2010 Resolutions for Gen Y: On Self-Definition

I’ve always been into fashion, though I hesitatingly state that because I never had a ton of extra money to throw around on expensive clothes. In high school, I tried to subtly but creatively create original looks for myself.

A Story

I’ll never forget one failed look, when I tried to imitate the college girls I saw on a tour of a campus in Missouri. They had on western bandanas tied as thick headbands, paired with matching, deconstructed baby tees. After running to WalMart to find a quick solution, I cut off the bottom of my baby tee, tied the scarf around my head, and went to school in small town western Nebraska.

The look ultimately failed because my cutting skills revealed a little too much skin, which Audri Pelton, a rather outspoken classmate of mine, decided to announce as I walked past the cool kids in the hallway. My eyes burned with embarassed, angry tears as I ignored her and walked past, hating her for the rest of the year like only high school girls can.

(Though now I’ve realized I still always kind of liked her for unapologetically being herself at a time when most of us wouldn’t or couldn’t.)

Wardrobe as Personal Brand

What this has to do with my fashion sense now is that I’m still looking for ways to define myself creatively through my outfits and take on fashion in general. As I stare aimlessly into my closet on an I’m-already-late-morning, (ladies, you sympathize — men, keep reading, there’s a point I promise) I realize that instead of buying things and hoping they fit together, I need to decide to buy only what fits me.

While it’s superficial in some ways, when you see someone every day a pattern usually becomes clear. Our styles give great insight into the way we view the world, or at least how we want the world to see us. For example, the goth girl we assume has a “leave me alone” view on life, or the lady with neon plastic earrings and velour pants we just know has six cats waiting at home and will talk your ear off, or the slightly balding long bangs-in-front-emo-eqsue guy who is a rocker or a wanderer inside.

Unless, of course, that person is ourselves. It’s hard to see yourself accurately in a mirror, let alone judge your own closet and look. Why else are there umpteen makeover shows like “What Not to Wear?”

So, as one of my new year’s resolutions, I’m going to be better about actively choosing how I define myself, and that includes my fashion choices. Instead of trying to strictly define my aesthetic, I picked words that I think fit both my personality and my sense of style: Whimsical, natural and elegant.

Whimsical

No matter how old I am, I will never lose my sense of imagination or love of just playing. (That’s what happens when your mom is a preschool teacher — thanks Mamacita!) In my clothes, that means a love for silly little touches like cutesy buttons, fun bows, blocks of bright color and sayings imbued with little touches of irony. Too kitschy is bad, but touches of youthful joy can come through in little ways.

Natural

I feel the most honest, spiritual and healthy when I’m outside — rain or shine, whether sweating after a good run in the humid summer air or freezing as I take in the pristine bright light of an icy winter morning. On days when I feel soft, dreamy, and accepting of myself and the world, I find myself putting on delicate floral prints, cargo capris or fuzzy, warm, brown sweaters. These are often the easiest things to throw on, and look unique but comfortable and even professional.

Elegant

I know it’s partially growing up and getting away from the throwaway, faddish stuff that you find at low cost retailers or discount stores, but my love of the elegant has grown as I’ve tried to become a more calm, put together and grace-filled, graceful person. Jackie O lovers unite over her soft, steady and smart looks, not only because she was American royalty but because she had presence and quiet leadership that drew others to her. Both on the inside and the outside, I want to be elegant.

To close, it seems superficial to write about my own fashion sense in a post that’s supposed to be about defining yourself. In contrast to stereotypes of my Gen Y peers, I’m a little uncomfortable talking this much about myself in a post that’s supposed to say something about my generation, not just me.

However, I’m hoping there’s a common thread that pulls us each towards what I’ve been getting at all along: As you grow up, you realize you’re the only one who can choose the kind of person you want to be — through your actions as well as what you wear every day.

I want to know how other people my age define themselves… clothing, or otherwise. Please comment!


Thanks to my favorite store ever, Anthropologie, for being forward-thinking enough to make its images downloadable and sharable for the blogging community. All items pictured in this post are from them and are linked as such.

Note:

I have this blog linked to my Facebook page, which pulls content and makes it into a post on that site. I kind of forgot about that, and also that the woman I mention in my high school sob story at the start is a Facebook friend. I was pleasantly surprised to see a note in my Facebook inbox from her, apologizing for being part of the story but not for being herself.

That is the definition of classiness and maturity. If only we all had a chance to apologize to people we hurt in high school… I know I’d have a few rounds to make, just like everyone else.

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One response to “2010 Resolutions for Gen Y: On Self-Definition”

  1. Erika Pryor says :

    Crystal, what a great post. I always feel the challenge of reconciling the different looks I like to have based upon the various moods and styles I embrace. I appreciate the voice you give to that. Thanks so much for the great post and keep them coming.

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