I think the best way to describe my style is to explain how my style developed. I believe style and fashion is a form of personal expression, so I would say my style has been a journey, just like my development as a person has been.
Firstly, as a teenager, a time where personal style tends to most especially develop, I really didn’t have much of a personal style. I followed trends, wore whatever was popular, with a few personal likes thrown in. For example, I remember in the summer of 1998, khaki pants from the GAP were popular where I was, so I had a pair and wore them often. Nevermind that I felt awkward in those khakis because I felt it made me look heavier; I just wanted to keep critical classmates at bay.
I do remember during my junior and senior year two shirts from Mandee that could be best described as boho-like. I loved those shirts, but tried my best not to wear them too much or else those critical classmates would not be kept at bay.
You see, I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem in high school. In fact, I had zero self-esteem. I was bullied a lot, and blamed myself for it, thus leading to a self-loathing mentality. But the clothes I wore did not reflect that. Instead, I relied on clothes to make me feel better about myself. The prettier the shirt, for example, the better I would feel.
Yet, this didn’t always work. It wasn’t like if I wore a lovely shirt, I would like myself. If anything, the pretty clothes were like a costume, pretending to be something I wasn’t. It was like a role I was trying to assume, and I would do this for many years – wearing clothes to make me feel better about myself.
Yes, I would insert a few outfits that I personally liked, no matter the trends or what people said. Starting in high school, I loooooved skirts and dresses. I felt feminine that way and tried to wear them often. Too bad kids at school would mock me, saying I looked like a teacher (OK, I did), and that made me afraid to wear the clothes I wanted. Basically, I was too concerned with others thought about me, so I never really developed myself as a person. Instead of getting to know myself and explore myself, I was consumed with what people thought of me (or what I thought they thought of me) for many years – and I mean, many.
You might recall an earlier post where I explored my interest in goth sub-culture. It is true in junior high and high school, I admired some goth style, particularly the witchy and the Victorian-like styles. But I didn’t have to guts to explore that side of me for a number of reasons. Among them, fear of being bullied and too self-loathing to truly express who I was.
So, for my teens, 20s, and early 30s, I wore clothes that I felt I should wear, not what I wanted. Yes, I wore a lot of skirts and dresses. But I wore what was trendy, or I would wear something to make me feel pretty, to mask the ugliness I felt inside. Again, I felt the clothes I wore were making up for what I did not have or feel.
You could say, since style is personal and a reflection of one’s self, my style during this period reflected me running away from myself and trying to be something I wasn’t.
Things started to change when I was 31 and moved from Staten Island to Brooklyn. I was on my own for the first time, and free to get to know myself and develop a sense of self. I didn’t expect that to happen, but once it began, it was exciting. And a little scary at the same time. A new world had opened up, and a new me was coming to light. At this time, I remember wearing pastel sweaters with sequins on them, sparkly tops, and gold glittery flats. As in, outfits to make me feel pretty since I felt ugly inside.
But as I got to know myself, and became kinder to myself, I began to eschew these items. I started to go with plainer, simpler clothes, and to my thrill, I did not feel ashamed. I didn’t care anymore what people thought, and it was liberating. I also began to explore the boho-chic look, though not all of it would appeal to me. Some did, like peasant tops and Roman coin jewelry. But I wasn’t fully boho.
Eventually, I began to feel more comfortable in darker clothes, particularly black. But I was still hesitant. I was afraid of being teased for wearing too much black. I wasn’t ready to let that side of me out.
Then came a dark period in my life, so to speak. I was at this job from hell, that caused me to develop serious mental health issues. I began to embrace darker colors, and soon began to explore the goth subculture again. I became honest with myself that I should’ve been a goth as a teen, and felt like I missed out on a major development period in both style and as a person. After all, I had spent years and years trying to be something I wasn’t and not being honest with myself. So, where would I be now if I had done that whole goth phase when I was younger?
At the same time, the major mental health problems I went through left me with some shame and a sense of darkness in me. I felt like I had gone through some sort of an abyss in me, and it took a while for me to get over it. Basically, I was haunted by my mental breakdown, and it took a while for me to love myself again and not feel ashamed about what I experienced (Someday I’ll talk more about my mental health journey, but not right now).
But still, I could not see myself wear clothes that were not dark. It felt like I was slowly, very slowly, stepping into my own skin whenever I would buy clothes that were dark red, dark blue, gray or even black. I still felt uneasy, mainly because I felt I was far too old to be developing this side of myself. But then again, I believe in the saying, to thine self be true. And my truth was reflected in dark clothing.
Over this past summer, I re-embraced my penchant for dark clothes, most especially black. I could not ignore that I felt like I was truly in my skin whenever I wore black. It just felt – and feels – natural. It is who I am.
True, I do get self-conscious still. Even though I am embracing an all-black look more and more, I still tend to wear other colors – red, purple, gray, dark blue and even ivory. I choose to wear ivory sometimes because I believe in healing, and ivory/off-white/ecru/whatever reflects that belief. But I wear other colors because sometimes I like the clothing item I see, or I feel like I should “spice up” my wardrobe by wearing more than just black all the time. I don’t know if it is because I am worried what others say or think, but I suspect this is common among those who wear black all the time. Like, perhaps we admit we could use a different color now and then, or there’s more to us besides black. Hmmm, that sounds like a blog post topic down the road!
Anyway, I am feeling more comfortable in my skin these days. If dark colors are it, then so be it. To hell with the opinion of others. I am more at ease with my style more so than I ever was, mainly because I have more inner peace and self-liking more than ever. And my clothing choices are a reflection of that.
And who knows where my style journey would take me? Will I be in black at age 50? Who knows?
Just who knows?