There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?
I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.
Why? Everything has a story.
And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.
EPISODE 20: How Disney Record Art Affected my Adult Wardrobe (or, The Disney Records, Part 3)
Me, as Alice in Wonderland, with my Dad, Halloween 1974.
I loved playing dress-up. I’m sure many kids do, but for me “dress-up” was putting on a character’s skin—it’s like what they say about acting: you don’t put the role on externally; you let the role internally grow up out of you, and the physical dress itself was just the finishing touch.
I grew up in the early 1970s, at a time when “pre-made” costumes for kids were usually just these plastic shower-curtain-esque things in a box with a plastic mask (I will make the comment here that, even though I was super-little, I was always wondering why Disney didn’t make and sell exact duplicates of the princess dresses. I remember, at four years old, saying to my mother, ‘Mom, they would make SO MUCH MONEY if they did that!’ Of course…we know how THAT ended up!).
But my mother told me not to worry—I could be whatever princess I wanted, because fortunately, she was wicked with a sewing machine and pretty creative when it came to integrating everyday clothing into costumes. I was one of those lucky girls who didn’t have to suffer through a shower curtain and a mask. Nope. I got the real thing. And not only did I get the real thing, I got the real thing that was so well-made I played in it well after Halloween was over.
In those early years, Mom used the art in my Disney Record Album collection as a guide for the costuming. Every spring, she’d ask me who I wanted to be for Halloween, and I’d run straight to my collection to pick out whichever character was my favorite that year. I remember I always had trouble choosing between whoever-it-was and Alice in Wonderland—I think I might have been Alice a couple of times—but I know I was also Cinderella (I played in that dress until, at eight years old, I literally grew out of it, and that was THE. MOST. GORGEOUS. GOWN. EVER. It was totally like her wedding gown. It rocked and I wish I had photos of it), Snow White, Maid Marian, Wendy, and Bianca (for the record, there were a few non-Disney women in there, such as Princess from the 1978 cartoon series Battle of the Planets).
One of the images from the Alice in Wonderland record album that Mom used as reference for the costume.
There’s no doubt that photographing everything from the album booklets brought back all these wonderful memories to the point where it made me reconsider disposal. But one of the things that made the “Disney Album Ditch” finally happen is the fact that as I was studying the album art I noticed something—most of the art with which I was fascinated had something to do with clothing, and that in many ways, my favorite pieces of clothing in the past—and even today—are strongly reminiscent of this imagery I’d been exposed to when I was a child.
In fact, the whole reason I like certain styles and wear them repeatedly is because of the love I had for that particular style as drawn in the record album art.
So you might say that, even if I didn’t have the photos of the images I loved best, and even if I didn’t have the memory of all my mother’s costumes, I’d always have…well, whatever’s in my closet.
Here’s a tour. Enjoy.
This image, as well as the next one, clearly inspired my everyday clothing as well—here, we see the “flounce” of the blue and white dress with the subtle front placket, the belled short sleeves, and the Mary Jane shoes.
Yes, I know my mother bought everything for me, but she obviously had Alice in mind when she put me in this dress, and check out those Mary Janes! Here I am with my parents outside of a restaurant in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1973.
I actually remember this photo being taken in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1973. One of the things I loved about Florida was all of the flowers, and boy did I love that dress. I was actually “playing” Alice in Wonderland and was busy picking all the flowers I could find in her yard. I remember taking several of the flowers, lining them all up on the lanai, and imagining they were singing to me, just like the flowers in the Disney movie.
This image from Snow White inspired a few things—among them my love for bows on the tops of shoes, black heels, and doublet-style blouses (more on these later).
I included this description that describes the previous image because this particular scene was one I liked to reenact while wearing my Snow White costume.
Me in the driveway, winter, 1974. The reason I included this is because, if you look closely at the shoes (even though I have black tights on), you can not only see that they are that “Alice” Mary-Jane style, they have buckles—probably the first time I had embellishments, as Snow White did, on her shoes. These shoes, as I recall, also featured a very low heel.
And now: Alice in Wonderland and Snow White are responsible for the various pairs of Mary Jane heels—my everyday shoes—I have worn over the years.
May, 2001: rehearsing for a production of Company at the Sherman Playhouse in Sherman, CT. I’m second from left and that pair of Mary Jane shoes (actually, they were professional-grade character shoes) I owned and wore day in and day out from 1995 forward. I think they finally bit the dust in 2002. Here, my friend Lori, left, as Joanne, and me, as Amy, sing “Poor Baby” in Act 2.
