I remember the first issue of Seventeen magazine that I ever read. Far from seventeen, I was nine. The magazine belonged to my friend’s older sister; Laetitia Casta was the cover girl of the month. At the time, Seventeen was an intelligent, even subversive publication, particularly as far as teen magazines are concerned. It was the mid-nineties and grunge was the style of the moment. The girls featured in the magazines wore baggy jeans and sneakers, their hair undone, because those were the styles that made them feel good. Suggestions that they might dress to impress their crushes were rare if they popped up at all because the editors of Seventeen knew what I have believed ever since – dressing to impress men is entirely beside the point.
By the time I reached high school, the idea of dressing to look “sexy” seemed utterly preposterous to me. My magazine of choice by then, Teen People, prompted modesty in fashion strongly, well aware that their target audience was young Christian women in the American south. But it was the 2000s, and the narrative had begun to change. The rebellious, egalitarian mid-nineties, when both genders united in their love of Doc Martens and flannel, had long passed. Crop tops and exposed thongs both had their moments in the sun. As a teenager, I wanted to follow trends, because fitting in is of paramount importance in high school no matter where you stand ideologically. Mom and I had some epic arguments about the length of my tops. But it was never about impressing the boys around me – or so I thought.
Dressing for yourself isn’t as simple as saying, I’m dressing for myself. I worked in retail for years, where the focus of sales was always on finding clothes that flattered the customer. But what are clothes that are flattering, except clothes that draw attention to the parts of our body that interest men? It occurred to me, as I stood in front of my mirror the other day, dressed in boyfriend jeans and the same sweater I’m wearing in these photos, that I’ve gotten caught up in dressing for the male gaze without realising it. Because the first thing I thought when I looked at myself was, These pants and this sweater together aren’t very flattering.
What does it matter? If you are truly dressing for yourself, and you feel good in what you wear, why should it make a difference if anyone can see the shape of your hips or the curve of your waist? Sometimes, I want to pair my favourite oversized sweater with a short skirt. But most of the time, I would rather throw it on with baggy jeans. The trick is not worrying about how other people will perceive my outfit. Magazines still sell issues filled with articles with titles like The Best Clothes for your Shape. And, because I am 5’2″ with curves, those titles suck me in the same way they suck everyone else in.
Dressing for yourself is no easy feat because it requires you to accept your body as it is in a world where countless external voices tell you it is not (and will never be) good enough. Dressing for yourself, wearing the baggy jeans with the oversized sweater, means saying to the world, I define what makes me look good, not you. It is an act of rebellion. And like all acts of rebellion, it takes real courage. The kind of courage that I, admittedly, do not have every morning. But I’m working on it.
#revolve #loversfriendsla #sezane #celine #hm