Julia Abate
April 24, 2015 9:34 am

Clothes are more than something that you put on your body, they reflect who you are and how you think about yourself. Each person’s style is like a small window into their world; each piece of clothing that you wear, whether intended to or not, symbolizes a different part of you. When you select a dress off the rack, you choose it because you have some connection to it, because some part of you wants to live it. But what if your intentions are not in line with your reality? What if what you want to wear does not make you look or feel good? And how do we know when our intentions are truly ours, and not someone else’s idea of what they should be?

Fashion has the potential to allow you to be the most authentic, whole version of yourself and I think that is the real beauty in it. Unfortunately, that’s not what some people see in fashion. In advertisements for clothing, we often see the same woman: Young, tall, and thin, with a flat stomach and thighs that don’t touch. This what is considered “perfect,” and that can have a really negative effect on teens and younger girls.

This way these images began to dominate my brain was so slow I didn’t realize it was actually happening. My clothes made me feel excited and powerful until the fifth grade, when Abercrombie jeans became the trendiest item at my elementary school. I would try to squeeze into their super-skinny fit, but it just made me feel awful when they didn’t look right and felt uncomfortable. Those jeans didn’t flatter my body. At all. I thought that there was something wrong with me and became convinced that skinny was the only beautiful. I would get teary every time I needed a larger size of jean, and call myself fat when I looked in the mirror. This was during a period where I was growing from a girls size 14 to a woman’s 0 and I’m telling you that to illustrate that I was in a truly distorted spiral of misery. The fashion industry, that had once made me feel so happy and powerful, had let me down.

It took me some time to figure out that sizes are just numbers and that they aren’t very consistent. There are some brands of clothes in which I now wear a size 6 and others where my best fit is a zero. There are some brands in which my best fit differs depending on the cut of the pants, even though they are made by the same designer (Gap, I’m looking at you!). I’m still trying not to care about the number and pay more attention to how things fit and feel on my body. When we’re more concerned with sizing charts or pounds or numbers on a tag, theres no way to be happy. When we’re convinced that only one image is the “right” one, feeling good about ourselves and ourselves in our clothes is impossible. To be feel good, we have to ditch the sizing chart and not be afraid to ignore trends that don’t make us feel good. We have to embrace our bodies and our personal styles.

I didn’t do this right away. It took me a little while to find my confidence and regain some balance, but eventually, I did. I started by ditching my Abercrombie jeans, and visiting new stores who sold jeans that were flattering on me and supported different body types. Although I am still on the small side, an Abercrombie-style jean still looks bad on me. But I have stopped shopping at stores that make me unhappy. I only buy clothes that I love. When I started using fashion as an outlet to express and be myself again, I was able to learn about myself, take risks, and feel more confident, which is why I’m sitting at my desk today, writing the fashion column at HelloGiggles Teen. I want to be able to share the power that fashion gives me with the world and see clothes as a way to explore and express who we are, because fashion isn’t only about your outer beauty or what designers have decided is the trend of the moment: it’s a reflection of who you are on the inside.

My fashion column, The Style File, will be running every month on HelloGiggles Teen. If you have any questions or topics you want me to cover, style-wise, please contact me via email!

(Image via.)

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