Clothes speak silently of our sense of self. They often reflect our class, education and aspirations. They showcase the image we wish to present to the world. To me, style is taking what the world of fashion gives us, and making it our own. In a society where appearance counts, we are becoming more and more conscious of expressing ourselves through what we wear. This can go one of two ways: follow the crowd, or go it alone. Sadly, from what I have seen, the former option is most popular.

As someone who is very interested in fashion, one of the first things I notice about someone is what they’re wearing. The people who stand out in my memory are generally the most interesting people I have met, both in terms of personality and sense of style. In my mind, ‘style’ and ‘fashion’ are not the same things. Style is more personal. There is a girl I often see in the library who wears petrol blue wet-look leggings, an oversize Fair-isle jumper, Doc-Martens and hair bleached to within an inch of its life. I think most people will agree with me when I say that this is definitely not ‘fashionable’, but in my eyes the girl has style. She is expressing herself through her clothes, and doesn’t care that she sticks out like a sore thumb, especially when compared to Miss Standard Student dressed in leggings, Uggs and a hoodie.

I would describe myself as having a style that is neither edgy nor boring, neither avant-garde nor conservative. I like to look smart, and favour a wardrobe of well-cut jeans, tailored jackets, printed tees, waist-enhancing dresses, and a variety of shorts for all seasons. I refuse to wear tracksuit bottoms out of the house, and the same goes for Uggs. I know how to make the most of my assets and how to hide my flaws. I know what suits me and what doesn’t, but I like to take risks and experiment with new styles and cuts. My clothes are an extension of my personality, and I would look and feel as ridiculous in trackies as I would in lace leggings or bodycon.

Conforming to the norm and copying what everyone else is wearing is tantamount to denying your own personality, and can even be construed as a form of cowardice. It is for those who wish to blend into the background, to go unnoticed and avoid criticism. It may be, in some cases, that what works for one person will also work for many others, in which case we cannot help but make similar style choices. But we should make these choices individually, going by what looks good on our own bodies and suits our personalities, not by thinking ‘my very tall slim friend looks so good in high-waist shorts and a crop top, I’m going to wear it too’.

Now, I will freely admit that I have made some extreme fashion faux pas in the past. One particular example was a pair of skinny jeans: bright pink, with streaks of cream going down the leg. My mother dubbed them my ‘yoghurt trousers’. I took comments such as ‘Wow! Look at your jeans!’ as compliments from my peers. It was only a year or so after the offending article was no longer being worn that I was made aware of how hideous they actually were. Still, the point is, I dared to wear them, just as I dared to wear a jacket that made me look like the Honey Puff Monster’s little sister.
I think we could all do with breaking out of the fashion comfort zone every so often. We shouldn’t have to feel self-conscious about expressing ourselves through our clothes, nor about how others may judge us.

Go on, try something new. You never know, you may just surprise yourself…

Charlotte Rottenburg

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1 Comment

  1. Luke Place
    December 22, 2010 at 10:29 — Reply

    “We are becoming more and more conscious of expressing ourselves through what we wear. This can go one of two ways: follow the crowd, or go it alone.”

    Or it could go a third way. We could recognise the absurdity of trying to “showcase the image we wish to present to the world” with our clothes and refuse to accept that we must live “in a society where appaearance counts”. You’re suggesting something more akin to “dare to present yourself” than “dare to be”.

    I have barely any interest in clothes and even less interest in trying to affect people’s assumptions about my “class, education and aspirations”. If someone wants to evaluate me using stereotype, that will be their problem when having come to know me they realise that their initial assumptions were made in error.

    “Conforming to the norm and copying what everyone else is wearing is tantamount to denying your own personality, and can even be construed as a form of cowardice. It is for those who wish to blend into the background, to go unnoticed and avoid criticism.”

    I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t care about clothes, or fashion, or style. The best way to embrace my personality is to put no effort whatsoever into what I wear. Similarly I don’t care about music, so I listen to whatever happens to be on the radio at any given time. Having no real preference is not the same as not having the courage to be yourself.

    “We should make these choices individually, going by what looks good on our own bodies and suits our personalities.”

    Or we could reject altogether the notion that our appearance ought to advertise our physical and personal features to the rest of the world. Rather than spending 15 minutes a day making sure our appearances reflect us as people, we could spend that 1% of our lives having fun and finding out about other people.

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