A Photo Recreation Project for the Ages ... of Me

My mom sent me digital scans of my old school photos a while back. She's been organizing the bazillions of photographs at my parents' house. I’ve had them on my phone for a year, and I came across them again in May, shortly before I published Archwilde. The little Me in those photos was the kid who soaked in Star Wars, Muppets, He Man/She-Ra, Willow, Labyrinth, Sleeping Beauty, and so many other magical stories as I grew. The tween in those photos is the one who started trying to write books herself. And the teenager in those photos is the one who set Archwilde on its path to becoming a real book.


I felt strongly connected to those younger selves as I was getting ready to put Archwilde out into the world. I decided I should do something to thank Younger Me for being such a fun little weirdo. I thought, “I should cosplay as myself and remake these photos.” With a lot of thrift shopping, some wigs and creative curling-iron work (and very little Photoshopping aside from the background and tone-matching), I made a whole summer of it. Every week for Throwback Thursday I posted one on my Instagram. Each one featured a little caption about the Me of that year, which I’ve included with the photos below.


This started out as a fun little project, but as I wrote each week's post I reconnected with each Younger Me and felt immense empathy, love and gratitude. Years of joy, family and friends mixed with disappointments, bullying and low self-esteem, but all part of the tapestry that is the Me I’ve become. It was a healing journey that I didn’t know I needed until I set out on it.


Stepping into this next phase of being a creative after putting my life’s (so far) work out there has been a strange mix of elation, excitement, fear and grief. I’m thrilled to share it, and also sad it’s done. I’m excited to write more stories in the Archwilde world, but also terrified that the creative well will run dry. Taking the summer to focus on other projects—especially this little journey to my past—has been exactly what I needed to work through those emotions and begin to step back into Asyeran, Kasdar and The Northern Isles with a fresh perspective.


So thank you, Younger Me, for setting me on this path all those years ago—and for reminding me over the last few months that it’s ok to be a weird, silly dreamer with a slightly absurd sense of humor and a joy for all things magical. ❤️


So, without further ado, here is the full collection of my school photo remakes, from kindergarten to senior year. Hope you enjoy the journey as much as I did!

Kindergarten:

This is Kindergarten Me in my Strawberry Shortcake dress and necklace! I made the pinafore with lace and ribbon taped onto the dress, and the collar is cut out from printer paper. The pendant is a piece of paper with Strawberry Shortcake that I printed out and colored in. The remake is pretty close - though my bangs are too long and I didn’t quite get the camera angle right. But not bad, overall!


First Grade

This is First Grade Me—she loved cats, Count Chocula, the SuperFriends and The Letter People. This outfit was put together with a shirt I already had, some white fabric and eyelet edging, and a wig for fake bangs.


Second Grade

And thus begins a hair journey that only gets worse and worse until my senior year, haha. Here is the third in my series of Throwback Thursday recreated school pictures! This is Second Grade Me, in my Little Orphan Annie dress that my mom made for me. Second Grade Me worshipped Princess Leia, though I had Luke Skywalker’s haircut instead–this was, after all, the year that Return of the Jedi hit theaters. I also loved coloring contests, though I never won because I added my own drawings to the ones on the page and therefore did not “stay inside the lines.” What can I say–I was inventive! This outfit was put together with a shirt I found at the Goodwill and a wig, and I recreated the pendant by just drawing it on copy paper with colored pencils and cutting it out.


Third Grade

This is Third Grade Me, wearing a sunny Easter dress that my Grandma Flo made for me. Third Grade Me loved Cabbage Patch Kids, Garfield books and The Care Bears. (Birthday Bear was my favorite because he had cake as his tummy symbol! I LOVE CAKE.) This was maybe the most challenging of the outfit recreations I’ve done so far. For my recreation of this photo, I used a short haircut wig, and I found a dress at Ross Dress For Less that was close in color and had cute poofy sleeves. But, the neckline was too low-cut, so I did have to recreate the collar in Photoshop. (I *could* have cut up the skirt of the dress and sewn a collar with it I suppose, but the dress is actually kind of cute and totally wear-again-able, so I opted not to ruin it.) I used a photo of the fabric with the selected shape of the original collar and a drop shadow to try and make the neckline work, and it’s somewhat successful.


