Looking at my family’s photo albums from the nineties is always a happy hour or two spent each time I visit my parents. So, of course, my Christmas vacation has to start the same way. On one of my first nights home, I curl up with an over-stuffed album, and there’s no turning back.
After seeing dozens of photographs of myself, my parents, my cousins, and my brother, I begin to wonder: Are these trips down Memory Lane a search for nostalgia of a relatively peaceful childhood in a yellow-brick bungalow? Maybe. For memories of events that happened when I was too little to keep track? Perhaps. Or, for my dress phase (which seems to be returning, more than a decade and a half later), the Halloween costumes my mom made for my brother every year, and my multiple multi-coloured-bear-patterned outfits? That sounds more like it.
My fashion choices as a child, or the choices my mother made for me, never cease to amaze me. They fill me with a desire to throw out all that I own now and start fresh, with adult-sized replicas of everything I wore before I hit ten.
Instead, to maintain my bank account and some semblance of sanity, I’ll settle for swooning over these photographs – again, and again, and again…
Here I am, sitting pretty with my grandparents’ stuffed cat on their
“spinny chair,” both of which are still in their house. Look at the dress.
Gorgeous, right? I’m not biased. It’s not me that makes the photo cute…
Here’s me again, on my third birthday, according to the candles on the cake.
Again, I’m wearing a frilly, puffy, little-girl equivalent of a ball gown.
Until recently, I would look at these photos and think nothing of the dresses. Now, I want to know exactly what’s up with the heaps of photos of me in beautiful, fancy dresses. How many formal occasions did I attend at age three? Not many. According to my mom, these designer dresses – handed down by one of her friends’ daughters – were all I would put on for at least a couple years of my life.
Moving on to Halloween, which was apparently a big event at our house. Photos of me in costume are, sadly, hard to come by. My brother, on the other hand, seemed to only wear Halloween costumes in his early years. All three are home-made by our mom; all three make me laugh out loud when I see pictures of them; and all three make it clear that my brother was a great costume model. Check out the poses.
Here, we have a sleepy clown – probably the best and least creepy kind of clown,
and certainly the only kind welcome to sleep on our kitchen table.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman! The fake muscles tie the whole thing together, and everything else is pretty self-explanatory. I mean… Those muscles aren’t fake!
Last but not least of the best costumes of all time is the lobster. I can’t believe my mom made it! Who’s that off to the right, imitating the lobster pose? Definitely not me.
And finally… The hand-made rainbow-bear-patterned outfits. How many pieces of clothing my mom made for me out of this fabric and why there was such a large supply of it, I have no idea. But, you have to admit, it’s adorable and clearly very flattering.
Here I am, rocking the print in a shorts and t-shirt combo,
complete with a matching red hat, winter boots, and a blank stare.
And look, here I am again, next to a fellow with a killer mullet,
in some pants and a hair-bow of the same material. Thanks, Mom.
What I’ve come to realize by exploring these albums in so much depth over the years is not that the self who I was in the photos is gone, but rather that she shaped my style into what it is today. My love of strange patterns, my appreciation for thoughtful Halloween costumes and my preference for dresses over pants are all results of my childhood wardrobe. An underrated inspiration, perhaps? I think so.
- Stephanie Fereiro