China Culture Featured Travel

Playing Dress-Up in the Park

(Last Updated On: January 8, 2021)
A much fatter Stevo, dressing up in 2005.
A much fatter Stevo, dressing up in 2005.

I don’t remember parks in Canada having dress-up booths. I can’t investigate: I’m not living in Canada, I’m living in China. Dressing up is commonplace in Chinese parks, theme or otherwise. Chinese women dream of being Asian models.

You’ll find a tent with racks of elaborate clothing: Festive Asian costumes, mostly for the ladies, but some for children and men. The displays on battered boards in front of said tents feature 4 x 6 photos of smiling women dressed in the colorful (and rented) gowns.  Children will be dressed as emperors or princesses. The images of men show them a) Bored and/or disgruntled b) Hamming it up.

Nowadays, I don’t often play dress-up. My mother speaks of The Stevo’s younger days, when he cavorted around the house with a towel tied about his neck, or laying on a footstool with his makeshift cape, making wind noises and pretending to fly. Superman was replaced by Spiderman, who was replaced by Batman, and then Spiderman back for an encore.

Men dress up once a year — Halloween. Chinese women only need a trip to the park.

After returning from her year-long excursion to England, Mrs. Stevo decided she wanted a day to “play.” (aside: I am told my friends and I “play together” when coworkers translate Chinese to English. There is no “go out.”) Various options were discussed. As Mrs. Stevo is frugal, unlike her husband, Zhong Shan Park was decided upon as the venue. There’s  a temple nearby, and Xinan Old Town (a bit of ancient China, a former Qing Dynasty naval garrison): Best of all, from Mrs. Stevo’s point of view, it’s free.

We had planned to visit during the late afternoon, but plans change often and quickly in China. An early lunch with friends, and then to the park. The sensible thing to do at 1:00 pm during the summer in South China is sleep. The humidity will suck the life from you faster than a thirsty vampire (or a Republican president).  Twenty minutes into the excursion saw Mr. Stevo’s shirt soaked through. He wasn’t a happy camper. He is like his father in a lot of unfortunate ways, try as he might to be otherwise.

After walking through the small amusement park section, and Mr. Stevo “busting some caps” with a plastic-pellet firing AK-47, the pair came upon the dress-up both. Mrs. Stevo, like women all over the world, loves clothing. Mr. Stevo knew there was no escape. His wallet was lightened by 20 Yuan and Mrs. Stevo disappeared behind a curtain to get dressed, one of the dress-up booth mavens as her valet.

I hadn’t planned on taking photos that day. Yes, I had my camera and had snapped a few while in Xinan Old Town and at the temple. Shooting portraits was not on my schedule. It was 3 pm and golden hour was in the distant future. The sky was a harsh and smoggy blue-white. Far from ideal conditions.

Mrs. Stevo appeared in her finery and I led her back to a spot I had mentally marked earlier (a photographer’s mind never stops analyzing locations). Snap. Snap.

Why is it when you travel light you always need the one thing you don’t have? A flash and triggers. A reflector. A portrait lens. Traveling light, not packing for photographic eventualities, has drawbacks.

A change of clothes and new location. Snap. Snap.

My mood improved. I had something to focus on other than the rabid humidity.

And then we were done. We walked through the rest of the park, green and lovely. By the time we found a taxi golden hour had arrived.

I’m not Kreskin, but I see another trip to Zhong Shan Park and playing dress-up in my future. I’ll remember to pack more gear.


  1. Any woman would love playing dress up in the park. Why don’t we have that in the U.S.? Are you a lucky photographer! You have the most beautiful subject right before you in your wife.
    .-= anhinga´s last blog ..Twitter Hacking =-.

  2. I must be strange. Well, I am. But I really hate dress up and clothes. Playing dress up in the park is the last thing I would want to do, other than have someone take my picture.

    You do have a lovely subject and I’m glad she likes to play dress up. Gives you lots to shoot and lots to take your mind off of the rabid humidity!

    Love seeing Mrs. Stevo!
    .-= Corina´s last blog ..Things I Learned This Year =-.

  3. Actually, Stevo, I think you look like a British Beefeater waylaid by hippies. Or maybe troubadours. Troubadour hippies? Add my kudos to your lovely wife.

    I also am not fond of dress up, but I think the idea of a dress-up park is quite charming. There are events in the SF area–an estate open to the public will one day encourage everyone to come in 20’s garb as flappers, etc. In Alameda recently they had a Victorian day, so people got out their frilly hats & finery.

    But it’s not the same thing as a going concern where people can show up on a whim to dress like … a hippie Beefeater?
    .-= ombudsben´s last blog ..Looking Out My Backdoor =-.

    1. Hello Ben. 20s garb? I’d be into that. A zoot suit perhaps. Very cool. I don’t like being part of the Troubadour hippies gang.

  4. I suppose the least obnoxious thing I could say about your costume would be, ‘Eewww, how unfortunate.’, but love your expression.

    I’ll echo the other comments about your wife’s beauty – she’s definitely a looker.

    The whole dress up in the park idea is sort of a strange concept but I can see it’s attraction for some.
    .-= Norm´s last blog ..Extreme – =-.

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