Every Day Is Dress-Up Day

How to Dress Like You Mean It

It all began, as most things do, in preschool. In the morning of my first day, my mother asked me what I wanted to wear to school. The thought had never occurred to me. I was used to wearing whatever I wanted around the house, and, like most little girls my age, I played dress-up on a regular basis. I had this one dress I particularly liked. It was a pink princess dress, something Barbie would wear, complete with puffy sleeves and a poofy, glittering skirt. So, when my mom asked what I wanted to wear to school, I immediately thought of the princess dress.

The ensemble became a uniform, and "Every Day Is Dress-Up Day" became my motto. In my experience, I have learned that all you need to wear a ridiculous or over-the-top outfit is confidence. Keep that in mind, and you'll never go wrong -- unless you get to the point where you can't laugh at yourself. Then, all is lost.

So, how do I get dressed in the morning? I used to ask myself, "What do I want to wear today?" But that slowly evolved into "What does my body feel like wearing today?" and, surprisingly enough, I've learned to tell the difference. Some things just don't feel right.

And why can't Halloween be everyday? I've had tons of fun dressing up as other people any day of the week. This past school year alone, I've been: Boy George (long-sleeved, Eighties-esque polka-dot shirt; green tie; torn, colored fabric strips braided into the end of my hair; a top hat; and the moment of truth: the make-up); Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas (braids, a dress I designed, covered in muted and pastel patches, white hose with hand-drawn stitches, black & white gathered stripy knee socks, and black high heels. I painted my exposed skin white and drew stitches with liquid eyeliner); Rosie the Riveter/Betty Crocker/Lucille Ball-type person (crisp black eyeliner and mascara and red lipstick, a spit curl, a navy blue bandana -- like Axl Rose's, but turned around so that the knot's facing the front); Cyndi Lauper (reversible Converse, fishnets, red petticoat, tulle over-skirt, fuchsia bodice, three different belts, tons of jewelry, my wide Mohawk dyed -- sides neon yellow and the middle orange -- and flipped over to one side, lots of hair spray, bright and colorful make-up); Robert Smith from the Cure and Siouxsie Sioux from Siouxsie & the Banshees (most of the clothes I have look like something they would wear) numerous times.

Looking surreal can be deliriously fun. You can wake up one morning and decide you want to be a mermaid today, or you can plan for months on an elaborately choreographed outfit. But the important thing to remember is to have fun with what you wear; have fun making it as well as wearing it. If people say you look ridiculous, it's probably because you do ... which is okay as long as you know it and accept it.

But you know what is really ridiculous? Wearing hose that are the same color as your skin.

Customize With Spray Paint!

Spray paint is my all-purpose decorating paint of choice. It's cheap, it covers almost any surface, and comes in almost any color. You have to be 18 to buy it, and there's a reason for that: Teenagers mixed with spray paint haven't had the best reputation ... but hopefully you'll use your powers for good instead of evil.

For example, let's say you want to put your favorite band on your backpack or shirt (or pants or whatever). The first thing you have to figure out is if you want words or a picture or both. The best way to do this is a stencil.

Words are easiest. When you're writing it, the most important thing to remember is that letters with holes in them (like O, A, B, lowercase E, uppercase R, etc.) won't have those holes in them when you cut them out. If you're really picky, you could cut out a piece of tape in the appropriate shape and stick it to the surface where the hole in the letter should be. Writing letters in a thick, sharp-angled, geometric manner will be easier to cut. Remember, spray paint is not generally a precise art, it's more of a you-get-the-general-idea art.

Now for the part that's usually the shocker: While notebook paper is probably too thin to use as a stencil, sketchbook paper works quite well. It's thin enough to cut with one stroke of a X-Acto blade, but thick enough keep its shape and not disintegrate when doused with spray paint.

When you're cutting your stencil, it's important to be careful, not just for fear of chopping off the tip of your finger but also because the image could lose its shape with one wrong cut, and then you'll have to start all over.

