I love fashion. It’s one of my greatest passions and for a while, as Editor of a fashion magazine, it was also the nuts and bolts of my career. Today it’s a hobby — and admittedly I still do nerd out over it. I love being the go-to person to “dress” my friends when one has a special event or is looking for a wardrobe refresh. I love keeping up with the latest trends and hunting for that perfect shoe to wear with that equally perfect dress. Today, fashion is a great diversion. It’s relaxing; it’s fun.
But it wasn’t always this way. When I was younger — circa high-school and college-aged — fashion wasn’t fun. Instead, it was something I used to window dress. I thought I could mask how I felt on the inside with how I looked on the outside. And in so doing, I exchanged actual confidence for a false confidence. In a very real sense, I became a slave to fashion, having to keep up with the trends in order to keep up my pseudo-confidence.
It wasn’t until a gal pal introduced the concept of authenticity that I was able to see that I was merely using fashion as a crutch. Because real self-confidence doesn’t need external trappings. Real self-confidence — genuinely loving yourself and being yourself — removes the need to rely on outward decoration to produce a feeling of self-worth. This conversation began a long personal journey of moving from being inauthentic to authentic. From wearing a mask of having it all together and being perfect all the time to owning my flaws and my vulnerability. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy, but even just jumping into the self-growth deep-end made major ripples in my life.
Fashion as Truth
So if a commitment to authenticity is one of the primary keys to self-acceptance, body positivity and self-confidence, where does fashion fit in? Does fashion, by definition, fight against these lofty goals by seeking to have us conform to a given trend or what the latest social influencer is wearing?
It absolutely doesn’t have to — not when fashion is the outward manifestation of YOUR internal truth. There is, in fact, so much freedom to be found when fashion becomes a means of self-expression. I love that I can wear soft fabrics, pretty prints and lace when I’m feeling extra feminine. I also appreciate that I can put on ripped jeans and a t-shirt when I’m feeling casual and relaxed. The secret to driving your own fashion choices instead of letting them drive you is found in using fashion to manifest your feelings — and not the other way around. In this way, style choices can be very freeing.
Fashion becomes empowering when you pick and choose what works for you. Leave behind the trends that don’t empower you and embrace the ones that do. Like for me, it took the longest time before I wanted to give skinny jeans a try. They were en vogue for two years before I gave them a go. And that was OK. Now I live in them because I actually like them, but see the secret? I didn’t jump on the train before I was ready, and I only stayed on the train because it felt good. There are plenty of trends to go around. Land on the ones that make you feel good and wear them with confidence—only if and when you’re ready.
When our perspective is wrong, it’s easy to look to other things to complete us or at the very least define us: our social media followers, our career success or, as I can relate to, the way we look. It’s only when these potential trappings are stripped away and we still genuinely love ourselves, that they lose power over us and can become what they were meant to be — enjoyable add-ons, but not the end-all, be-all.
And, of course, loving yourself is easier said than done, but it’s what we’ve got to strive for because—here’s the real heart of the matter—it turns the tables and lets us define what works for us and what doesn’t. In this way, we no longer are slaves to fashion (or to our Instagram likes). We can have fun with those things but keep them in their proper place.
I hope this sounds freeing because it has the power to be. It’s how to be yourself. Not the falsified version that looks to fashion to complete you but the genuine, real, authentic self that embraces flaws and imperfections as readily as you embrace the good parts. Because all of that, rolled up into one package, is you…and me.
Stacey Kole was Managing Editor of the national beauty and style magazine Savvy and is currently a freelance writer and editor based out of Phoenix, Arizona.