Fourth Grade

This is Fourth Grade Me! Fourth Grade Me loved Masters of the Universe and Jell-O Pudding Pops. This was the year my grandma gave me a my very first home perm over summer vacation. This was also the year of the Challenger disaster, which I remember crying about at school, and the return of Halley’s comet. I remember interviewing residents of a local nursing home who had seen Halley’s comet in 1910 for a school video project with my teacher Mrs. Krog, and watching the comet through a telescope at her house. Weird to think that I could be one of those octogenarians who might be interviewed about it when Halley’s comet comes around again in 2061! This outfit was simple - just a wig and a thrifted shirt.


Fifth Grade

This is Fifth Grade Me! Fifth Grade Me loved Flight of the Navigator, Top 40 Countdowns, Weird Al Yankovic, and The Goonies. This photo is super grainy and blurry because we couldn’t find the actual photo from this year, only the tiny thumbnail version from the full Fifth Grade class photo, so I tried to match the overall texture in my recreation. I think it had to be re-taken, judging by the weird blue dot in the corner. My outfit is constructed from a backwards pajama shirt, scrap fabric for the collar, and a wig.


Sixth Grade

This is Sixth Grade Me! Sixth Grade Me loved Gloria Estefan, The Golden Girls, and was conflicted about Alf - he was hilarious, but I hated that he tried to eat cats. It was the year that Caboodles came on the scene and Dirty Dancing hit theaters and is still my favorite era of music (87-91). This is one of my favorite school photos! I was channeling Evie from The Mummy long before its time, haha. My outfit is constructed from a thrifted shirt on which I used white tape to match the collar, my husband’s blue tie, and a wig.


Seventh Grade

This is Seventh Grade Me! Seventh Grade Me was not wearing a hat prior to this photo being taken, despite what my hair looks like. And that crispy sheen is brought to you by Infusium 23 - a leave-in hair tonic of some sort that was all the rage at the time. Seventh Grade Me played the flute in the junior high band, ran cross-country and played junior high basketball. She loved the color combo of green and purple, art class, and had just discovered a little up-and-coming boy band called New Kids On The Block. NKOTB 4-EVER! My outfit in this recreation is a thrifted turtleneck that I cut to make the mock-turtleneck look, plus a wig and necklace that I already had. I’m really trying to make these photos from thrifting and handmade items, with very little Photoshopping done–however, I could not find anything that even remotely resembled the buttons on this shirt, so I did photoshop on the buttons.


Eighth Grade

This is Eighth Grade Me! Eighth Grade Me liked Malibu Musk, Saved By The Bell, and signing, singing, singing - anything and everything I could. It was also the year I first tried my hand at writing a book - it was a teen drama called “Jessie” in the same vein as the Sweet Valley High books. (Sadly, the notebook that contained that masterpiece is lost to the ages!) Eighth Grade Me also got her braces that year and HATED them. I still remember the horrendous feel of the orthodontist gleefully tightening the wire with pliers and it makes me cringe to this day! My outfit in this recreation is a thrifted button-up shirt and a fantastic ‘90s tapestry vest that I found on eBay! I also busted out the wig again for a perm look. I’m really trying to make these photos from thrifting and handmade items, with very little Photoshopping done–however, ain’t no way I’m wearing (even fake) braces again if I can avoid it, so I Photoshopped braces on the pic.


Ninth Grade

Welcome to 1990/1991! This is Ninth Grade Me! Ninth Grade Me played the flute in band, sang soprano in chorus, and finally made the track team. She also played center bench on the basketball team. Her one true love was still Jordan Knight from New Kids On The Block, and she was OBSESSED with a brand new book that came out in the spring of 1991 - the first real Star Wars adventure since Return of the Jedi: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn. (I still have my original hardcover copy.) These things all conspired to seal my geek fate forever, haha. What can I sayI love the things I love, and I don’t care if people think I’m weird for it. My outfit in this recreation is a thrifted plaid button-up shirt, a necklace I already had, and no wig this timeI had to try and recreate the crazy bangs crest and the wig wouldn’t work. My current bangs are a little too long to get the right lift, but I came close with a small barrel curling iron and lots of hairspray. I faked a bob by pinning my long hair up to a shorter length. I’m really trying to make these photos from thrifting and handmade items, with very little Photoshopping donehowever, ain’t no way I’m wearing (even fake) braces again if I can avoid it, so I Photoshopped braces on the pic.


