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Finding My Style for the First Time Since 2019

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

“What are you going to unpack first when we go?” my parents asked as they finished helping bright-eyed, 18 year old me settle into her freshman dorm. 

In response, I nodded towards my high school wardrobe, my recent thrift finds and last-minute fast-fashion impulse purchases. As I put everything up, you could not tell me my outfits weren’t going to be on point that semester. Every morning I let my mood for the day guide me to my outfit choice, using my clothes to cloak me like a chameleon. Taking outfit mirror pictures was a must before I ran out for the day. And of course, I didn’t even dare to wear the same pair of shoes more than once a week. I took my style game as seriously as my studies. But that was August 2019.

Two years later, I stare at my drawers every morning, waiting for an outfit to jump out and grab me. My current choices include clothes from high school I’m holding onto out of necessity and things I bought this summer while attempting to land my post-pandemic style. Unfortunately, on-trend items I’ve picked up, like Y2K velour pants paired with my crew neck concert T-shirts I’ve worn 100 times, aren’t exactly wowing me. The fact that I seemed to be struggling to put together looks rattled my fashion major brain for days until it all clicked.

Style has always been my favorite form of self-expression since I started dressing myself as a kid. In my current state of quarantine-induced mind expansion, I feel planets away from my instinctual fashion sense. The day we went home from campus on an “extended spring break,” my timeline began to move in slow motion. Hallways were my runways. Without them, my passion for curating my personal style drained out of me. A year and a half is all that has passed, but as many of us do, I feel years wiser and older. My sense of self no longer mirrors the version of me that wore the clothes I currently own.

The summer heat has me gravitating towards these mini-skirt-based combinations, something my 18-year-old self would have loved to wear now that she was free from her parent’s comments about her skirt length. At the opposite end of the spectrum, my style turns heavily conservative at times, mimicking the person that I hope to soon become. Pieces like long flowy paisley skirts and loose-fitting shift dresses transform me into a “cute mom taking her kids to the beach,” as one of my friends eloquently put it. To be honest, she couldn’t have better described it.

Instead of looking back at the girlish pieces that built much of my wardrobe for my younger self, I’m overcompensating, leaning far forward in my 30s. I, in fact, do wish in due time to be a cute mom—but unfortunately, have started dressing like one. I don’t know how to dress at almost 21 because I lost touch with how to dress at 19. 

Returning back to in-person experiences may have reignited my fashion fire, but I won’t let it go out even if we find ourselves stuck indoors again. Losing reach of something I valued so highly—expressing my voice through my clothes, being a walking piece of art—truly put things in perspective. No matter what is going on around me, I know to get up and do what makes me happy for me—no hallway runway or audience needed.

Taya Coates is a junior studying fashion merchandising and minoring in journalism. She hopes to pursue a career as a fashion editor and eventually start her own publication. She is passionate about covering stories on style, social activism, and culture.
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