Discovering Self Through Fashion
Periodically, I take a step back and ask myself: why does fashion really matter to me? Usually this questioning coincides with instances where I feel less connected to my clothes, and perhaps less sure of the role fashion ultimately plays in my development as a human being. When I was still struggling to come to my relationship with fashion on my own terms, these kinds of ebbs and flows used to feel so much more consequential than they do now. Because I know I'll continue to love fashion despite questioning it, I'm now able to approach these moments with a kind of warm curiosity. What am I meant to learn about myself from questioning fashion in this way?
I emerged from this latest period of inquiry with an insight: I use fashion to help me discover who I am. It's one of the many ways–in addition to serving as a vehicle for creativity, and for celebrating beauty, and for infusing joy– that fashion deeply enriches my life. Fashion is a gateway to self. At the moment we try on a piece of clothing, we're reckoning with who we are, who we've been, who we want to be. We're becoming.
Wrapped up in the allure of consumerism, in the draw of a trend, in the cache of a brand name, I think, is the fundamental truth that we're all coming to fashion to find ourselves. The forces that draw us to fashion often seem external in nature, like consumerism, the desire to fit in, or to stand out, but really, those external forces are only relevant to the degree that they resonate with an internal need. Self-exploration, personal development, transformation, metamorphosis– these are our human needs. These are the things we turn to fashion to help us do.
I've been guilty before of letting my struggles with fashion eclipse the things about it that make it so great. With time, I do that less and less. I'm here to become the person I'm meant to be. If my clothes can help me along in that the process, isn't that a testament to the integral role fashion plays in the human experience?
Feature image: A woman in Oman captured by Frederick Simpich Sr. circa 1919 for National Georgraphic. Image © National Geographic Stock: Vintage Collection/GRANGER.