Recently a first-year friend of mine has been determined to "steal my look" following my graduation in May. This is one part flattering and two parts existentially horrifying, as it reminds me of the passage of time and that I, too, can be replaced by The Youth of America(™).
In all honesty, it’s hilarious when this friend approaches me, looks me up and down, and says “bookmarked” while making a sweeping motion with their finger as if I’m a post on Storenvy they want to find later.
To think that someone would want to look like me is unbelievable. I was made fun of in high school for not meeting style expectations. At first, because they thought I looked too poor or I wore the same things frequently, and then because my style grew unabashedly bizarre.
This guide is dedicated to that friend and all the other weird people out there who are worried about changing their look.
Today, I spotted someone through the bus window. They were pointing, swaying, and jamming as they made their way down the street. Due to the crowd of people in the rumbling bus, the window and the other physical and metaphorical space between us, I will never know what this person was listening to, but I knew they had their own groove.
I was reminded of my first forays into finding my own style: the white bob wig, the frilled blouses and hand-sewn skirts. In 2011, I was away from home for a few months studying in another town and I decided that, as my mother and peers were nowhere to be found, I could look however I wanted. I found my own groove like and realized that, despite the fact that I never brushed my hair or wore makeup, I could look cute.
(The writer, age 18).
This comes to the first point of advice: find whatever clothes brighten your day and make those the ones you wear.
Collect ends and odds from odd places! My wardrobe is built from donations from the elderly ladies I would talk to at church, from thrift shop visits and bargain bins, from online shops and anime conventions. It's also fun to make stuff yourself. There are so many tutorials on sites like Pinterest and Deviantart; if you dream it and search for it, it will be there.
There is this insidious idea that poor people should look a certain way and that if they dare spend a cent on something they enjoy, they are frivolous, ignorant leeches on society. However, someone who thinks that poor people should not have fun or brightness in life is someone who should not be trusted.
A cool style should also come with a cool attitude about sustainability. The best thing to do with clothes one does not need anymore is to pass them off to shelters and places like Goodwill, or participate in a trans clothing swap to provide for needy trans individuals. Give back to the places that helped you on your way to style greatness.
Upon accepting your weirdness, it’s time to figure out what inspires you. Follow the lead of your favorite filmmakers, designers and fashion enthusiasts and create a mood board. A mood board is a lot like a collage — it’s a collection of images that come together to help you understand your style. Do not worry about cohesion or potential embarrassment. Pictures of cars, frogs, 1950's diners or all three should sit together snuggly at your hypothetical mood board supper table.
(Included in this image are: gothic lolita fashion from fanplusfriend.com, Harry Potter, a space pattern on a skirt from radtastical, the teacher from Over the Garden Wall, Mabel Pines sweater designs from Disney storyboard artist Emmy C, Welcome to Night Vale pins, two star-filled backgrounds from Steven Universe, an old photo of the French Cafe de L'Enfer, a cutout of Gary King from "The World's End," and an image of myself in flannel and a UFO shirt taken by a friend. When posting a mood board online, make sure to credit the artists whose work you have borrowed!)
For example, I have put a mood board together to help readers visualize how they work. I draw inspiration from gothic, historic and urban Japanese styles. I let my choices be influenced by my friends and my love of animation. On a whim, I decided to start decorating my jean jacket when I saw a friend who covered his with pins and patches. It’s okay to be influenced by those around you, current trends, and silly stuff you see in comic books.
A mood board can be made at home using paper, scissors, and glue or produced on everything from Photoshop to Microsoft Paint. I recommend a photo editor called pixlr to those who want something more sophisticated than Paint and less expensive than Photoshop. In fact, it is totally free and works in browser.
Before you go off into the wild blue yonder in your wild new clothes, I have one last piece of wisdom to impart: do not let one idea about your look dominate.
There is this idea that once you pick a style, you can never change. Or that you cannot enjoy two vastly different styles. This is simply not true.
I love goth and emo styles as well as pastels, prints, and cute patterns. I love looking like a stereotypical nerd in round glasses and a sweater vest as well as wearing flowing skirts and fishnets. Some days I feel the best in a look which can only be described as "1800s school teacher.”
You can change and stay who you are are the same time. People may see you as a person with long hair and you may too, but if you find yourself wishing your hair was shorter days in a row, get it cut. If it helps you to doodle ideas on sticky notes and in the margins or notebook pages, cover them with sketches. In my first year of college, I decided to change my hair every six months and have never regretted this decision.
(An abridged history of one dude's hair. Also a green wig from high school).You aren't one thing. Wear and do whatever you think will make you happy on a given day.