Courtesy Stephanie Anderson
Stella Ehrhart shows off some of her costumes, which she wears to school. From left to right, here she is as Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of President Abraham Lincoln, chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall and singer Billy Holiday.
As children and parents across America labor over what to wear for Halloween, a third-grader in Omaha, Neb., could offer them a few tips.
Stella Ehrhart, 8, is an expert. She has worn a different costume to school every day since the second day of second grade.
“Every year I end up being about 160 different people,” she told TODAY.com.
Unlike the witches and wizards most children choose, Stella selects her outfits by emulating world leaders, revolutionaries and equal-rights advocates. There are few Hollywood stars and male figures thrown into the mix, but she gets much of her inspiration from the book: “100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century.”
“Some of my favorites are Anne Frank, Helen Keller, and Rosa Parks,” she said.
Her eclectic mix has included well-known figures like first lady Michelle Obama and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as more obscure characters like Virginia Apgar, whose method of assessing the health of newborn babies drastically reduced infant mortality around the world, and Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon.
Inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Stella dressed like any other child for the first day of second grade, wearing an outfit given to her by her grandfather. But, that all changed a day later.
“I was reading a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and I liked it so much that I decided to dress as Laura Ingalls Wilder,” she explained. “My teacher loved it, so I said I could keep doing it and it became a thing.”
Stella was a different historical character every day for the rest of the school year. This year, she has repeated some of last year’s characters but with different costumes.
“Last year when I was Harriet Tubman, I had my mom’s dress wrapped around my head and wore one of my own dresses, but this year I wore a dress and I wore my hair in a bun,” she said.
Stella surprisingly manages to create scores of costumes out of her regular-sized closet. “I’ve never bought anything special and I wouldn’t because that’s not what school is supposed to be about,” said her mother, Stephanie Anderson.
“She’s worn the same black dress for a million characters: Billie Holiday, Mary Todd Lincoln, Emily Dickinson, Joan Baez,” Anderson said, naming a few. “She doesn’t go to school dressed elaborately; that’s not what it’s about to her; it’s a way to channel her creativity and learn about these interesting women,” her mother said.
Stella’s teachers use her outfits for classroom discussions and other students have tried to emulate her by dressing up themselves. “But they usually dress up like Strawberry Shortcake or fairies,” Stella joked.
It’s in the genes
Stella’s mom has not pushed her to dress up. In fact, she said she has frequently discouraged it as it can be a frustrating and time-consuming early morning endeavor.
Stella has likely inherited much of her creativity from her parents who are both actors and directors. The schoolgirl currently has the lead role in a play called “The Bad Seed,” in which Anderson plays her mother.
In the past, Stella has also acted with her father, Kevin Ehrhart, in a production called “Seussical The Musical.” Stella said she would like to be an actress and director when she grows up, too. But “the way she argues, we always tell her what a great lawyer she’ll be,” her mother quipped.
So what does the girl who plays dress-up every day do for Halloween?
Last year she made up a superhero named “Creative Girl” and she’s still not sure about this year — but says she'll switch up her routine and dress more like other kids do for the holiday. After all, she said, "Every day is Halloween for me."
More from TODAY:
- Terrifyingly cute: 31 Halloween costumes for babies
- Hot new Halloween candy to help you one-up the neighbors
- Best Halloween house ever goes 'Gangnam'
- Seeing double: Portraits capture girls' attachment to American Girl dolls