I’m the fashionista of my family.
Every morning before I left for school until I left for college, my dad consulted me on his ensemble for the day. He’d hold up one tie to his suit and then another. “This one? Or this one?” Then, “Which shoes look better?”
I’d offer my opinion, and we’d usually agree that yes, the salmon tie looked better than the perriwinkle, and the brown dress shoes over the black pair. Sometimes he’d furrow his brow at my selection, though, as if he’d expected me to choose the other option. “Really? Hm,” he’d say. But he always trusted my advice and went with what I liked.
My mom also sought my guidance. We’d go on shopping expeditions to Chico’s or Talbots where I got to play personal stylist, picking out things for her to try on and steering her away from anything old lady-ish. I loved the creative stimulation and the the fact that they wanted to know what I thought.
I suspect my role as the family fashion consultant had to do with what my parents referred to as my being a “good consumer.” I’d always had an affinity for things. Not just any things, though. I have a discerning eye and a preference for nice things, beautiful things, high-end clothes, European cheeses, rich olives, handmade pasta. I value aesthetics, quality, and sensuousness. Maybe it’s because I’m a Taurus. We’re known for our magnetism to the finer things in life—we prefer the best of the best.
Flimsy horoscope reasoning aside, the bottom line is that I was always drawn to clothing the most out of all the beautiful things one can admire. Fashion is a way to invent a story for yourself—an identity even—and show it to the world. Clothing sets the tone for how you feel about yourself, how you present yourself, and how others receive you. Style is a powerful force.
From elementary school all the way through high school, I studied this world of expression through dress. I pored over catalogs from Delia’s, Limited Too (before it became “Justice”), and Sundance—a fancier brand my mom subscribed to and dreamed of wearing myself when I was older. I dogeared Girl’s Life magazine editorials and nearly every page of Teen Vogue.
I shifted from phase to phase, sporting girly skirts and button-up cardigans and headbands for a time; then I adopted a uniform of neon Infamous t-shirts I got at Tilly’s, Vans sneakers from the boy’s section, and black hoodies. For the first couple years of college I experimented with wild patterns and bright colors from the 80s and 90s, mixed in with oversized men’s clothing in muted earth tones, all from Goodwill and this place in Ohio near my school called Volunteers of America. Now I’m in a period of refinement, defining what I want my style to be and trying to invest in higher quality pieces as I sort out who I want to be as a person and what I want to do with my life.
The Volunteers thrift store near Oberlin with some of its fashionable patrons. Source: foursquare.com
Clothing can become superficial when we obsess over it for the wrong reasons: throwing money away on trends we don’t even stop to ask ourselves if we like, or conforming to a formula of copycat style out of laziness, or wanting to fit in and be safely fashionable. “Retail therapy” may not be as healthy a coping mechanism for stress as we’d like to think. And it’s undeniable that having clothes beyond the bare necessities is a privilege. Not everyone has access to the same quantity or quality of clothing, and the relationship between money and style is inextricable.
Julia DiFiori is a twenty-year-old from Los Angeles. She studies Cinema Studies and Creative Writing at Oberlin College. In five years, expect to find Julia writing for a TV show or fashion magazine while also fronting an innovative indie rock band. Julia steps up for intersectional feminism and the importance of art in the human experience. Her favorite podcast is WTF with Marc Maron.