Last night the prodigal son flew through the front door and in a miraculous flash, he was transformed into Vector from Despicable Me. His friend was having a villain theme for her 18th birthday. Although we’d almost busted a gut, I was thrilled. He looked amazing and was grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire Cat.
In case you haven’t heard of Vector, he’s the son of bank president Mr. Perkins and an aspiring supervillain voiced by Jason Segal. He’s decked out in an orange track suit and flies around in a wing suit, which could be described as a modern incantation of the traditional superhero cape. He also wears a white helmet with an orange stripe down the centre, black rimmed glasses and has a rather nerdy bowl haircut.
While Mr 18’s villainous ambitions initially didn’t seem too lofty, complications soon escalated and there was no chance of pulling a rabbit out of a hat or a seamless transition like Clark Kent into Superman.
Trouble began when we couldn’t buy a Vector costume and had to make it ourselves!! Panic stations!! While there are those parents who seemingly whip up book week costumes out of thin air year after year, that’s not us. Moreover, despite over ten years as an active dance mum, I’ve never had to sew a costume and have only ever been asked to sew ribbons on shoes. That’s been hard enough. Making this Vector costume posed an extremely steep learning curve.
Of course he could’ve gone for an orange tracksuit and made do. Not on your life! He had a grand vision of being Vector with all the bells and whistles and almost being able to take flight in that wing suit. What’s more he had absolutely no doubt that Geoff and I could just pluck this suit out of thin air and not only make it for him, but do a decent job. Not have the wings sewn on backwards or have it fall apart as soon as he arrived at the party. Yet with only three days to go his expectations were even more unrealistic. Indeed in hindsight a classic quote from The Castle comes to mind: “Tell ‘im he’s dreamin'”. Added to this mix, was the fact he was totally unavailable to assist. He was volunteering on sound for three days at the church conference. So, all of this takes us back to plucking a rabbit out of a hat when we’re not magicians. We’re mere mortals…Mum and Dad. Yet as we’re found on previous occasions, we somehow rise to the occasion and exceed our meagre expectations in leaps and bounds.
The first step was to source an orange track suit. Understandably this was a challenge in itself. After all most of us wouldn’t be seen dead in an orange tracksuit and doing the rounds of the charity shops confirmed that. Orange was never the new black despite what the fashionistas preached a few years ago. Moreover the cheapest orange tracksuit I could find online was $43.00. Who wants to spend that on a one-off orange tracksuit? Besides, by now it was too late for anything to be posted in time. Then, just when I was close to conceding defeat, Google came to the rescue. There was an orange prison jumpsuit for around $21.00 at our local Spotlight store. You beauty! They stopped off there on the way to conference and Geoff returned home with white and orange fabric for the wing suit and white ribbon for the stripe.
By now, you’re probably thinking we were on the homeward straight and we could just whiz the whole thing up on the machine in no time.
There was another hitch which I’ve already alluded to… me!! I have very limited dressmaking experience along with zero spatial awareness. Indeed, I even have a doctor’s certificate to prove it along with multiple scrapes on the car. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Mr 18’s wavering tone when he said he didn’t have a costume or a present and couldn’t go to the party, I’d never have been sewing any kind of costume!
This is what the hero’s journey is all about, isn’t it?! Along with the role of a parent! There are times you just have to front up and have a Nike moment. Fortunately, there was also Plan B. Getting help from Geoff or a friend. Whatever! This was not about ego and doing it all myself. Come hell or high water he was going to have his Vector suit!
That was all very noble-minded, but I hadn’t factored in an outright rebellion by the sewing machine. While it’s been mean, nasty and cantankerous for me before, like all machines, it’s always been good for Geoff. He has a real knack with machines which he calls “mechanical empathy” . Indeed, on my last encounter with the sewing machine, Geoff accused me of having “no mechanical empathy”. However, this time the machine wasn’t even working for Geoff, and a whole new pressure cooker was threatening to explode. Recalcitrant, rebellious and cantankerous…the darn thing kept unthreading and we’re not sure whether the machine, the thread or the fabric, but the machine is lucky it hasn’t been put out for council cleanup or worse!
Eventually the wings were attached. As Vector started to emerge, we were now feeling chuffed although we still had a way to go and time was running out. By now, it was late afternoon and I’d only managed to get in a piece of toast motoring along as fast as I could. Mr 18 had such grand visions of this costume and I wasn’t going to let him down. I wanted him to make that big entrance at the party. Be Vector and add to the fun and festivity. I didn’t want him to be disappointed. No, I wasn’t about to break his heart. Anything to avoid that – even self-destruction!
The next step was the collar. Vector’s collar stands straight up and in a rare moment of resourceful creativity, I nabbed the almost empty Rice Bubbles’ box and cut out a strip of cardboard, unstitched the side of the collar and stuffed it in. Wow. I was proud of my uncharacteristic resourcefulness. I pinned on some white cotton fabric on the inside and tried to machine it together. Possibly overwhelmed by the number of layers, the sewing machine spat the dummy AGAIN. Grr! I was back to hand-stitching but thrilled to be moving surprisingly fast. Indeed, I’d become a machine myself!
With the wings attached, the stripes down the side and the collar done, the suit was really coming together. Meanwhile Geoff painted an old cricket helmet white for his head gear. Wow. We even had enough time to add a white stripe to the wings.
Again the sewing machine played up and I gave up and handed it over to Geoff. By now, we’d renamed it: “The Beast” and even Geoff who can make any machine work well, was asking how much an industrial strength machine would cost!!
Finally, I’m catching my breath and able to text Mr 18 for an ETA without having a heart attack. He was getting close but I had just enough time to steam the packaging creases out of the suit and then perfection.
It was done.
Geoff and I as well.
We forced him to stand still just long enough to get a photo and then we were off to drive him to the party.
I’m sure it won’t surprise you that we picked up a pizza for dinner on the way home. We were beat.
Now, I’ll leave you with a thought I’m going to come back to. So often we stridently defend our right to be ourselves. Refuse to conform or blend in. Or, we go looking for ourselves. Yet on the other hand, we do whatever it takes to be someone else. Sure, in this instance Mr 18 was just dressing up for a party. When you’re going in character, you want to be authentic and you’re also just playing a role. However, how often do we do whatever it takes to hide who we are behind makeup, fashion and or being seen or photographed at the right places? How many of us are leading a fake life especially on social media? You have to be pretty strong to resist the temptation. Yet, it’s something to consider…
Anyway, I’d be very interested to hear from you and any of your efforts making costumes. How did it go? Do you think being yourself is over-rated and you’re better off at least appearing to be someone else? I’d love to hear from you.