What It Means to Dress Yourself Authentically

Should you be feeling a little fatigued by fashion, you are not alone. With so much going on in the world, the latest styles from Milan and the red carpet looks of the Kardashians come in pretty low on the priority list. If you had thirty days left to live, would you be happy to say that you blindly followed trends all of your life? I doubt it.

Most of us would love to live delicious, authentic lives. Lives that made us happy, lives that reflect our values and desires. The truth is, we make modern life a lot more complicated than it needs to be. In becoming overly reliant on the opinions of others, we underestimate the agency to craft our own existence.

Of course, being authentic is easier said than done. What does authentic even mean exactly? To me, it means being true to yourself. It means doing what comes naturally and what aligns with your ethics and beliefs. It means giving yourself the space and freedom to define the many abstract components that constitute who you are and what you stand for.

The thing is, authenticity can mean changing as little or as much of your current lifestyle as you want—because the deciding factor is you. If your heart is telling you to drop everything, fly to Bali, and make like Julia Roberts in ‘Eat Pray Love’, do it. But if the real you finds joy in being a high street fashionista, then who are others to judge?

“You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans — it’s up to you.” ― Karl Lagerfeld

One way we can live as authentically as possible is to be mindful of the way that we dress. More often than not, we have to dress a certain way to conform to school, work, or society at large. While congruency prevents people from being distracted and helps everyone feel that they belong, it is fundamentally an erasure of an essential mode of expression.

We might not all be able to make 360-degree changes in our lives, but I dare venture that we may be able to change what we wear without destroying the fabric of society. Therefore, let your wardrobe be a personal endeavor. Let the dress code be a loose suggestion and not a rule. Let yourself wear whatever makes you feel your best, without worrying about the external gaze.

Honestly, you may get one or two inquisitive looks from people when they notice your wardrobe change, but they will get over it sooner than you think. Most people are too concerned about their own matters to obsess over somebody else’s fancy new cotton slacks. And if they seriously cannot get past your fashion choice, maybe it is time to seek new company.

“As she always did on any really important day, Penelope Hayes wore red.” ― Anna Godbersen, The Luxe

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to dressing authentically. If you are still working your style out, it is easy to feel lost in the sea of options. Furthermore, you are only human and how you feel will differ from one day to the next. Instead of keeping a wardrobe enormous enough for four English children to get lost in, consider the following tips.

Start with a style book. Collect a list of looks that appeal to you. You can take random snapshots on the street or spy on your favorite famous people. Pinterest is a helpful platform for collating images and can help you to define an aesthetic that screams you. Not to worry if you discover that you love a huge range of looks, you can pare your choices down later.

Build a foundation. No matter what personal style you subscribe to, chances are that you have a little black dress. There is a reason why basic and timeless pieces feature in every wardrobe. As you start to define your personal style, pick a few pieces that will work for you regardless of your mood. Remember that you can always add to a simple piece but it is hard to subtract from an elaborate one.

Add your unique touch. Basic pieces are like the sponge in a cake while the stand-out pieces are the icing. It is always good to have a little bit of sponge, but it is entirely up to you how much icing you want to pile on. From ballet tutus to motorcycle jackets, be sure to have some pieces that make you feel like an unadulterated You. Crop your T-shirts or sew sequins on your shorts; DIY is a great way to leave a personal stamp on your wardrobe.

Customize everything that matters. Some pieces of clothing and jewelry embody so much of your essence that they become synonymous with who you are. Engagement rings are a prime example. Instead of buying a standard ring off the rack, you could try a custom jeweler, like Vanessa Nicole to create a piece that is fit to be a family heirloom. In the same vein, make the effort to customize every item that matters.

Love your body. A huge part of being authentic is accepting and embracing the body that nature gave you. Keep in mind that imperfection creates interest. Whether you are a model or a mother, you can always choose clothing that makes you feel good about yourself. You will be surprised how confident you can become when you release yourself from the confines and expectations of society.

“The most confident of women are those who believe in every scrap of fabric they wear.” ― Sarah MacLean, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

In the beginning, dressing authentically can be a challenge. You may be unsure how far you can—and want to—take your personal expression. The key here is to listen to yourself. If it feels like stress and work to dress in a certain style, it is likely not what you truly desire. When you dress authentically, even the act of putting on clothes in the morning can be a powerful affirmation of who you are at your very core.

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