Fourth of July: Celebrating With All-American Style

  • July 01, 2013
  • Jenna Maxwell

Celebrate Fourth of JulyThe Fourth of July is just days away.  Maybe you have plans to get away and celebrate the most patriotic holiday of the year in a really big way.  Most of us, however, will likely take in the activities of the Fourth right in our own hometown.  There are some activities that go with Independence Day like a hand goes in a glove. How will you spend your Fourth?

Fireworks:  Fireworks displays will be happening all over the nation on the Fourth of July, including in a town near you!  Some of the larger, more infamous fireworks spectaculars occur, of course, in America’s biggest cities.  Philadelphia, Boston, New York, New Orleans, Chicago and San Francisco all proudly boast some pretty epic fireworks displays for the Fourth; finding which fireworks display you want to attend might be one of the hardest decisions you make.

Blockbuster Movies:  Fourth of July and the weekend following it are a traditional time for big blockbuster movie releases, this year being no exception.  Some very exciting new movies will be out for your viewing pleasure over the Fourth of July holiday.  Look for “Despicable Me 2”, and “The Lone Ranger” for starters.

Museums:  Many museums will have open hours on the Fourth of July so if you are lucky enough to live near one, this may be a great time to take in a little Early American history.  For example (and my personal fave) the National Museum of American History is open daily and it is filled with all sorts of interesting things such as Dorothy’s Ruby slippers, a piece of Plymouth Rock, a signed baseball from the 1937 All-Star baseball game, a Kermit the Frog puppet--and the list goes on.  You may have a cool museum close to your own home that’s also filled with amazing things from the past; don’t miss out on this chance to see a slice of life from another time and place--it’s magical!

Block Party or Barbecue:  The Fourth of July is a great time to get the entire neighborhood together for a big Fourth of July celebration.  Reconnect with your friends and neighbors with a big patriotic barbecue.  Grill up all your favorites and bring all the accoutrements potluck style.  Invite a little extra fun into your event and bring out a little bit of your competitive side by conducting a homemade chili contest or a watermelon or hot dog eating contest. 

Parades:  Many communities have Fourth of July parades and if yours is one of them, you will not want to miss it, as it’s an excellent way to get into a festive and patriotic mood in a hurry.  Bring small American Flags to wave while you are on the parade route and don’t forget to dress in your red, white and blue or most patriotic gear.

Display The American Flag: One of the easiest ways to celebrate the Fourth of July is to hang up an American Flag.  Take a crash course in flag etiquette, however, as the American Flag must always be handled with appropriate care and respect.  Learn the basics of how to hang the flag properly.  Never let the flag touch the ground and if it rains or when it gets dark, take the flag inside.

Concerts:  Many communities will hold outdoor concerts on the Fourth of July featuring patriotic music or music from a wide variety of other genres.  Check your community calendar for upcoming special events for the Fourth and get out and enjoy some great music under the stars. 

Patriotic Events and Reenactments:  Some communities will have reenactments from the time surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence or other important historical events.  You may see characterizations of various important historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.  More likely than not, good ol’ Uncle Sam will be out and about on the Fourth of July, too.  If you are feeling especially patriotic, this may be the perfect chance for you to adopt one of these unique personas for yourself--they are perfect for any parade or Fourth of July celebration!

Baseball:  What’s more American than baseball?  There are whole bunches of major league baseball games scheduled on or around the Fourth of July, so if you want to really get into one of the most All-American activities of all time, spend your Fourth at the ballpark.  Don’t forget to buy yourself some peanuts and Cracker Jacks!

Family Time:  For many of us, myself included, the Fourth of July is about family time.  What family traditions do you have that center around this amazing patriotic holiday?  My family tradition is to make homemade ice cream.  (Yes, in the ice cream freezer with rock salt, lots of ice and all the naughty ingredients!)  It’s a fun family tradition that has stuck--in the most delicious possible way.  The important thing is to have fun and make memories that you will have for a lifetime.

Whatever you do to celebrate your Independence Day, take a moment to remember our brave founding fathers that set the groundwork for freedom and bravely fought for the liberties we enjoy in our lives today.  As American’s, we all have much to appreciate and to be grateful for.  

