I’ve been doing a series of fairy tale photographs of children. These conceptual portraits are tremendous fun to do, though they require a lot of prep work. My office is starting to look a bit like a costume shop with a princess dress over here and a witch overdress over there and I have a white brocade jacket for a prince on the way. Each fairy tale portrait shoot requires costumes, location scouting, sometimes a sheep.
After I finished up a little shepherdess conceptual portrait shoot with an adorable 4-year-old girl and some sheep I asked my own child what fairy tale SHE would like to be. “Snow White,” she said. I cringed. Not only does Snow White have a pretty specific dress the story is especially problematic from a feminist perspective. Killed over beauty, and killed using traditional implements of femininity: a comb, a tightly laced dress, food. And not just any food but food just drenched in a sauce of Biblical imagery. But, OK, if she wants a Snow White portrait I’m not going to give the 6-year-old girl a seminar on literary critique. I’m just going to track down a Snow White dress.
Alas, the Snow White dresses available for purchase are either made out of incredibly cheap fabrics or too expensive. Any cheap, shiny acetate or tulle dress just won’t get the feel of “this is a real dress, on a real girl, who just happens to be Snow White” that the final image needs. So making it it was.
Now, I used to work in both wardrobe and costume in a couple of professional theaters but I’m no cutter/draper. I decided to see if I could get lucky on the thrift store circuit. And I did. At The Clothes Horse, a thrift store run by the Junior League of Hartford, I found a blue pantsuit with a bodice top and a yellow linen shift dress. Done.
She looks thrilled, doesn’t she. I washed both pieces several times because children’s clothing really needs to be washable. I took the top in and added the skirt. Fitting the dress was her least favorite part of the whole experience though she has since worn the finished dress out to lunch so I think she decided the hassle of having a dress made was worth it.
I finally added some red bias tape to add the hint of red that Snow White’s dress traditionally has, as I was NOT inserting slash and puff sleeves. We used a chemise as an underdress and the whole outfit was ready to go. We headed over to a local park and after trying some “Snow White mid-fall after the fateful bite of the apple” I convinced her to lie down on some moss under a tree for what turned out to be “the” shot.