I love dressing up.
I probably should have grown out of it sometime after the childhood dressing up box with the blue satin bridesmaid dress and fashioning a wimple out of an old tea towel. Or possibly after donning the flowing white robes and turban (properly should have been blue, but that's another story) of a Tuareg and walking two miles, barefoot, to a college party.
And it wasn't a fancy dress party, either.
But I never did grow out of it. In recent years, I've had some legitimate and glorious excuses for dressing up.
One time I took part in a Viking encampment on Lindisfarne, as the guest of a local re-enactment society (actually, that was a barefoot engagement, too - is there a theme here?) Sitting in the ruins of the priory on a sheepskin, sewing a pair of leather shoes, drinking from a stone cup, wearing an authentic linen shift and woollen dress, it was easy to leave 21st century Anna behind. Easy to think myself into another skin, to conjure stories.
Then last year I took part in the Cockermouth Georgian Fair.
I'm not much of an exhibitionist by nature. After one glance down at the wholly historically accurate amount of bosom on display, I had to swear to myself I wouldn't look down, or tug the dress up, again that day! When I first put the dress on, I though, "I can never go out like this!"
But actually it was easy. The weight of the dress, the constriction of the, um, underpinnings, the perfect fit of the bodice were constant reminders that I wasn't 21st century Anna again.
I was dressing up. I was someone else.
Both incidents reminded me that when we put characters together for a story, when we try to get inside their skin, sometimes it helps to put on what they're wearing OVER their skin, too.
But I really hope this doesn't mean I need to spend some time in the tight jeans and eye-watering colours of the heroine of my current book...