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Outnumbered by Urchins

I did fittings for kids in Oliver! last night. I survived, and no one cried (not even me.) Oh, right, there are 17 children in the cast. And they each play at least two parts, which require costume changes. I’m not good with kids, for much the same reason that I have no future in particle physics: I’m really bad with things that won’t hold still long enough to me to get a good look at them. Honestly. I didn’t even like studying living micro-buggies in Biology, because they wiggle out of view under the microscope and by the time you’re done writing a note you have to go hunting across the slide for them. (You wouldn’t think something could hide on a clear glass slide, would you?) These kids are high energy. They jump, bounce, boing, quiver, fidget, shuffle-in-place, jog-in-place, and I swear one of them was doing jumping jacks without ever actually moving limbs. I find them horribly distracting. It was like being stuck in a world designed like one of those web sites that serve as a home for wayward animated icons. This is why these kids are skinny. I was really never a skinny kid, and I don’t think I was ever able to move that fast or that constantly in my life. I’m the kind of person who has lap cats, mostly because I’m the kind of person who has a lap that spends large periods of time unmoving so the cats have had a chance to learn that it’s part of the furniture.
I’ve never had to costume children before, outside of one halloween dress for the world’s smallest (and most incredibly well behaved) Cinderella. I’ve never wanted to costume children, for several reasons: 1) fast moving, boingy little things and pins are not a really good combination, 2) if I really wanted to make costumes for things the size of my cats, I would be costuming my cats, and most importantly, 3) I’m a child-ist. You know, the kind of “ist” where you can be ok with some members of a particular group on a one-on-one basis, but you just don’t like seeing a bunch of them all together? I kinda pride myself on not having many of the ists and isms, but I definitely have one about kids. And now there’s this whole social movement that wants us all to believe that we should respect other people’s parenting strategies, so we can’t yell at their kids or put them in timeout, or tell them how to address adults or use their adult voice and make real words, or generally how they might best impersonate a human being. So I’m really not comfortable being around them, because at some point I’m going to tell one of them that their tone is disrespectful and the will wear the costume they are told to wear, and that child is going to go run and tell their mommy on me. I’ve been trained, since early childhood, that my ultimate goal at all times is to avoid any behavior that results in having *any* mommy told on me because no good will ever come of it. Unfortunately, most of these kids seem to be devoid of that training, which gives them something of a strategic advantage. I’m also fairly certain they’re harboring all sorts of diseases, which they are gleefully spreading. I feel there’s a scientific basis for my beliefs. And if that isn’t the hallmark of an ist, I don’t know what is.
Anyway, I didn’t stab any of the little buggers, but I did have to explain to one that if he didn’t stop wigging his little behind in my face, there would be a huge pin stuck in it, then tetanus, then DEATH. No, really, it went very well, except for the bit where there were ten of them in the green room, all wanting their costumes to try on at once. I had had everything organized into labelled areas of the racks, up to that point. Fortunately, there was a very patient production manager present, who was able to reset the volume on the children periodically. She also knew their names, which is good, because children seem to think that clustering up in groups of three-of-these-kids-are-kind-of-the-same and talking in unison, or constantly swapping places, and jumping up and down a lot, then kicking up a game of which-one-am-I? is really quite a giggle. Then I end up saying Stupid Adult Things I Swore I Would Never Say(tm), like “MmmmGgggNN…. You know which one you are! Stop jumping up and down and stand still!” (The three names started, respectively, with an M, G, and N. The initial noise was not the sound of me pulling my hair out. I’m pleased to report that no hair was pulled, at least by me.)
They are, of course, adorable. Even the one who has let me know that she hates her costume and doesn’t want to wear it because she should be a BOY and she would like PANTS and and her costume should be BLACK and she’s not going to wear a STUPID HAT EVER SO JUST FORGET IT OK, and who scowls constantly in defiance just in case someone, somewhere, was thinking of asking her to do something. Even she’s cute. Frustrating, but cute. And I’m not even worried about their costumes fitting exactly right, because a) they’re workhouse children and street urchins of the very poor Dickensian subspecies and could not even spell “tailoring” because they are oppressed, illiterate, and starving, and b) they move too fast for anyone to focus on the details. Some of them are even adorable, in way of small stays that will eventually cost an awful lot at the vet.
Anyway, all of this is a lead up to a serious warning: Children do not understand drawstrings, in skirts or pants. So if you’re costuming a bunch of kids, you should probably just use elastic, regardless of appropriateness. (I’m using the drawstrings, primarily so that after the show, I can take them out of the skirts and the pants, and fold the whole lot of workhouse urchin costumes flat for tidy storage. Also, I did not know that the drawstring was a completely foreign technology in the eyes of children.) So, there you go.


  1. Larue
    Larue November 3, 2009

    If you put one of those plastic things on the drawstring to lock it in place they would understand – it is on most ski equipment, and hoods.

    Good luck – having costumed my own children for many years, I completely agree with the vast majority of what is written here.

  2. jencz25
    jencz25 November 4, 2009

    Lace locks, for some unknown reason children are fascinated by the things.

    on the subject of sticking pins in kids I can commiserate, I made the mistake of promising my daughter I would make her one particular princess costume for Halloween, before checking and discovering that the only pattern available for it was three sizes too large for her. while she loved the much altered dress, I lost count of how many times I threatened to stick a pin in her if she didn’t stand still as I was sizing down the bodice and cinching up the skirt to shorten it.

  3. the cheap chick
    the cheap chick November 13, 2009

    Ooo! I’ve been yelled at by a mommy for yelling at her kid before! Not cool. Granted, I didn’t YELL at said kid, I just asked him nicely to stop kicking my seat. And his mom said, “Don’t tell my child what to do. That’s my job.”
    And then I opened fire on the whole family. In my HEAD.

  4. Trish
    Trish November 29, 2009

    I used to be afraid of moms yelling at me about their kids…now I’m a mom and I’ll bite the other mom’s freakin’ head off…RAWR!!!
    I actually get irritated (but not mad) if I turn my back and my son (who is 2.5) does something wrong to someone, and they don’t correct him for fear of me. Anyway…
    So a 2.5 year old is probably even more difficult to fit…just because while running after him to fit the bodice, it’s so small, it’s hard to make markings while holding the wiggle monster down. I kinda just have to hope it fits right.

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