested in laughing at my folly.)

I bejeweled it to moderate success, and then I sewed a feather boa around the top of the bodice and sewed on a few dozen beads. Caroline LOVED it.

At the end of her stay, I told her she could keep two outfits here and could take the rest home. Luckily, the princess dress is staying. 🙂 She was torn about leaving her wedding veil. Conclusion: I told her I would make her another one for here. I went back to Joann’s today to buy some more white lace for a veil. I also bought some awesome fabric to make a new wedding skirt, as well as some bright-white brocade for a wedding tunic to go under aforementioned wedding skirt. I hope she will be pleased. I also have some leftover tulle for another skirt for her. I also never actually used the aqua lace and figured it would make lovely sleeves for something, or perhaps a princess something-or-other since it matches that dress quite nicely.

Suffice it to say, I don’t think I’m done with the dress up trunk. Though I am not quite willing to admit it yet, I’ll probably make another dress up trunk’s worth of tacky clothes to stay here at Casa Kaia and Justin.

Which, really, is fine. I absolutely love that girl. I think she is smart and talented and beautiful and amazing and helpful and, well, just a wonderful person. It brings me pure joy to see her face light up when she accomplishes something or her mile-wide smile when she runs to me yelling “My Kaia!” and wiggles into my arms for a hug. I can’t think of anyone or anything better to spend my time and energy on, and that’s the truth.

Watching her open the trunk up was certainly the highlight of my Christmas (the three of us opened gifts as a family on Tuesday, complete with a treasure hunt to find her new bike), and I hope she and her sisters enjoy it. Below are a few pictures of Wedding – Evening Gown Caroline, Rudolph – Gypsy Caroline, and Pirate – Model Caroline. There is also a picture of the munchkin, Justin, and her new bike. Did I mention she’s athletic, too? 🙂