It didn’t take seeing myself name nominated in the Best Dressed category for Senior Superlatives to know that I had style. I knew that my skinny jeans and graphic tees were brilliant combinations worthy of sartorial praise, and I had a feeling that any time I wore my thrifted houndstooth sweater, leggings as pants, and black Doc Martens, I was the definition of London’s ’60s-era mod. Nobody could touch my uniquely crafted wardrobe—so when I eventually saw my name on the Superlative ballot, I thought I would have little competition among my peers. I made sure to refresh people’s memories of my Tumblr-inspired aesthetic on voting day by wearing high-waist boot cut denim, with a tucked in, striped button down, a charming gold necklace, and a ratty pair of pumps I’d found in my aunt’s closet. And to really seal the deal, I forced my friends on the newspaper staff to capture my outfits for a week.
But, I lost. I was robbed of my self-imagined title of Most Fashionable Person in the Senior 2016 Class by a leggy girl who sometimes wore athletic garb, but often stuck to her mainstay of fitted jeans (probably off the rack of an Abercrombie), trendy blouses (probably Anthropologie, or something), and whichever shoes were the trend at that moment. I will admit that I was a bit upset. I thought my standout style would finally get me some sort of acceptance and that my peers appreciated the value of individuality. Not just that, though. I really felt I understood what fashion was. I thought that having every color on the spectrum represented in my closet was a way to always have options. Fashion, for me, at that point, was a way to show the personality I wanted everyone to see—the funny, outgoing, yet carefree girl.
Now my style has morphed into something new. Instead of pulling out the houndstooth sweater, I’m pulling on a loose white button up, and unlike my tight jeans of the past, I’m sporting the classic mom jean with a bit of a looser fit. Looking back at my past self makes me cringe—mostly in a totally “aww look at who I thought I was” way, but a cringe nonetheless. I feel this disconnect between how I dressed then and what I wear now. And it’s dawned on me that in high school, I may have been a fan of the high-end fashion world, but I didn’t know who I was. That lack of self-awareness is why I draped myself in a variety of clothing that never quite matched who I am as a person.
However, I don’t regret any of those bodacious outfits, as I did gain an appreciation for chunky knits, polka dots, lime green accents and comfy combat boots. Every night I would plan out the details of my outfits and loved throwing in floral prints, far too many rings, and leather belts. I embraced jumpsuits, shawls, red tights and cargo pants. No matter the occasion, I always managed to have a look that reinstated just how hard I was trying to be cool in the most understated way.
Even though I am a little embarrassed by it now, I don’t regret playing around with my style choices. Sometimes in life we feel lost and for me that manifested in my chameleon-worthy wardrobe. High school allowed me to revel in the beauty of caring deeply about fashion, because I created these personas using clothing that defined me in a way that I couldn’t yet vocalize. That’s the connection that me currently and me circa 2012 share, we’re both still using hemlines, unique shoes, and vintage scarves to explore who we are and how that looks to the rest of the world.