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Learning to dress for me

Around this time last year, like many people, I began experimenting with my self-expression — trying out different styles of clothes, hair and makeup. Stuck in my house with nowhere to go, it was safe and easy to try something new within the walls of my bedroom.

Whether I liked them or not, it was fun to test out different outfits and styles because there was no judgement. No one could see me, and if I didn’t like something, I could just take it off like it never happened.

I learned how to do winged eyeliner and tried out many other new makeup looks. I tried accessorizing more with sunglasses, hats, belts and jewelry. I discovered I like a looser silhouette with large t-shirts and baggy pants. I bought a pair of Doc Martens, which I have been after since middle school.

I started dressing how I wanted to dress, and I became more confident in doing so.

In the summer, when I started to venture out into the world again (mainly to the grocery store), I started to test out my style in public. 

Walking around Kroger or Walmart dressed up wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I thought it might be. It strangely made me feel more confident in my choices.

But that was in my hometown of Toledo, Ohio. Those stores were full of people I didn’t know and likely wouldn’t see again. Toledo also is home to many eccentric characters, so dressing a little different isn’t that weird.

When I came back on campus in September, I continued dressing how I wanted to dress, but didn’t feel nearly as confident as I did before. In fact, I often felt insecure about my outfit choices. 

I kept trying out new things with my clothes, although slightly less often.

On Valentine’s Day this year, I thought it would be fun to dress in a Valentine’s Day theme.

I had just bought a pair of bright red corduroy pants from Goodwill, so it was the perfect time to break them out. After I got dressed, I looked at myself in the mirror and felt good about the ensemble I had put together. I even took a few selfies. When I stepped outside, however, my confidence began to diminish.

My red pants that I loved inside my room now felt like a flashing sign that demanded attention. All of a sudden I felt as though everyone was staring at me, and I felt like they were judging me for my fashion choices.

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In all reality, probably no one was looking at me, and if they were, they probably weren’t judging me. 

But it can be hard not to feel a little self-conscious when I look around and see mostly the same kind of clothes on everyone else. 

There’s nothing wrong with dressing a certain way. I think that everyone should be able wear the clothes they like and feel confident about it. Looking around campus, however, there does seem to be a kind of fashion bubble here that most people fit into.

When you don’t necessarily fit into that bubble, you might feel excluded, inferior or insecure.

It was always easier to dress how I wanted in the safety of my own bedroom and even in my hometown. At Miami, it feels more difficult to express myself because it feels like there’s an image you’re supposed to fit. And the people around me are my peers, not just strangers.

I don’t want to say this is a Miami problem — I think it’s just another insecurity I have to deal with. I’m trying to relearn the confidence I had in my hometown Kroger and trying to apply it to being on campus.

Even though I know most people probably aren’t actively judging the way I dress, I still feel out of place sometimes. I try to keep in mind that everyone is dealing with their own insecurities.

And if other people can dress the way they want to, I can too.

@nwlexi

whitehan@miamioh.edu

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