I blame New York.
After an upbringing in the comfortable/casual Pacific Northwest, style wasn’t exactly a term anyone would apply to me. Being a childhood tomboy who would rather play in the mud than braid hair reinforced those tendencies. My first forays into developing some sort of style or look came though the required suburban Abercrombie high school “uniform”. That pseudo-preppy casual look carried me through college and my first professional job. Grad school in Brooklyn, NY changed everything though.
The biggest thing that struck me about style in New York was it’s infinite diversity. I mean, you could wear anything (and seriously, I mean ANYTHING) in public. You just had to own it. It was about confidence. It was about fun and creativity. It was about abandoning my childhood dislike for dresses. I suddenly realized I had been missing out for years on one of the most exciting and accessible daily design challenges out there… myself.
When a new job brought me west again, it became abundantly clear that an unconscious desire for style had indeed crept into my life. An friend from my first professional job recalled the first time he met me… in flip flops, jeans and pigtails. In the office. When we reconnected, I know my more put-together and intentional look must have aged me ten years instead of the three it had been. Old friends kept asking me why I was dressed “so fancy”. I mean, it was just a shirt-dress with leggings and boots. I am not wearing heels and a cocktail dress to a BBQ. Could Colorado not handle me wearing statement earrings? Had I gone so far from my old look that my new-found sense of style was distracting to old friends?
The funny thing was, I feel better than I ever had when I was in ill-fitting slogan t-shirts. I have fun with fashion, actually enjoy shopping (not too often though) and feel like the outside is a much truer reflection of my personality. I don’t want to give any misconceptions that I am some sort of fashionista. I still wear jeans, just a better cut and wash. I may not have any flip flops anymore, but I practically live in comfortable flat sandals that look sharp. (Without that annoying flip/flop slapping sound.)
Would I rather be over-dressed or under-dressed? Well, I LIKE looking put together. If that makes me occasionally be a bit fancier than my surroundings, so be it. I try to channel so many of the people I witnessed strolling in confidence around NYC… I am owning it (most of the time). It has taken some patience, but even old friends seem to have gotten used to the new me, as they see it. I see it as the old me, just more expressive and resolved.
So now I say with complete confidence, nope I don’t have an interview (or date, or whatever) after this, Indeed, this is what I am planning to wear. And yep, I am overdressed. But darn it, I feel good.