Just yesterday, my mother and I were on our way to dinner when she stopped short in front of a small boutique with boho harem pants and denim cut-offs. “C’mon,” she said, eagerly gesturing for me to enter the store with her. ” I’m sure they have preppy stuff.”
Now it was my turn to stop short.
What do you mean preppy? I remember asking, incredulous. My mom shrugged and replied, ” Well isn’t that your, you know, look?” This comment got me thinking: what is my “look”? And, better yet, do I even need one? After several minutes spending pondering (read: panicking) over these two questions, I found myself at a conclusion:
We need to stop using labels to define the way we dress.
I do not mean a label regarding the name on the tag of your clothing, or the catchy, carefully though-out name that magazines and style sites use to categorize trends (think: “60s Swing”). Just recently, I read a recap of Jaseph Altuzarra’s Resort 2015 collection on style.com that took note of the line’s nautical aesthetic. I am not talking about that, either. What I am talking about is when we use descriptors to firmly categorize the way others or even ourselves dress. You know what I mean. You would be hard pressed to walk through a school cafeteria today and not hear something along the lines of “Did you see so-and-so’s outfit today? She is such a hipster.” From that moment on, so-and-so is officially a “hipster”. When that same girl arrives at school the next morning wearing a polo with khaki shorts and a pastel-colored belt buckled primly at her waist, collective gasps are drawn, accompanied by exclamations of “You look like such a prepster today!” or something along those lines.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to define yourself as a quote-end-quote “prepster”. If you feel great about yourself in what you are wearing and are confidant in who you are, by all means work it. But there is a part of me that questions the legitimacy of categorizing your style into a specific niche. When I was in middle school, I, too, decided to firmly label myself as preppy. Determined to look capture the perfect just-hopped-off-my-sailboat vibe, I spent hours scouring the racks of stores like Vineyard Vines, Brooks Brothers, and Lily Pulitzer.
After months and months of failed attempts to obtain the right “look”, I began to grow increasingly frustrated with my closet. However beautiful and well-made the pieces at Brooks Brothers or Lily might be, very few of the clothes really demanded I buy them. And whenever I wore one of my meticulously planned “preppy” outfits, I always felt like I was pretending to be something I was not.
Middle school has since ended, and as I have ventured into the realm of high school, my prepster dreams were abandoned. Gradually, I started focusing less and less on what look I had to achieve and more on which items of clothing I gravitated towards and which outfit ideas were really inspiring me. In the picture above, you see me wearing and loving a dress that I never would have picked up during my “preppy or die” phase. As time wore on,I completely threw trends to the wind and just wore whatever I felt like myself in. And you know what? I learned more about my personal style in one year than I ever had before.
That being said, I have recently re-tuned in to the trend game. But, I pick and choose which trends I want to participate in. If something doesn’t pull at me, if it doesn’t make me fall asleep dreaming of ways to incorporate the look into my wardrobe, I leave it alone. This past spring, harem pants were all the rage. I felt like I was seeing them on everyone from teachers at school to the girls who work behind the counter at my favorite stores. Most if not all of the people I saw in the pants looked amazing, but it was not something that I myself felt the urge to partake in. So, I left it alone and entertained myself with various summery dresses. As it just so happens, however, this fall’s highly anticipated harkening back to the 1960s reeled me in hook, line, and sinker. I have already been working to find the perfect shift dress. But I will not let this singular look dictate the way I dress for the season. If something makes me feel un-me, I will not be wearing it.
Okay, I think I have successfully completed my rant for the night. In conclusion, I just want to say that everyone should dress in a way that makes them not only look fantastic, but feel even better. Fashion should not be stressful, like I made it when I was in middle school. At the risk of sounding passé, wear what you love and love what you wear.