Fashion is in the Sky: How to dress your child for their studio portrait!

Cat Thrasher is the owner of Fab 5 and Cat Thrasher Photography and a co-founder of Little Bellows. This post was originally shared on her blog. Join her email list here, and contact her directly at this link.

"Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."

-Coco Chanel

Parents often ask me, before their Fab 5 session, how they should dress their child. Here's a quick guide for inspiration!

Dress your child for their studio portrait in clothes that you love to see them wearing. If aunt Gloria sent you a sweet Ralph Lauren jumper that gives your little girl an air of adorable sophistication beyond her years, how interesting would that be to see in a perfect studio shot? If you just adore watching your little boy run around in those maroon corduroy overalls that you scored at the thrift store, then you will probably love a photo with him wearing those very overalls. That jumper, those overalls, or whatever it is that you love, will be perfect.

The point is: do not listen to folks who tell you to play down patterns, or collars, or this or that, because it will lead to better photos. "It will draw attention away from the face," they say. "Everyone really should be wearing the same color." Blah, blah. None of it is true. If your child will wear it, and you love it, that's all you need to know.

These portraits are for you, and for your child when they get older. You want to hang them on the wall right after they are taken and say "look how that color brings out her eyes!" You want to say, years down the line, "remember that shot of Agatha in that adorable floral dress? She was obsessed with flowers back then."

A portrait should bring you back to the moment that it was taken and the time that it was taken in. Pictures are moments of the past, and should therefore represent the past. Picking an outfit that symbolizes the moment is an integral part of that representation.

Studio portrait photographs are a special occasion. It's your chance to doll up your child in the manner you want to remember them by. Because we use solid color, neutral backdrops for studio sessions, not much will get in the way of your child just being themselves, in whatever you dress them.

Still stuck? What, you don't have piles of perfect children's clothing lying around? No problem, friend. Read below for a few notes that might help!

Color is the bomb. Solid colors of all shades and hues can really complete a photo, especially if you pick a complimentary shade to your child's eye and hair colors. I especially love solid-color pieces that come with ample texture such as ruching, pockets, or buttons.

Prints date your photos (how cool is that??). It's true, we've been told to avoid printed t-shirts in formal portraits for decades. But what about that one shot of you in 1988 wearing the Star Wars t-shirt and Chuck Taylors? What really makes that photo amazing, besides the adorable 5-year-old? The outfit. On a related note, the same thing is true for cars: we always try to get cars and other vehicles out of our pictures. But have you ever spotted a photo from the 60s or 70s with the family station wagon in it? So hip.

Patterns are perfection. I've been obsessed with flowery dresses of mid-range and earthy tones on little girls lately, but there are many other kinds of patterns that can really jazz up a portrait. You could try striped pants, or a shirt covered in butterflies. There's really no limit, as long as you like it!

Little babies can go nude! Their skin is perfect, and they love being in the buff. Just strip their clothes off and let's document those incredible chubby legs and arm rolls up close!

When stuck, accessorize. You might not have anything on hand, and you don't feel like shopping, but you do want to add a little something to the scene. Do you have a stylin' fedora that your little boy could throw on for a few shots, or a lovely little bow headband for your little girl's hair? Props fall into this category as well: a magic wand, a tutu, a cape, a cool toy, a bow tie, a neat chair, the list goes on!

This post should serve as a loose guide for inspiration, but in the end, you should do what moves you!

The most important thing is to show up and simply make the portrait session happen in the first place. So, families in the Charlottesville, Virginia area should make an appointment now for the Fall Fab 5 on November 10th!

About Cat Thrasher: email / CTP website / Fab 5 website / facebook / blog / email list