I am turning 33 in August, which means two things to me. One, birthday presents!!! I love birthday presents, and will never be too old to get excited about them (even if I’m buying them for myself). Two, I am getting another year closer to my official “mid-thirties”, which is kind of disconcerting. Not distressing, mind you. Just … disconcerting. In my mind’s eye, I am perpetually on the brink of 19 – kind of an adult, but not really. To think that there will soon enough be two generations of 19 year olds born during my lifetime is … like, trippy!
The upcoming anniversary made me think back to the previous decade, and my personal style as a 23-year old. If I had to describe it in one word it would be: non-existent. Which is not to say that I dressed terribly … not all of the time, anyway. But I had little or no sense of a style identity and, hence, no “personal style” to speak of. Here is a little trip down memory lane.
2003 was not a particularly great time in my life. I was under tremendous stress in school, and not in a great frame of mind. My body was at its (unhealthy) skinniest point; as a result, a lot of my clothing choices were dictated by the desire to finally wear things I considered “thin clothes” – tight jeans, body-con dresses and skirts, etc. If something was a size “0” and fit, I bought it. Few things were memorable or particularly stylish. In fact, I wouldn’t be caught dead today wearing 99% of it, and not only because of the atrocious trends involved.
Two further factors contributed to the overall “blahness” of my early-twenties wardrobe. First, I was a student, and so I didn’t have much occasion for “dressing up”; jeans and a T-shirt was a perfectly acceptable daily uniform. My idea of accessorizing involved picking between black or brown shoes.
Second, I didn’t have a lot of money. As a result, I shopped at the cheaper mall chains, where the selection, fit, and quality were not great. This was in the days before local H&M and Zara stores – which, for all their other faults, at least offer access to current runway trends. Back then, I didn’t shop much second-hand. I had shopped at thrift stores for most of my adolescence, by necessity. As soon as I started working and had some disposable income, all I wanted was to “upgrade” to mall shopping. I was under the (mistaken as it turns out) belief that higher prices equaled better clothes. It took me years to figure out that isn’t necessarily true, style-wise or quality-wise.
Comparing my 23-year old self’s style to my current style is like looking at two different people (inside and out, for that matter). I actually have something that can be called “personal style” now – for better or worse. And I learned a few important lessons along the way.
4. Less is more. Not when it comes to sparkle, or colour, or fun patterns – more is more, as far as I’m concerned. But less is more when it comes to buying quality. We may not be able to emulate those effortlessly stylish French women, but learning the tricks of a carefully edited, classic, well-made, perfectly fitting, perfectly you wardrobe is worth a try, at the very least.
I don’t regret my early twenties; after all, they helped to make me the person I am today (someone I happen to like). I do wish I had been easier on myself all those years ago, and spent less time fretting about things that, in the scheme of things, weren’t so very important. The best I can do for the girl I was back then is to remember the lessons I’ve learned from her experiences.
What style lessons have you learned in the last decade?