It happened when I was in my baby carriage. People exclaimed, “You look just like your mother.” Again and again, as often as once a week, through my girlhood, teenage years, college and beyond, everyone said I was the image of her.
This wasn’t your garden-variety mother-daughter likeness. Patsy Shally was a world famous fashion model from approximately 1950 to 1960, on the cover of every major magazine.
The constant comparison to Mom over the years gave rise to a thousand thoughts and feelings—on beauty, on what it means to look like someone else, on how beautiful goes in and out of fashion, on jealousy, on vanity, and, now, on what it means to be aging.
It inspired characters in my novel: a mother-daughter, model-not model look-alike combo.
What does it all mean? What has it meant to me?
I’m finally going to answer these questions with the “Stepping into Mom’s Shoes” photography/essay project.
I have hired a photography team, a studio, a makeup artist, hair person, and stylist. I’ve rented 1950s dresses, combed Etsy for hats, and mined Amazon.com for props. On January 11th I am going to literally step into my mother’s shoes by recreating some of her work. The yellow-dress-leopard-hat and Vogue cover above. And others like these…
Mom, of course, will be there too. Yes. She’s still gorgeous.
I’m documenting the whole thing, from standing near naked in a freezing Yonkers costume warehouse, to struggles in corset-fastening, to the decision (still not made) about whether or not to cut my hair for the project.
Interested in publishing the essay and photo-journey? I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.