Movie Monster Mash

  • June 26, 2013
  • Jenna Maxwell

You’d think it was Halloween with all the monsters, zombies and superheroes that were romping around town this past weekend--at least in the movie theatre! Monsters University, World War Z and Man of Steel took the top three spots at the box office as we dive in headfirst to some of the more action packed, not to mention heavyweight summer movie blockbusters!  The opening weekend of “Monsters University” surpassed even Pixar’s expectations, beating out both the zombie thriller “World War Z” and “Man of Steel” in ticket sales.  “Monsters University” stars Billy Crystal and John Goodman, who play the voices of Mike and Sully, respectively.  “Monsters University” reunites the characters that we all fell in love with back in 2001, in the delightful “Monsters, Inc.”  “Monsters University” is the fourteenth consecutive Pixar film to open in the first place spot, proving once and for all that Pixar clearly has the magic formula when it comes to great family entertainment.  If you are looking for a film that everyone in your family will enjoy, take a break from your summer action and head to the theatre to see “Monsters University.”

If a live-action, zombie apocalypse film is more what you are looking for in the way of thrills, don’t delay in seeing “World War Z”.  The zombies alone are pretty outstanding in the gnarliest sort of way.  Both zombie aficionados and general movie buffs love this film, proven by its second place finish at the box office.  Emphasizing once again that horror doesn’t have to be just for Halloween, “World War Z” effectively brings to the screen one of the worst-case scenarios when it comes to hideous and grisly monsters.  And then of course, there’s Brad Pitt…well, enough said. 

Who doesn’t love superheroes?  This summer’s superhero blockbuster is a huge hit with audiences, as the numbers do not lie.  Now in it’s second week, “Man of Steel” has already hit ticket sales over 210 million dollars.  Rumor has it that in some scenes of the movie, you can see the face of Christopher Reeve in some of the images of Henry Cavill. (Clark Kent) All urban legends aside, “Man of Steel” is just plain great entertainment. 

If we haven’t enticed you with monsters, zombies and superheroes, here’s last weekend’s top ten films at the theatres.  Summertime is blockbuster movie time; we hope that you will find yours!

  1. “Monsters University” ($82 Million)
  2. “World War Z” ($66 Million)
  3. “Man of Steel” ($41.2 Million)
  4. “This is the End” ($13 Million)
  5. “Now You See Me” ($7.87 Million)
  6. “Fast  & Furious 6” (4.7 Million)
  7. “The Internship” ($3.43 Million)
  8. “The Purge”(3.41 Million)
  9. “Star Trek: Into Darkness” ($3 Million)
  10. “Iron Man 3” (2.2 Million)

Let Freedom Ring: The Declaration of Independence

  • June 24, 2013
  • Jenna Maxwell

Let Freedom Ring

When I was in high school, one of my English teachers required that we memorize the Declaration of Independence word for word as well as put to memory some of the better-known patriotic songs, including the Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America.  At the time, I had very little appreciation for this arduous task as she insisted that we know all the words to these things verbatim and we took turns attempting to recite each of these things in class.  All these years later, I can still remember a lot of what I learned in Mrs. Peterson’s class however, and I credit her for making us learn these things.  I can appreciate what she was trying to do far more now that I am a little older. To this day when I am at a baseball game or other event where the words to the Star Spangled Banner are sung and sadly sometimes completely massacred, it annoys me.  There are some things that every American really should know. Obviously, the lyrics of the National Anthem are one of them.  I think the words and the meaning behind the Declaration of Independence is another. 

The Fourth of July obviously is a celebration of the United States’ Independence and its ultimate separation from England.  What you may not realize, however, is why Independence Day is on July the 4th and how the Declaration of Independence plays into this patriotic holiday. 

It may be hard for some of us to fathom, but imagine how it would feel to constantly be told what you could and couldn’t do by someone else who was in authority over you.  Someone else would dictate your every decision; from where and how you could live to what you could and couldn’t wear.  When you hear a scenario like this, if you are like me, you wax a little rebellious and think that no one has the right to tell us what we can and can’t do--after all, this is a free country!  What you do need to remember, however, is that this was not always the case.  Before the Declaration of Independence was written, the British government was always dictating its will to the original colonists.  Unfair taxes were put upon them and Great Britain did indeed try to throw their weight around a lot and tried to tell the colonists how they should be living.  The colonists were justifiably angry and didn’t want to be under the rule of Great Britain any longer. They wanted their own government and their own set of laws.

