Monday, 31 October 2016

The Dressing Up Box

Attic Treasures by John O'Brien
I usually do a more serious post for All Hallows Eve, or throw a lavish ball. But this year we are nursing our old Maine Coon Munchkin LeStrange and as he is poorly our cottage is a little quieter than usual at this time of the season. Celebrations are kept at minimum so he can sleep.

Our ghostly mantle overlooked by a Victorian champion amongst racehorses,  Stockwell.

We have a lot of candles lit, we are stocked up on chocolate to drink and to give out to the small Trick or Treat ones who call upon us.

Our cottage door and walk are hung with Halloween decorations, as each year, to make the children welcome and Mrs Black is watching for them. I hope they knock soon!

Dog Ghosts!
While Munchkin has been resting I have been putting the time to good use on the never ending task of a dealer in antiquities ~ sorting. Munchkin seems to be comforted by me and the various boxes of items spread about and he slumbers in his basket at the centre of it all.

The real life home of collector Vervia Todd
This reminded me of my youth and the 'Dressing Up Boxes' which children of yesteryear would have had at their disposal. I can remember the delight with which I first delved into such a box in the attic of the Grandmother of a friend of mine. It was a cedar chest and in it was a satin and tulle ball gown, beaded flapper dresses, a velvet opera cape, long lace gloves and hats with feathers and jewels. It had little compartments on top which lifted out. In these were long lace gloves, paste brooches and headbands which looked like crowns to me. On the very bottom of the box were silk slippers from the 20s. They were tiny and encrusted with beads. This was as close as I ever got to being Cinderella.

It's easy to make a Dressing Up Box for your children, or yourself!
My own life was nowhere near as grand as this though we too played dressing up, from a cardboard box of discarded items. Once in awhile we visited thrift shops and I was allowed to gather old velvet dresses or capes to play in.

Such stuff as dreams.
Fit for any Princess to play act in.
A velvet dressing gown from Toast.
Like many portals which have the power to transport us to somewhere else, to turn us into someone else, (or our real selves,) Dressing Up Boxes never lose their appeal. They may not be as dramatic as the wardrobe in C.S Lewis's wonderful tale, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but the magic is there.

The Wardrobe
I know that we are encouraged to 'grow up', set aside our Fairy Tales and childish costumes and live in the real world. I believe this is a mistake. The real world is full of beauty and dread, good and evil. Fairy Tales help prepare us for this, and a little escapism does us some good from time to time.

Helena Bonham Carter in Twelfth Night
Read more From Here:
 Halloween, and any dress up which children play, teaches them to use their imagination. Wanting to dress up and act out characters is not new, the Victorians loved doing this, and the kings and queens of old always held masquerades and kept a jester. Shakespeare certainly knew this!

Today, more than ever, those who inherit this Earth will need to be able to use their wits to find their way. And to believe.

I'm sharing some of my favourite Halloween moments from my internet travels.

Proud 30s/40s children playing dress up at school

vintage Halloween costumes

Photo by Johanna Parker Design on Flickr

This child Porcupine is brilliant!

Bring your horse too!

Alas! Sad Squid.
Oldies but goodies, always well dressed
The Stones
I'd also like to say that dressing up is not just for Halloween. It's easy this time of year to wrap up warm and forget the joy a little ornamentation brings to us, and to those who look at us. Couture has known this forever, and although few of us could afford to buy the creations they bring each season, it is simple to do small things to enhance our Autumn and Winter outfits. Or you might even get lucky and find a real vintage designer item at a charity shop for a song. Take some inspiration from films, paintings and celebrities. And vintage copies of Vogue.

"You don't have to be born beautiful to be wildly attractive"
Diana Vreeland, Vogue

Use of a dramatic colour brightens your look
La Sargantaine, Ramón Casas i Carbó, 1907
You can never go wrong with Audrey. Or Chanel. Just add pearls.

