In society today, it's really hard not to get wrapped up in things and, not just things, but STUFF. I grew up working retail. I wanted to get the experience needed in order to become a fashion stylist.
Working with beautiful merchandise on a daily basis is nothing to complain about. But, soon, you can slip into a repetitive mentality, thinking you need to acquire things that will "successfully represent” your A. status, if you've "made it" (or to portray that you have), B. Your availability to a potential suitor(s), C. Your fashion-savvy in the world of new and established designers, and/or D. Your mood. In that type of environment, you become the best salesperson in the world and, not only to your clients, but, mostly, to yourself. (As an example of how well I refined this art, I sold over one million dollars in clothing in less than a year.) Not to say being the best salesperson would make you dishonest, but practicing justifications becomes an art that you wholeheartedly start to believe.
I would joke with coworkers while holding close a gorgeous expensive bag, asking them if it made me look cooler and if it would make them want to be my friend more. Partially joking, but, also, touching on a deep realization that really, it wasn't so much about appreciating the art of fashion as it was having the power over people and their idea of you. While going to college in LA, I worked at a fabulous boutique on Robertson Blvd. I would scan through the racks, painting scenarios of the perfect place to wear each piece. Only, it wasn't a real opportunity I had coming up that would require the outfit, it was the outfit that would CREATE that ideal scenario. Almost like a scene from an ad, I would see me dressed to a “T", my friends, a lot of attractive guys, all sitting around a bonfire on the beach. As if, if I bought this item, that scenario would inevitably come into existence. Laughable and slightly embarrassing to admit out loud? Of course! But, deep down, don't we all imagine ourselves pulling up to brunch in the perfect car or how that room full of people will perceive your fancy status in that new amazing outfit?
They say you can't make a second first impression. From a very young age, I began to realize what it took to fit in and that your clothing had a huge impact on how "well" you could achieve that. After a period of heavy soul searching, I was able to put the pieces of my life puzzle together. I started understanding that why I had wanted to be a fashion stylist since age twelve had a lot to do with the way a styled outfit made people feel about themselves. I first started styling friends and family and, eventually, got to work with big names in Los Angeles. (You would think working with celebrities would be the ultimate, but it didn't take long for me to realize that the last thing most of those people needed was to feel any better about themselves.) What I didn't understand, until later, was that my love for styling didn't start with how it made other people feel good, it was how it made me feel good, accepted, and confident.
Recently, I hit a bit of a low point financially after taking a 6-month hiatus from working. I wasn't able to acquire the most current looks of the season and I truthfully felt pretty horrible about myself. I spent a lot of time with people who would make mention of certain luxuries and, somehow, I felt like I fell short like I was inadequate and somewhat of a failure because I looked as if I wasn't aware of what was on-point and didn't have the success that would accompany the financial means to "properly" arm myself. Did those people think that of me? I have no idea. Most of it was in my head and, not only did those feelings almost startle me, they forced me to dig deep. I didn't want to be defined by stuff.
I have never ever been a "label whore". I genuinely appreciate designers for their craft, not their names and used to make a point of it, seeking out alternatives to the more exposed labels. After clarifying my motives for wrongly demoting myself from a stylish and respectable twenty-something to a poor, disheveled old maid, I slowly began to fall in love with fashion, again, for the art of it. I also started to rediscover my passion for helping people invent and fine-tune their personal style and amplified self.
Style isn't materialistic and, although I am sure many people would disagree, style isn't even superficial if (and this is a big if) you have things in the right perspective. I have worked with people who have never given clothing much thought as if they didn't want to join the fashion sheep cult, not that I totally blame them these days. Just within the past 10 years, I feel like fashion has become something else. With the rise of bloggers, social media fame, and mega-celebrity, people see fashion in a whole new light which can be very daunting for some and, also, very misleading.
Most fashion bloggers aren't just selling a style, they're selling a lifestyle-- A life of leisure, lox, lattes, and Louboutins. Many of these individuals were born into a life of luxury or they've created such a following that they receive a majority of their looks (and lifestyle) for free from designers hoping to get some exposure-- faking it until they make it. I don't know about you, but, if Instagram is considered a modern art form, I want my art to imitate life vs. life imitating art. I am in no way dogging fashion and lifestyle bloggers out there! I have many friends who do it well, but, again, it's all about perspective.
