As a young child, I was partial to tutus, sequin, bedazzled moments, and anything embellished. However, my affinity for ostentatious wears had nothing to with seeking attention. Each gold paillette made me beam, representing the joy inside of me. That sense of innocence, of confidence, was purely self-determined.
My wardrobe often served as a litmus test of growth. Around 12 or 13 years old, my then 5’2, barely 100-pounds frame swam in XL large logo-ed t-shirts and bright baggy jeans. I was scared of womanhood and wanted to hide the signs of it. I felt the sudden awkward change, and hoped masking it would allow me to hold on to my youth. The over-sized gear was a rebellion against my own body.
In my late teens, I was succumb by young love, my first taste of it, and wanted my style aesthetic to prove our union. I opted for matching sneakers and preppy cardigans that he favored. I wanted to be his ideal girl, which, unbeknownst to me, I already was. I didn’t need to dress the part. Attempts to validate the relationship through coordinated fashion made me confused and resentful.
Post High School graduation I went minimal, stripping myself of my previous identity, creating a new me. I opted for loose linens, muted colors, and monochromatic looks. Yet, I wasn’t ready to define myself as an adult woman standing on her own. I vacillated between my former self, which I sought comfort in. I was a pro at the “urban prep” look that I had mimicked and cultivated.
Subsequently, I morphed into the college girl, who was partial to fitted body suits in dark colors and wedge heels. Not feeling quite comfortable in this realm, I’d go with what was easy, and what would allow me to blend in and assimilate in a then foreign world.
After college, I was sucked into New York City’s glossy magazine circles. Women my age were flanked in fashion week’s finest… fresh off the runway. I was in my “keep up with the Joneses” phase. I exhausted myself by taking on multiple jobs so I could afford a lifestyle I assumed I should have. I purchased shoes that cost more than my rent. I worked so much that I didn’t have the time to decide whether I even liked these expensive items. I wanted to protect my place in this world and thought my footwear was a signifier. As if, saying: “I belong, I’m not an outsider.” But, just being myself, was always enough. And yes, those that know me might say I’m still a sucker for a good heel, but I’v learned to choose a bit more wisely.
I can now say I have a strong sense of who I am. I’m not just a woman with pretty shoes or a trendy job title; I am a wife, daughter, friend, and lastly established editor. I’ve reverted back to four-year-old me in respect to my personal style. I am comfortable and confident in all I do and wear. I don’t doubt myself. I never just want to belong, for the sake of being part of the in-crowd. As I’m in a league of my own. If I’m partial to a contrasting glitter frock and sparkly thigh-high boots at that moment, it’s my business. It will never take away from who I am or what I’ve accomplished. But I’m thankful for the many mornings of multiple outfit changes, and exhausted credit cards – it taught me a lesson. It’s not the reflection in the mirror that counts, but rather your perception of yourself. There’s no need to hide or be defined by the costumes you put on every day. Remember, you’re not an actor, so be comfortable in your skin and all the things that cover it.