Late December, the end-of-year predictions hit my inbox, declaring the trends that were officially “in” or “out” for 2018. By the time I hovered over the fourth or fifth “These are the trends fashion girls are leaving in 2017,” email, I decided not to click. I didn’t need to know if the penny-loafer mules I love were still popular, because I’m going to wear them until the soles have holes.
I spent all of grade school and part of college dressing as the person I wanted people to think I was, instead of me. When I was five, I begged my mom for jeans after a girl at camp teased me for my legging shorts. When I was in the first grade, I was all about the pleather, because all the “cool kids” were wearing it. By middle school, I was shopping exclusively at Hollister, American Eagle, and Abercrombie, desperate to fit in, despite the fact that I didn’t love the clothes. In high school, I started wearing rompers and shorts with tights thinking I found my fashion-free will. But the tight bodycons for nights out and uncomfortable fast-fashion gave way to an understanding that I was still dressing to match (or rival) my peers.
Luckily, during undergrad orientation, a fiery redhead in a periwinkle cotton maxi-dress and preserved beetle necklace asked to hang out and became my best friend. Not long after, but not soon enough, my favorite blonde bombshell made us a trio, and together, we spent Saturdays shopping and encouraging even the strangest choices, always rooting for the edgier, more fun style made to fit who we were. With them, I could take the biggest risks in the boldest looks, without ever feeling stupid or judged.
Having true friends kept me grounded. They’d question me when I pulled the more revealing polyester top from the mall instead of the cute find from Savers. Did the synonym for style have to equate with the cookie-cutter college closet? Sometimes. But the more important question was, “Who am I dressing for?”
Was I dressing to impress myself, or to impress a bunch of acquaintances I wouldn’t even know in 3 years? How many amazing ensembles and experiences did I miss out on because of fear or fitting in or feeling flawed? Between December and daily recommendations about things to throw out, things to add in, things to make me New York enough and things to make me French enough, I found the ways that fear of judgement, failure, risk, and humiliation steal choice and the potential promise of confidence.
"I could never wear that, it would look stupid on me."
I hear it all the time among friends. “I could never wear that, it would look stupid on me.” Then, all of the things we don’t hear our friends say, but we know we say to ourselves. I recently watched an interview with Amy Poehler where she said, “We say things to ourselves that we would never say to our friends.” Despite the surge in body-positive, self-love content, I still see and hear so many in my own circles wrestling with every little crop-top, tiny flaw, or slight vulnerability. But when we listen to “How to dress for your body-type,” before our instincts, we’re letting someone else take away our choices about what to wear and how we view ourselves.
Walking to work every morning, I fall in love over and over watching the style and confidence bursting from so many people plowing down Broadway. It’s one of the great privileges of living near and working in New York to see complete strangers dressing and behaving, largely, like nobody’s watching. I see people breaking the conventional borders of beauty and who’s-to-wear-what, built up by decades-worth of fashion despotism.
"Imperfection is all about perception..."
Every day, those strangers confirm my belief that everyone should feel empowered to wear whatever they like. Imperfection is all about perception, and instead of holding onto the misconception that you shouldn’t wear a crop-top without a six pack, consider that your body, at every age, is a work of art, sculpted by every experience, memory, and waking morning. And mornings spent worrying about what people will think of your blemished skin or belly rolls are moments wasted. Your skin simultaneously shields and holds you together. Fat comes and goes, and in either direction, it’s part of a healthy, living body. Size, shape, and genes aren’t conditions in need of a cure. But self-loathing and self-doubt are infectious, and too often left to fester. Who you are, who you want to be, and how your choose to reflect that, matter more than what you see in the mirror.
I don’t fall in love with strangers in the street because of a single outfit. I love that at least in appearances, I can see them – parts of what they like and how they see themselves. And whether you’re a fan of fashion or not, what you wear subtly undresses pieces of who you are and how you think. Instead of spending time dissecting strangers’ outfits, I search for those details – confidence, self-love, self-consciousness, romance, modesty, humility, freedom, boldness, humor. Don’t let the internet or Instagram decide what you wear, and don’t dress to feel like someone “more” anything – wear who you are – which is more than enough.