Alice of Wonderland, Despoiler of Halloweens and Scourge of Cobwebs Everywhere

Meet Alice of Wonderland, Cheshire Cat Hunter and Despoiler of Halloweens!

Alice of Wonderland faces the camera. She is holding a butterfly net and a purse made of cat stuffie toy.

When you move to a new continent, your life seems to start over in all sorts of unexpected ways, and sewing tends to get shunted to the wayside. Last September, about when I was getting back into the swing of things, I suffered a nasty wrist injury that left me unable to do any sort of fine motor activity for almost a year, and right when i was recovered from that, we were buying and renovating an apartment, and instead of stitching, I was watching walls go up, and instead of choosing pretty fabrics, I was choosing paint colors and laying tiles. 

Now the renovations are almost finished, and the boxes are being unpacked, and it’s Halloween, so I’m sewing again.  

I began sewing this dress a couple of years ago for an Alice of Wonderland party, but I never finished it. I was dressing as the titular Alice – a rather bashy, brutal sort of Alice, with a contract out on the head (complete with frozen glass eyes and a zipper to make a purse) of the Cheshire Cat. On the morning of the party, before the final seams were sewn, the party’s hostess called in floods of tears.  She’d found her beloved cat Horse lying in the back garden, dead from a snake-bite.
We were all shattered. My costume stayed unfinished. There are some things that nice people just don’t do. 

A fashion sketch of Alice of Wonderland: Cheshire Cat Hunter. Alice wears the traditional blue dress and white apron, but has added a magenta petticoat and magenta striped stockings, as well as a suite of black leather accessories.

Three years later, Alice of Wonderland, Cheshire Cat Hunter, received her last stitch.  And she was a most appropriately Halloween-y sort of costume – absolutely loaded with horror and dread, and the day after the party, in the cold light of morning, what fifteen assorted people cannot understand is how European Civilization survived half a millennium of hoopskirts. 

A view of a woman's back from the waist down. She is wearing a white apron and blue skirt over a pink net petticoat, pink striped stockings and black high-heeled boots.

I couldn’t pass a decorative cobweb without trying to take it away with me on my pink petticoat – as well as whatever the cobweb had been attached to, which was usually a chair, which meant that whoever was sitting on the chair came too.  I nearly took down the buffet when I swooped in gingerly for a pineapple kebab – the host had cleverly swapped out the tablecloth for more cobwebs, and when three people reached out to catch me, i found that the pork platter and a bowl of punch were strung out on a cobweb lead line, teetering on the brink of total party disaster.I was banned from the living room the second time I passed the coffee table – my swinging skirts were setting glasses of punch flying. That second pass had taken out the refills of the ruins of the first, and as I fled, disgraced, the conversation turned from how the hostess had illegally given herself a bye into the semi-finals of the Pictionary tournament, and moved onto candles and farthingales and pocket-hoops and how on earth the Victorians had managed to survive the fashion for the bustle.  Those inventive Victorians had lit their houses with kerosene lamp and gas burners at the ends of clumsy rubber hoses. Swinging hoops are bad enough, but a bustle you can’t see coming or going.

I had fondly imagined that, musing so, the other guests would thank heaven for small mercies and call me back, but instead I was banished to the corner of the dining room and set counting the votes for the costume contest. The seal on my funk was set when I found that people had been writing opinions in the margins of their ballots – my Alice dress had narrowly missed out on the prize for “most genuinely frightening costume” because people were worried that someone would have to present that prize to me in PERSON.

And the evening’s true ignominy? The final seal and funk?

Reader – it was MY party.

A pair of crossed legs, wearing pink striped stockings and black lace-up boots.  It is 2:30 in the morning and time for bed.

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