It’s Halloween season, and last night one of my daughters wanted some silly impromptu dressing-up clothes to wear to her yoga class.

I burrowed about in the cupboard and extracted a bag containing a costume I made about 20 years ago for a pony and rider combination. And all the memories came flooding back…

It was a witch outfit. The pony was a small, round, jet black furball, so a witch theme seemed appropriate. For the pony, I made a covering from black shiny PVC on which I stuck a silver moon and gold stars. We made a witch’s broom which fastened to the crupper and stuck out behind the pony’s tail, so that the rider looked like a witch flying across the night sky. Or that was the general idea.

For the rider, there was a felt witch’s hat, big enough to sit on top of a riding hat, stiffened with cardboard and decorated with plastic creepy crawlies. It was a pretty amateur affair, except for the piece de resistance — a magnificent black velvet cape festooned with gold embroidery, which had once belonged to a real life Arabian sheikh (it’s a long story). This added much needed panache and glamour.

Our little jet black pony had fairly strong opinions on most subjects, but she was gracious enough to accept being draped in her witchy finery, and even put up with the broomstick protruding out from behind her behind.

I remember it being a very successful outfit. We used it all year, not just on Halloween, and my daughter was always placed. This was something of an achievement for a home-made outfit, as we were often competing against people who had spurned the Blue Peter sticky back plastic and empty washing up bottle approach and employed a professional to hand sew the sequins on their immaculate George and the Dragon or Fairy Princess outfits.

I also remember we were always more likely to be second than first. Looking back, we tended to lose to something more cheerful, so maybe choosing an outfit from the dark side was a mistake.

But anyone who thinks proper showing is a frustratingly random affair, with your fate entirely bound up in the whim of the judge, should try the fancy dress class at their local show. I remember a friend producing an outfit of such brilliance, it outshone everything else in the ring. She transformed her son and his pony into a stunning Cruella de Ville, complete with flowing robes of fake Dalmatian fur, a black and silver wig, bright red lipstick and cigarette holder. The problem was, the judge, who was in her dotage, had never seen the film and had absolutely no idea who this child was meant to be. The winners were a shamefully basic Minnie and Mickey Mouse combination — presumably the only Disney reference the judge could recognise.

Continued below…

So the sheikh’s robe and the witch’s hat have had another outing tonight, but the shiny night sky is in the bin. It was a wrench — I hate throwing anything away — but it smelt distinctly musty and the pony I made it for is long gone. These days, the competitions we go to are infinitely more sophisticated, but I still nurture a sneaking fondness for innocent charm of fancy dress.

JG

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