This is a guest blog post by writer (and part-time photographer’s assistant) Karie Luidens.
When I was a little girl, my sister and I shared a treasure chest filled with costumes: the Dress-Up Box. It had it all, from cardboard crowns plastered with sequins to skirts studded with gems from my Bedazzler. Our mother even donated some old dresses and shoes over the years, providing us with enough material to drape ourselves from head to clomping high heels.
What is it about dressing up that’s just so fun?
If you’d asked me that at age six, I’d have replied that you had me mistaken for someone else, I was Jasmine. I couldn’t talk right now because Rajah and I were busy scaling the palace walls to escape Jafar’s latest plot. Then I’d adjust my blue headband, grab my stuffed tiger, and prowl up the ladder of our bunk bed.
Each outfit from that treasure chest unlocked a new identity, and with it, a new adventure.
By second grade I was Addy Walker, tightening my boot laces and clutching my cowrie shell necklace as I fled slave-drivers by fording an icy river (hopping across the creek in the backyard). The following year I tied a purple scarf around my waist like Esmeralda and danced around the living room with my imaginary goat until Frolo’s guards drove me to hide in the Court of Miracles (under the dining room table).
In t-shirts and sneakers, I was a plain old kid. My biggest challenges? Spelling and long division worksheets. But as soon as I dressed up, I was a rebel, a daring refugee, a defender of justice.
Hey, you know what they say: dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
My sister and I eventually outgrew all the outfits in the Dress-Up Box, and over the years the significance of clothing changed. In adolescence, the cut of our jeans marked our social savvy. Then there was the importance of dressing professionally for job interviews. And here we are, grown-ups with practical mix-and-match separates and not a sequin in sight.
My adult closet is so much less exciting than our old treasure chest. Collared shirts and cardigans—sigh. Apparently I crave nothing more than to be in an office all day.
But that’s not what I want at all. Just like when I was little, I dream of being out in the world, the heroine of exciting quests. I could do without the terrible oppression that motivated Jasmine, Addy, and Esmeralda, of course. Maybe, like in my childhood fantasies, I could skip to the fun part—the costumes, the bold gestures, the moments of triumph.
We may be older and wiser now, but we still want to have fun. How can we adults bring a bit of adventure back into our lives here and there?
Well, that’s what glamour (and glamour photography) is all about: “an exciting and often illusory and romantic attractiveness.” Sure, it’s fantasy; sure, it’s fleeting. But that never used to stop us from playing make-believe and having the time of our lives. Why not take inspiration from our younger selves and play dress-up?
If your closet has gone business-professional over the years like mine, I have good news: Zipperture Photography’s studio is stocked with costumes for you, a veritable Dress-Up box for grown-ups.
Go ahead, browse the racks and invoke your imagination. A ball gown implies a ball, of course. A flapper’s fringed skirt conjures the smoky energy of speakeasies. Little black dresses with long white gloves? A Hollywood red carpet. The right costume can even draw us into mythology: sheer pastels evoke forests and fairy-wings; silver and sea-foam call to mind the sirens of distant seas.
What is it about dressing up that’s just so fun? Now that I’m done playing Jasmine and back to being myself, I’ll venture an answer.
Costumes let us cast ourselves as the main actors in our own lives. They take the drama of real life—good versus evil, courage versus fear, love versus loss—and help us tame it all with our own storytelling. In our ordinary outfits, we’re ordinary people dealing with ordinary struggles. Dressed up, we’re heroines fighting for a happy ending.
What bold new persona will you adopt in the studio? Which villains will you flee or fight—what injustices will you defy, and what treasure will you chase? Let that spirit of fantasy light up your eyes as you play for the camera, and when the adventure comes to an end you’ll have some stunning photos to illustrate your story.