Woman creates costume Wonderland for Saturday’s parade
Article from Northumberland Today, written by Cecilia Nasmith
PORT HOPE – If Wonderland has a costume shop, it would surely resemble Arline Smith’s garage.
The long-time Port Hope Santa Claus Parade supporter and participant enjoyed pulling together an outrageous costume each year, and wanted to invite some friends to join her. Because she loved putting the costumes together, she volunteered her skills.
The little group of 10 she envisioned has grown into more than 30, as representatives and volunteers from merchants and businesses all over town have asked if they can tag along — with those wonderful costumes by Smith, of course.
Interviewed Wednesday, as the clock ticked down toward tomorrow’s parade, she waved a hand at the costumes hung on makeshift coat racks and piled on tables, in all shades from pastel to neon.
“They are at various stages of togetherness,” she said with satisfaction.
There will be several Contrary Fairies and a few Sugar Plump Fairies (not Sugar Plum, she stressed), plus more than a dozen clowns, assorted fairy-tale characters and even human Christmas-tree decorations with wire loops for hanging attached to their heads.
“I actually have twins to be the Tweedles – Tweedledum and Tweedledee,” she said.
The Mary Had A Little Lamb costume is on the mannequin. Her crook and stuffed lamb will come later.
Much of Smith’s expertise is beyond simple sewing skills. She spent some three decades in the film industry working with props and special effects.
Along with the odd purchase of fabric yardage, Smith’s materials come largely from second-hand stores. She can cut-and-paste outfits together into a totally new amalgam the way a student on a deadline can cut-and-paste research material from the Internet.
“I hope people don’t recognize the second-hand clothes they donated,” she said.
Hats, boas, shoes and other accessories are always in stock at these stores. As for tinsel, bells, bangles, beads and other trim, there’s always the dollar store.
“I think children like a lot of sparkle,” Smith said.
“There’s enough tinsel here to keep the whole town afloat for the next 10 years.”
The merchants and businesses all donated money toward the costumes into a pot to help her, Smith said, and any funds left over will purchase candy to hand out.
Smith and her husband donated their time, expertise and garage to the effort. She has also enlisted a few friends to help, many of them acquaintances from the film industry that have become good friends since they all moved to Port Hope.
“We will be gluing, sticking and nailing stuff,” she said.
Among their challenges has been designing costumes for parade walkers who will be wearing sweaters and woolies underneath, much the same way mothers must plan their children’s Halloween costumes to incorporate warm layers under the facade.
Much of her work has been the planning, from collecting material money to doing the shopping. Some of her supporters have been extraordinarily generous, she said.
For example, the Dollar Store, the Bargain Shop and Acanthus Interiors donated a fair amount of goods, and she collected a good quantity of free candy from Giant Tiger.
“This is the retailers giving back to the town,” she said.
Parade watchers may notice that each of her costumes has a tag hanging down the back. Each will acknowledge the contributions of a different organization. It’s meant to be a recognition, she said, not a plug for the business. And the costumes are not the property of the business — just the result of their wanting to help delight the children, combined with the time and skills Smith is happy to donate.
She has acquired a large assortment of interesting bags, so that the walkers can carry along candy to pass out to the kids along the route.
“It’s meant to be fun, to make people laugh and make the children’s eyes widen,” she said.
“When I hand out sweets wearing one of those crazy costumes, their eyes are so wide. It reminds you of when you were a child.”
The ranks of outfits — dominated by such bright colours as hot pink, lime green, yellow and turquoise — have been put together over the last two weeks, she said.
“And, of course, we will be working three weeks over the next two days.”
Fortunately, she added, they are not creating for the ages. They are turning out good parade-quality costumes that will do their duty, and then get stored or disassembled — in order to be ready to bring back the magic next year.