Tete-a-tete Archives

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Tete-a-tete: I mustache you a question about costume practicality

Today is Halloween, the one day of the year on which children and adults alike can wear costumes in public without (for the most part) drawing confused stares from passers-by. For those of us who wish these occasions came up more often, however, there is a haven: the Renaissance faire.

Each year, my family and a band of fellow enthusiasts make the trek down to King Richard’s Faire in Carver, Mass., for just this purpose – to dress up and enjoy ourselves.

We aren’t nearly at the level of the majority of attendees – there is no corsetry or historically accurate armor involved – but we do get quite creative with our attire. This is largely due to Mom’s cedar closet, which is a cross between Mary Poppins’ carpet bag and the magical wardrobe that leads into Narnia.

Inside the cedar closet, you’ll find everything from an opera cloak edged in ostrich feathers to a deerstalker hat that would make Sherlock Holmes envious. Mom generously shares her eclectic collection of vintage items and costume pieces amongst our merry contingent to enhance what everyone has already put together.

Mom’s influence has emboldened my youngest siblings and their friends to take a rather visionary approach to their Renaissance faire ensembles. This year, for example, 16-year-old Youngest Brother and his buddies decided to incorporate fake facial hair into their outfits.

They bought a six-pack of assorted mustaches and beards from a party supply store and distributed them among the four of them. One of the young men selected a mustache that made him look like Inigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride.”

I told him as much, but regrettably, he had never seen the movie. I added “The Princess Bride” to my mental list of Movies Youngest Brother and His Friends Must Watch so I Can Make Culturally Relevant Statements and resisted the urge to warn Youngest Brother’s friend about the six-fingered man.

On the day we attended, King Richard’s Faire actually held a special beard and mustache contest, complete with prizes. I encouraged Youngest Brother and his friends to enter, but Youngest Brother felt uncomfortable subjecting his artificial handlebar to close scrutiny, especially since the mustache’s original adhesive had worn off and he had stuck it to his upper lip with duct tape.

As you may imagine, Youngest Brother’s mustache soon became more of an annoyance than an accessory. He was forced to concede that the duct tape had been a mistake and relegated the mustache to his pocket.

Younger Sister and her friends decided against the fake facial hair trend and invested in masks instead – the type you might find at a masquerade ball that cover only the space around the wearer’s eyes. Now that I come to think of it, though, these masks could actually be considered “eye mustaches,” in that they lend a certain charisma and air of mystery to their wearers.

Unlike the fake facial hair, however, the masks didn’t need to be stuck on with duct tape, and the girls were able to wear them comfortably for the duration of the faire.

I wish I could say I followed their sensible example, but my choice of accessory for the day was more in keeping with the boys’ in terms of impracticality.

One of the best places to find things to wear to a Renaissance faire is, of course, at a Renaissance faire. When we attended the Sterling (N.Y.) Renaissance Festival a few years ago, I fell in love with and purchased an extraordinary necklace consisting of the lock from an antique desk surrounded by peacock feathers. As a writer, I find the necklace’s connection to my craft quite appealing; plus, it’s really pretty.

It is also, unfortunately, rather heavy – this lock is a significant piece of hardware – so I don’t put it on until we arrive at the faire and I take it off when we get back in the van. Otherwise, I’d be looking for a hot pack for my neck by the time we returned home.

Impracticality, however, is part of the fun of dressing up. Costumes exist to give us a break from functionality and responsibility. So today on Halloween, I encourage you to embrace impracticality and get creative with your ensemble for trick-or-treating, the office party or your friend’s shindig.

But since even the most nonfunctional items, like fake mustaches, sometimes need a little help to fulfill their function, I suggest bringing a roll of duct tape, just in case.

– Teresa Santoski


Originally published Oct. 31, 2013.

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