A few days ago, I posted a triptych photo of V chronicling how much she’s grown from year to year. In each photo, she wears an old J.Crew shirt of mine. In each photo, the shirt gets a little shorter on her legs and on her arms. V is my third and last little biscuit, but she is not the first to participate in this photo study of growth and development. Each of my girls has their own unique outfit in which to dress up every year on their respective birthdays. For C, it’s a Grecian dress I bought on a whim while traveling abroad. For M, it’s a Lands End bathing suit that I had in my closet when I first came across this project.
In August of 2006, M was turning a year old. During her first year, I turned to a number of resources to help me navigate the first year of parenthood: family, friends, books, magazines — I was all over it, making sure that she was hitting her milestones, that she was eating from all of the food groups, and that she was engaged in activities to stimulate growth and development — Gymboree Play and Music! Kindermusik! Stroller Strides! My mother gifted me with a subscription to Parents Magazine as part of my “Welcome to Motherhood” starter pack. In the last issue before my subscription ran out, I came across an article entitled “The Swimsuit Project”. In it, author Maria Heck describes how prior to her becoming a mother, she came across a photo essay in Life Magazine. The photo essay depicted a young woman whose mother had posed her in the same bathing suit each year on her birthday. Heck was duly impressed and promised herself that whenever she had a daughter, she would duplicate the project. When her daughter was 4 months old, Heck slipped Madeline into a floral bathing suit, complete with bra cups, that had belonged to Heck’s mother. Every year on Madeline’s birthday, Heck snapped a picture. She did this for 15 years, stopping when the suit fit her daughter better than it had ever fit her own mother.
At that point in time, Heck decided that, “the chronicle is complete. She has gone from baby to young woman. If anything proves that your child grows up in the blink of an eye, it’s seeing these pictures all together and realizing that the first one was only a heartbeat away from the last.”
The article in Parents was Heck’s photo essay of the very project that caught her eye. Like Heck, I was struck by the simplicity of the project, the patience required, and the unique approach in cataloging a child’s growth and development. I decided that I was going to do this project with, and for, M. We started that night, with my Lands End Tunic Bathing Suit. When C was born, we had hung up the bathing suit from M’s two year photo shoot and I began thinking about what C could wear when it was her turn. A dress that I knew I would never again wear, but was loathe to part with became her outfit. For V, a Peter Pan Collared shirt from J.Crew that I could not make work, despite my best efforts.
I happily relinquish those items to my girls, though, because as time goes by and the photos begin to grow in number, I am overwhelmed at how much my little ladybugs have grown and changed. Certainly, I had the fortune of seeing this project while my first born child was still young, but I think it’s one that is never too late to start. A similar take on this project is snapping a pic of your little person in your wedding gown (or menswear equivalent) and then (if you can manage it) bringing that photo out when they get engaged or married. Use it for the save the date or something.
My advice? Don’t overthink it. Choose something meaningful to you and snap a photo of it. Remember to do it around the same time every year. Be patient. Before you know it, you’ll have captured something so mind-blowing and precious, you’ll be patting yourself on the back for reading this post!
If you take on this project, what item would you choose for your little person to wear? Tell me about it in the comments!