While working for a fashion magazine in LA, I thought I had hit the epitome of where I wanted to be until I went to a fashion PR house to pull some clothes for a shoot. The girls who worked there acted as if they had the most important job in the entire world and had no time for social courtesies (or decencies). That's when I saw the cold side of fashion. This side wasn't bettering anyone, but shuffling them into a folder, categorized by social class which, really, made people feel poorly about themselves and no where near better!
You may have already been asking yourself this question as you read this article, but it's smart to start tapping into where you stand in the world of fashion and ask yourself, "what level of importance does fashion hold in my life?" Does your motivation to shop (on the appropriate amount of occasions) come from a healthy, light-hearted place? Most of us actually don't need much of anything in the way of clothes. Do you agree with this statement or do you struggle putting things that you really shouldn't buy back on the rack? There are the shopaholics and there are the I-will-break-out-in-hives-if-I-step-into-a-clothing-store-ics. Just because you take pride in your appearance, doesn't mean you're a sellout or a conformist or have a problem. We all need to honor ourselves and project ourselves in a way that's aligned with just how great we are and what we step out in each day is a pretty sound vehicle to get there. I have never tried to push someone out of their comfort zone unless it meant 1. they were still being true to themselves and 2. they felt good about the outcome; (and, frequently, I would need to nudge middle-aged women who didn't think they could pull off a look because they clearly had a distorted body image and I wanted to enlighten them).
I am speaking to everyone: introverts, extroverts, males, females, and this especially rings true for Highly Sensitive People. I have come across many articles about the vast array of endless options that can sometimes overwhelm a HSP. But, the truth is, a HSP may be the person who really should consider tapping into this kind of self-care. To all of my Highly Sensitive and/or Introverts: there is nothing wrong with finding yourself in a noisy social setting and being the reserved person in the room vs. the butterfly working the room. Playing "getting to know you" isn't fun for a lot of people and the silver lining is you may not have to say much in a group setting because your clothes say a lot for you! This could be the good news or the bad news, depending on your confidence level with your wardrobe. It's not about drinking the "cool"-aid. It's realizing the reality that making a first impression does have a lot to do with the clothes you wear. It may not be optimum but, statistically, it's the truth. (This little truth is a great example of "knowledge is power" and can be a valuable thing to consider before those important first impressions including a job interview, a big date, loan interview, etc.)
So, all of these jumbled thoughts and points narrowed down: self-expression means "the assertion of one's own personality". Many could get caught up in materialism by way of shopping with negative or unhealthy intention. Maybe it's because of poor body image, lack of confidence, or just feeling down on yourself altogether. Although clothes aren't the solution, they are the medium for one of the most present forms of self-expression.
Empower yourself. Take advantage of that first-impression society tidbit and start asking yourself, “What does my wardrobe say about me?" Do you feel as if your personal style reflects your personality accurately? I know some of you may be thinking, "write me a big enough check and I can correct that pretty quickly!" but the truth is, you can successfully exercise your self-expression on a VERY tight budget. Believe me, I have been there. Once you zero in on your personal style, you can find the right pieces anywhere, from Walmart to the Salvation Army. If zeroing in on your style seems like a large feat, this is when a fashion stylist comes into play.
If you have a family member or friend whose style you admire, ask him or her for some assistance. If you can manage it, professional stylists are very helpful to work with, especially when you're always on the go and you like the perks of coming home with everything already decided for you.
Just imagine waking up and getting dressed without the stress that's involved in figuring out what to wear. If you feel like your closet is pretty solid but you still feel like you have nothing to wear, this would be another opportune time to consider having a stylist take a look at how to revise your closet layout and put together different ensembles with your classic items you don't feel the need to part with.
Fashion can be very beneficial to your wellness or it can be detrimental. If you idolize it too much and put more emphasis on it that it deserves, you could be in an endless state of never having enough, always comparing and constantly striving for more stuff.
Having done all of this, I have come full circle. I have seen what happens when you put an unrealistic inflation on the role that fashion plays in your life. It shouldn't define you or your self-worth. It shouldn't be your idea of the material catalyst, elevating you to the socially acceptable status, because you're not enough on your own. On the flip side, I have also seen what a healthy dose of fashion-savvy can do. It can be a positive bump to your self-esteem, allow you to be creative and make the most of an outing, it can be that added edge you needed to get the sought-after job you've always wanted, and, the most important benefit, it can contribute to that inner confidence that radiates out of your pores!
Need the name of a good stylist? I would love to apply for the job!