I’m getting dropped off at daycare and five-year-old me, dressed in a blue Thomas the Tank Engine T-shirt with fuzzy Tellytubby Rainboots, is running off before my mum can even kiss me goodbye. My little legs are making a direct beeline for the dress-up area where I’d ditch my top and trade it for the most glamorous thing I could find. What I found just so happened to be a puffy emerald-green ball dress.
Every day, no matter the competition, I made sure I was the only one who got their hands on that dress. At age 5, I was a firm believer in a ball dress-wellington boot combo. As I approach 21 I understand that the day I decided to dress myself was the day I learned how to honestly express myself.
I have always felt most comfortable in outfits that challenge people. My mother says it’s because I like attention, but to me it’s experimental and I believe that is what fashion is. Like any experiment, you find what suits you via processes of elimination. 13-year-old me would disagree. At the time, I found myself pretending to look like a skateboarder because my male classmates loved to skateboard. Looking back, I failed miserably at this look. Shaggy long hair. Yes. Dreadfully tight skinny jean. Sure, I can still taste the elastic.
I tend to feel rather androgynous at times and I find happiness in that fashion helped me come to that conclusion. It hasn’t been easy. I have had to grow thick skin, acknowledge my insecurities, and understand that not everyone has to understand you. Self-love is a goal I hope all our readers can strive for.
Selecting an outfit is a ritual. It's like trying on a new skin and with each outfit accompanies a character I take on. Sometimes I question whether these "characters" are just pieces of the person I'll one day become. Almost like a puzzle that has yet to be made into a picture. It’s about what fashion does for me, it acts a medium for growth and self-experimentation.
My current aesthetic is leaving the house smelling of a minimum of 3 different dry shampoos. An everyday look for me is quite minimal, so I let the statement bags, sunglasses, and shoes take the lead. That also goes for my face. I keep it simple, lip gloss, brow gel and highlighter. Lots and Lots of highlighter. Mainly because I’m incapable of doing anything daring on my face. Well except that time I lasted approximately two weeks into college before I got a needle shoved into my nasal cavity and that’s enough excitement for my face, at least until graduate school.
But however you choose to present yourself, the key thing is that you make that look your own. There is power in what you choose. For me, that power started with a puffy emerald green dress−no one has ever let me live that one down.
James Chamberlain is 20 years old from Leicester, England. He currently lives in New York where he studies Fashion Journalism and minors in Global Gender Studies. James has previously written with The College Fashionista and The Monroe Doctrine.