In 1776, the Continental Congress got together in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and appointed a committee of five men who were assigned to write the document that would eventually be known as the Declaration of Independence.  These five men were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston.  Thomas Jefferson wrote the bulk of the document, which was then edited afterward by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.  The declaration was submitted to congress on June 28, 1776 and was officially adopted on July 4, 1776 when the President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, infamously signed his name to it, followed by another 55 men who then signed it next. From this day forward, July the 4th was a day that would forever be marked in history, as this was the day the Declaration of Independence was put into effect by all the colonies. The United States had officially declared its freedom from England’s rule.  In essence, on July the 4th, 1776, the free and independent United States of America was born. 

There are many reasons to celebrate on the Fourth of July.  Add to your list a nod of gratitude to the 56 men who signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well when they signed it that this act could be construed by the British King as treason, potentially costing them their lives.  These brave men believed in a creator that intended for all men to be free.  The Declaration of Independence laid an important foundation for the United States and put into place the groundwork for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, which would ultimately follow. 

The Fourth of July is a celebration of our many freedoms, but it is also a celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which would ultimately change the course of history.  The many unique liberties we enjoy today in the United States are because of these early patriots who believed in the concept of independence so strongly that they were willing to put their lives on the line to get it. 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,…
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”

Summer Costume Party

  • June 19, 2013
  • Jenna Maxwell

Summer Time Fun!

Summer is packed to the brim with opportunities for get-togethers, family gatherings and parties.  If you are looking for the perfect way to add a whole lot of special flair as well as pizzazz to your next warm weather event, why not make it a costume party?  Costumes are definitely not just for Halloween anymore.  Adding costumes to your next event or party is going to add an entirely new level of fun and maybe even a little wackiness.  At Halloween time there is so much emphasis on the scarier, more macabre side of costumes.  A summertime costume party may give you and your guests the chance to dress up in some of the lighter styles of costumes that you may not otherwise get a chance to wear.  Let’s not forget either, what wearing a costume will do for your guests!  Adults tend to let their hair down a lot more when dressed up in costume, making a costume themed party the perfect solution for summertime!

When it comes to costume dress up and kids, that’s simply a no-brainer.  Kids absolutely love dressing as their favorite costume characters, so whatever event you are planning with the younger set, adding costumes will always equate to a whole lot more fun!  Here are some great summer costume party ideas to help get you thinking!

Blast From The Past!  This type of costume party is perfect for any age group.  Simply select a time period from any part of history that you like and on the invitation request that your guests dress the part.  From a 1920’s speakeasy gathering reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, to a 1950’s style social sock hop, your party will be the talk of the town simply by starting out with a really fun time period theme.  Other favorite historical themes include the Wild West, Medieval or the Renaissance, or another classic favorite is the 1960’s hippie era.  Many teenagers have also recently popularized dressing up from their parent’s day and age, recreating the 1980’s for an exciting party theme. Have fun taking a look back while you pay homage to another era with exciting characters and costumes!

Superhero:  Everyone has their favorite superhero or some may even have one in mind that they have made up.  Why not invite your guests to all come dressed up as their best superhero?  You will be surprised and amazed at what your guests show up in when you host an event like this.  We’ve seen some pretty bizarre heroes we’ve never actually heard of (and perhaps wish we’d never had).  Some of the costume ideas that people will come up with are pretty hilarious, not to mention innovative.  Encourage your guests to be as clever and creative as they can be, perhaps even giving away prizes to the most creative or original costumes.

Kids Love To Rock Costumes!  If you are a parent, you already know how much your kids love dressing up in costumes.  A costume party for kids is a knock out idea that is going to make your party an instant hit with the younger set.  Here are some costume party ideas for kids that you may want to consider:

  • Tea Party:  This party is perfect for little girls age 5-10.  Have your guests dress up in hats, boas, dresses and heels for an elegant kid-style tea party.
  • Princess Party:  Invite your guests to come dressed up as their favorite princess.
  • Movie, Cartoon or TV characters:  Boys and girls of all ages will love this theme.  Invite the guests to come dressed as a favorite character from a movie or television show.  It’s easiest if you let your guests pick whatever they like but sometimes it’s fun to stick with one show and have all the guests dress accordingly.  For example, older kids may enjoy dressing up as some of the characters from the Twilight series or Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • Dance/Music Theme:  For tweens or teens it’s extra fun to plan a party around a popular music theme and ask the guests to dress up as their favorite musician or pop star idol.

