I’ve felt this way for at least the past year or two. “I can’t find my style in stores.” (Stores I can afford, anyway.) “Nobody sells the kind of clothes I like.” “Where on earth can I shop for clothes that I actually like?”
As it turns out, Caitlin Moran has a very accurate explanation for this.
‘There’s nothing here for me!’ is the cry on the high street three hours into a shopping trip having bought only a pair of tights, a foldable chopping board and school cardiagans for the kids. ‘Everything is two inches two short, two tones too bright and there’s no sleeves. Why are there no sleeves! If every woman in the country were allowed to cover up her upper arms as Gawd intened, prescriptions of Xanax would half in a fortnight! Why isn’t there any for me in this giagantic, overlit shop?!’
But of course, there isn’t anything there for you- specifically for you. Before the high street, women would make their own clothes or see a dressmaker so that everything we wore was an honest expression of who we were and what we were comfortable with, within the constraints of fashion at the time anyway. With the advent of mass fashion however, not a single item of clothing sold is for the woman who buys it. Everything we see in Topshop and Zara and Mango and Urban Outfitters and Next and Peacocks and New Look is made for a wholly imaginary woman, an idea in the designer’s head. And we buy if we like it say, 70%. That’s about as good as it gets. We rarely, if ever, find something that is 100% us and that we truly desire, even though we never admit this to ourselves.
Most women are walking around in things they’re imaging to be that little bit better. An inch longer here. Without that braiding. In a slightly darker blue. It’s the first thing we say to each other- ‘I wish they’d had this without the collar!’- beacuse if you know I don’t like the collar, then you’ll know who I’m really trying to be.
I find this to be especially true for myself. In the past months, the main reason behind clearing out my closet hasn’t been because my family is moving and I’ll soon be living in a college dorm the size of a cardboard box. The practicality has merely been icing on the cake.
The real reason I have been furiously purging my closet is because I know deep inside of me that going to college is a rare chance in life to reinvent myself. It’s not often that I, or anyone for that matter, packs up and moves to a brand new city where they don’t know a single soul. It’s not often that coming home from college means I won’t be coming home but rather going to a foreign state that I’ve never lived in. How often in our lives do we completely uproot ourselves and essentially sever off our former friends?
In high school, I always felt like one of the weird kids, a nerd. I was never one of the pretty girls that the guys liked or that the popular girls wanted to be friends with. My free time was spent slaving away over that thesis due Monday for my class on the Holocaust and catching up on sleep. I had horrible skin and was uncomfortable talking to people, especially people I didn’t know. I was shy but I realize that my shyness came off more as a superiority complex because most of my time in high school was spent saying, “Ugh, I hate you all.”
Now, as I try to reinvent myself, it certainly doesn’t help that I have spent 13 years if my life wearing a godawful Christian private school uniform- navy or khaki school approved skirts or pants with a solid color polo shirt or button down. When I wasn’t in school, I was either in my pajamas, sweats, a loose T-shirt and hoodie, or, if I was really feeling fancy, jeans with some form of “nice” top. Thanks to 13 years of never actually needing to wear anything cute, I have no idea how to dress, let alone how I want to dress.
But when I go college, I can be whoever or whatever I choose. And, no one will question it. No one will bemoan the fact that my waist length hair will have been cut to bra strap length. No one will think I’m a try hard if I start wearing makeup everyday. And if I start wearing dresses and heels on the daily… ok, in a land wear the default outfit is sweats and hoodie, that will probably make me a try hard. But if I wear dresses and heels on day one, no one will know the difference and it’ll be normal, at least for me.
Most people take all four years of high school and sometimes half of college trying to figure out their “image” or how they want to present themselves to the world. I have to do this in just four months. Imagine stuffing four years of personal experimentation into four months. Yes, I only have four months to reverse 13 years of poor fashions choices (is it a choice if you have to wear a uniform?), bad hair styling, and obliviousness to makeup. And to top it off, I’ll need to study for and retake the SAT if I want a shot at transferring to my dream college, attend to my business, make that damn dress, register for classes, buy stuff for my college dorm… Well, I don’t have to rebuild my wardrobe, not like I had to wear a uniform. But I want to. I want to tell the world something new about me.
Now, if I could only figure out exactly what that is and how to say it.