A Grown-Up Guide to Playing Dress-Up

by Stacia L. Brown

Tracee Ellis Ross’s Facebook page, you know that she’s been directly interacting with her fans much more these days, offering personal photos, both close-up and full-length, discussing her TV viewing preferences, and dishing on favored vintage and designer items in her wardrobe. You may’ve also noticed how sophisticated some of her Instagram pics are and wondered if she has a professional photographer on retainer, just to cover the events of her daily life.

As it turns out, Ross is just a fan of self-portraiture–and she happens to be really good at it. But why would someone who grew up under the glare of fame and lives near-constantly in the public eye now even want to spend her personal time dressing up and photographing herself? Well, there’s a difference between a big, business-related photo shoot, where orders are being barked and wardrobe is assigned, and the kind of silly, sultry, empowering pics you take in the privacy of your home.

The latter is something I know a little bit about. I started taking self-portraits in grad school, as an extension of an intense, belated self-discovery phase. As an introvert, I wanted a private and carefree space within which to explore the sides of my personality I’m reluctant to express in public. It’s surprising how commanding you feel when you direct yourself into character–huntress, mogul, sexpot, urban fairy–and position your body at odd angles, under various tints of light. You’re almost entranced and when you emerge from the moment and look at the photographs it yielded, you barely recognize your resplendent, uninhibited, unapologetically fierce self.

As an experience, I highly recommend it. And, apparently, so does Tracee Ellis Ross. Of her own interest in “playing dress-up,” she has this to say:

I keep posting these fun pics I take of myself and you all say the loveliest things and you keep liking them. THANK YOUUUUUUUU!!!! I have always loved taking pictures. I love playing dress up and I love any kind of “pretty playtime”. Now with all this technology you can do such fun things to your own pictures you almost don’t need some fancy photoshoot to make great pictures. Anyway, playing dress up, playing with hair and MU, being silly being sexy and sometimes creating characters from my dress up has always been a form of creative expression for me. I was a stylist when I first got out of college and worked in the magazine world @ Mirabella magazine and in the fashion Department of NY Magazine. And I have been dressing up and taking pictures side I came out of my mom’s belly. Images, style, clothing —-I love aesthetics but from a deep place of self expression not necessarily from a place of FASHION. Anyway, I am glad you seem to be enjoying what I enjoy. I see some of your nice pics on Instgram and Twitter…FUN!!!!

In short: yes. Grown folks play dress-up, too. Some of us get more into it than others. At the height of my interest in the hobby, I’d even hit up Forever 21 or Charlotte Russe and buy one of those insanely cheap dresses I wouldn’t have the nerve to wear in public, just for self-portraiture purposes. I’d dress it up or down, coyly lift the skirt or tug at the bodice, or trouble a strand of faux pearls. Someday, I hope to have a home with an extra room entirely devoted to the practice (If you’re a Community watcher, think Troy and Abed’s Dreamatorium.), where I’d build and break-down photo sets and turn myself into Dorothy Dandridge, Donyale Luna, or Pam Grier in the space of an afternoon.

It’s a hobby most don’t consider–and if you’re contemplating it now, don’t worry. You don’t have to go all-out like I do. Start with what’s already in your closet. Be daring. Mix colors and make clothing combinations you wouldn’t dare to debut in front of others. Buy a fantasy wig and get your Nicki/’90s Li’l Kim on. Or just wait till you’re home alone and make the silly or sultry face you’ve been repressing all day. Capture your moment of daring for posterity. If you’re brave, post the results to your favorite social media account. If you’re private, start a scrapbook or album. Pull it out when you forget what you’re capable of. Look at the self that only you know.

And marvel at how astounding she is.

 

Image Credit: The ELLEments of Personal Style

  • Sha_Ri_ta

    YESSS!!!

  • Alexandra

    I’m kinda obsessed with this woman. I love Tracee’s style.

    “I wanted a private and carefree space within which to explore the sides of my personality I’m reluctant to express in public. It’s surprising how commanding you feel when you direct yourself into character–huntress, mogul, sexpot, urban fairy–and position your body at odd angles, under various tints of light. You’re almost entranced and when you emerge from the moment and look at the photographs it yielded, you barely recognize your resplendent, uninhibited, unapologetically fierce self.”

    I love this quote. My best friend got me into doing photography for fun and it has grown into my favorite hobby. It definitely helps with my creativity/self-love/interests. I used to think self-portraits were an example of narcissism but in this age, it has it’s benefits.

  • Antoinette

    This is why I love Tracee Ellis Ross. I’m going to start taking photos of myself. Not sure if I’ll share them on social media but at least I’ll have them for myself. Awesome post.

  • tight lipped mary

    i always wanted to do this..i just didn’t want to seem conceited.

    guess what i will be doing now…

  • Fit_MissC

    I thought self-pics = narcissist but this post has me seeing otherwise. Why not take a photo when you’re feeling fly and the outfit is tight. Goal: take at least 2 self pics/week. *uck being humble/modest–you fly do it! LOL.

  • Maat

    I love this idea…and I really like Tracee’s style as well. I really miss her character on “Girlfriends”. It would be cool if someone produced a show centered around her personality – she’s really relatable. I think that’s why she resonates with so many black women.

  • MK

    Love this post, I love Tracee.

  • edub

    I think that she has the most amazing style. It’s not forced, it just seems like its her. She also seems really humble. In short, she’s my girl crush.

  • Whatever

    I love Tracee Ellis Ross and I love that photo of her above. She’s my friend in my head lol

  • Whatever

    I agree with everything you stated. Oh, how I miss Joan Carol Clayton.

  • Rakel

    I love her!!! She makes me miss Girlfriends so much :/ but yes lol I love playing dress up as well.

  • Candy 1

    Really good idea. I might try self photos as a hobby.

    I also really like Tracee’s image. (I’ve been saying that lately about celebs since I don’t actually know them).

  • http://www.pinkpantiesandleopardlipstick.wordpress.com Myisha of Pink Panties & Leopard Lipstick

    I absolutely LOVE her… AND her mom…. my Auntie D (in my head!) lol

  • E.M.S.

    While I’m against girls taking grainy camera phone pictures in the bathroom mirror in suggestive positions with little clothing on, photos like hers are highly artistic are just for fun and self expression, which is very artistic.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    she does very good photos.

    i have been doing self portraits for decades. don’t know why.

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