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How I Learned To Expand My Personal Style

Sometime in middle school, I developed a distaste for wearing what everyone else was wearing. Perhaps it was the plaid bermuda shorts with a fitted Hollister shirt that can only be so appealing. My oldest sister and her friends began wearing floral midi skirts for the sake of expressing the feminine genius (not to mention skirts were far more comfortable than the early 2000’s pants and shorts). This was far more intriguing to me than what I saw my peers wearing and it was intentional!

Hence why in high school, I only bought skirts, floral patterns, cotton t-shirts, and long infinity scarves. No continuity in shades, colors, or cuts, I simply stuck to those categories and I was safe. When I wanted to try something new, I was not sure where to begin and found myself randomly buying into trends which meant those items often got left in the back of my closet. I became comfortable in the ease of just throwing on a skirt and t-shirt together thinking I was different enough, but I slowly noticed myself growing fatigued when I would leave a thrift store with yet again, another floral skirt.

Throughout college, my personal style slowly developed. I was in a new state and I had a new perspective on things with this change of season. I loved how many of my classmates put effort into their look in creative ways. I will never forget how one guy in particular wore everything from an 80’s wind-jumpsuit to a purple satin tux complete with a red fedora. The lovely women I befriended introduced me to the classy chic looks of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly with their simple button downs and dark jeans complete with heels and bold earrings.

Shoutout to Lilly Fallon, friend of my sister, whom I later encountered as the one to introduce me to the ways of figuring out personal style. She gave a presentation one night at our university in which I was sold: no more going through the motions in my wardrobe. I needed to be intentional with what I was buying–let alone what I was wearing! I was craving the element of creativity that goes with style.

Those floral skirts only reflected a microcosm of my person, and I was feeling suffocated that this article of clothing would have the end-all-be-all say in who I was as a person. I jumped on my bike, rode speedily to my dorm room and began sifting through my wardrobe. I spent time trying to craft a new look, paying close attention to the kinds of material, combining tops and bottoms like never before while throwing others into a plastic donation bag. My eyes were opened to the complementarity of mixing casual and formal pieces (ex: the goodness of pairing a silk top with shorts, a leather belt, and ballet flats).

What eventually kept track of my personal style evolution were some weekly texts to my sister of my most recent “look.” I would pretend I was some sort of fashion blogger for my one-person audience. She was always gracious and gave the best feedback, not to mention she was a safe audience. I had nothing to be ashamed of since she knew me so well. Not only has she been my longtime confidant, but also the one in the family who is not afraid to style things in a new way or experiment with interesting pieces. From the collection of OOTD sister texts, I began to notice a pattern of what I was drawn to, what flattered me, and what was the best expression of myself.

Present day, I thoroughly delight in pairing high-waisted-anything-cotton with something silk and my current favorite touch of my hunter green beret. I have come to find myself often balancing between the 1920’s and 1940’s mixed in with a European flare and cottagecore detail. Not to say I’ve locked into those categories, but I have learned to be generous with myself as well as intentional. I know the “why” behind something I am drawn to. I enjoy the thrill of versatility in a piece—so most anything I purchase can be worn in a minimum of five ways. There is consistency in my wardrobe without it being a copy and paste of the same shirt.

The entire idea of claiming something as my personal style requires risk, vulnerability, and the courage to be unabashedly oneself. Desiring to know our personal style infers a desire to know the self and to communicate the truth of who we are through our clothes. We yearn for validation and affirmation on many levels, but especially when it comes to something that is expressing our souls. It can be difficult at first to stop attempting to fit the trend or blend in, but I assure you, the attempt alone is worth a shot.

Mary Dufresne - Harper

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