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The Irony of Personal Style and Taking Up Space in Your Style

Picture by Jen Collins (

With the new year comes a surge of discussions on revamping one’s personal style, for a new era. Countless people on TikTok claim that they’ve curated a style individual to them and give you advice on what you need to do so, but look like every other person on the app at the same time. Personal style is created over time and wear. In this search for trying to find our “personal style”, we look at Pinterest, TikTok and YouTube. Videos telling you what not to wear, and what's going to make you look more stylish. “Don't wear skinny jeans”, “don’t mix patterns”, etc. In this attention and overstimulation economy, we do not pause and dive into our desires. When we see an outfit that looks good on someone, we try to recreate the entire outfit, instead of finding what element we are drawn to, whether it be the silhouette or textures. 

The rate of trends and overconsumption is obviously part of the issue, but our inability to grow with our wardrobes. People are not wearing their clothes. When was the last time you mended a hole in a sweater, instead of throwing it out? Forming an emotional connection to your clothing items happens over time and this helps facilitate how you want to present yourself. 

When we consume and appreciate other art forms, we do so with no end goal in mind. We don’t listen to a song over and over again trying to find a solution to a problem or expect an artist’s depiction of sadness to make us feel better. We appreciate and consume art because we recognise some quality within it that we relate to or recognise on some sphere. 

If you are interested in fashion in any sense, you might consider your clothing as a representation of yourself and as showing people around you how approachable you are, or what type of person you are. But how can an outfit capture the complexity of one’s identity? We consume and consume trying to find the right tools to express ourselves. One route that has become common has been the obsession with archival designer clothing. Brands that create a certain image we want to emulate are sought after. When we think of A Rick Owens wearer, we have a certain lifestyle in mind. You can definitely use a brand to construct your identity through clothing, but it must come from having your own sensibilities and philosophies that are attached to the brand, rather than an obsession with the brand image and name, which creates an image for you. It is a privilege to take the time to research designers, styles and collections to find what connects with you and is able to construct this form of self-expression. 

But if this sounds like a non-frivolous task to you, developing the patience and strength to develop your style is worth it. Valuing how you dress is not as shallow as people make it seem, attaching your sensibilities to the way you dress is much more meaningful and fulfilling. The more you learn about fashion, the less critical you become of others because you attach your style to your desires and philosophies instead of items. And you are able to recognise that in others to some extent. 

Taking up space in your style 

Another way to approach developing your style is by considering the space you want to take up or the statement you want to make. The size of clothing has been meaningful in contemporary resistance since the 90s advent of hip-hop fashion. Clothing has always acted as an interface of political upheaval and rebellion or self-expression. Many gravitated towards hip-hop in the '90s due to its departure from Western ideals of sound and aesthetics. 

For people of colour, they were able to extend their skin or presence, something they were historically oppressed for, through the use of clothing, and take up more space. Oversized football or hockey jerseys, with extremely baggy jeans and high-top sneakers or timberlands: the iconic hip-hop look of the 90s, has much more to it than just the material facade. Individually they are a workman’s clothing or sportswear, but they gained this new meaning in this era and created an identity. By taking up space, they are demanding recognition and respect, without conforming to Western preconceived notions of fashion. 

But if you are using elements of a style that has cultural significance, you must consider what you are encroaching upon. You must consider whether you are wearing someone’s “skin of resistance”, without paying the price. Is this a fad you will grow out of? 

Some makeup and fashion trends that have risen in the past few years have been part of this issue. These trends becoming mainstream is not the issue, it's the lack of acknowledgement of its riots and popularisation exclusively on white people where the issue lies. The dark lip liner and clear gloss combo, as well as thin eyebrows, being extremely trendy now, were signifiers of the Chola subculture. And before chola makeup, there were “zoot suits”, which were highly oversized suits, with balloon trousers with exaggerated labels and colours. The suits themselves were a rebellion, taking the respectable businessman’s suit and making it something fashionable and inventive. These outfits and techniques became signifiers of their stance against the racial oppression they faced in America in the 40s and 50s. The “clean girl aesthetic” of slick back buns and oiling hair, has been glamorised now when it has been adopted by the white population, but where was this support when brown and black women have been doing it for years? 

When we like a certain aesthetic or look, we almost look for recognition of it within the mainstream or white people. Subconsciously, or because of years of negative comments, even when we try to dress out of the box, we gravitate towards trends that are considered “not basic”, but are accepted. It is only when we can let go of this need for validation from the mainstream that we can take up the space we want to in our style. 

Reconstructing your personal style doesn't mean buying an entire wardrobe. The best place to start is by looking at your current wardrobe and giving your credit card a break. Living your life and understanding how you feel in your clothes is much more valuable than going through a cycle of clothes. And when you do buy a new item, it doesn’t have to go with the rest of your wardrobe to fit “you”, unless you want to end up with a wardrobe of “essentials”. Find what is essential for you to communicate what you want to. Play dress up in your own closet, put things that look ridiculous together, it might just call to you.


Edited by Fashion Editor, Megan Shears


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