A woman holding several pursed and balancing one on her head

Fashion is fun. It’s a form of self-expression that can tell someone who they are even before they have the words to explain. Throughout the years, my interest in fashion has grown continuously. Moving from Michigan to Los Angeles to Europe, I continued to gain an appreciation for style and the way it can differ between states and certainly between countries.

In December 2018, I used my love of fashion for good by participating in Dressember for the first time. Dressember is a charity and style challenge where you wear a dress every day in December and raise funds to fight human trafficking.

I wanted to join the movement for years, but I let my little fears get in the way. What if no one donates? What if I can’t explain the cause well? Can I really go a month without wearing pants?

At first the idea of wearing a certain kind of clothing to raise money seems a little weird. After all, what are the clothes actually doing? Yet, as I spent the month wearing dresses and talking about human trafficking, looking closely at my wardrobe helped me realize how my pursuit of fashion trends was a part of exactly the kind of human trafficking I was trying to fight against.

My pursuit of fashion trends was a part of exactly the kind of human trafficking I was trying to fight against.

After joining Dressember, I made the decision to leave unethical shopping behind, which meant leaving behind nearly all my go-to shops. I suddenly felt like I lost a piece of myself. Personal expression—or at least, what I thought at the time was my personal expression—through fashion had become so important to me.

All those hours scouring ASOS every month were over. My wardrobe stopped accumulating articles of clothing. As my wardrobe stopped growing, I realized how much following trends in fashion hadn’t been empowering my personal style, but it had actually been feeding my own insecurities. Fashion had stopped being about expression and had turned into a need to be validated by others because of what I was wearing. 

Following trends in fashion hadn’t been empowering my personal style, but it had actually been feeding my own insecurities.

I used to feel a need for new clothes before vacations, weddings, parties—anywhere I’d be seen beyond my day-to-day. Yet, no matter how many new clothes I bought, I still wanted more. The “in” styles changed so fast, and I was trying so hard to keep up. I felt like I was chasing something that was unattainable. It was because the goal—some mystical ideal of “perfect fashion”—was ever-changing. I couldn’t catch something that didn’t last, something that was actually designed to be replaced in a few weeks. 

After I stopped chasing fashion trends, I had the space, both mentally and in my closet, to decide what style was actually mine. I wasn’t pushed into what someone else thought looked good (or worse, what a profit-hungry chain decided was the flavor of the week), but finally got to cut through the noise and find looks I liked and felt confident wearing. 

I used to spend so much time thinking about what I would wear to meet up with friends for a drink. I thought that standing in front of my wardrobe and agonizing about my outfit was something I did because I liked fashion, and I do like fashion. I like to look good.

However, it wasn’t until my attitude toward fashion changed that I realized I was seeking acceptance from others through my outfits. Back then, I would feel insecure about my outfit choice until I received a compliment. Now, I know that what I’m wearing is a genuine reflection of myself.

Now, I know that what I’m wearing is a genuine reflection of myself.

I still love fashion, but I have learned to love fashion in a way that does not leave me feeling like I’m never going to be good enough. I’ve fallen in love with timeless fashion. I’ve come to appreciate clothes I’ve owned for several years, and I’ve learned how to style the same items in new ways instead of trading them out for something that seems better in the moment only because it’s newer.

If fashion is a form of self-expression, then doesn’t it stand to reason that we shouldn’t all be stamped-out copies of the latest trend? Creating your own fashion taste is more work, and it can feel risky at first. Yet, isn’t it better to be wearing items and colors that we actually like instead of what someone on Instagram was wearing?

Fall in love with a style that’s all yours.

Image via Jason Barbagelott, Darling Issue No. 19

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