Something that has been on my mind quite frequently this semester is how much the definition of style differs from person to person. It is difficult for me to write to students who have so many different ideas of what fashion truly is and what it means to people. We are all diverse in our ways of dress. We have varying definitions of what looks good, and some of us honestly just do not care. However, there is one universal truth about fashion and style and how it relates to every individual: it gives us confidence.
I was having a discussion several weeks ago with my very fashionable friend Elizabeth Harper. We were talking about how disappointing it is to hear people talk negatively about others who wear something that makes them feel confident. The specific topic was girls who wear high-heels to class. All too often, I see posts on social media of girls not only expressing their opposition to wearing heels to class, but actually saying very harsh things about those who do. It is hard for me to understand how people can be so ready to volunteer harsh words about a person who is simply dressing in a way that makes them feel their best.
Imagine a time when you felt confident and excited to be seen in public because of what you were wearing. Now imagine walking past a group of people dressed differently than you and overhearing them criticize what you have on. Even worse, imagine looking on Twitter and seeing a tweet that is bashing girls who wear what you happen to be wearing. How much confidence do you have left? Probably not much.
I have a lot of first-hand experience with lost confidence because of what someone has said about my outfit. My particular style often comes with criticism. I mix random colors and wear a lot of weird patterns. My pants are high-waist more often than not, and I am the queen of wearing things that do not match. Heck, I have a button-up shirt that is covered in tacos. However, there is a method behind the madness of my outfits. I wear what makes me feel most confident and what I feel truly represents me.
I am not saying I am not guilty of criticizing what other people have worn. In the past I have been that person who has tweeted about an outfit or has whispered about what someone is wearing. I would go as far to say that I was even that person all the way through last semester. It was not until this semester that I actually spent time sitting and thinking about why people wear what they wear.
My reason for talking about this is that I want people to understand what it took me so long to discover. I want you to see what took me so long to finally see. People do not wear high heels or ripped jeans or vintage sweaters for nothing. People wear these things because they feel happy in them, and it conveys to everyone else a small sense of who they are.
I still slip. Sometimes I say something critical before I realize I have said it. But in the end, I still know that just because I do not understand or relate does not mean I should look down on someone else for feeling good. Next time you want to publicly criticize someone for their style, think about how you would feel if someone said the same things about what makes you feel confident. I sure would hate that. Wouldn’t you?