Every day is dress-up day for one Chicago family

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with Professor Foster (his “Brown Mom” wife), their daughter Viva, and her many tutus, dresses, hats and tiara.

This past weekend Chicago again acted as host to “C2E2” — the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.  It’s a Comic-Con, although like most major Comic-Cons, “Comics” play a fairly modest role in the whole thing, with games, TV, and movies stealing much of Thor, God of Thunder’s thunder. I’ve never been to C2E2 myself – I seem to always have to work, and my 2-year-old daughter still seems a little young and a little small for a convention center full of Skrulls, White Walkers, Ring Wraiths, and whatever other fantastical horrors stalk the floors. Still, a number of my friends attended with their kids, mostly sons, dressed as Yoda, as Deadpool, as Minecraft people, etc., etc. I would have been jealous of these “cosplay”ers (that’s geek speak for “Costume Play” – dressing up like fictional properties), except every day is dress-up day in the Rocco house.

You see, my daughter Viva has really taken to the ritual of dressing up, sometimes just in fancy or frilly dresses, sometimes in costumes – ballerina outfits, princess dresses, witches, bees, fairies, bugs. Really gender-typical stuff, (don’t know if it’s because she’s hard wired that way or because our houses is stuffed to the gills with tulle, lace, and marabou) and it’s pretty damned adorable.

Most mornings, dress-up is demanded before breakfast. It’s right from the crib to the costume bins, and we’re usually (all of us) in skirts and wings and cloaks and antennae singing and dancing before the coffee pot has even beeped.

This weekend she asked to dress in a full witch’s’ outfit, pointy hat and all, to help Daddy make brunch. It was pretty adorable, since the only witch I’ve ever seen cook before is Paula Deen. Afterwards, when I asked if she wanted to go on a walk, she acquiesced only on the condition that she be allowed to stay dressed as a witch. A black and orange witch. In April. (Doesn’t she know her colors were out of season? Couldn’t she be a pastel witch?) So walk we did, with all the neighbors chuckling at the little spring witch smelling tulips and chasing bunnies.

I know we’re not the only family whose kid is pretty adamant about dress-up, and somehow, in the last decade or so, kids dressing-up to go about daily errands seems pretty commonplace. I regularly see Iron Men and Spider Man in the grocery store, no time near Halloween. I saw two Sophia the Firsts in Target the other day. Sisters, presumably, neither of them willing to defer to role of Princess Sophia in favor of being her rappin’ bunny sidekick. They strolled through housewares in long pearls and purple pseudo-Regency era garb. It was cute. It was weird, but it was cute.

I don’t think wearing costumes when not trick or treating was a thing when I was little. But, then, over-the-counter costume technology has really improved since the ‘70s and ‘80s. Now there are affordable Batman and Sith Lord suits for toddlers and little kids with built-in muscles and utility belts. Thirty-plus years ago there were only those plastic aprons that tore when you stepped into them, topped with sharp plastic face masks held on by a brittle rubber band. The faces barely looked like their subjects – a blond vaguely human face could be Luke Skywalker or Luke Duke – and sometimes the aprons didn’t even look like the characters clothes, they would just say “The A Team” or “Donkey Kong” on them. These costumes were ugly, sweaty, and ill-fitting, and really, did any kid want to go to the store dressed as Chachi or Mork or Vinnie Barbarino?

So now kids get to live their fantasies every day – dress like Doc McStuffins or Ahsoka Tano and strut their way to the cupcake shop. What does this mean for the future? I don’t know. Maybe a more creative and open-minded generation of humans, ready to embrace new ideas and holding a flexible idea of identity. Or perhaps they’ll all be horribly self-indulgent man-children who think light sabers are real, even though there’s really nothing on the end of those things to keep the beam from continuing on into the sky forever.

Whatever the outcome, times have changed, and while I never got to indulge my inner Fonzie or Count von Count to head out to the Dairy Queen as a lad, my daughter is calling for me right now while wearing a full Tinkerbell getup, and the way she’s swinging that wand at me implies she wants me to stop typing.

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