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When I talk about my teenage grunge years, most people just smile and say “suuure” because everybody goes through a little angst in high school, right? 

At that point, I usually pull out the ol’ Facebook photo album and show them a few pictures. “Oh, wow,” they usually reply, taken aback as I now stand before them in some sort of skirt or dress ensemble.

Flash back to six and a half years ago. I thought I was hot stuff. I mean, how could you not think the lacy undershirt + flannel combo wasn’t the coolest? Not to mention the glare (heavily eyelined) to reassure everyone of my approachability. I spent my weekends going to sketchy underground screamo bands, watching horror movies, and keeping up my Cleopatra bangs, which I routinely cut with my mom’s kitchen scissors. Ah, yes, the angst was so real.

Although my days of ripped tights and combat boots are behind me, it actually wasn’t too long ago that I began embracing a more feminine way of dressing—about six months to be exact. So how did this Courtney Love wannabe become the style editor at the ultra-feminine Verily magazine? More on that later . . .

See, with fashion you can put on a new persona every time you get dressed. One year I was the grunge queen, the next a bohemian hippie, after that Blair Waldorf (yay headbands), and then back to the nineties as Claire Danes from My So-Called Life. That’s the fun of fashion; it allows you to wear many different hats depending on what inspires you. But what I learned this year is that fashion and style are two completely separate things, and while I’ve certainly been experimenting with different fashions all my life, I wasn’t expressing much of a true personal style.

I left behind the Nirvana look after high school, but during college I only wore masculine styles, and post-grad I chose a lot of minimalistic oversize tunics and long shirts. I’ve always said that the external reflects in the internal and, oftentimes, manifests in what we wear. I’ll be real with you, my first year in New York was a little tumultuous, and like most post-grads, a lot of soul-searching happened. I noticed that the more unsure of myself I felt, the more trendy or androgynous I dressed. Bottom line: I didn’t know who I was, and the way I dressed reflected that. (By the way, my dear post-grads, life does get better after graduation, and you will be fine.) As I got a grip on my own life, the way that I dressed began drastically changing.

See, surviving the first year of adulthood is like finally getting off of a treadmill you’ve been sprinting on for twelve months straight in stilettos. Once I was finally freed from paying my dues as a fresh-out-of-academia neophyte, I was able to stop for a second and realize I had actually survived. Despite that first year of struggle, I had grown more than I anticipated, and as corny as I feel writing this, I grew into myself and more specifically who I am as a woman. Without realizing it, I started buying and wearing more dresses and skirts. I felt joyful in my pink gingham pleated skirt, my red ruffled dress, and my olive pencil skirt. Getting dressed in the morning was finally fun again, and after years of dressing in grungy, normcore styles, I felt like I was finally myself. Nothing beats that “I am woman, hear me roar” feeling when you’re pounding the pavement to work while your fabulous dress billows behind you.

When showing people the proof of my grunge phase, they’re undoubtedly surprised by the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” vibe, but I think they’re more surprised by the internal transformation that the before and after looks represent. Like a true millennial, my style journey comes complete with a coming-of-age story as seen through various outfits captured on social media. But it has all lead up to a feeling of self-actualization as a woman in the modern world. And with every swooping skirt or embroidered blouse, I’m tapping into just how powerful femininity is and wearing it on my sleeve.