self awareness

Low Rise Jeans on a High Rise Body // WV Boudoir Photographer

Between the ages of 13 and 17, I must have spent what added up to hours pulling my shirts down and my jeans up. All of my shirts had little spots of stretched, puckered material at the bottoms where I'd compulsively pull them down to meet my low rise jeans.

I still cringe at the thought of that feeling--sitting down, feeling the cool air on what may or may not be your ass crack. You could never tell for sure, so you always assumed it was out. I walked through the hallways slumped over, even though I was a tiny 5'2". If I scrunched my body, you couldn't see my hips busting out of the top of my jeans. I can still remember the tightness of the "waist" band sinking down my hips as I sat on hard classroom chairs. And sitting on the ground was simply out of the question. So I'd stand and watch the game while my narrower-hipped friends sat criss cross apple sauce in the grass.

Shopping wasn't any fun. Shirts were too short, pants were too long. I remember wishing I could cut off the extra material at the bottoms of my jeans and put it on the top. Every pair of jeans I tried on stopped short of slipping over what I called my muffin top. I'd run the tests: sitting, squatting, bending over to see just how much of my ass crack you could see with each movement. We'd scour the mall searching for a different style in my size while my mother tried to help by saying things like, "honey, you're so thin!"

And I was. I was a size 4 until you got to my hips and ass. I had what all the women in my family referred to as "The Daugherty ASSet." All of the women in my family were curvy, especially in the tush area. Growing up, I'd always assumed that when I hit puberty, I'd start to look like them. At 13, my butt grew, but my stomach didn't. I'd never seen a shape like mine. Shopping trips only reinforced the idea that my body was weird, wrong with every pair of jeans that squeezed into my soft hips.

My whole life people told me I was pretty, but between 13 and 17 I hid behind scraggly hair and wrong-sized clothing because I felt abnormal. 


Fast forward a few years, 2005. I'm shopping in an Old Navy in Pittsburgh, and I see a sign I'd never seen before. Above the wall of denim were signs describing what style of jean was under it. 

boyfriend    cropped    skinny   CURVY

Curvy? Could this be me? Could these pants have been built for people shaped like me? Were there other people shaped like me?

 I snagged every wash, every color they had in my size and ran to the fitting room.

I remember closing my eyes as I pulled them OVER my hips, and fastening the button that hit at my belly button. I ran the tests: sitting, no ass crack. Squatting, NO ass crack! Bending over, NO ASS CRACK. I got brave and tried sitting criss cross apple sauce on the floor--no skin showing at all. 

Sitting on that fitting room floor, I had so many questions.

Where have these jeans been all my life?

Did they exist when I was in high school?

Am I shaped funny, or did low rise jeans lie to me?

My curvy jeans gave me glasses. I started to see that there are as many body shapes as there are women in this world. I felt a sense of relief. No one is weird when everyone is different.

I wore those jeans til my knees tore through. They weren't perfect, but for the first time in my life, I didn't have to reach back to make sure my ass crack wasn't out when I sat down, and that felt good.


I reclaimed my self esteem around age 20, but I was still dressing to downplay my "Daugherty ASSet" until a year or so ago. I was still following rules like

don't wear horizontal stripes on bottom

no skinny jeans

only a line dresses and definitely not pencil dresses

wear loud patterns and bright colors on top to distract the eye

Distract the eye?! From what? The horror that is my backside?!

Then I heard of a brand called Madewell that friends and bloggers said understands women. I looked them up online. I noticed that they have a fit called "high rise skinny." Skinny AND high waisted? This was unprecedented in my world.

The next time we were in Pittsburgh, Madewell was on my to do list. I told Ricky to go to the Apple Store, this might take a while.

I bared my soul to the kind young girl who asked I needed help. She chuckled at the TMI I served her, but loaded a fitting room with more options than I knew I had. 

I blew through them, giggling and doing happy dances behind my fitting room curtain.

"How's it going in there?"

"Oh my god. Oh my god!"

She laughed. "Okay, well let me know if you need another size or anything."


I wear my Madewells multiple times a week, and I just ordered my second pair. 

A well-fitting jean taught me that there are infinite body shapes. A perfect fitting jean taught me how to love mine. So much, that when I'm wearing them, I often tuck my shirts in, just so you can see my tush as I strut across a room.

More importantly, loving my own shape helps me love all the other shapes. Wearing these jeans helps me celebrate ALL the shapes. 

I never want you to feel wrong, weird or abnormal because of the clothes that are available to you. I only want you to feel beautiful and celebrated. Wear what you want; wear what feels good. Wear what makes you want to strut across a room. 

You are beautiful, just as you are my friend.

