This project brought me, Jess Buttermore, and nine photographers from different cities across North America together with a single dress. We are ten women. Mothers. Photographers. Artists. And now, thanks to this project, friends for life.
The project’s inception began with a few friends who wanted to put a spin on the traditional traveling dress project by photographing their daughters rather than themselves. They chose a gorgeous boho maxi dress with tiered lace ruffles, invited more friends along and sent the dress traveling. -Jess
The dress began its journey with Kimberli in North Dakota. It was late fall so the sun set early which meant they had a short gap of time to work with after her daughter got home from school. They were a bit rushed out the door and when they arrived at their shooting location, Kimberli realized she’d forgotten her SD card! Thankfully, she found an old one in the bottom of her camera bag and, together, they made a beautiful series of sunset images. Kimberli explained, “In the end, everything came together, and I couldn’t have been happier with the result! What a cool project to bring together photographers. I now have a handful of new friends I might not have otherwise met!”
The dress then traveled to the Pacific Northwest to the hands of Jess in Seattle, Washington but didn’t stop there. Jess and her family were headed out on one of their weekend getaways to the Oregon Coast on the very morning she received the dress, so they took it along on the adventure! Jess was fortunate to have gorgeous weather conditions the evening she shot this series and her daughter was ecstatic to wear the dress. In Jess's words, “The minute Madeline’s toes touched the sand, she was off and twirling, needing no direction at all. I just silently followed her around, snapping away, capturing both the details of the dress as well as my daughter’s pure joy as she wore it. As we walked back to the house that evening, she told me she had the best time ever and that she felt like a beautiful princess.”
A quick shake to brush off all the sand and the dress was promptly shipped cross-country to Jamie in central Illinois. If you are familiar with December in the midwest, you know the weather is cold and unpredictable. Luckily, there was no snow on the ground, and they were experiencing warmer than normal temps (40 degrees Farenheit.) They brought a blanket along to warm up in between shots and her daughter was such a trooper! They photographed the first part of their series at a local lake with tall prairie grass and a beautiful wooded area and then ventured over to a barn owned by a family friend. Jamie explained, “The barn had lovely windows, and the light was beautiful, so my daughter just twirled and twirled in it.”
The dress then traveled to Chicago just in time to ring in the New Year with Alexandria and her daughter. With temperatures hovering around 16 degrees Fahrenheit that week, they opted to photograph the dress inside their home. In Alexandria's words, “I was sweating bullets (ironic with how cold it was outside) at the thought of having to come up with amazing images inside my home. But, the second my daughter stepped into that dress, she turned into a 3-year-old model, posing and playing it up for the camera. Being a part of this project was so much fun for both of us!”
The traveling dress continued on its way and reached Marisa in Milwaukee in early January. Since the weather was frigid, she took her three-year-old daughter to one of the most beautiful indoor locations in their city, the Milwaukee Art Museum. Marisa wrote, “The dress had a very antique feel so I was compelled to capture the juxtaposition of this old-time piece in a very modern space. As a connection point across the time range represented, I added a retro citrine crocheted cape, which was handmade in the 1970s.” They spent quite a bit of time exploring the museum and then went in search of a simple pocket of light, finding it at an old empty building where light spilled through the windows in complete perfection. In Marisa’s words, “This was a day I believe we will both remember forever. For her, it was exploring new places alone with her mom, without any siblings in tow. For me, it was seeing my beautiful girl in all of the innocence of a toddler, while catching a glimpse of the gorgeous woman she will become.”
The dress’s next stop was to Brandi’s home in Rockville, Maryland. It was now mid-February so still very cold for the northeast. Luckily, the day of their session, it was beautiful outside, unseasonably warm and the sun was shining! Brandi took her daughter to one of her favorite outdoor locations in their area; a beautiful mansion owned by the county and open to the public. Brandi wrote, “She twirled her way around the mansion grounds and would have continued into the night if I’d let her. Although she would have been thrilled to keep the dress, she was so happy to pass it on to the next person, after I told her a little bit about the little girl, of course. We had a fabulous time!”
The next stop for the traveling dress was to Rebecca in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Soon after receiving the dress, they realized they really didn’t have shoes that would go with it. So, out they went, at the end of winter, barefoot! Becca shared, “40-degree weather didn't stop us! She loved the dress and felt like a princess in it!”
The dress then headed south to Marissa in Dallas, Texas. It was rainy all week long and Marissa was struggling through her first trimester of morning sickness at the time, so they opted to shoot inside. It was a good thing, since the dress was extremely long on the small frame of her sweet little girl. Marissa used the natural window light to capture her series. In Marissa's words, “I love the light our living room window gives us in the afternoon. It's one of my favorite rooms in the house, for that reason. My daughter was so excited to put the dress on, and once she did, she exclaimed that she felt like a princess!”
The traveling dress was nearing the end of its journey now, but not before visiting California! Megan, in Tulare, was next to receive the dress. It was the last few weeks of winter, but the sun decided to shine its beautiful warmth; the perfect time to grab her girl, dress her up in something stunning, soft, and spectacular and find the most amazing field behind a local car dealership. The world is full of beautiful places to photograph, but it’s those little gems you find nestled in your “own back yard” that are the most special. Turning something so ordinary into something magical and full of dreamy light. Megan shared, “It was still cool and breezy, but the sun bathed us in its glorious warm glow. We spun, and danced, and twirled until we were breathless. Full of joy and laughter. Quiet moments, listening to the wind as it whispered in our ear and tickled our cheeks. It was a lovely evening encased in lace, running through open fields, being loved by the sun.”
Last but certainly not least, the dress traveled a bit further south to Sho in San Diego, who had waited five months to get her hands on it! She was ecstatic to receive it and had the perfect location picked out for their session. They had to delay their session a couple days due to rain but having waited long enough already, they finally decided to just go for it. Sho explained, “We jumped in the car with the hope that the rain clouds would clear by the time we arrived at Joshua Tree National Park. This park is absolute magic and we couldn’t wait to get there. The rain stopped completely as soon as we parked and the sun shined for exactly one hour; just enough time to create a beautiful series, and beautiful memories, with my daughter.”
This experience has brought so much enjoyment to each of us and our daughters at every turn of the process. We planned. We shared in the anticipation of waiting our turn to receive the dress, and the excitement as we updated each other on the dress’s travels. We bonded over stories of how we overcame less than ideal weather conditions, morning sickness, the dress being lost in transit by the postal service, and, perhaps most importantly, how the dress allowed us to bond with our daughters, who transformed into princesses the moment they slipped it on.
And now. Finally, the opportunity to share our story and our images. Each set with their own unique style so perfectly specific to each artist. This is our story of ten artists. Ten daughters. Ten cities. One Dress. -Jess
Graphic Designer since 2005 and natural light photographer producing mostly black and white images, some color, with a fine art style, located in Vancouver, WA, USA.
I love creating. I love finding beauty in the mundane and seemingly trivial. I love being a part of creating beautiful things.
I tend to be an over-sharer. So here goes. Music, movies, and imagery are God's gifts to me. I'm convinced these are the tools He chooses to communicate with me. I make mistakes everyday, try to clean up the mess alone, make it worse, then finally, as a last resort call on the One I should have in the first place. I'm desperately searching to fill the hole that only He can fill and everyday I become more convinced that it won't be filled here... and I can't wait to meet Him face to face. To finally meet who I was created for. To finally understand.