Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

However You Dress It Up, Costumes Are Important

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

However You Dress It Up, Costumes Are Important

Article excerpt

I have a confession to make: I love dressing up. Not just for special occasions but every day. Mad hats, crazy coats, daft dresses - if there's anything wacky, I want to wear it. It is not something that has diminished with age; if anything, it's got worse. The saddest thing about this obsession is that I have never been invited to a fancy-dress party. Not one. Ever.

It is easy to dismiss dressing up as play or harmless fun, but it does have a serious role. For the very young it fulfils an important psychological need, allowing for experimentation and fantasy. Teachers report other benefits, too, such as increased confidence, expanded vocabulary and improved writing skills (see pages 34-35).

Dressing up can also help with pastoral care, exploring trauma or inner conflicts. Lisa Jarmin, who wrote our TES Professional feature, experienced this with a child in her class who had lost her mother in a car accident. The girl would take on a helper's role, Jarmin says: "She liked to play that she was rescuing others. It seemed to soothe her anxieties about helplessness."

Dressing up also has educational uses for older children. It seems that languages, history and English lessons can all benefit - as can drama, of course. But is it an issue getting secondary pupils to dress up at this difficult, more self-conscious time? Louise Bailey, a former head of drama, is adamant that she encountered no embarrassment from her students. "In fact, they relished the opportunity to wear some skanky old bridesmaid dress and don a wig that looked like roadkill. Hey presto! The best melodrama those 12-year-olds had ever seen. …

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