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One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to any kind of portrait session is that you need to buy a brand new wardrobe. You don’t need to look like an Instagram model with a Pinterest-worthy wardrobe. Don’t go shopping for designer clothes in the few days before your portrait session; instead, go shopping in your own closet.

Your outfits should represent you. Not who your friends think you are, not who your parents want you to be, but completely and beautifully you. Think about what you do, what you love, and what’s most important for you to showcase through your portraits. Picking outfits based on your personality and interests will make you feel much more comfortable during the portrait session and will produce more genuine results in the end.

For my senior portrait session, I wore a dress, three t-shirts with the same pair of shorts, and a dance costume. Since I got the dress at Christmas in 2016, I’ve worn it for several special events, and it only made sense for me to wear it for my senior portraits. The dress was special to me because I absolutely adore vintage clothing, and this 1940s-style swing dress was not only in my favorite color, but also made me feel confident in my own body.

The three shirts I chose all connected to a significant activity or object in my life – things that make me who I am. The first shirt was Harry Potter-themed, and if you’ve known me for even a couple hours, you’ll know that I have read the Harry Potter series over forty times; have been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter twice; am a proud Ravenclaw; and have not one, but two Pottermore accounts. Having something related to Harry Potter in my senior portraits was a must. The second shirt was a Summer Programs staff shirt from last summer. I worked at the Cary Academy Summer Programs for four years and was a camper for several years before then, so the Summer Programs have been an integral part of my life for over a decade. The last shirt I wore was a softball t-shirt from my freshman year. I played softball for six years at Cary Academy, wore the same number (17) every season, and found a piece of home on the field. Knowing I was going into my last season at Cary Academy, I wanted to memorialize my love for the sport.

I will admit that I did buy one thing for my senior portrait session. For the dance costume, I owned a leotard from my junior recital, but I didn’t have a skirt to wear over it. Three reasons I made that purchase: 1) I was uncomfortable dancing in just a leotard because of how revealing it can be; 2) long, sheer, flowy skirts look gorgeous when you photograph them; and 3) they’re fun to wear over shorts in other outfits (which I have done). I’ve been in dance classes for ten years and started dancing around the house (and in the grocery store and at church and at the pool) as soon as I could walk.

When I met with Teresa before my senior portrait session, I knew what I wanted to show through my portraits, and we used those ideas to match my clothes with each aspect of the session. The important part about picking your outfits for your portrait session is that you choose clothes you know fit you well. New clothing can be uncomfortable on the first wear, and if you don’t know how it fits when you stand/sit/walk, the likelihood of it photographing well is slim. These portraits last lifetimes, so wear what makes you feel the best, and be you.