A few days ago, I took the boys to a friend’s house to play. The little girl, we’ll call her O, had a huge collection of dress up clothes and even if she didn’t, I had the feeling that she would play dress up in whatever. She is a little younger than Finn, but she is a lot better at getting in and out of her own clothes than he is; I’m guessing because she changes outfits all the time. We have some dress up clothes at our house, notably an old felt wizard hat and a pair of fuzzy purple glasses that my neighbors were going to give to Goodwill before we took them. It’s not quite the closet O has, with tutus and headbands, baskets of shoes and twirly skirts. O has stuff you might want to dress up in; we have, you know, some old crap.
While we were playing, Finn found a pair of O’s princess high heels. They weren’t real shoes, just little plastic things for dress up. He shoved his giant feet into them and wore them around the house for a long time. By this time of the day, he was also down to wearing a t-shirt and underpants, as he had lost his shorts on a trip to the bathroom and refused to put them back on. My son in pink high heels, underpants and a t-shirt — may I never forget that vision, it was quite cute. I didn’t think to snap a picture.
The next day, I took the boys to the thrift store so we could search for some new clothes. It dawned on me about a week ago that we are depending on Finn’s hand-me-downs for the baby to wear, but that at this age very few of Finn’s clothes (most of them second hand already) are in any condition to be passed on again. So, since the boys seem agreeable to sit in a cart during the August heat, I am taking advantage and making some trips to the thrift stores to find them clothes. Finn disappeared into the middle of a clothes rack and re-emerged with a pair of plastic pink dress up high heels. “I want them,” he said.
Oh right, I thought, this is why I don’t usually bring you shopping with me: you want stuff. I thought the shoes looked too small, but Finn sat on the ground and put them on while I pawed through the racks of baby shorts. He wore them around the store for a good fifteen minutes. Another mother told me he looked adorable. I was ready to buy them — I’m not sure exactly why. Because it’s subversive and that is ok? Because they were cheap and second hand? I mean, in the end, it’s just another piece of plastic junk to fill up our tiny house; he can play with O’s shoes whenever we go to her house, does he need his own pair? But then Finn found a Minnie Mouse doll he liked better and asked for that instead.
I bring up this timely story because we just read Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser, and it is all about dressing up. Nancy likes everything to be fancy. Here I thought my son’s rejection of the worn out old wizard hat in our sad “dress up” drawer meant he didn’t care about being fancy. I am a dummy, though, because he loved this book and he is very, very excited about being fancy.
Synopsis: Nancy loves being fancy, but the rest of her family is plain. So she decides to teach them how to be fancy and they end up at a restaurant covered in Nancy’s “accessories.” At dinner, she is delighted that they eat with their pinkies up and call each other “darling.” By the end of the story, we see what a family is willing to do for each other to show their love.
The illustrations are top-notch. Nancy’s fancy clothes and curly hair and sheer exuberance are evident on every page. Her parents come across as good sports, gamely dressing up in Nancy’s creations. The page where they enter the restaurant in full movie star attitude is delightful. I was a little sad that dad’s “fancy” outfit was just a top hat and cane from a magic kit. I guess I was expecting him to look a little more like David Bowie. But I totally understand now why people throw Fancy Nancy parties. It is so much fun.
Last night when we read this book yet again (Finn calls it “the fancy book”), I told him maybe he could play dress up at school today. “Do you have a dress up corner at school?” I asked.
His eyes lit up and he nodded his head enthusiastically. “I can be fancy at school!”
And at your friends’ houses and at the thrift store and wherever, darling.