So many barriers between us and our personal style. Magazines, media, movies, celebrities, marketing campaigns, huge corporations, dress code, and many many other things lined up in front of you like hurdles on a track between you and your personal style. How do you break through and remain unphased by current trends and 50 foot billboards telling you WHAT to wear instead of wearing WHO you are on the outside.
I think the place to start is with your history, how you got where you are- through ugly sweaters, matching pajama sets, and underwear that had the days of the week written on them. All of these mistakes, heirlooms, hand-me-downs, what your mom wore on her wedding day, and your soccer uniform- all of that accumulated is is who you are through style.
This is my style history.
BEFORE I WAS BORN
Maybe I should start my style story with my mom. She paid her way through school, waitressing, ballroom dancing competitions, working at a donut place, so money that went towards clothing was spent at goodwill or the thrift store. Her wardrobe was black, denim, flannels, and very oversized. She managed to find some kickass pieces and have kickass style on such a tight budget, and still has a really cool belt from that era that I often steal.
My dad was a total hippie. He went to Berkley, wore those tinted yellow aviators, and had hair down to his mid back. The whole nine yards. When I was younger I remember picking out what he would wear for work- he had a treasure trove of long sleeve paisley button ups and velvet vests. He also travels to India once a year and brings back vests in vibrant jewel tones. He was never a suit and tie guy- his wardrobe is long sleeves and vests.
I COME INTO THE WORLD
I was born in Munich, Germany. My mom was definitely not going to dress me in pink, so earrings were the route she went with to signify to society that she had a baby girl. A lot of my early clothes were pastel sacks, and I had absolutely no hair on my head for the first two years of my life. Bucket hats were a staple, and so were those stretchy flowery headbands.
EARLY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
I was a young child in Boston, Massachusetts. My neighbors were lesbians and I remember running around their house eating tangerines and flipping through their closet asking “Where are your dresses? How do you live without dresses?” I had a whole treasure box of sparkly dress up dresses that I often made my brother wear. He looked adorable as Snow White. I styled my friends with my dress up box which was mostly dance costumes and then did very editorial style photoshoots with them.
My day to day wear was a lot of tights with jean skirts with patterned tops. I remember wearing a lot of Mary Janes and saddle shoes with frill socks. I desperately wanted light up sneakers like the rest of the kids, but I got boring black mary janes instead. My favorite thing though to wear, were poofy dresses. When I lived in Paris for a summer we went to the fruit markets every sunday, and there was a booth with little hand embroidered shirts, hankercheifs, and dresses. I had my eye set on a yellow poofy dress covered in cherries, which I was allowed to have if I could properly pronounce “cerise”
During this era I made my very first self-proclaimed fashion statement. It was at a Bar Mitzvah, and I picked out the perfect dress from Urban Outfitters, which felt like a huge deal at the time. As for the shoes, I didn’t want to go with heels. Partly because I couldn’t walk in them and partly because I knew every other girl would be wearing them. So I bought grey converse and tied them up with black shoelaces. Also had side bangs at the time, and teal braces. Sorry for not including more photos from these three painful years- but I hope you understand why.
Also around this time I watched Jennifer’s Body- you know, that really awful movie where Megan Fox gets possessed and kills and eats men? I kind of forget the whole plot- but I remember this one scene where she is walking in slow motion through the halls, and has these huge plastic heart earrings on and a cropped heart zip up jacket. I know this outfit was probably put together by some sexist dude in wardrobe, but to me it was a revelation. I mean duh, Megan Fox is hot, but in that scene she is wearing this tacky, juvenile look, and she’s OWNING it, and her owning that look was sexy as hell. So yes, a movie about demon possession taught me the most vital style rule of all: Whatever you are wearing, own it.
Oh- I also started my very first style blog. I’m not going to tell you the name of it because the photos are too embarrassing.
As if high school dress code rules weren’t enough- I added some self imposed ones. Never wear plain blue jeans, sweatpants (unless it was race day), and never repeat the same outfit. Oh boy was I a mess first year. Sara still brings up the fact that I thought it was cool to wear two skirts on top of each other- but hey, I was experimenting. I tried every trend in the book and then some. I was convinced that I was the first person in the entire school to wear combat boots. It’s pretty easy to go outside the style guidelines at a conservative high school- toss in a few high low skirts, some free people sweaters, follow some but not all the latest trends, add just a dash of vintage, and BAM, I won best dressed my senior year.
My friends and I also constantly held birthday dinners at the same place- a fancyish tapas place with fries we would fight over. Going out was an event- we had to have a color scheme beforehand and would all get ready at my house. Walking in, teetering in high heels and walk out with huge food bellies we stuck out as far as we could. Opposing the fancy dressed up nights were frequent trips to the movies on Tuesdays- $5 movie day. The requirement was we always dressed weird. Sometimes in pajamas, sometimes in wacky mis-matched outfits, and sometimes cross dressing. I experimented a lot with my clothes and really didn’t take my look too seriously. When my friends told me an outfit was too weird, I deliberately wore it. During these four years, I learned to wear what makes you feel happy in that moment, even if you are pretty sure it’s going to be regretted the following week.
POST HIGH SCHOOL
I suppose this is the era I am currently in. It seems a lot to group all of this time together, because in a little over a year I have flustered and diverged with my style so much. Summer was an era of bright colors, prints, scarves, no shoes, bare feet on concrete, and a tan as the main accessory. Tattered denim was my new best friend and ratty shirts that were found at thrift stores for five dollars. There was a lot of freedom in the way I dressed over summer, a very deliberate casualness.
During school I donned more sweats than I ever thought possible and wore full black outfits, something I thought I would never do. Seattle weather and studying strained my style, and I often felt off kilter with what I was wearing. There was little room in my budget for buying any new clothes, so I ended up re-wearing the same sweaters and oversized jackets (queue the 100 photos taken of my teddy bear coat, RIP to it the pockets ripped last week).
Post high school has taught me to embrace more facets of my personality. I finally cut all of my long hair off into a short style that I had been wanting for ages. I felt freer than ever before- dyed it pink, ditched bras for good, wore nothing & everything. I have grown to deeply love denim, even wore full denim outfits for baseball games or lunch dates. I’m not sure where I am going with it, and my mood changes every day. I wear denim skirts and striped shirts like I am 8 years old, match my earrings to my shirt like I am 12, and experiment with cross dressing like I am 16. I shop mostly in thrift stores on a tight budget where I encounter feather boas, band tees with pit stains, and shoes I fall in love with that fall apart by next week.
I don’t know where I am going with my style or what I will wear next- but I know where I have been. Style is essentially a reflection on the outside of who you are on the inside- and I highly, highly doubt that everyone is the same on the inside, and yet we all dress like it. Instead of looking at current trends, dig up your past ones. As far back as your first onesie, as far back as what your parents wore on their first date. Fashion fades but your personal story and style are wound so tightly together they are eternal.