Here are those shoes again at the “Christmas Cocktail” party—at tribute to a 1960s Christmas—at my house in December, 2001.
February 8, 2003: The replacements for my favorite Mary Jane character shoes that died in 2002. The heels were much higher and they weren’t as well made—I think these shoes only lasted me a couple of years, max—but I learned to be comfortable in them just fine. Here I am on my way out to see a production of the play Ice Box at The Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT.
I was a volunteer at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk in Norwalk, CT, from 2001 through the end of 2004—and even though I was running around and on my feet all day, sometimes for eight or nine hours, heeled Mary Janes were my choice for work, too. The guy I was dating at the time used to crack, “You should own something more comfortable, sweetie. You know. Rubber. Sneakers. Flat.” He didn’t understand I was more comfortable running around in heels than anything else, especially for working (then again, there is absolutely a reason we’re not together anymore either—he really didn’t understand very much of anything). Here I am getting ready to go to work at the Aquarium in June, 2003.
August, 2004: While it’s true I wore nothing but black Mary Janes (and pretty much still do), I did purchase one pair of brown special occasion shoes just in case I had to wear something that went better with brown. Here I am dancing at Nathan’s family reunion—we’re doing the “Electric Slide”—but what cracks me up is they’re still just like a Mary Jane, except the cross-strap wraps around the ankle instead of the usual. Apparently I don’t do well at picking anything significantly different.
Me at my friend Kristy’s wedding in September, 2004. This was the next pair of Mary Janes after the 2002 pair bit the dust.
Even my Crocs are Mary Jane style. Here they are in May, 2008, aboard the Walt Disney Road Railroad in the Magic Kingdom in Orlando.
My current pair of Mary Janes, which I bought in Fall, 2010. Here I am wearing them in an old cemetery in Bridgewater, Connecticut, October 2, 2010. We were taking promotional shots for the release of my collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks, Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World. We didn’t really end up using the shots, but the shoes look great!
Wendy from Peter Pan—I loved both the color and style of her nightgown.
Here I am in my own “Wendy” gown—you can see it has a very similar cut and style, except the bow ties in the front instead of the back. That dress was one of my favorites, and I wore it all the time, even to school—I FELT like “Wendy” in it. This photo was taken in 1976—I was on my way to see my first Broadway show (yes, in New York, and as a 5th birthday present—I believe it was the revival of My Fair Lady). That year for Halloween I was Wendy from Peter Pan. I remember Mom modified the sleeves on the dress (she took the lace off, so the sleeves would more closely match hers), changed the ribbon so it was sewn around the entire Empire waistline with no bow, and used the extra ribbon to make a bow for my hair. It was close enough for me to pretend I was Wendy, even if it wasn’t all blue—but even after that dress was modified, I continued to wear it to school until I grew out of it.
Old habits die hard. Here is a blue dress with an Empire waistline, scoop neck, and short sleeves (even though they aren’t elasticized, I think they’re close enough). I bought this dress in 2000 at a thrift store, and it served me for a few Halloweens. Here I am in October, 2000, as the character of Maude from the William Castle film Mr. Sardonicus. That’s my housemate, Charles, as the title character.
Here we are in the cemetery that same year. The dress, like Wendy’s nightgown, is floor-length.
This is one of my favorite images from the Cinderella album, mostly because I love the way her skirt is drawn.
Wendy from Peter Pan. Attraction: full skirt.
Maid Marian from Robin Hood. Attraction: full skirt.
Next two photos: here’s where the influence of those drawings of the full skirts come in. These aren’t the only two gowns I ever owned that were like this, but these are the best photos I can find that illustrate my point.
Me in my gown for The Masque of the Red Death party, November 4, 2000. The party was an Edgar Allan Poe dinner, and everyone came in costume. I was playing Fannie Osgood, so I wanted a long gown—but because I was always working hard in the kitchen and running around at my own parties, I frequently made sure I got something sleeveless and loose. Here, though, you can see the influence of Cinderella’s full skirt. I loved that when I came down the stairs the dress pooled behind me.
