Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Spandex Years

The previous post about my inability to to supply my son with the correct items for school made me reflect on the matter more deeply (i.e. I had a quick think about it in bed last night). You are always reading these days about parents trying to out-do each other with nativity costumes or baking for the school fete ('hey you drive a Range Rover and spend Half Term skiing in Aspen? Ha - eat my dust and look at the size of my Yule Log - that kind of thing) but I can't say I've noticed much of it myself. All I tend to see are a lot of cornflakes crispy cakes and packets of shop bought mini-rolls. Clearly my children go to the wrong type of school....

I certainly never noticed any ultra-competitive costume making from my own mother.

Hell no.

My mother has something of a dark past when it comes to supplying her offspring with costumes for school.

It all started with a 'Victorian Day' when I was about 7.

Parents were supposed to dress us in 'costume appropriate to the time', so my mum sent me in with a lampshade cover over my head, clutching a large potted Aspidistra plant.

Her main concern was the welfare of her Aspidistra.

Everybody else's main concern was 'why the f'ck are you carrying a potted plant around and what the HELL is that on your head?'.

My card as the 'class eccentric' was well and truly marked.

I'd like to say things then improved - but they didn't.

The household dressing up box somehow acquired a silver all-in-one stretchy bodysuit. The kind of thing people are sporting right now at the Winter Olympics while flying down mountains on tea trays. This was in the days prior to Lycra so I'm guessing it was Spandex? I vaguely recall it came from my father's workplace but as he worked for an engineering firm making industrial turbines, I won't question that too closely.

Anyway - my mother being pretty thrifty - ensured that the silver Spandex catsuit made its way into EVERY fancy dress outfit I ever wore from that day onwards.

First, aged about 8, there was the Brownie fancy dress party with the theme of 'things beginning with T'.

So she sewed a white toweling patch on the front, stuck some ears on my head and sent me as a cat.....

Apparently I wasn't any cat - I was Tom the cat - but it didn't stop 350 people asking me why I'd come to a T themed party dressed as a (shiny) cat.

The next fancy dress occasion, aged about 9, was for members of the 'Wildlife Watch' club (it was very rock and roll my early childhood) and the theme was 'Animals of the Night'.

What are you thinking here? A fox? A badger? Maybe a hedgehog?

Now remember - you need to make use of a silver-toned all in one Spandex catsuit and silver coloured cats are not indigenous to the British Isles and what with this being a party for 'nature mad' individuals, people will know this.....

That's it! That well loved 'Creature of the Night'......


A lacewing (in case you don't immerse yourself in information on flies and similar) looks like this:

Lovely. While other girls were stealing their sister's Coffee Shimmer lipstick and perfecting the moves to Kylie's Locomotion, I was morosely wandering round a village hall dressed as a fly.

You may also like to note that the fly in question is not actually silvery coloured. It's green. And the Spandex was silver...

Well don't worry - they turn a greyish colour when they are about to die.......

Mother pinned a baby blanket to my back (to act as the 'lacy wings') and off I went (to once again spend an entire evening explaining to people what the hell I was supposed to be and, once again, not winning any prizes. 'What ARE you? Some kind of moth?', 'No I'm a Lacewing', 'Are they not green?', 'I'm about to die', 'Oh').

It didn't end there.

In fact the Spandex Suit years culminated in Le Grande Humiliation when aged about 13 (note the age here - THIRTEEN) my school held an end of term fancy dress contest and I was forced into it to parade in front of my school as...

... an elephant.

Oh yes.

Let me give those of you with young daughters a piece of advice. If your daughter reaches puberty and is burgeoned with a DD bust and thighs like tree trunks, then:

a) Reassure that whilst she currently feels like a hideous freak and boys follow her round school calling her 'Oxfam legs' or throwing sticks at her, one day she will discover that it's not all bad and there are better boys out there. Men actually but we'll stop right there.


b) do not, I re-iterate DO NOT, dress her in aged Silver Spandex and send her to school as a mock elephant.

Other girls were Madonna or Kylie or bloody Tinkerbell.

I was Dumbo after he OD'd on the HRT tablets.

Not only was I wearing the (rather stretched Spandex) but the rest of my costume was made up as thus:

Grey school socks over my feet and hands to make 'elephant feet'.

The grey cord off an anorak pinned to my arse to make a 'tail'.

And (this is the worst bit) a pair of grey tights pulled over my head with one leg stuffed to form a trunk and the other leg cut off so my eyes are staring out of a gaping hole somewhere around where the crotch should be.

After that the Spandex suit mysteriously disappeared.

And I wonder why my son has a hysterical fear of fancy dress parties.......


  1. A lacewing. Words fail me. I thought I was hard done by when my mum made me wear Clarks' lace-ups when everyone else was wearing pointy slag shoes (God, I wanted those). You have made me pull a muscle - first I was laughing at 'here we are tragic victims of Nature's fury - 11p towards the rebuilding of your Nation,' and now this...

  2. Oh I feel your pain, really I do, in between the bouts of hysterical cackling laughter...

    Thanks for that. You just made my day.

  3. ROFL! Did your mother have any abandoned sisters? She is soooo much like my Mum. I always had "sensible" shoes and one year I asked for a v-neck navy jumper for Christmas - what did I get? A pea green round neck jumper and hideous brown tweed skirt. And my parents wonder why I went mad spending money on clothes when I could afford it.
    Sue xx

  4. After you with the tissues, the Tenalady and the eye-make up remover!! And can somebody please explain to my boss why I appear to have a cross between epilepsy and asthma.

    Wooly, you are priceless :D

    Dingbatsbird x

  5. All I can say is "thank goodness I work in an office on my own". I am pmsl here at your fancy dress outfits. I thought I had it bad having to go to school with plaits on top of my head or coiled around my ears but I must admit, I can never remember having to dress up in silver spandex!!! lol

  6. Hehe! I do have some photos of myself as a child in fancy dress that are 'interesting', although it should be said that at the time I was actually pretty happy, it's only with the benefit of photos and hindsight I can see the a) visible white pants beneath the red tight which was the bulk of my hallowe'en 'red devil' costume (I did win first prize though - not sure what that say to you about the headmaster who was the judge!!!), or not fancy-dress per se but near enough, being dressed in my costume to play the caterpillar in the school production of Alice in Wonderland, costume consisted of a wig like David Bowie's in Labyrinth if you've ever seen that, and a blue sleeping bag that someone had conveniently cut a hole in for my feet to stick out the bottom. Anyway, I thought I looked fab, had blue face paint all over my face to really look the part...except noone bothered to put any on my neck or ears, so I'm totally blue except for those bits, and consequently don't look like an early extra from Avatar, just stupid!

    But on the upside, I can agree that I too am yet to come across any school competitiveness - if that means our kids go to the 'wrong' schools, then great, I'd far rather avoid that kind of school, thanks all the same! OK so L was the only child in a homemade pirate costume in reception one time (well I only found out about at 3pm the day before, and there's a limit to what you can find in even the best 24-hr Tesco!) but funnily enough I was the one who got all the 'ooh aren't you clever?' and 'oh how lovely' comments off the other mums :-D

  7. LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!! Even funnier cause you have a way with words!

  8. You are hillarious!!! I've just had sunday lunch and i struggled to keep it down from laughing so much! I am following you! Come and visit me sometimes!