We can understand adornment better, and the experience of
heightened significance that attends it, by recalling the feeling of self-
enhancement when we dress "up".
"make-up" also has this sense of transformation and improvement. Everyone who
has ever dressed for a formal occasion has felt other than usual. And other than oneself.
It is like the peculiar sensation of wearing a false-face at Halloween.
It is a part of the appeal of theatre, when the make-up
convinces us that the character portrayed is real.
There is something discomforting about meeting a clown in
full make-up, too. Interestingly, the word "Person" comes from the Latin for an
actor's mask. We identify with the mask, however, and to see ourselves masked brings
release from this continual pretence.
Thus at a fancy dress ball, men and women behave toward
each other often without masking their true feelings, paradoxically, by the virtue of
The same sense of liberation from the personality which we
maintain socially can be realized by walking down a strange street in a strange town while
wearing sun-glasses. The excitement is subtler, but tangible enough.
The shock value of the mask is used in other cultures to
even greater effect as where the extravagance of a carnival is intensified by a religious
intent where the participants dress to represent the powers they invoke. In dressing up to
represent a divinity, the participant identifies with that divinity.