May, 1999, at a friend’s wedding. Those of us in the wedding party were instructed to choose our own dresses as long as they were purple or blue—I loved, loved, loved this gown. Obviously the color was inspired by Cinderella and Wendy. But that skirt was awesome—there was a spiral staircase at the wedding’s location, and seriously, I had a couple of glasses of wine and ran up and down the stairs—especially down. It swirled and floated behind me just like Cinderella’s dress in the picture. I remember thinking of the Cinderella image specifically when I was doing that—and was glad no one saw me. You have to admit, watching a woman run up and down the stairs and study how her dress behaves behind her is kind of weird. The wedding was okay…but my happier memories are of running around in that dress.
Here’s that close-up of my favorite image in the Snow White record album booklet again. There were many things about that image I loved, but this time around I’m going to talk about the cut of her bodice—it’s inspired many of my blouses and shirts.
Here’s one of my doublet shirts inspired by the cut of Snow White’s bodice. I have several shirts that are this cut—some in denim, a couple in silk—but I figured I’d photograph one and you’d get the point.
Here’s me wearing one of the doublet shirts (a blue polyester model—you can see I loved them so much I bought one in each available color) at the Danbury Fair Mall fireworks in July 2011. The girl on the right is Madi Gagne, who’s going to college for Marine Biology in Tampa, FL this coming Fall.
Here’s another of my favorites from the Cinderella album artwork—she made washing the windows look elegant, and although those were supposed to be her “poor girl” clothes, I thought her outfit was pretty nice. I particularly liked the brown skirt—and didn’t realize how many tan/brown skirts I’d own in my lifetime, especially to work in.
April, 1988, departing for Daytona Beach, FL. Yes, I’m wearing a tan skirt.
During my tenure at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, all of my skirts were tan. Brown/tan skirts seem to be what I associate with work—probably because of that Cinderella image. I looked in my closet this morning and realized most of the skirts I own are khaki, tan, or brown.
This image and the next, both from Cinderella, inspired my flat shoes—I’m either in heeled Mary Janes or I’m in plain (usually black) flats. Like my Mary Janes, when one pair goes, I just go out and buy another.
I talked about this illustration before when I was discussing my brown skirts, but one of the other details I liked in this image was her flat shoes, the way her feet were poised.
Me and Nathan at the Sunset Drive In, Burlington, Vermont, summer 2005. I’m in my black flats.
Me at a hotel in Lumberton, North Carolina, on our road trip to Disney World, September, 2005. The shoes in the photo are a different pair of flats than the ones I was wearing that summer.
Me in Gettysburg—at Devil’s Den—July, 2007. These are my blue flats, which I still own. The reason I put them in here is because, just like the two pairs of black flats I just showed you, these have bows. In fact, most pairs of flats I own have bows. I believe that comes from the Snow White images I talked about earlier.
Maid Marian from Robin Hood. My main attraction to her gown was its neckline—which I found, as you can see in the next three photos, tends to show up on most of my dresses and/or blouses.
Me at the Bronx Zoo, July 20, 2002. Notice the neckline on my top.
January, 2005, with my friends Jen (left) and Nanette (right) from Pencils! Writing Workshop. I loved that dress—it had not only the same neckline as Marian’s, but was slightly tailored in the middle and flared out to a huge, full skirt—but I accidentally shrank it in the dryer.
Nathan and me at Pencils! Writing Workshop’s 2nd Anniversary Mexican Fiesta Bash, July, 2005. Again, Marian’s neckline.
One of my favorite cocktail dresses—because of its sheer pink cape. The cape is reminiscent of Marian’s headpiece, so I’m sure that’s why I bought it. I actually have a much better photo of me in this dress which can really show you the similarities between the cape and the headpiece, but it’s packed away in a box someplace. Here I am with my friend, Monica Merkel, at one of our parties, August, 1999.
A rack of “Alice in Wonderland” dresses in a shop in Epcot’s United Kingdom Pavilion, 2006—I remember taking this picture just because I was like, ‘hey, I wish they had those here in my size!’
In 2008, I got lucky—I found an Alice in Wonderland costume for adults (the official Disney version from the Disney Merchandise website, not a knock-off). Of course…I bought it and guess who I was for Halloween that year? There was an adult-sized White Rabbit Costume too, but somehow I doubt my little brother would’ve been thrilled to see that—so Alice was just Alice that year, and I was chasing the white rabbits that existed only in my head.
A ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies; her traditionally published books include a short story collection, THE SHADOWS BEHIND. She was the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She serves as co-host of the DARK DISCUSSIONS podcast, as founding editor of the dark literary journal 34 ORCHARD, and is a member of both the New England Horror Writers and the Horror Writers Association. Follow her adventures at kristipetersenschoonover.com.