Throwback to 1995—I was four, started Kindergarten, and had a head full of unruly natural curls. In 1998, I was seven, started primary school, and was forced to cut my long, barely-tamed hair because we were only allowed to keep it above shoulder length (if you know, you know). A year later, I started wearing glasses—a pair of pink rectangular metal-frame specs that didn’t fit quite right—and I was laughed at for being that tall, scrawny kid with a curly pixie (that sounds better than it looks). Fast forward to 2004, I was 13, had questionable rebonded hair and a full face of teen acne. Long story short, I was never the prettiest growing up, and in a society that places so much emphasis on physical appearance (whether we like it or not), I’ve dealt with insecurities all my life. And my low self-esteem definitely impacted my self-confidence too.
That being said, I knew I loved fashion since young (I’ve set my mind on becoming a fashion journalist since I was 14), and to me, it was always an outlet to express myself, and when words fail, style prevails. Throughout the years, awkward teenage phase and all, I’ve learned that wearing the right clothes will makes me look and feel good, and confidence is key when it comes to feeling empowered. While there’s no universal formula for that, here’s how I use fashion to feel strong and powerful:
Know and love your body
A lot of it is about knowing (and loving) your body. Understanding your figure is honestly the most fundamental step in finding the right outfits for yourself. I have a pear shaped body thanks to my heavier bottom, and as I gained more weight over the years, it took me a long time to know the silhouettes that complement and accentuate my body type. Now, I try to steer clear from overly tight-fitting trousers and skirts, and opt for tops that balance out my narrow upper body, which leads to my second point.
Find and define your personal style
It took many years of experimenting for me to know which style truly speaks to me. It’s not about limiting what you can and cannot wear—it’s about finding the look that brings out the best in you and makes you feel the most like yourself. Once you’ve got that down pat, all you need to do is stick to it—it’ll be so much easier when you shop or when you dress for different occasions. My signature looks are laidback but pulled together; on casual days off, you can find me in a T-shirt and a midi skirt with mules, chunky sandals or sneakers, and when I need to dress up, a blazer and a pair of wide-legged trousers (in muted colours) are my go-tos. Know what works and that will give you the confidence boost you need.
Step out of your comfort zone
That being said, you should push yourself out of the comfort zone once in a while and not let it hold you back from great style and possibilities. I, for one, used to swear off jeans due to my curvier bottom. But hey, you have to practice what you preach right? I found the right cut that flatters my figure—cue flared jeans and boyfriend fit—and I’ve never looked back since.
Make your own rules
Don’t let society’s rules tell you what you can wear and not. While trends are important and there’s nothing wrong with following or purchasing pieces that are hot right now, if you’ve developed your personal style, trust your instincts and go with it. Who says flip-flops are fashion faux pas? Who says pairing red and green is a big no-no? And who says wearing the same print head-to-toe is tacky? If you like it, go for it. Who cares? Wear the clothes, and not let them wear you.
I know there are days when we think we’re not good enough, not thin enough, not tall enough (and more), but just remember: At the end of the day, you are your own biggest enemy. Find a tool or outlet that empowers you, and if you’re truly confident about who you are, there’s nothing that can get between you and greatness.
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