Stop Pigeonholing Your Self-Expression

Humans are inherently expressive individuals. Emotions, conversations, and communication rule everyday living. These practices are all forms of expression that are explicit. What often goes unregarded, are the smaller forms of self-expression. The way one dresses, cuts their hair, or puts on makeup, points to a construction of character that often is not recognized. 

Waking up in the morning and even sometimes going to bed the night before, my thoughts surround the outfit I will be wearing the next day. Clothing has been something that has held a certain significance in my life ever since my junior year in high school. 


Growing up, I think there was a disconnect. I was a third grader, who carried my dress form with an unsewn version of a violet evening gown with lavender-tulle trimming, for show and tell. I was interested in all-things fashion related, I aspired to be like the designers I saw vying for a spot in New York Fashion week on episodes of Project Runway.

This portion of my life, like phases from past to present, dissipated. No longer did I hold these wishes and I moved on to pursuing studio art production. I often question how this happened, but further realize that this phase set up a pretense in my life that was activated as soon as I recognize who I would be. 


As insane as it sounds, the trigger that prompted my revolutionary re-emergence into self-discovery through clothing, came from a political science class I took in my junior year, when I met a boy. This boy was unlike any I had seen at my conversative private Texas high school. I would watch him in class as he peered through his glasses, he would always wear this jean jacket combo with powder blue shoes. He talked about political theories and argued them with his friends, who usually did not agree with him. He was bold in his being and even bolder in what he wore. I befriended him naturally, finding all my inspirations residing within him and wanting to know why. 


Soon I placed the fact that he was so naturally himself, as my main interest in wanting to uncover more about him. His clothes were symbolic of himself, they echoed the thoughts, feelings, and ideas that were so uniquely owned by him. This is what I wanted for myself. 

After this realization, I began to change. I began to choose my outfits carefully. I wanted a piece of myself in what I wore, I wanted my identity to somewhat show through what I placed on my

body. 


This continued, as I progressively started experimenting even more, the closer I arrived at finding myself. It sounds ridiculous, but there is such an inherent power within clothing as a form of self-expression. Through the clothes I wore, I found out what I liked, what I disliked, and how to show myself within articles of fabric formed into variations of my combined self. 

It’s a journey of self-discovery that I continue to embark on to this day. I go to a college that as a collective student body, houses many creatives. I am inspired on a day to day basis by what I see on the streets as classes are released. Furthermore, it’s a discovery that is triggered by not only what I see in real-life, but on digital screens. My feed is full of photographs from retail companies and individuals who are putting their outfits out for the world to see. I consume all of this media and I allow it to have an influence when I am piecing together my own. 


But here is where I enter a cross-roads, when does inspiration become toxic fascination? This phrase may be intensely harsh and you may be perceiving it with a sense of over-dramatization, but the words make sense in these terms. If there is an over-conscious overflow of inspiration, you are constantly thinking of what and how you can be better. Creativity and self-expression is facilitated through collecting inspiration, but it can mutually turn to self-destruction. 

I have had many conversations surrounding such thoughts, particularly when preparing myself to attend my college. I followed many students that were already there and saw how amazingly themselves they were. From how they dressed, to makeup looks they featured, their instagram feeds were filled through constructions of themselves that were so intricately pieced together. I referenced these images as points of aspirations I held, but I would also talk about them when having these conversations of feeling inadequate. 


These notions extended to include many of the other accounts I followed, being interested in fashion, it consumed my feed. Inspiration turned to morph these feelings of not being-enough whether it was pointed in my own personal style or pointed towards wanting to adopt a style that I felt unable to achieve. It turned into taking these “aesthetic” posts and creating a culture of exclusivity within my expression. I could either be this or that, but I had to choose. This idea was articulated by a social media influencer, named Margot Lee, who graced my feed after a friend had direct messaged me a post of her’s because of its caption. 


The caption read, “I’m often asked how I would describe my style and I never really have an answer because it truly is always changing and transforming based on where I am in the world, what’s in my closet, and what kind of day I’m having,” she wrote,”There’s so much pressure to fit into some type of box these days with the idea of “instagram feeds” and “aesthetics” that sometimes you need to take a step back and tell yourself it’s okay to change from day to day.” 

I was grateful that my friend shared this post to me, as it completely encapsulated all that I had been anxious about surrounding my personal style. Something that I had always viewed as being cultivated by my own actions, had become existent within restraints. My inspirations had fostered a sense of restriction, however I had contributed to these roadblocks that now made my style feel trapped. 


I reference this post because it is something that must be recognized when discussing style. Style does not take the form of the binary, but is rather multi-dimensional within it’s presentation. It gives individuals an instrument to showcase every portion of themselves, their lives, and their personal interests. It should never be pigeonholed into having to assume a label, a description, or a title, because it constantly evolves. 


There are faults to this of course, as I would love for the industry to not exist on a seasonal basis, or be based on temporary trends, but there’s a hidden beauty behind it. Style functioning as constantly changing and morphing, via the people wearing it or the trends that are making it, allows a sense of growth. It allows those who want to shape it to how they see fit, to do so in order to represent the multi-faceted sense of themselves. This is an element of inspiration that should never go unrecognized.