When I was about 15, my BFF Chandelle made a comment about my fashion sense that stuck with me. Before I go on, I can guarantee she has absolutely no recollection of this conversation!
In High School, I just wanted to blend in. I wasn’t consciously trying to create my wardrobe, and I certainly wasn’t trying to start any new fashion trends. I cared about how I looked, but only through the eyes of others – wearing something acceptable to the crowd was my goal.
But often, we can’t hide who we really are. A part of our authentic self unapologetically sneaks out and demands to be seen. Others see this true light, even if we try to cover it up. It is the most intriguing and beautiful part of us.
On this day, my friend Chan and I had just arrived at English class, and students were pouring sluggishly through the classroom door. We made our way to our desks, which were right next to each other, and began unpacking stacks of books and papers before sitting down.
“You know what you do?” Chan asked. (But it wasn’t really a question)
“Uh…” (I panicked a little – what was she even talking about??)
Chan continued, “You wear something dressed up on the top, and casual on the bottom. Or, you do the opposite and wear something dressy on the bottom and casual on top – instead of just going with the whole theme of the outfit.”
I looked down at what I was wearing that day – a pair of slouchy grey sweatpants and an ivory, off the shoulder sweater. My hair was pinned up as if I were going to a dance, and my favorite, silver sparkly earrings dangled from my ears. The off the shoulder neckline and pretty earrings provided quite the contrast by the time your eye made it all the way down to my sweats and scuffed up Keds.
My friend’s comment was not criticism – merely an observation that wasn’t off-base. I admit I had no idea what I was doing – it was a comfortable outfit, and I don’t think a day went by that I didn’t put on those earrings – no matter what I was wearing.
In fact, Chan’s comment was actually a poignant critique of fashion and style – without realizing it, I was playing with contrast and the result was GREAT. Fashion needs balance, and breaking the rules to match your own unique identity makes you a true fashionista. The key is to know what you like – based on how you FEEL when you’re wearing it, and then mix it up with other things you like, even if it seems a bit rebellious. A sweet cookie still has a touch of salt in it. Playing with clothes and creating contrast in your outfits will not only stretch what you already have in your closet, it also demonstrates a complexity to your style that is both captivating and desirable.
Try your favorite crisp blouse with baggy joggers and sneakers – tie a knot in the front of the blouse if you want. Seriously, you’ll look like you walked off a photo shoot. It’s unexpected. It’s sexy. It’s EASY.
The reason this works is that you’re balancing the clean, tailored lines of the blouse with the slouchy, curvy fit of the pants. This is also why a loose, casual t-shirt works so well under a fitted suit jacket or blazer. It breaks tradition, but just enough to be edgy and on-trend.
Be completely yourself, and don’t think too much about it. All you have to do is pay attention to the way the clothes make you FEEL. If you feel funny in an outfit, others will sense it. If you feel good and confident, this will come across as well. A person with style doesn’t have to be wearing anything special – style radiates from someone, even in sweats and no make-up.
Think of other fashion “rules” worth questioning, like wearing black with navy – my favorite! If summer sundresses are your jam, pull one out and wear it with a warm sweater and boots for winter. The most important thing about fashion is to be WHO YOU ARE. Express yourself, shine your light, and of course, always, always wear a pair of fancy earrings.