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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #25: Keys

About a year ago my mom gave me the keys. This sounds like a rite of passage moment. But it was not, because the keys weren’t hers. They were found in my grandparents’ garage and were no longer needed. Mom gave them to me. Old keys? New art supplies. Win, win.

When I first decided to incorporate keys into a costume, I looked for key shapes online. The really old style appealed to me because they reminded me of fairy tales I read as a child, ones set in the days of castles and oversized, iron keys. I decided I would use some of the keys my mom gave me, and I’d make big, decorative keys for my costume. I bought metallic pleather, cut key shapes, and then aged them with paint. A purple background would make the metal pop, I decided. I’m not dressed as a queen, per se, but I’m channeling fairy tales and old keys. (If you insist on calling me Her Royal Funky-Fab Lady Sarah, that will be your choice…) Here is the key to royal costumes:

Visually, keys are interesting as an art material. They come in so many shapes and styles. They have history. They are an item we still use today, and unlike so many inventions that have seen lots of change to their design over time, keys are basically the same construction as they were long ago. Four thousand years ago keys and locks were made from wood and other natural materials. Metal eventually became the favored material. Keys signified wealth because it cost more to have doors with locks.

People all over the world have different lives, but keys are a common thread amongst many of us. Keys open mansions as well as subsidized housing. Keys allow access to a home you own or one you rent. Keys are functional but also symbolic: they show ownership or occupancy.

I remember the day I got the keys to my own apartment. It was the first place I chose, rather than simply making do with a place my roommates had selected. The symbolism of choosing your own place to live is big. I felt like an adult. As a starving artist I wasn't in a fancy neighborhood but I didn't care because making my own choice felt empowering. Holding the keys to my own place felt like holding the reins in my life.

Getting the car keys when you turn sixteen means you have gained maturity to operate a vehicle. Keys mean responsibility. Keys give access to your home or possessions. Keys symbolize safety because you can lock up and protect your things, and yourself. Giving someone your keys means giving them trust that they will not steal from you or harm you. Losing one’s keys is stressful.  

Keys mean answers, power, or importance. Think about how many sayings involve keys:

I’m all keyed-up!

The key to happiness…

The key to success…

The key ingredient…

The key to knowledge…

The key to life…

The key to my heart…

It’ll be a low-key party…

Being given the key to the city.

Florida Keys (derived from the Spanish word “cayo,” meaning “small island”). (Now I’m thinking of Key Lime Pie, and it’s all your fault for forcing me to talk about keys!)

If you’ve ever played piano, you know that it has eighty-eight keys. And music is written in keys so that musicians know which note to start on and whether to play flats or sharps. Saxophone buttons are called keys, too. Interesting how many different ways we use the word “key”…

Anyway, I thought that keys would make an interesting theme for a costume. They come in different shapes, sizes and looks. But they all have the same purpose. Keys are rich in meaning because they can represent different things, but all of their meanings show value, whether the keys mean access, responsibility, power, or significance.

To make this costume, here’s what I spent:

$2: purple shirt, turned into mini dress (thrifted)

$4: metallic pleather, cut into oversized key shapes

(Hot glue, thread, paint, which I already had, but if I had to put a price tag on it I’d guess I spent $4)

For ten dollars I created what I think is a fun and visually interesting outfit. I hope you found our chit-chat about keys entertaining. I liked pondering all the meanings of keys, but I’m obsessed with words and I don’t know if the rest of the world likes examining them as much as I do. On that note, I move that today should be International Key Appreciation Day. Have you thanked your keys today? Go ahead. Give them a high five. Jingle them on your key ring and tell them you love them. Even if you feel silly doing it, it’s good karma. You don’t want your keys running away from home, do you?


  1. That dress is outa sight! You look very queenly with perfectly coordinated makeup too!

    1. Kim,

      Thank you, my friend. Purple does feel royal...

  2. I like your costume and Bridget does too! The keys are really cool-- you have a lot of unusual ones.


  3. Thanks, Rox! The keys just spoke to me...

  4. Who knew keys could look so fancy! I love it against the purple. Very cool.

  5. Thanks, Adri! These keys just had an old-fashioned magic about them, and I ran with it...