Simply Color:  Sometimes keeping a party dress up theme extra simple will mean you will get more participation.  In this instance, choosing a color as your theme is an easy way to get your guests into the spirit of the event without having to worry about too much complicated costuming.  For example, you could choose a red, white and blue color scheme theme for a Fourth of July party and ask your guests to wear these colors to the event.  Your friends will love getting into their patriotic gear and can participate as well as have fun at whatever level they feel comfortable with.

Summer Vacation/Beach Theme:  Ask your guests to dress in their best Luau, vacation or beachwear.  This is particularly fun because these costumes are seldom worn at Halloween time and they make for fantastic summer dress up.  Hawaiian shirts, swim suits, grass skirts, coconut bras, tourist and beach wear are all great ideas to get you and your guests started as they get into this very fun summertime party theme.

Costume parties are not just for Halloween.  Liven up your best summer events by getting the whole family into character!  

Summertime…Get Ready For The Cold Chill Of Horror Movies

  • June 17, 2013
  • Jenna Maxwell

Summertime is ripe with hot weather, vacations, barbecues and family fun.  It’s probably not exactly the time of the year most of us associate with scary movies, but as luck would have it, for you horror movie fans out there, many new ones are on this summer’s horizon.  Take a break from the heat with one of these spine-tingling thrillers that is likely to chill you right to the bone!

Hatchet III (June 14)-If you’ve seen the first two installments of this bloodcurdling tale, this latest chapter picks up the story where the other ones left off--right in the middle of the Honey Island Swamp where the evil Victor Crawley has been haunting and literally scaring people to death for years.  During a search and recovery mission that is set up to “pick up the pieces” left by the last two movie installments, Mary Beth makes an important discovery which uncovers the secret regarding the voodoo curse that drives Victor Crowley to his ghostly and horrific actions.  Can an end be put to Victor Crowley and his ultimate evils?

World War Z (June 21)-Are you ready for an amazing blockbuster-sized Zombie apocalypse thriller?  Then batten down the hatches and get psyched for World War Z.  Brad Pitt, who stars as Gerry Lane, finds himself in a global battle against an army of zombies who are infected with a rapidly spreading pandemic.  Can he stop this army of the undead from taking over all of humanity?  The film is filled with amazing effects, unbelievably hideous zombies a-plenty and may set the new bar against which all future zombie apocalypse movies are compared.  Don’t miss this one!  Freaked out by zombies and the whole concept of a zombie apocalypse?  Read everything you need to know about zombies and surviving a zombie invasion .

The Conjuring (July 19)-I could barely sit through the preview of this movie without getting scared to death, so prepare yourself for a spine-tingling fright fest with this film.  Based on a true story (which for me, only makes it that much worse) a couple who are paranormal investigators get involved in a case in which they are forced to face a terrifying demonic entity that has taken hold of an entire family in a remote farmhouse.  Getting out of the house will not help them, as the demon seems to not be haunting the house at all, but rather the entire family as people.

Cockneys Vs. Zombies (August 2)- A more comedic take on a zombie themed thriller, the Cockneys Vs. the Zombies is a British film that combines a bumbling group of bank robbers who are trying to help save their grandfathers retirement home from being taken over by developers.  Someone near the retirement home mistakenly unearthed a graveyard and got bit by an “undead” setting off a zombie epidemic that begins to rapidly spread through East London.  Somehow these bank robbing “experts” must find a way to save Grandpa, keep their hostages safe from the zombies in addition to protecting all of East London, which is now under siege from a relentless zombie attack.  With the Cockney way of life at risk, what can be done to save humanity?

You’re Next (August 23)-Why is it that every time you try and impress a new girlfriend, it almost invariably seems to invite disaster? Watch things go horrifically wrong as Crispian brings his new girlfriend to a family gathering celebrating his parents wedding anniversary.  What should be a perfectly happy occasion becomes a perfectly terrifying horror, as ax-wielding home invaders take over the Davidson family event, trapping the family and their guests.  A surprising member of the group turns out to have an unusual, as well as unlikely talent for killing.  

