WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
AKA How to Conquer Your Fashion Fears
Even I can admit that sometimes, I’m a little too scared to wear the outfits I conceptualize. For instance, I’m confident that my chartreuse silk blouse with purple details will look great with my rich emerald green midi skirt and red pumps but something just keeps me from pulling the trigger. For a lot of people, our fashion fears force us into a life of jeans and T-shirts or similarly uninspired daily uniforms; and for others, maybe we’re pretty good at wearing what we want, but still hesitate to push the envelope the way we know we could. But, why? At the end of the day, it’s just clothes, right? They’re literally meant to be taken off.
Figuring out what you’re afraid of sartorially and overcoming it is one of the most important steps in unlocking your true style, if not the most important. After all, it’s not enough to know what you want to wear if you’re too scared to wear it. Today, I’m addressing four of the most common fears I hear from my clients that keep them from expressing who they really are, and share with you the challenges I assign in order to overcome them.
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Busting Out of Your Comfort Zone
We all have those days where we just want to be invisible. Maybe we’re not feeling as gorgeous as we actually are, or just don’t really care about where we’re going. There’s nothing wrong with having a solid comfort zone, but, if you find yourself uninspired most days, it may be time to switch it up.
On a day when you’re feeling particularly in a fashion rut, I want you to get dressed in the outfit you find the most comfortable. And then, I want you to take off one part of that outfit, and replace it with something completely different. If your go-to is leggings and a sweatshirt, switch the pants out for a skirt. If it’s sneakers and jeans, switch the shoe for a boot or sandal. This challenge is meant to remind—or teach—you just how easy it is to take your style to the next level, while still being comfortable.
THE ULTIMATE GOAL:
I always say you’ll know when you’ve unlocked your true style when even the outfits you “throw on” are a reflection of you. We shouldn’t have to pull ourselves back in order to be comfortable, we should feel free enough to be ourselves all the time, and our wardrobes should meet us where we’re at, instead of defaulting to basics that we may not even really like. Over time, I encourage you to replace those “blah” pieces in your closet that you don’t particularly care for, with pieces that you do. Yes, it’s good to hang on some clothes that can take a beating, but if you’re shrugging your shoulders in the mirror and saying your look is “good enough” just because it’s easy, you might find yourself back in a rut sooner rather than later. Get rid of those pilling black leggings and replace them with some flattering flared stretch pants; don’t throw out those browning, tattered sneakers (you might need them for a hike or whatever people do in sneakers, idk), but consider a comfy flat ankle boot or mule, instead. Just because you’re having a “lazy day” doesn’t mean your outfit has to look like it.
How Much Is Too Much?
Some people absolutely nail maximalism. People like Drew Ginsburg, Iris Apfel, Thalia of Polychrom3, and Sara Camposarcone are just a few of the Internet style icons I personally look to for maximal-inspiration. While their styles may not be for you, I believe everyone can pull at least one lesson even from outfits they wouldn’t personally wear, and in the case of these ladies, that is the art of playing around with fashion and, most importantly, not holding back out of fear of being too “over the top.”
Instead of the oft-repeated “take one thing off before you leave the house,” I challenge you to put one thing on. It can be a hat, a piece of jewelry, or even a statement bag or lipstick. I want you to stop being so scared of doing too much to the point that you just don’t do enough. You never know when that one extra piece can pull the whole outfit together.
THE ULTIMATE GOAL:
So, maybe you’re not a maximalist. What matters is figuring out what your style is, particularly, your accessorizing style. Luckily, I have an article for that!
The Myth of Flattery
Historically, the definition of “flattering” has basically boiled down to “makes you look skinnier.” Unless, of course, you’re skinny, then that definition can occasionally expand to “creates curves but only in a sexy, proportionate way.” Fashion is unfair, and “flattering” is a myth, is what I’m saying. But the mythical status of the other F-word doesn’t stop it from stopping us from being truly free—at least when it comes to what we wear.
While I don’t believe in “dressing for your body type,” I absolutely do think it’s fine and extremely normal to have things you’re a bit insecure about and want to hide. I, like many women, don’t particularly love my arms. But, for that reason, I simply don’t subject myself to tank tops or tight sleeves. After all, it’s not like I need them in my closet when there’s plenty of boxy T-shirts and loose fitting blouses in the world (and I’m well on my way to collecting them all), and the whole point of being stylish is to wear what makes you feel most comfortable and sexy and if I don’t feel sexy or comfortable with my arms jiggling where everyone can see, then, I’m not really honoring myself or my own personal tastes, am I?
With the body positivity movement growing across the internet and in real life, it can feel like you’re almost being pressured to just make peace with what you look like, and that’s not necessarily easy for all of us. But, regardless of how you feel about your body, you have to dress it, and dressing in a way that honors who you are, and makes you look good to you is a huge step toward feeling better about the skin you’re in.
Get rid of the clothes that you don’t think you look good in. Alternatively, you could get them tailored, especially if it’s high quality and worth keeping. But, if you have to conceal the poor fit underneath something, or you just don’t feel good in it, you don’t need it; if it emphasizes something about your body that you don’t like, or even hides something about your body that you do, you don’t need it; and if it’s something you bought for the future, skinnier you: you don’t need it!
THE ULTIMATE GOAL:
You have to get acquainted with your body. That means the good, the less-good, and the “whatever.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to hide a few of the the less-goods, but you can’t hide your entire self in the process. Figure out what types of silhouettes, cuts, even sleeve lengths and necklines work for you, and, most importantly, stick to it(!) so that you can build a wardrobe filled entirely with garments that flatter you, whatever that means for you.
(Fashion) Rules Were Meant to Be Broken
If you’re a loyal reader (love ya!) you should already know how I feel about all the fashion “rules” that fill the pages of women’s magazines (rarely men’s…I wonder why) and TikTok comments. If you’re not (welcome!), then I’ll fill you in: I think they’re bullsh*t.
Just like the F-word (flattery, not the other one), fashion rules are mostly meant to get women to conform to a very narrow idea of beauty and exclude anyone who doesn’t fit the mold either on purpose or by virtue of who they are. You can say basic “guidelines” like capsule wardrobe checklists (I hate those, too), or “seasons” that dictate what colors you should wear based on your hair color are meant to make things easy for us all, but, trying to follow all the arbitrary and often conflicting “advice” offered to us by the world of fashion editors is the easiest way to put yourself in a box you’ll forever struggle to get out of.
That said: I get it. Fashion is overwhelming as f**k and being able to rely on oft-repeated instructions on how to dress for your body or your lifestyle or whatever else can make it that much easier to navigate it. But, as you’re desperately searching for a brown coat because you’re not “allowed” to wear your black one with that chocolate sweater, or putting on your boring black shift dress for a summer wedding because Vogue said you need a go-to “LBD” and you just never thought to “go to” anything else, ask yourself: are you actually creating your own personal style, or just sticking to the status quo? Are you honoring yourself for the cool, unique individual you are, or following the crowd? Are you having fun?
Break a fashion rule. And then another. And then another. You can start small: maybe don’t match your shoes and your purse one day, wear white after Labor Day, or wear sequins when the sun is out. Then take it bigger: wear socks with your heels, mix your silver and gold jewelry, clash some patterns!
THE ULTIMATE GOAL:
Don’t be afraid to experiment to your heart’s content! After all, what’s the worst that can happen if you try something on and it doesn’t work? In the words of Tim Gunn: make it work! And once you’ve gained the confidence to unpack all you’ve been taught: Make your own damn rules.
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