I May Be a Fashion Design Major, But My Mental Health Takes Priority Over My Outfit Choices

I guess you could say I’m overly attached to my family. That’s why moving to New York for college was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life - because I had to leave the people I love most behind. The first semester of college, it’s normal to be homesick. I longed to drop out of school and return to my home in suburban Pennsylvania. I could easily commute from home to nearby school if I chose to. Soon, the normality of my homesickness morphed into a depressive episode and my anxiety began spiraling out of control, making it difficult to function in classes.

I began having panic attacks and had trouble following tutorials in class because my hands were shaking so much. I was struggling to deal with the transition away from home and I was grappling to get my mental health under control, so naturally I let my fashion choices fall to the wayside. As a fashion design major, this was unacceptable. Other students - even teachers - would give me disdainful once-overs, smirking at my ensemble consisting of a t-shirt and sneakers. One teacher even questioned why I didn’t put an “appropriate amount of effort” into my appearance as a fashion design major. I was even told that I didn’t belong at FIT, let alone in the fashion design industry, just because of the way I was dressed. Little did anyone know what I was dealing with internally. Without knowing the whole story, so many people chose to judge me and invalidate my abilities as a fashion designer just because of my attire.

In spite of my deteriorating mental health as well as the harsh criticism I had to endure from others, I passed my first semester at FIT with flying colors. Even now, as a junior in the Fashion Design program, some days are better than others. Sometimes, I dress up when I’m in the right state of mind, but if I’m just struggling to just cope with life, I dress comfortably as a form of self-care. I’ve learned that I don’t owe anyone anything - I don’t need to dress up to fit in with the idea of what a fashion design student should be. So, here’s just a little public service announcement: someone’s style or lack thereof, does not indicate whether or not they have talent. Their outward appearance does not announce to the world whether or not they are worthy to be in the position they are in. Mental health manifests itself in a variety of ways, so in the words of J. M. Barrie, “Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some type of battle.”