Let me start by giving you a little background on my fashion repertoire. Until age 20 (perhaps even later), my style was a cringy interpretation of whatever trends occupied the moment: T-shirts with bold logos. Cheap, brightly colored flip flops to match every outfit. Yoga pants tucked into furry boots when the temperature had barely suggested the idea of fall. I followed the kind of trends that are not likely to make a modern rebound.
Behind these attempts to ride various trend waves was a deep insecurity. I spent most of my youth feeling like I was out of place, trying to find a friend group, trying to fit in, wishing any boy would look in my direction.
Fortunately, college was kinder to me. I found friends, a much truer version of myself and a style of sorts along with it. I eventually deconstructed my wardrobe to mostly basics, and in the last few years, I have begun to build it back up with unique statement pieces and bolder attempts at style. Nowadays, putting together an outfit feels more creative than burdensome, more expressive and empowering than anxiety-filled.
Putting together an outfit feels more creative than burdensome, more expressive and empowering than anxiety-filled.
So how do we make our wardrobe empowering and something that is a source of confidence?
Like every good habit, it starts with thoughtful intention. Begin by asking yourself and your closet some questions: What feels like you? What inspires you? What do you find yourself gravitating toward, in color or style or specific pieces?
Look through your closet—What reflects the style you want to have? What doesn’t? Then, shop (or clean out your closet) accordingly. Building a style that reflects you well doesn’t happen on accident. So don’t be afraid to say “no” to comfort zones, the same old thing or a trend that doesn’t suit you.
Building a style that reflects you well doesn’t happen on accident.
Developing a wardrobe that gives you confidence means having clothes that simplify your life and make you feel the most like you. I’m not saying you have to go full Marie Kondo minimalist (though it isn’t a bad idea), but I will say that there is a certain mental freedom that comes with having fewer and better options to choose from.
Research shows that the more choices we have, the more anxious we feel. When you cultivate a closet that you love and not just one that happened because of a series of sales and whims, your outfit-picking process will become less cumbersome and maybe even a little joy-filled.
Unfortunately, clothing and especially the mirror can all too quickly become the enemy. Self-criticism, especially of our bodies, can be a quick reflex. What if our clothes could become a catalyst for changing the way we think? When we are quicker to say the things we like about our bodies and quicker to dismiss the things we want to critique, we are choosing to celebrate this part of who we are.
Clothes won’t fix the problem, but if we are able to make wardrobe choices that highlight what we love instead of picking apart the things we hate, then we will walk more confidently. Compliment yourself in the mirror. Celebrate the pieces that you know you look good in. Also know above all, your body does not determine your value.
Celebrate the pieces that you know you look good in.
Dress for the Woman You’re Becoming
When I was in college, I usually dressed my best on big exam days because those were the days I needed to feel my best. The “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” mentality lives on, and it applies to more than your work world. In any season or workspace where you feel restless or out-of-place, a good wardrobe that reflects you well can give you the confidence to bring your unique voice to the table, unapologetically.
My workplace is extremely casual, and I always tend toward overdressed, so not long ago I wore my new favorite boots—unique, high-heeled and making my steps known.
I rounded a corner and passed a coworker who said, “I heard you coming!”
I joked, “I know. It’s a power move.”
Jokes aside, I find joy and confidence in those pieces that make me stand out and feel at home all at once: an oversized blazer, my favorite worn pair of tennis shoes, an ideal denim jacket, perfectly baggy boyfriend jeans, leather loafers or the heels I bought for cheap in Paris.
I find joy and confidence in pieces that make me stand out and feel at home all at once.
Ultimately, you have a lot more to offer than how you present yourself. You could wear the same sweatpants every day of your life, and it would not change the innate gifts and beauty you have to bring to the table. Confidence is found not in the standards of society or your favorite fashion brand or even yourself. It’s found in knowing your worth and being able to celebrate that in your favorite pair of shoes.