Finding the vulnerability in choosing our self-image

I went to a private school for nine years of my life with a uniform, a strict ‘free-dress’ code, and an unspoken, yet very clear, idea of how everyone is supposed to dress. Hollister shirts, skinny jeans, and Vans. Then there was me—showing up to school in my army camo shirt, maroon corduroy flare jeans, and Converse. I couldn’t stand the uniformity of it all and longed for the days where I could freely express myself.

I’ve always had a heart for fashion. But as I entered college I began following some of the major fashion influencers and I lost sight of my creative spirit and felt my approach to style morphe into something more homogenous.  

I saw common trends in the way women were dressing and how ‘perfect’ each outfit was, and I wanted to achieve that. I felt this need to shop more to keep up with these women whose job it was to look good all the time. My favorite boutiques and thrift shops were replaced with Zara, TJ Maxx, and H&M to keep up with the price of being seen as “trendy”. My closet was full with a whole lot of nothing and no outfit ever felt good enough.

I bought into the trends thinking I was expanding my personal style, but in reality I was just conforming it to momentary trends.   

Then one day I watched this documentary called “Iris” about this older woman who is a fashion icon. She combined the most unique clothing and patterns with the craziest jewelry. There was no structure to her outfits and at first glance I didn’t like anything she put on. But then I saw the joy she felt assembling each look and grew to appreciate the art that she was creating. Fired up by this documentary, I decided I was going to start creating outfits like Iris—except when I opened my closet there wasn’t a single unique or truly beautiful piece of clothing in it.

I realized then that because I had started relying on other people to inspire how I dressed, fashion had became an anxious chore rather than an outlet for personal expression and creativity I had once enjoyed.

This truth inspired me to look inward. I came to realize that this desire to keep up with trends and follow fashion bloggers stemmed from a need for acceptance and to feel like I am enough. Yet all it did was exacerbate my tendency to compare myself with other women.

Reading and following fashion trends can of course be a helpful source of inspiration. It can open your imagination to different colors, textures, and looks. But it's easy to allow trend following to steal your sense of creativity and personal flare. There is not a single human being in the history of mankind who is the same as me and I know I never want my style to stop reflecting that. In my view, personal style is a reflection of the unique human person whereas trends can be the antithesis to individuality.

Since this realization, so much has changed. I pressed the unfollow button on all those trendy bloggers and with their departure returned my creativity. I’m shopping less and yet it feels like I have more to wear. Sure, it's a little scary stepping out in an outfit that doesn't have the stamp of approval from mainstream fashion brands, but I love every piece of clothing in my closet and every day when I create a new outfit there is so much joy in leaving my house knowing I love what I wear. Now, just like in high school, I relish standing out in the crowd and the fact that a carefully chosen outfit can tell the world a little something about me.