Horror films are definitely not just fun during Halloween; proved by the fact that this summer season has a frightful offering of many new flicks that promise to terrify audiences everywhere!  Beat the summer heat by escaping to a theatre near you for a truly chilling summertime thriller!  

Super Dad: Celebrating Father’s Day With Superman Style

  • June 13, 2013
  • Jenna Maxwell

Super Dad:  Celebrating Father’s Day With Superman Style!

At one time or another many of us have ranked our own dad’s right up there with the very best of the superheroes.  It’s not lost on me at all that “Man of Steel” (the latest incarnation of Superman) is coming to theatres just in time for Father’s Day Weekend.  I can’t think of anything more appropriate and think that celebrating your dad’s special day with Superman style might just give him the recognition that he really deserves!

Big Blue Courageousness:  From a very young age we learn that like Superman, dad is very brave.  From a tiny child’s perspective, Dad seems to fear nothing--from that mean dog that lives down the street to that fuzzy looking spider that was crawling around in the bathtub--dad was there to take care of all those scary things that frightened us and assuage our childish fears.     

Man of Steel Strong:  Superman is the protector of the Earth.  Dad is the protector of the family.  To a small child, dad seems incredibly strong and powerful.  After all, whom does mom hand the mayonnaise jar to when the lid won’t unscrew?  Who carries the kids with ease on his shoulders and gives endless hours of giggly pony rides?  (Never mind that he may have had an aching back later, dad likely wasn’t a complainer, either!)  It might have something to do with a toddler being just a few feet off the ground, but most any little kid will tell you that their dad is at least 10 feet tall.  In this case, even Superman would cower.

Metropolis Sized Moral Compass:  Dads are the representatives that clearly illustrate what is to be done in cases of choosing between good and evil.  Dads show us the difference between what is right and what is absolutely wrong.  Dads let us know through their own deeds what lines should never be crossed and what you can get away with if you “just don’t tell your mother.”  Like Superman, when dad became a dad he took the responsibility of setting an example seriously, knowing that whether he was wearing a cape or not, someone was looking up to him and watching his every move.  Kids seem to know that just like Superman, deep down, dad always believes in the good.

Clark Kent Style Humility:  Dad’s are often not the type to go around bragging about their acts of daily fatherly heroism.  Most of them just do what they gotta do as a matter of course and it’s just all part of a dad’s day of work.  In the same way Superman donned his alter ego, Clark Kent, and went about his quiet and humble business until Superman was called into action, dad’s trudge along through their daily lives, kids knowing, however, that their dad will be there and ready to act when he is needed.

Boys want to grow up to be just like their dad.  Little girls want to grow up and marry someone just like their dad.  Dads teach us patience, strength, courage, resilience, perseverance, forgiveness, ferocity and presence of mind.  What better way to spend the day with your dad and the number one superhero in your life than by grabbing a couple of tickets to go see the other “Man of Steel”.  Father’s Day is the perfect opportunity to make your own dad feel absolutely SUPER! 

Happy Father’s Day from your friends at Halloween Express! 

Top Ten Historical Movies That Inspire Perfect Costume Dress Up

  • June 10, 2013
  • Jenna Maxwell

Historical Period Costumes

I guess I just can’t get enough of this topic, but I’ve already admitted to being a closet history nerd, so here we go again! Dressing up in historical costumes is one of my favorite things to do!  I think it all started when I was in first grade and Mrs. McElroy picked me for the leading role in our class play featuring Betsy Ross and it kind of went on from there.  Anyway, for all you historic costume lovers, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten favorite historical movies and the historical time periods to go with them!  This list is perfect for you movie buffs that might need a little inspiration for your next costume look!  If you are into historical flicks and costumes, too-- then this list is for you!

