Style is Self Expression


Once upon a time, my favorite item of clothing was an old sweatshirt my dad wore when he was in his 20’s. I loved that it had the name of the town I was from on it, that it was from my dad, and mostly because it was comfortable and hid my body. I never thought much about fashion or personal style for most of my life because I was either trying to find ways to hide my body or I was too busy to care about what my body had on it.

Looking back at almost every picture of myself, from high school all the way through to grad school, I was in almost the exact same look – a pair of way too big jeans, a cami tank, and a hoodie. I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising that this lack of style followed me into adulthood and my career, and it doesn’t help that I work in a field that can enable this type of dressing – technology. So, for a long time, I was able to continue to wear what my friends and family lovingly dubbed “the Katie uniform.”

Before recently I wasn’t really sure where my lack of style came from. Did I think that clothes were superficial? Maybe. Did I lack the self-confidence to think that I could look good? Probably. Did I just have no clue where to start with dressing myself? Definitely. Was I (and maybe still am a little) viewing myself as not worthy of nothing more than a disposable wardrobe? Absolutely. But after really thinking about it, what I failed to see before is that style and fashion is a form of self-expression, an outward reflection of what’s beneath.

While doing some research on this topic, I read an article on the website Ignant by Charmaine Li that struck me: “When it comes to other forms of self-expression, such as painting, writing or dancing it’s readily accepted that the more you care, the more likely you are to fall into a path of personal exploration. So what is it about dressing the body—another form of self-expression—that makes it different?” This statement sums up how I now feel about fashion and dressing myself. That style is not some frivolous endeavor but instead an outward celebration of art, a way to celebrate the beautiful uniqueness of my own form.

So maybe now you’re wondering how I went from someone who at one time owned more than 20 (yes 20!) hoodie sweatshirts to someone who believes that fashion is a visual manifestation of where one stands and an important conduit to inventing or reinventing oneself? I met someone. A couple of years ago I met my friend Kristina and she has made a huge impact on how I now view style. It should be no surprise that she’s an artist. Her striking and colorful paintings hang on the walls of her home. She listens to jazz music and loves the soulfulness of New Orleans. She is ethereal with the kind of effortless style that looks together but not too together all at once. Kristina was the first person who told me to invest in good quality shoes and that I could pull off wearing bright red lipstick. She’s helped me think about my shopping habits, my addiction to cheap and easy buys, the emotions behind what I wear. But the most valuable thing I’ve learned from Kristina is that fashion and style is and should be about reflection and expression.

My journey the last couple of years has been more emotional than I expected. I realize now that I wasn’t expressing myself very well and I certainly wasn’t feeling like myself. In fact, I think I was afraid. It took a while to sort through different looks, materials, colors, etc. to figure out what made me feel like I was bringing the best version of myself out. I’m still a work in progress, and I’m still figuring out who I am and what my personal style is, but that’s ok. I know that the clothes I wear are reflective of the point I am at in my journey and will always make me feel like a beautiful piece of art. And art is undeniably conducive to happiness.