For my Students in China: Choosing the Right Costume

Planning my China Halloween lessons for a year from now took some thought.

I have numerous costumes from my childhood, many of which my mom sewed herself, but few still fit. Her best creation, the Zorro costume with silky satiny black pants and blouse, plus bandana and glittery cape, won me a 1st place $25 prize in junior high. That actually does fit but at present, it is packed and sealed in a box which I had planned to mail back to China 2 years ago.

It is still waiting in a closet for that to happen.

The Story of My Swiss Miss Outfit

For my selected costume, I turned instead to my dirndl (a traditional German dress), here in America where I’d kept it for years. I bought it in 1981 in Germany, where I spent the summer as an exchange student. My host mother had a fit when we went to the mall and I chose this for $75. It was the cheapest one offered and the only one I could afford. Her greatest concern was that my mother would criticize her for allowing me to buy such an expensive item, which seemed to her a frivolous purchase. At that time in Germany, such “costumes” were not at all popular or wanted. But I was determined, despite her efforts to dissuade me, so back to America it came.

Interestingly enough, a few years later, my host sister Ulrike told me that the dirndl was becoming quite fashionable among the young people. In fact, she and her sister both talked their mom into buying one for each of them and they sent me a picture of all three women in the family, Mom and daughters, posing proudly in their native dress.

The Dutch Bonnet Added

The Dutch cap or bonnet I am wearing here is called the Volendam hat because it came from the village of Volendam, located in North Holland in th Netherlands. It’s made of white cotton or lace, and is characterized by triangular flaps or wings that turn up on either side. 

This particular Dutch hat belonged to an elderly Dutch immigrant who gave it to my mother when she lived in Holland, Michigan during WW 2. An area of Michigan was settled by those from Holland, thus the name of the town, Holland. My mother’s paternal grandparents lived there and while her father was overseas in the Pacific, her mother brought the family to Holland to live until the war’s end. Holland was famous for the Tulip Festival and having the only working authentic windmill, brought from Holland and assembled in the town’s park. During the festival’s week, the children dressed in Dutch clothes and joined parades or just walked the streets for the tourists to enjoy an authentic feel of the Netherlands.

My mom and her brother not only wore Dutch costumes but had wooden shoes, along with all their classmates, which they clogged around in throughout not only the week but on a daily basis. She said they were the most comfortable shoes she’s ever worn.

While my mom’s outfit was not authentic to Holland, her cap was. When it was given to her, it was already a vintage piece. At present, we are guessing it’s well over 100 years old.

It certainly made for a fitting top-off to my costume: An authentic dirndl with an authentic Dutch cap.


Now all that was needed to complete my Halloween evening were the trick-or-treaters. (Coming next!)

About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 30 years as an English language teacher. 28 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my 13th year in Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The college is located in Luzhou city (loo-joe), Sichuan Province, a metropolis of 5 million people located next to the Yangtze River .
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1 Response to For my Students in China: Choosing the Right Costume

  1. Kate Lindsay says:

    What a delightful story to go with your costume, Connie. What treasures to have. Your students will love your Zorro next year….shall look forward to a photo! Hugs, Kate

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