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Fearlessness, Defiance, and Determination Through Fashion

Ever since I was a kid, my sweet grandmother always feared I would become a “goth,” “hippie,” or “rock-chick.” My mother was the first to challenge my grandmother’s opinions on fashion. My grandmother was raised in a household where skirts were required to fall below your knees, pearls completed every ensemble, and shoes needed to be understated. My mother constantly asked for Converse sneakers, then Birkenstock sandals, and finally Doc Marten boots. However, my grandmother refused. She wasn’t used to the new style changes and hadn’t adjusted yet. Over thirty years later, she wasn’t expecting me to ask the same questions. 


At around six years of age, I begged my family for hot pink Converse sneakers, and when no one seemed eager to help me get a pair, I knew “GJ,” Grandmother Jones, would help me. As soon as the words slipped out of my mouth, GJ’s jaw dropped, and she suggested a nice pair of white Keds. Instead of accepting this offer, I told her that the sneakers weren’t hot pink, they were “blush and bashful.” How could my southern grandmother refuse to buy me pink Converse when a “Steel Magnolias” reference was involved? To my surprise, Christmas came around, and phase one was completed. “Santa” brought me hot pink Converse, and until I outgrew them, they almost never left my feet. 


Fast forward about nine years, and I was begging for a pair of Birkenstocks to wear with my flowy skirts and braided hair. I thought my grandmother was going to faint as she told me I could not wear hippie shoes, as it would just lead to Doc Martens. At the time, I had no idea what Doc Martens were, but I assured her I was only getting Birks to wear when I was on my feet traveling all summer. She still shook her head and went on about hippie clothes until my mom gave in and got me a pair of Birks. Every summer, I bring them out and wear them 24/7, and will continue to do so until they disintegrate.


Two more years and I was in GJ’s most dreaded phase. I had come into my own with makeup and fashion. I strayed from the thin eyebrows GJ always told me to pluck, the perfectly straightened hair society idealized, and the delicate dresses I used to be expected to wear. I knew who I was, and I felt comfortable wearing leather jackets, Doc Martens, and sneakers. I don’t criticize people who want to dress the way GJ pictured me dressing, but I have my own sense of fashion that I feel demonstrates who I am as a person. I am unapologetically me. I love my grandmother, even when she questions my style, but I will not change it because of what someone says. I am willing to try new things whether that has to do with fashion or not, but whatever I do it will be because of my willingness to put myself out there and not compromise my own identity to fit into a mold. 


Isabel Crews

C of C '23

Isabel is a sophomore at the College of Charleston and is triple majoring in International Studies, Communications, and French! When she’s not in class or studying, you can find her sipping coffee, telling stories, discussing social justice, or planning her next international adventure.
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