I was in ninth grade when I first felt the shame associated with stepping outside of the style box.
I had a spring in my step as I arrived at the bus stop, wearing my usual flared jeans and a t-shirt labeled ABERCROMBIE in all caps (oh, the brand name obsession of the '00s). I was feeling extra stylish.
You see, I was rocking a brand new hairstyle that day.
That morning I had watched a Youtube tutorial and attempted my first-ever braided bun. It looked, well, as good as you'd expect for a first attempt. But I was happy with my efforts. Until I got to school.
First, a friend asked me if she could braid my hair for me. Then she told me, smiling apologetically, “I think your bun needs a tighter hair tie. Here! Borrow mine!” Another friend giggled that the headband I had added was on the verge of falling off my head. The comments continued from there, until I finally took the bun out, defeated.
Thank you, world, for showing me what it means to be self-conscious!
Now that I'm in college, I've become more confident in my style choices. Gone are the dark days when I precariously balanced trying to be trendy with trying to blend into the wallpaper.
The most important lesson I've learned is that true confidence is not something you acquire overnight. It is a state of mind, and it takes time to develop. That being said, there are some things you can do today to inch closer to your most confident self.
Below, I've detailed a game plan to increase your fashion confidence. With a little effort, you can slay the Fear monster that stands between you and wearing what you want, and most importantly, being who you want to be.
Method 1: Accept the past. Claim it! OWN IT. Don’t deny it!
This method is for the girl who says “Yeah, I went through a phase where I just wore polos with pleated skirts,” and then corrects herself with “But it’s all good now! That weirdo basically does not exist anymore, HA!”
This is the girl who fears judgement above all else. Having committed what she deems a fashion faux pas, she now sticks only to mainstream items that everyone wears, trying to blend in as much as possible. She's still trying to live her "bad fashion" moment down. This was me for a very long time.
If this hits close to home, I have some tough love for you:
YES. You wore something you now wish you hadn't. You, like me, took a risk and were embarrassed. And you need to get over it. You cannot cower behind that "mistake" forever. In cowering, you are losing what makes you, you.
There is a bright side to accepting that you've made "fashion mistakes": Now you can OWN that embarrassment. You have experience. Give yourself a gold star for having the guts to wear something different and eccentric.
Take it from me: pretending to be perfect or denying your flaws won’t get you anywhere. When you do that, you are giving the world (and your conscience) the right to control you and scare the fun out of fashion.
And if we're being honest, what style icon doesn't have hilarious faux pas' hidden in the abyss of Google images? Seriously, just own it.
Method 2: Don’t look down! Stand tall! Basically, be Karlie Kloss.
This goes out to my friends who are itching to bust out their Chanel cap-toe slingback dupes with Levi 501’s, but are scared back into their black leggings and sneakers because they worry their dorm neighbors might do double takes.
If this sounds familiar, read these words right now: IGNORE everyone. Let them look.
Your quest, should you choose to accept it, is as follows: Resist the urge to put on leggings (unless leggings are your one true love and you genuinely adore them - then girl, go for it), and instead rock the chic outfit you secretly planned 6 months ago.
That patch of sidewalk that takes you to your 9AM Intro to Philosophy class? Yeah, that’s your catwalk in Milan for the next ten minutes. Own it. Rock it.
Still worried about what they’re thinking about you? Fine, you asked for it: I challenge you to add a red lip to that outfit next time. That will really capture everyone's attention.
Do this enough, and you'll get over your worries. Seriously.
And remember this, which I find always helps: Most people who glance your way aren’t actually thinking about your outfit. Most of the time, these people are thinking of things like their homework or food or Game of Thrones. Rarely are they dissecting your outfit and drawing up spreadsheets to analyze the meaning of your 501’s. Trust.
Method 3: Think of the service you are providing to the world! It is your job to dress up and own it.
Here is the last way I motivate myself to march over to class in espadrille wedges and a trench coat. (Fact: I actually do wear heels to class most days.)
Think of it like this — the fashion world needs you. College Fashion is a safe space, where we are all about fashion, beauty, and supporting one another. But outside of this site, you're probably also familiar with bloggers and influencers whose careers have flourished based on their ability to put together a cute outfit and predict trends.
The difference between us and other students, then, is that we knew where to look to find inspiration. They might not. Put two and two together, and that makes us College Fashion girls the influencers on our campuses!
At many universities, the student population is crazy huge and diverse. In the midst of so many people, liking fashion makes us a minority. That means we have a civic duty, and that is to dress to the nines every day and make sure we keep the rest of the world stylish, or at least provide relatable inspiration.
(Pictured above: my idea of a stylish army of College Fashion girls who are off to make the world a more stylish place}
Not many people actively dress up for class… and you know what? They’re missing out.
Enjoy the clothing, enjoy the flow of creativity it will bring, and enjoy the looks you receive. You might spark conversations with people more often. And to be frank, once people get used to seeing you, they learn to expect you to dress that well forever and sit up straighter before approaching you. A best of all - they remember you for your style.
What better way for you to leave your mark on your social circle than to be the “stylish girl who is seriously going places”? Yeah, exactly.
Before you go, some HOMEWORK!
Yes, you read that correctly! This is for our CF readers who:
- know they haven't unlocked their full fashion potential but don’t know where to start
- thought “wait…I thought this was just a funny little anecdote about bad hair…I’m here for styling tips…”
- fear judgment, be it from their neighbors, their parents, or themselves
- want to be Rihanna at the Met Gala — but like, every day (this is all of us, right?)
If you are up to the challenge, I want you to:
- Go to your closet right now.
- Open it, and find that item you bought and skipped around your room in. If it's a cosmetic item, whip it out of that unopened packaging.
- With no time for second thoughts, put it on. Style it up. Use the fashion knowledge you have from reading this site and following those 10,000+ girls on Instagram. Trust your instincts.
- Now go smile at yourself in the mirror, and admit that you’re looking flier than Marty McFly and giving Blair Waldorf a run for her money.
As time passes, do this more often - maybe just around the house at first. Then start walking outside a few times, to take out the trash or to pick up your mail. Then, when you are accustomed to it, go to a friend’s place like that.
The final step will be either to go to a restaurant, a concert, or really any public place rocking said item, and look straight ahead, with perfect posture and a pageant-worthy smile.
Is it just me, or did we just cheat the confidence system? *High fives all around*
Let me know your thoughts!
What are your confidence tips, or items you wear to boost your self esteem? Did you try any of my methods? Let me know if they work for you!
Good luck ladies! I leave you with some food for thought from Instagram: