Fashion and I used to have a complicated, problematic relationship.
Growing up, I definitely didn’t have the highest self-esteem. My idea of my own beauty at that point at that point could be summed up in one sentence, “I’m not pretty anyway so why bother?” I felt that my features didn’t fit into the traditional standards of beauty mold, so I refused to try. I thought I would never be pretty, so I refused to care.
But of course I did anyway, because growing up as a girl means that the importance of beauty is constantly being thrown at you. Society wants you to believe that beauty matters. It wants and needs you to care.
And so began the problematic portion of my relationship with fashion. Every fitting room visit reminded me to lose weight, get taller, be prettier. I scrolled through pictures of other girls on the internet wearing pretty clothes and bought them, only to realize that they didn’t make me feel pretty as I expected them to do. Fashion, at that time, was a battlefield. And a bloody one at that.
Now, years after that point in my life, my relationship with fashion has thankfully changed.
Of course, many things happened between those points. I lost weight, in the process rediscovering my relationship with exercise, health and my body. I learned what kinds of garments give me confidence. There are also many things that I know now that I didn’t back then, such as that no matter how cheesy it sounds, physical beauty is subjective. Or that conventional standards of beauty are, to some degree, a product of many different problematic factors such as racism, sexism and capitalism.
Most importantly, I’ve realized that fashion shouldn’t be about feeling pretty, but about feeling that I’m being the best, most genuine version of myself.
Instead of buying clothes that seem nice on other people or on the rack, I now buy clothes that fit the aesthetics I prefer. I allow other people’s aesthetics to inspire me, but don’t force them upon myself. I only buy garments that reflect my personal style and values, so that I’m sure that when I put them on in the morning they’ll remind me of my identity and what I stand for.
It doesn’t mean that it’s always easy, of course. This relationship requires constant effort and a conscious desire to not let vanity take over me. Honestly, there are days when trying on new clothes and looking in the mirror are tough, or when it’s hard to love myself, let alone my style. Most of the time, however, it can be remedied by putting on old favorites that really define me.
How has your relationship with fashion changed? Does it help you to express your identity? I’m really interested in hearing what you think!