  1. 3:10 to Yuma:  This movie is absolutely the perfect choice to give you costume inspiration and ideas that are related to the Wild West, the Apache Indians as well as some pretty gnarly Outlaws of the early west.
  2. 300.  This film is set in the year 480 B.C. at the time of the Greco-Persian War.  King Leonidas and 300 grossly outnumbered men fight the Persians in one of the greatest last stands in all of history.  If you are into swords, shields, and armor and the hand -to-hand combat that goes with it, this film (and the costumes that are in it) is for you. 
  3. The Princess Bride. A comedic and mildly twisted fairy tale that has become a classic.  Costume potential a-plenty is found in this film that is filled with sword fights, giants, princesses, kings, albinos and a whole cast of bizarre characters. If you haven’t seen this film your life may be missing something.
  4. Forest Gump.  Spans the 1940’s through the 1990’s.  By serendipity, Forest just happens to be present at some of the most historic events in history.  Lots of costume ideas here, but the 1960’s looks are my favorites.
  5. Gladiator:  Set during the Roman Empire, this epic story of revenge is unforgettable and will inspire many a great costume idea; especially for you guys whose inner fierce contender has yet to come out!
  6. The Last of the Mohicans:  Set in Colonial America, three trappers have the duty of protecting a British Colonel’s daughter during the French and Indian War. 
  7. The Great Gatsby:  Set in the roaring 1920’s, the Great Gatsby has brought F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most revered work to the silver screen.  This film has the most amazing costumes ever-an absolute must see for costume fans.  Like the twenties?  Check out our How-To Video on how to create an amazing Flapper look
  8. Pirates of the Caribbean:  Any of the Pirates series have great costume looks, but my personal fave is the “The Curse of the Black Pearl.”  Fantastic costumes and rich characters depicting the life of Pirates in the Caribbean.
  9. Raiders of the Lost Ark:  Who hasn’t wanted to dress up as Indiana Jones at least once?  This classic film set in the 1930’s features one of the most epic as well as recognizable characters out there.  The Fedora will ever be grateful! 
  10. Cold Mountain:  Set at the end of the Civil War, a wounded soldier makes his way home to his beloved. 

Our historical costume collection is filled to the brim with all sorts of memorable looks inspired by both great movies as well as the archives of time.  Go back in history while recreating one of these fabulous looks that comes straight to you from yesteryear.  The history and times are gone, but never should be forgotten! 

Traveling Through Time In Period Costumes

  • June 05, 2013
  • Jenna Maxwell

Summertime is filled with one of the best opportunities out there for costume fans (like me) as well as you serious history buffs.  Renaissance Fairs are popping up all over the country as well as other fun historical reenactments from time periods such as the Civil War Era, the California Gold Rush or even the time of 17th century Pilgrims.  It’s one thing to learn about history, it’s another thing altogether to experience it vicariously through dressing the part and playing one of these fabulous historical roles.  If you have the chance to participate in such an event, you will not want to miss out on all the fun and all that you can learn by dressing as a character from a bygone era.  Here are a few hints to help get you started as you make your journey back in time!

Know Your History:  During a Renaissance Fair or any other historical reenactment, it’s very important to understand the essentials about the time period you are pretending to be a part of. You must understand the basic daily lifestyle of the people from that time, from how they dressed to how they cooked their food to how they conducted their everyday business. One of the most essential things you must decide on is what type of an individual you are portraying.  For example, during the Renaissance period, over ninety percent of the people were peasants.  If you are going to be a peasant, you must understand that their clothing was plain, woven out of neutral, simple fabrics and was very utilitarian, with little if any embellishments.  Royalty or wealthier folks would be the only ones who could afford any sort of finery, including dyed or brightly colored fabrics as well as jewelry.

Adopt a Persona:  You can’t very well dress up like a dignified knight in shining armor and then walk around saying “Yo, Dude, how you doin’ bro?”  To really experience your character, you must immerse yourself in it completely and try to speak as if you are really that person.  Obviously to do this well takes a bit of practice, not to mention research, but by putting forth a little effort you will be rewarded by having a far richer, and much more authentic experience!  Need some ideas on how your character would speak, act or behave?  My favorite way to really submerse myself in a persona is to watch a couple of movies that feature similar characters from the appropriate time period, imitate them by practicing at home.  Your family may or may not find your new personality amusing, but rehearsing at home really works.  To illustrate what I mean, say for example you were going to be in a Civil War era reenactment.  Watching “Gone With The Wind” and practicing your best Scarlett (or Ashley or Rhett) would be good practice.  Some excellent Renaissance-era films to give you some characterization ideas would be “King Arthur” or “Troy”.  If you are just looking for some fun ideas for a pure fantasy period look, watch a couple episodes of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”. Old time westerns are easy to find, but my personal fave is the original “True Grit” starring the Duke.  (John Wayne) The point is to really get into your character you must immerse yourself in it, which may require a bit more work than just getting a really cool costume.

