28 February 2009

Donning the tricorn

Lent is underway. Here is the Carnevale wrap-up...

I confess I feel a tiny bit sad because the season was more satisfying for me this year than last. I'm sure that's because I made a costume, and costumes enhance any event, in my opinion. I admit it was much easier to get into the spirit of the games in the guise of La Piratessa (the lady pirate).

Months ago I had asked my friend "G" (a veteran costumer whom I call “Pirata” because he looks just like a pirate, and he surely has the spirit of one) if we might be pirates together during Carnevale season. He agreed... and I faced my challenge!

Being short on cash, I was concerned about what kind of get-up I could possibly create on my own. But it turned out my regular wardrobe held many piratessa-like items already: a black velvet buccaneer’s coat, a black satin lace-up corset, black wool stockings and garters, a long, red, fringed sash, turn-down boots, and a lovely tricorn hat. I had only to purchase and cobble together a couple 10-euro dresses from the boxes at Laura Crovato’s secondhand shop – a flouncy organdy Scarlett O’Hara number to serve as the blouse and petticoat and a dreadful black-velvet-and-gilded-gypsy-print one that came apart to become the overskirt. Add to that big gold hoop earrings, some over-the-top make-up, and a handbag made from the bodice of that second dress, and my transformation was complete.

It had been a while since I had played dress-up. Almost immediately I re-discovered how one’s outer garments and trappings permit one’s “inner pirate” to emerge. I guess that confident, Grace O'Malley-ish gal had been near the surface for some time because I had no trouble imitating her strut and swagger. I swear to Heaven – in La Piratessa’s boots I actually felt inches taller and many times tougher. In fact, I enjoyed that part of the masquerade so much that I went out in costume a few times just by myself. And while I had fun with other costumed friends, it was even better to feel the freedom of really letting loose on my own. That was, in fact, a magnification of a lesson I have been learning here these past eighteen months: change the body, change the wardrobe, change the attitude, and you change the woman forever.

There is one piece of Carnevale that I cherish and keep enjoying, even beyond the festivities. That is my tricorn, which I purchased early last year from Giuliana Longo, Venice’s best loved, most authentic modisteria (milliner). It is a cocky, smart-looking hat, my preferred headwear for the Venetian winter. All the masking and seasonal silliness aside, when I don my tricorn to go out for ordinary things – just to run to the bank or pick up some groceries or meet a friend for a drink – I always feel a little historical thrill, a thin sense of belonging to this place. A pale, ghostly shiver goes through me as an invisible thread connects me to thousands of Venetians who have walked these streets just as I do in these precious days.