We live in a world saturated with trends.
You may argue that this is not a new phenomenon. Trends in fashion have been with us for centuries, reflecting the values and context of the world we live in. They bring novelty and innovation and orient us in a specific place and time.
But it’s easy to see that the speed at which we churn through trends has steadily increased. Today, in addition to the ever-rotating whims of fast fashion, we are constantly being exposed to trends through sites like Pinterest, or through blogs.
I won’t argue that this wealth of visual inspiration is a bad thing, necessarily. But how do we keep it from diluting our own unique aesthetics and tastes? How do we prevent becoming part of a homogenized, singular “style” rather than expressing who we truly are through our clothing or our homes?
You are not what you look at
Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the endless bounty of prettiness on the internet? I know I do. There are so many different styles, each one lovelier than the next. Sometimes you might wonder, how do I combine all of these disparate things that I like into something that actually feels like me?
But just because you like something, that does not mean it fits you. Enjoying looking at something doesn’t mean it has a deep connection to who you are, necessarily. Some things are just nice to look at and appreciate on their own.
What is individuality?
I believe that one of the main functions of fashion is to tell a story about yourself to the world.
The vocabulary of that story is not unique in itself. The language of clothing is limited, and you’re usually constrained by the styles of the time and the meanings that are affixed to clothing by others. Often we use clothing to signal that we’re a part of some group. Maybe that group is “rich people,” or “bookish intellectuals” or “geeks who don’t care about fashion.”
That is the superficial level of the story, and it doesn’t take much thought to tell it. In fact, everyone speaks about themselves through their clothing, no matter what. There is always a story to be read.
But you can also use clothing to tell a more nuanced and specific story about who you are. You are the only person living your life in your own body, and you can use that unique lens to filter the world around you.
Think about all the ways you are different, and how that can be reflected in your identity:
- History: Your personal history and life events.
- Philosophy: Your religion, spirituality, or general philosophy.
- Culture: Your cultural background and the aesthetic values you grew up with.
- Community: Your friends and the people around you.
- Activities: Your interests, activities, and hobbies.
- Location: Where you live.
- Body: How you feel about your body.
So why bother trying to tell that story?
For one thing, it can help buffer you against the onslaught of trends that we talked about above. Knowing who you are and what works for you lets you filter out a lot of those consumerist messages pretty easily. It feels good to be able to appreciate something without needing to own it.
Second, it gives you a stronger and more meaningful connection to the things you choose to have in your life.
Exercises and Discussion
1. Download this week’s worksheet to get your brain going on the factors I mentioned. This editable PDF can be filled out on your computer or printed.
2. Choose one of the 7 areas above and tell us in the comments how that particular aspect of your identity influences the way you dress (or how you’d like it to).
3. BONUS: I thought these would also make good photography prompts, so each day I’ll be instagramming a photo and giving my answers. Today I’ll post a photo and talk about how my personal history has affected my style. Tomorrow, I’ll do Philosophy. Saturday is Culture, Sunday is Community, Monday is Activities, Tuesday is Location, and Wednesday is Body.
Feel free to follow along with me and post your answers too! You could also post them on Facebook, your blog, or just keep them to yourself. If you do post them, use the
#WardrobeArchitect hashtag so everyone can follow along with each other!
But for now, just choose one of the 7 topics above and tell us in the comments how it affects your style. I can’t wait to hear your answers!