For as long as I can remember, I have had a love affair with clothes. As a child, I used scraps of fabric that my mom discarded to make rudimentary outfits for my Barbies. This mainly consisted in cutting holes in them and using them as “jackets,” or creatively draping the material and tying it with a discarded piece of ribbon or yarn. My cousin and I would spend hours on many a rainy day playing in our impeccably styled grandmother’s closet. We would admire her countless pairs of shoes and dream of one day having shoe trees of our own. While most of my friends spend Thursday nights swooning over the men of The Vampire Diaries, I always stop ogling long enough to appreciate the clothes.
My high school and college sketch books contain drawings of outfits I dreamed up in the days when I thought I would be the next Posh Spice. I needed something awesome to wear onstage at Wembley, right? Alas, I never made it to Wembley, but my love affair with fashion has persisted. Although I prefer to spend most of my time in casual attire, I appreciate the artistry and hard work that goes into each item of clothing before it is shown on a runway. I enjoy playing with color combinations and finding that hue that looks amazing on me. More than anything, I love to go to local fashion shows and snap photos as the models walk down the runway in something that someone slaved over for months.
As with many things that people are passionate about, fashion can be quite a polarizing subject. Many a time, I have heard people talk about the fashion industry with disdain, claiming that it pushes unrealistic body images and that it promotes materialism. I have been described as “shallow” for wanting to look pretty when I leave the house. Let’s face it – unless you are living in the Amazon rainforest or a nudist colony, you have to wear clothes. Why not use those clothes to help feel good about yourself?
Most of the women I know have at least one go-to item in their wardrobe. That one special dress or sweater or pair of shoes that makes them feel like a sexier, more confident version of themselves – a Super Me if you will. By pulling on those red velvet heels or that little black dress, they feel feminine, confident and powerful. I am willing to bet that they get a lot more phone numbers on those nights than on the nights when nothing in the closet fits right, and getting ready is a struggle. The right outfit can make you glow on the inside and the outside. People respond to that glow.
There is a reason why organizations like Dress for Success (a non-profit that helps impoverished women find jobs by providing donated interview outfits) exist. People do judge books by their covers. Look at any newsstand in any airport in the U.S., and there is a whole wall of magazines devoted to telling women how to dress. There are so many shows devoted to makeovers, analyzing celebrity fashion and helping people look better in clothes, that they’ve got their own network. I dress the way I do because it makes me feel good about myself. I like being able to find a pair of jeans that lifts up my butt just so or a sundress that people will complement all day.
Another reason that people have disdain for the fashion industry is that they think that looking good needs to be expensive. They hear that Kim Kardashian spends $1,000 on her shoes and think that all of us fashion girls do. Well, I have news for you. My favorite cocktail dress was only $17 at a discount store, yet everyone that has seen me in it has loved it. The clothes that I get complimented on the most are the ones that I bought at Target.
Fashion is fun, and choosing clothing that fits your personality and flatters your figure can do wonders for your self-esteem. It doesn’t need to be complicated, expensive or outlandish to make a statement. A woman can make just as powerful a statement in skinny jeans and a cardigan as she can in the Royal Wedding Dress. Just choose pieces that make you happy, and there will be an extra spring in your step.
Alaina Brandenburger is a Colorado native and a pretty well rounded person. She enjoys people watching, sports, fashion and all things pop culture. A lifelong writer, Alaina likes to share her opinions with others and hopes that they are entertained. She is currently drifting through life observing, musing and enjoying the ride. You can read more of her work here, and follow her on Twitter.