Audrey Hepburn
Eternally classic.
Breakfast At Tiffany's

Diane Keaton in her own clothes

Details of Florence Welch's Gucci gown, and her rings.
Television shows based upon Victorian/Edwardian and 20s/30s/40s characters offer many ideas for outfits.  Not just for ladies either, that coat Sherlock wears is such a classic. The scarf is great too. The costumes in Peaky Blinders and Penny Dreadful are fantastic and would be fairly easy to borrow bits from.

One for him, the Sherlock Holmes coat and scarf.
Peaky Blinders, the 'ladies'
Peaky Blinders, Thomas Shelby played by Cillian Murphy
 smouldering in his wardrobe

Equally stylish
Vanessa Ives and gunslinger Ethan Chandler
Penny Dreadful

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful
Wearing a wonderful velvet and braid over collar on her long coat
Don't forget the looks from the 50s/60s. Think beautiful wool in shocking colours, tactile tweed and coats in fabulous shapes. Add a vintage handbag and remember to wear a brooch. For a more updated look wear a few brooches at the same time!

1958 coats by Cardin and Jacques Griffe

I'd not wear real fur, but this girl has a great look!
She really knows how to wear brooches! And the black trousersuit.
From her own blog, Here:

Add jewels or a feather to your hat (wear a hat!) throw a shawl over your shoulder and clasp it with a glittery brooch.

Wear all those bracelets or beads you've been keeping, all at once. Wear velvet in the day. Go on, you know you want to!

Green velvet silk dressing gown, from Toast

Take inspiration from Beatrix Ost,
street style post from the blog Advanced Style
 written by Ari Seth Cohen

Wear black if it suits you, and gloves
A true inspiration. Model, actress, and owner of over 100 hats
Marion Rogers "Mimi' Weddell (February 15, 1915 – September 24, 2009)
Read more about her, Here:
And on her Wiki page, Here:

Make like 30s film stars and wear pajamas to a party.
Monsoon collection 2016
And don't forget if you have children or Grandchildren to help them find their own Dressing Up Box.

I am very grateful that someone still reads my ramblings, and to all of you who do I wish you a magical Autumn (or Fall as we say in my hometown) and I hope that the Winter will be kind to you and that you and yours stay warm and safe, And a little decorated!

Further reading:

A couple of my previous Halloween posts, so sorry if you missed attending the Witch's Ball! I might have another next year.

Two Doors Down From The Witch, Here:

The Witch's Ball, Here:

Artist of Attic Treasures which I opened this post with, Here:


  1. Amazing collection of amazing photos! Porcupine gets my vote hands down.

  2. Great to see you Susan! Hope you have enjoyed Halloween, and the season. I have a soft spot for that Porcupine myself. x

  3. So many great photos! That little porcupine really is adorable. I've always admired Diane Keaton's style - such class!

    1. I agree, Diane is unique, beautiful, talented and goes her own way. x

  4. A very inspirational post, as always. :)

    I was so happy to hear you are back. And that you had written a Halloween entry, although I have only been able to finish reading it now. But, as you say, dressing up isn't only for Halloween and I agree with you. I had great fun with my costume box as a child and this winter I am enjoying wearing my red nail polish and colourful sweaters. It makes the cold season seem less bleak!

    I wish Munchkin LeStrange a wonderful and cosy retirement. My cat Luna retired several years ago too and then had to move on to the cemetery. Though it was sad, knowing I was witnessing a slow parting gave me the wonderful chance to say goodbye to her really thoroughly, if you know what I mean; it didn't feel like a loss in the end, because I had said goodbye to her so many times and had had so many quality last moments with her. If he is still with you, please give Munchkin LeStrange a kiss and cuddle from a German cat lover.

    By the way, have you read the second part of "Midnight, Moonlight and Magic"? Hester and her friends exchanged their summer dresses for something more appropriate as they came together for their special meeting in the forest. Come and have a look, if you haven't yet. :)

    Best wishes,

  5. Great to see you Susan! Hope you have enjoyed Halloween, and the season.

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