It all started as a drunk comment I was too sober to put up with. A while back, my best friend’s boyfriend confessed how he found it “so stupid,” that apparently all I “talk and care about” are clothes. “They’re just clothes.” “You’re so girly.”
His drunken slurs were hard not to take personally. I normally go along with drunk banter, and while I can understand why he would see my passion for personal style as just clothes, I also know why it will always mean so much more to me than that.
It’s so much more than looking cute, and finding out whether or not denim jackets are in or out again, and what this season’s hottest colors are. It’s more than that “thing” I read about in my spare time, that thing I hope my closet and my outfits epitomize, or that thing that has become an industry I dream of being a part of. It is that one thing that helps me get up in the morning, live my life, and feel good while doing it.
I’m one who has never felt 100% comfortable in my own skin. I know I’m no Adriana Lima. And you might be wondering how on Earth fashion would help me see myself for the better, when it’s not rocket science to understand how the fashion industry often perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards. But to truly appreciate fashion, it is to look beyond the face and body structure of the supermodels we’re led to believe are the “perfect” ones. It’s more than finding out what’s in style, or finding out what’s worthy of an Instagram #OOTD post. It’s about having a reason to show off that #OOTD because you found a reason not to feel ugly or embarrassed about what you see when you look in the mirror. To truly appreciate fashion, you see it as an art form in and of itself, not the canvas it is placed upon.
I think people mistake fashion as something people care about out of a superficial concern for what others may think of us. But it’s not about gaining the approval of others. Fashion has helped me to think, feel, and see the best in myself. And why wouldn’t I care about that? What is so stupid about wanting to feel good in your own skin, something that I have struggled with all my life?
Now, I know we should live our lives for ourselves; I know that at the end of the day that is all we really have. But our bodies, our minds, how we feel and what we think, that is something we will always have. I have struggled, over a long time, with my self-image—my appearance, and how I present myself to others—and have come to realize that feeling negative about that damages my entire sense of wellbeing. Thus, finally allowing myself the freedom to develop my personal style on my own terms was liberating. Being true to myself both inside and outside gave me the confidence to love myself without needing to be validated by other people.
Fashion allows us to become the person that we’ve always wanted to be. Putting on a dress that makes you feel like a million dollars is more than just to look pretty, but to feel that way too. It is an instant confidence booster, and that confidence in oneself makes a person exponentially more radiant, attractive, and beautiful. And if just clothes are what it takes to give me that, why not?
With my love for just clothes and my dreams of embarking the fashion world comes the label of being considered “girly.” I am “accused” of this all the time, and I am tired of not knowing whether or not to take it as flattery or offense. What does being “girly” even mean, anyway?
It’s the whole, “like a girl” concept. When did “girly” and “like a girl” come with the territory of weak and any belittling associations in-between? When did being considered “girly” become such a bad thing? I was never the “tomboy,” and I never thought I had to be. I never thought I was supposed to be ashamed of being a woman. But when it’s something people say to me and then laugh about, I wonder why the person I am and the things that matter to me are something to joke about. When being “girly” is spoken so lowly about, I start to wonder what’s so wrong with that; and what’s so wrong with me.
Why can’t “girly” represent the women who stood up for themselves, the women who took a stand? The women who are the embodiment of: strength, determination, fearlessness, and heroism. Women such as the 25 most powerful women of our past century according to TIME magazine. Would calling them “girly” be a disservice to everything they have accomplished? And they’re women, why can’t I call them “girly?” But then with its negative connotation, I feel as if I’m disrespecting them and everything they have worked for all of their lives.
And I hate how I see it that way because I know I shouldn’t have to. They’re women. And being a women and being labeled as “girly” shouldn’t be such a terrible thing. The way I see it, being “girly” should be associated with the mighty and powerful women of our past. Being “girly” should mean all the things women have accomplished, not an association as frilly and weak, not something to be humiliated about.
If “girly” could represent the women of our past, then I am proud to be labelled as such.
So if the way I talk and care about just clothes makes me “girly”, then I’d be honored. Because for me, being “girly” makes me strong. My love of fashion and passion for personal style was never solely about the approval of others. But sometimes that gives me a reason to call myself beautiful and that self-confidence is all that matters. And for someone else to see that fashion is more than just clothes for me, and that being “girly” has given me the courage and the confidence to go through my day without feeling insignificant or invaluable, is a wonderfully positive side effect. So yes, fashion is important to me. My wardrobe is a dressing up box that allows me to be whoever I want to be. That isn’t the same as hiding behind a mask; it’s transforming into my best self. And no, I wouldn’t dare drunkenly or soberly question someone for wanting that.