Y’all – I’m in the midst of a style rut. Seriously, I’ll stand in front of my closet for what seems like ever and try on an abundance of outfits before I finally – on the verge of dramatic tears – throw on sweatpants and a tank top because nothing else seems to work.
I’ve been undergoing this style break down for a while now, ever since moving to LA really. See, when I moved out here I was still caught up in my version of mid-western, college party girl fashion. Let me explain what this entailed:
*Very short shorts
*Almost up my hoo-haa dresses
*4 to 5 inch heels
* Lace tops/see-through tops/cropped tops
*Spandex running shorts and sports bras
That was basically my entire wardrobe. And, to be honest, in some ways – at least in the beginning - it worked for me in college. My slightly (and sometimes not so slightly) scandalous style taught me not to care what other people thought. Within the first few weeks of my freshman year, girls were calling me a slut, a whore, weird, a ruiner of relationships. But I learned to have thick skin – I refused to let a couple of mean girls dictate how I dressed. My style also instilled in me a sort of confidence, for the first time in my life I felt pretty and sexy. Of course, my barely there clothing also garnered male attention, something I had never before experienced. I was a gawky, brace-faced, late-bloomer (AKA I had no boobs) for most of high school. I had a couple of boyfriends, but I never felt attractive enough to truly merit a relationship (eesh that’s so depressing). Sadly, I couldn’t appreciate that my personality, humor, and quirkiness were what made me attractive to the boys I dated in high school. But, just in time for college, I began to look like what society deems traditionally “good looking.” My body became more womanly, the braces came off, and I started dying my hair a prettier, brighter shade of blonde. And boys seemed to notice. Consequently, I began to get attention based solely on my looks. For once, I didn’t have to prove that I was funny, or smart, or sweet to garner a guy’s interest. Of course, the fact that I dressed rather scantily didn't hurt, nor did it help when girls started accusing me of whorish behavior.
Oddly, for all the times I got called a “slut” I was very much a relationship sort of girl. I didn’t like one-night stands; I didn’t like kissing random strangers. I was interested in monogamy and true love. Initially I dressed skimpily simply because that’s the way I liked to dress (as a little girl I’d loved wearing bathing suits or tutus with little cropped tops, I’ve never been one to wear a lot of layers haha) – not for the attention. But, when I realized just how many people (READ: men) reacted to my sexy clothing and new look, I began to – sadly – relish the attention. As a girl who had previously gone unnoticed by the male sex, the sudden desirability of my body left me almost euphoric.
What began as a fairly naïve way of dressing didn’t take long to morph into a dangerous desperation to look and feel traditionally “sexy.”
My more serious boyfriends throughout college disliked the way I dressed. I resented that. In some ways I believed that, as a woman, I had a right to dress however the hell I wanted to. And I DO believe that. (SIDE NOTE: Wearing a short skirt does not entitle men to gawk or suggest that I am in ANY way asking for ANYTHING.) I guess that’s where things began to get complicated. Because even though I had, and have, every right to wear scandalous clothes, a part of me (a deep, dark, ashamed place) also knew that, despite being in a relationship, I still wanted men to find me attractive and do-able. Thus, I kept donning miniscule dresses, push-up bras, and stiletto heels. I savored every catcall, every suggestive glance. On Friday nights, boozy and swaying in darkly lit dance clubs, I’d silently keep track of how many sleazy guys asked me to dance. I pretended to be annoyed and grossed out by their advances, but inwardly I thrilled with every interested suitor, eager to ignore the fact that these drunk gentlemen would dance with anything that moved.
My fashion sense changed very little throughout college. Upon graduation, I moved to a tiny town in Arizona, where my shorts stayed short and my skirts remained skintight. I continued to be ridiculed by the locals (there were countless times I got called a prostitute or a whore out of car windows). When I got a job as a bartender, my sexy clothing garnered the kind of male attention I had come to crave. A year later, I returned home to Texas and began working as an even more scantily clad waitress (that my beloved readers, is a whole other story). I was in Dallas for about two months before I moved to LA and my life changed completely.
The first thing that changed me (and my style) was hitting rock bottom within the first weeks of moving to Hollywood. Suffice to say I made some very bad, very dangerous decisions that nearly ruined every good thing I had going for me. But from my lowest of lows I found a new sort of strength – I began to recognize my own self-worth. I finally began to see myself as more than something to be ogled and desired by a man. I realized that there were people out there who would love me for more than my ass or my low cut dresses. I realized that I had found a man who loved my soul, my spirit, and my incredibly wacky sense of humor – a man who loved it when I got my long, blonde hair cut off and dyed it neon pink. I discovered a network of amazing, wonderful women, and began my journey into full on feminism. I finally began to understand that I am so much more than my body, than my wardrobe, than whether or not I fit into society’s notions of beauty and sexiness. Today, I am at such an incredible point in my life. Never before I have been this confident, this happy, and this sure of who I am and what I am capable of.
So, you might ask, why the style dilemma?
Well, ever since my low point last year, I’ve been trying to reevaluate the way I dress. I finally recognized that my sense of style had been corrupted. Maybe, early on, there were no unsavory elements in my decision to wear tight, short articles of clothing. But I fully understand now that my way of dressing had become a means to an end – that end being to feel screw-able by any and all men. And I certainly don’t want to dress for anyone but myself these days. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like short shorts and cropped tops. I genuinely do like wearing clothes that some may deem as slightly inappropriate (blame in on my roots as a runner; I’ve gotten so used to wearing spandex short shorts). But I’m also uber, hypersensitive to dressing sexy. There’s still a part of me that worries I’m dressing to impress – I can’t shake the fear that, on some level, I still want others to find me good looking. And maybe, to some degree, that’s human nature. Regardless, it’s made it very hard to get dressed lately. I have a drawer full of adorable shorts that haven’t been worn in months, a number of sexy dresses hanging untouched in my closet (I did get rid of the more scandalous numbers), and an array of heels I can’t decide whether or not to strut around in. Some days I wanna just say f**k it and throw on one of my old college party dresses. But then I remember that I’m 24, have a job where I’m around young girls, and generally want to give off a different impression of myself than I did 10 months ago. I’m starting to come around to the idea that, yes, there are times when I can wear my shorty shorts and a crop top, and there are times when it’s fun to dress up sexy. I don’t have to cover up completely, nor do I have to forsake my own unique sense of style. I refuse to let society dictate that I dress a certain way for men, but I also refuse to let the world (or myself!) slut shame me for wearing a bralette or embracing a plunging neckline. What I’ve come to understand is that there’s a time and a place for everything. There are times when I need to dress like a grown woman – and more and more, there are times where I like and want to dress more elegantly and chicly. Other times I want to throw on some booty shorts, a rock and roll tee shirt and crazy, quirky boots. Sometimes it’s a challenge, trying to figure out what to wear and when to wear what (say that five times fast!). But I think it’s a part of growing and changing, and I’m excited to see where my style evolution takes me! Most importantly, I want to wear the things that make me feel good about ME –whether it’s a blouse and a pencil skirt one day, or sweat pants and a crop top the next.