 

 

 

 

Mini Sessions Are a Bitch: Why I Do Them Anyway // WV Boudoir Photographer

Ask any portrait photographer, and they'll tell you that they don't exactly look forward to mini sessions. 

If you've been a customer who has purchased a mini session, THANK YOU. But, step behind the curtain with me for a moment.

Mini Sessions, or miniature portrait photography sessions, usually take place over the course of one, or two if the photographer is batshit crazy, days. These days are generally 8-10 hours long. If the photographer has decided on 30 minute sessions, that's TWENTY families, people, couples, per day. Many of these people are relying on you to create THE MOST AMAZING CHRISTMAS CARD PHOTO ANYONE IN ANY FAMILY ANYWHERE HAS EVER SEEN. I don't care how much you love your job, that's A LOT of people to make/keep happy in a day or two. And don't even get me started on the money. 

That said, we continue to do them. You might ask why we continue to punish ourselves holiday after holiday with these chaotic carnivals of joy. 

I can't speak for any other photographers, but I have one irresistible, unavoidable reason to keep doing mini boudoir sessions. 

I want as many women as possible to experience all that boudoir has to offer.

When I started this business three years ago, I believed in boudoir. But now that I've had over 150 women trust me with these intimate images, I KNOW how powerful a boudoir session can be. 

 

I've seen women in the middle of a 150lb weight loss journey take everything off and dance between the sheets.

I've seen Cancer survivors reveal their scars to me.

I've heard women tell me that they've never believed they were beautiful until they saw their photos.

I've held women as they cried when the weight of the divorce hits them mid-session.

I've celebrated with women when they candidly tell me the best sex she and her husband ever had came after she showed him her photos.

I've high fived modest, shy women when they say YES to the implied nude "sheet shot."

I've listened as brides to be share all the details of the day they'll marry their best friend.

I've received texts just minutes after sessions thanking me for a confidence boost they didn't even know they needed.

I've smiled with mothers as they reclaim their baby body, watching as they become proud of the miracle they are.

 

Every woman has a damn good reason to do a shoot, but not every woman can afford it. 

While I still have to pay my bills, I price my mini sessions as low as I possibly can in the hopes that women who understandably can't swing our normal prices will give themselves this gift.

I Did Wedding Dress Shopping Wrong

I did wedding dress shopping wrong.

Which is funny, because my maid of honor, bridesmaids and mother did it exactly right. My MOH planned and scheduled an amazing day of appointments, complete with time for a nice long lunch (and beer!). My bridesmaids brought healthy snacks and all the encouragement without any of the opinions you see on "Say Yes to the Dress." My mother was a quiet light of love and support the whole day.

But I definitely did it wrong.

I started to worry in the days leading up to dress shopping when I wasn't feeling as excited as I thought I'd be to put on the dresses. Don't get me wrong; I was over the moon about a weekend in the 'Burgh with most of my girls. But I wasn't, like, giddy about trying on dresses. 

So the day comes, we're having a blast, but when I was putting on dresses, none of them made me FEEL all the FEELS everyone tells you you're going to FEEL. I started to get a little frustrated/exhausted/worried and even cried at our last appointment because my head and my heart were just so tired. (Shout out to Glitter & Grit in Pittsburgh for sweetly allowing me to take a beat for some deep breaths and refreshing. Erin even suggested I put on the dress I tried on right after I cried one more time at the end to make sure the tears weren't blurring my dress vision.)

So we didn't get a dress. Because I liked everything and LOVED nothing. 

We all decided it would be best to take some time, maybe go shopping again later with a little less pomp and circumstance.

Well, here we are three weeks later, and I haven't so much as LOOKED at other shops I'd like to go to. Why wasn't I jumping on this? Why wasn't I excited and determined to find THE DRESS?

And then it hit me. 

I wasn't driven to find the dress for two reasons.

1. I'd already found it.

2. I just don't give as much of a shit about the dress as I thought I'd be. And THAT'S OKAY.

The more I thought about the dress I liked the most (we all affectionately refer to it as Air Dress), the clearer my reasons for liking it became.

I like Air Dress because it will be SO EASY to DANCE in!

I like it because it's sophisticated, a little funky AND whimsical--just like I like to think I am.

I like how our photos will look with Air Dress in them.

I like how effortless Air Dress is.

I like that I've already found it which means I can turn my time and energy toward our guests' experience. Which is what I've cared as much about as I thought I was supposed to care about the dress.

I am way more excited about seeing our family and friends enjoy rooftop cocktails and live jazz. I am so much more excited about the photo booth with our sidecar in it. I can't wait to see people's faces when they come in for hugs and congratulations. 

I'm most excited about OUR wedding, not MY wedding dress.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a dress to order. ;)

Name
Name