While flipping through a fashion magazine the other day, I was shocked at the revelation that “beachy hair at the beach” is now considered “predictable” and passe. Apparently this year you’re supposed to aim for “pretty, polished” hair at the beach, which sounds like a real bitch to maintain in the presence of saltwater, sand and kelp.
Once I pried my eyes out of the back of their sockets, I thought, this is exactly the kind of thing that makes fashion feel like a punishing, exclusionary chore rather than the fun opportunity for self-expression that it should be. Fashion is fun, creative and personal. But oh how easy it is to forget that, isn’t it? Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways to suck all the fun out of fashion, so we can try our best to avoid them in the future.
1. Read too many fashion magazines. As evidenced above, I love me a fashion magazine: the pretty pictures, bright colors, and airbrushed celebrities comprise one of my favorite forms of eye candy/escapism. But I think we all have a tipping point where fashion magazines go from inspiring to soul-sucking. Some people hit their limit at, like, three pages. Others can read five whole magazines. But know your limit. And treat these magazines for what they are: entertainment and advertising. That is, the “advice” contained within their pages isn’t gospel, and there’s always an ulterior motive.
2. Dress to hide your body instead of celebrate it. Our country’s definition of “flattering” is “make yourself look as tall and lean as possible.” For those of us who aren’t tall or lean, this means that much of our focus when dressing is hiding, minimizing, or camouflaging certain body parts. We dress to create the illusion of a body we don’t have instead of celebrating the one we do. There’s nothing fun or joyful about that. If you’ve gotten into a habit of hiding yourself with clothing, start breaking out of it by focusing on highlighting your favorite features instead.
3. Become super attached to the phrase, “I can’t wear that.” This is one of my least favorite phrases in the world, and I still find myself using it more often than I’d like. Women default to this phrase when they think they can’t pull off a certain style, and 99% of the time, they’re deferring because of their body type. Repeat after me: You are allowed to wear whatever you want. The next time you find yourself thinking, “I can’t wear that” about a style you love on other people, just try it on. A bikini? Ankle strap sandals? A crop top? A swing dress? A mini skirt? A maxi dress? Go for it! Challenge the idea that certain people aren’t allowed to wear certain things. More often than not, you’ll be surprised at how fabulous you look, not to mention how free you feel.
4. Get caught up in the fast fashion cycle. A few years ago I was a compulsive shopper, stopping into Forever 21 or H&M a few times a week (!), and almost always coming home with new stuff. I had SO MANY clothes in my closet (and was adding more all the time) but I’d never felt more disconnected to my wardrobe or fashion in general. My clothes were low quality, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it trendy, and completely disposable. I didn’t love my clothes. They didn’t look good on me or make me feel good. Trying to compose outfits from my overstuffed closet every morning was an anxiety-inducing ordeal. When I read Overdressed, I made a commitment to start shopping more thoughtfully, and discovered that having less clothes that I truly loved (that were also well made, comfortable, and unique) made me fall in love with fashion all over again. If fast fashion has you feeling burnt out and uninspired, slow it down. Prioritize quality and fit. Save up for items you love and treasure. Create a wardrobe that’s unique, timeless, and inspiring.
5. Obsessively follow trends. Experimenting with trends is fun, but being a slave to trends will wipe out your bank account and mute your personal taste faster than you can say “leather overalls.” Give yourself permission to opt out of the frantic trend cycle and just buy and wear what you love for awhile. Some of it might line up with current trends. Much of it won’t. But you will have so much more fun getting dressed, and even better: you’ll always feel like you.
6. Shop at stores that make you feel bad. There are myriad ways a clothing store can make you feel like shit: maybe they don’t stock anything (or anything remotely cute) in your size; maybe the salespeople sneer at you when you walk in; maybe you can only afford that one stained blouse sold “as is” on the clearance rack; maybe their dressing rooms are equipped with funhouse mirrors. If a store makes you feel like they don’t want you there, stop going back. There are so many alternative options these days, it’s rare that you NEED to shop at a store you hate (and doesn’t seem to be fond of you either). Explore local boutiques, vintage shops, consignment stores, online specialty retailers and Etsy. Support people in the fashion industry that support you. Their businesses will flourish. You’ll look and feel amazing. Sounds like a win-win to me!