Tenth Grade

Welcome to 1991/1992! This is Tenth Grade Me. Of all my school photos, this one strikes me with the most emotion. I was so self-conscious of my bad skin - the lighting of the photo does a lot to disguise how bad it really was (thank you, skilled school photographer), but I remember, and I hated it. We tried almost every treatment available the time, prescription and non, but nothing helped. I just had to grow out of it, I guess. But, in a need for some escapism that made me feel a bit more empowered, Tenth Grade Me is the me who began writing what would later become my novel, Archwilde! I have her struggles to thank for starting me on a path that would become my creative passion for the next three decades! I wish I could hug her and tell her that. And that she’d get to work with Luke Skywalker and hug Jordan Knight someday, too. My outfit in this recreation is a thrifted teal cotton button-up shirt, unlike my super cool silk shirt in the original photo. Those silk button-ups were all the rage at the time, and I was grateful to have one, even if mine was not the "coolest" brand. I used my real hair again instead of a wig and curled it with a tiny barrel curling iron to get the perm lookright down to the cowlick in my bangs that always splits in the same place. I faked a bob by pinning my long hair up to a shorter length. I’m really trying to make these photos from thrifting and handmade items, with very little Photoshopping donehowever, ain’t no way I’m wearing (even fake) braces again if I can avoid it, so I Photoshopped braces on the pic.


Eleventh Grade:

Welcome to 1992/1993! This is Eleventh Grade Me. Eleventh Grade Me loved art class, Disney’s Aladdin, and played Lunatic/Villager #4 in Dracula The Musical at school. Eleventh Grade Me also finally got her braces off! And later in the school year, she had her hair straightened, thus ending the perm phase of my life. She also had a decent collection of thrifted flannel shirts, as was all the rage as it was the Grunge era. To this day, I still love getting my flannel shirts at thrift stores! This was also the year that I wrote a letter to Disney Animation Studios (in the pre-email or Web page times) and asked them how I could become an animator. I got a huge packet of information back in the mail from the studio, with a very nice and encouraging letter telling me to follow my dreams. My outfit in this recreation is a thrifted flannel, which is so on par for this era of my life, haha. I couldn’t find one even remotely close to the original pattern and color scheme, even on eBay–this is the closest I could get. I fake-permed my hair with the tiny barrel curling iron and then combed it out a bit to try and get the similar texture to the photo.


Senior Year

This is it–Senior Photos! Welcome to 1993/1994, and Senior Year Me! Senior Year Me loved the Dragonlance books, anything with a sun-moon-stars motif, and was obsessed with the show Lois & Clark. We were allowed to have our senior photos taken elsewhere, so we went to a professional photographer and I got to choose three pictures to have printed. Only one of them (the second one) ended up in the yearbook, but it was fun to have a few to choose from when trading photos with my friends. My favorite is the one with the purple flowers in it. It has that magical fairyland vibe! After senior year, I was headed off to Ithaca College for a film/art degree. I’ve always had difficulty with big life transitions; as an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), I feel emotions extra deeply, and that makes leaving people and places I love to start a new adventure extra challenging, and sometimes scary. But I’ve learned over the years that each transition brings something new and potentially wonderful, and it doesn’t diminish the things that have come before. And to not do something just because it scares me is limiting. How else can I grow? (Spelunking, bungee jumping and skydiving aside, of course. No way in Hell I'm doing any of those.) For this photo, I found the poet shirt on eBay, and the black choker necklace/blue dress/earrings on Amazon. Interestingly, two pieces of jewelry in these remakes are in the original photos–my class ring and the two-strand fake pearl bracelet. I bought that bracelet for my junior prom and I’ve used it in many an occasion and costume since!


And thus, we have reached the end of my school photo remake project. Thanks for going on this fun and nostalgic journey with me! I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.


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