If you want to do an image of someone's face or a logo, it's better to get the desired picture off the Internet and print it out on a piece of sketchbook paper. Once the image is printed (black & white is best), try to think of where the black areas are because you are working with only positive space and negative space. Anything that is darker rather than light (closer to black than to white) should be outlined and colored over with a pencil or marker. Then, cut out the darkened areas. Dramatically lit images are perfect for this, because having one side darker than the other reduces the areas where you have to gently outline something.

Now that the stencils are finished, it's time to put them on your surface of choice. Do this outside (you'll thank me later). Put a drop cloth or plastic down that's about three feet bigger (on all sides) than your targeted object. Put some disposable gloves on, and wear some painting clothes for cryin' out loud. If you're doing clothing, especially a shirt, it's best to put some cardboard in it so that the paint doesn't bleed through. Let it dry, probably for the rest of the day, or overnight. If your shirt is a bit stiff in the painted area, you can wash it and dry it with fabric softener. Remember, stuff you wash will fade with each wash; that's why it's good to keep the stencils so that you can do touchups over time.

This isn't exclusively for clothes either, I've done blankets, comforters, stools, and chairs. In fact, not five minutes ago, I finished a stool with an uneven stripy line twisted around the legs and enough disproportional angles to make Tim Burton proud. All of the things I've mentioned above, of course, can be tweaked to taste or experience. If you don't quite get it the first time, keep practicing -- you'll get it someday.

Manic Panic/Punky Color

When I was little, the idea of dying my hair was absolutely amazing. It inspired me to wonder, "Why can't I change the color of other things, too?" Like my skin lavender and my blood blue? I still dream of doing those things someday, but for now, I'll settle for the hair.

I began to dye my hair in fourth grade. I had naturally long blond hair, and my mom was dyeing hers red. The next day, I had a red streak near the bottom, by my neck, so that when my hair was down you couldn't see it. Since I went to a conservative school, mom didn't want the streak to be obvious.

Ever since then, it's been a part of who I am. Seeing as I can't ever decide on a color I want for a long time, I'm lucky if I can get through a school year with under seven color changes.

Here's what I've learned:

Basic Tips

Aside from what they tell you on the boxes, here are some other tips:

1) Unless you are doing black or brown, always bleach your hair before dying it.

2) Invest a whole dollar in a plastic drop cloth, and put it down on the floor and counter in your bathroom. You could even put it around your drain so that dye doesn't get on the sink; stick a hole in it so that it still drains. This will save you much grief.

3) As for getting dye spots off your neck, personally, I don't like the "Vaseline around your hairline before you do it" method. It's too sticky and it feels gross. I just clean up afterward with a good soap or a pumice/scrub.

Advanced Tips

1) When doing two colors, do one first, rinse it out, dry it, then do the other one. This way, if the two colors are going to be next to each other, there's less of a chance of them mixing.

2) Foil is best for doing most streaks, unless you need it to be waterproof -- then use plastic wrap.

3) Leopard print: a popular choice, perfect for close-cropped, one-inch-ish hair. Bleach and dye it your background color. The best way to do the spots is freehand. Get some black (or the color you want the spots to be) and dip a finger in it (wear gloves). Make two long spots close to one another, like cow-hoof prints, or make a tiny horseshoe shape. They don't have to all look the same -- they are taken from nature, after all. Other patterns for inch-ish hair: polka dots, checkerboard, stripes, spirals, plaid (tedious, but looks excellent).

These are just suggestions. The best thing is to think up stuff that no one's ever done before. Everybody and their dog can dye their hair red, but how many people do you know with a McDonald's logo on their head?

Post Modern Veil

Put your hair into two high pigtails. Get two long pieces of tulle in any color (approx. 1-foot-by-6-to-7, or even -8, feet). Take one piece of the tulle and put it underneath one pigtail, tie it into a small bow, and shape it like a fan. Repeat on the other side and, surprisingly enough, it looks like a veil. You can also do this with just one high ponytail, but it tends to look more like a flamenco dancer's veil.

If you want more layers, either because you want it fuller or you want more colors, you can take whichever piece that's going to be longer and tie it the same way you did the bow, but without making it into a bow.

Most importantly, remember to stay away from fires!

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