Ditch The Modern Accessories:  You can completely ruin even the most authentic period look by walking around with your cell phone in your hand or by wearing those cool modern sunglasses you have or even something as innocuous as donning a wrist watch.  Make sure any accessories that you have on match the look that you are trying to obtain and get rid of or hide the rest.  You will survive one day without your cell phone and if you can’t, hide it somewhere out of sight and turn off the ringer!

Dressing up in a period costume for a fair, event or historical reenactment can be amazing fun. You can watch history come to life right before your eyes as you step back into the past while recreating one of these amazing historical figures.  Going back in history to another time and place has never been easier, more educational or so much fun!  Shop our huge selection of historical costume looks to get your piece of history just right--and you don’t have to destroy the drapes to do it! 

Across The Nation: It’s Graduation

  • June 03, 2013
  • Jenna Maxwell

Graduate with Lei

At this time of the year, it’s common to be celebrating graduations a-plenty.  Whether your kindergartener is being promoted to the first grade, or your child is finally graduating from college, graduation ceremonies are a very significant milestone that marks important educational achievements.  Graduation is often referred to as commencement, meaning “beginning”.  The term commencement is used because graduates, although they are finishing an important phase of their education, are also beginning the rest of their lives and commencing the important things that lie ahead in their future.

Have you ever wondered about some of the traditions that surround graduations?  For example, where did the cap and gown come from and why are these things worn at graduation?  Since there is a good possibility many of you will be facing a graduation at some point, I thought it might be fun to enlighten you with some of the graduation basics.

Medieval Traditions:  Like so many other occasions and celebrations we have in our modern day, graduation traditions have their roots in ancient days.  You have to go all the way back to medieval times to find the source of academic dress, meaning, the cap and the gown.  During the medieval period, long gowns were commonly worn by scholars, but for a much different reason than they are today.  Gowns were worn on a daily basis and mostly because it was very chilly in the places where the scholarly sorts studied and it was practical to wear a garment that could keep the cold out.  By the time of the 12th and 13th centuries, Academic garb had become the norm.  The University of Columbia was the first to mandate that all Doctors, Bachelors and Licentiates wear gowns, and the tradition obviously stuck. 

Topping It Off:  The traditional graduate wears a type of cap called a mortarboard.  The name mortarboard stems from the cap’s resemblance to a device used in ancient days by a mason in order to hold mortar--not very glamorous, but that is indeed where the title came from.  If you trace the mortarboard style cap back in history, both members of the clergy as well as those who achieved the very highest levels of education wore this style of cap.  The mortarboard and gown became the traditional attire of scholars, the learned, as well as the academics.  Back in the day, these clothing articles were worn on a daily basis to differentiate the scholars from everyone else.  Today, graduates will wear the cap and gown just on the day of commencement, the attire being symbolic of great achievement that also makes the event of graduation more special.  Wearing a cap and gown also gives students a sense of pride for what they have achieved. 

Details, Details:  At graduation time the mortarboard cap will almost always have a place to attach a tassel.  There is some protocol involved with wearing the cap the right way as well as attaching the tassel correctly.  First off, the cap should be worn so that one of the points of it is directly over the center of your face.  The tassel can be attached to the mortarboard by looping it over the button found in the center of the cap.  Before the diploma is received, the tassel should hang on the right side of the cap.  After all the diplomas have been awarded, the graduates will then simultaneously move their tassels to the left side of the cap!  At this point there is almost always a lot of cheering and applause from the audience!

Leis:  In Hawaii, it is a common practice to give the gift of a traditional Hawaiian lei to a graduate as a congratulatory gift.  This lovely practice has made its way onto the mainland, and at least in many areas of California is now a common practice and a growing graduation tradition.  The Hawaiian lei also looks absolutely amazing on top of those graduation gowns!  Those ancient medieval scholars sure never saw this tradition coming but something tells me they would most certainly approve.

Graduation is a very memorable time that marks an important milestone as well as a really big achievement.  Knowing a little bit of the symbolic history behind this important ceremony in your life can only make it that much more meaningful.  Congratulations to all the graduates out there from your friends at Halloween Express!